SCOTTISH WOMEN - BOIREANNAICH ALBANNACH
Tollbooth, Stirling, Fri 22 Mar; RSAMD, Glasgow, Tue 26 and Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 28 Mar
In Scotland, what once was as common as the sound of a spring skylark is now as rare as the corncrake’s call. We’ve been so colonised by the US-dominated recording industry, and vacuous FM radio, that the highly developed beauty of our native singing traditions is hardly recognised, never mind broadcast. But even as authentic Scottish song is becoming another endangered species, there are moves afoot to give it some support. We may not cherish our traditions enough to demand, as the President of Estonia did recently, that the right to sing your national songs be enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, but the Scottish Arts Council is supporting Celtic Connection’s (and Greentrax Records’) conjoined Gaelic and Scots Women concert shows - on tour.
The singers are both from the ancient line of the Scots oral tradition, like the magnificent Sheila Stewart or, like Ray Fisher from a family powerhouse of the early folk revival, while Sheena Wellington, Elspeth Cowie and Margaret Bennett are well-known for their work popularising and proselytising the Scottish traditions. Mesmeric vocal stylist lshbel McAskill joins Flora McNeill’s daughter Maggie Mclnnes, Uist’s Mairi Maclnnes, and Lewis piper and singer Anna Murray to represent many facets of Gaelic song, while Iron Horse’s Annie Grace and Shine’s Corrina Hewat add their vocal skills to an instrumental talent and join Musical Director Brian McNeill and the boys in the band.
Youngest of the bunch, but already a veteran of world tours and recordings in the Battlefield Band, Malinky and MacAlias, Karine Polwart enthuses: ‘l’m really looking forward to it. I don’t really know any of the Gaelic women - there’s this slip between the Gaelic and Scots song worlds - and I don’t know Sheila Stewart. 80 getting the crack on the bus is what I’m looking forward to - perhaps even more than the concerts - and learning new songs, and talking to knowledgeable people like Margaret Bennett.’
How is the music put together, and does it matter that the MD isn’t a woman? ‘Together with Brian we select our
This issue: Jetplane Landing
Old Punk Dad: What’s all this ‘emo’ co. nonsense son? In my day it was punk
punk ethic concerned Wllll art over money. In other words. they're not Just out to cash in on success like Rotten and
Karine Polwart is instrumental in shaping Scottish Women
own songs, mostly re-worked from the albums, so there won’t be that much room for manoeuvre, but I hope we’ll be able to introduce new things as the tour goes on.’
‘In the perfect scenario it would be nice if Brian was a woman. That’s not because he doesn’t do a very good job. He has a lot of experience, and he’s great at pulling people together, working in bands and staging shows. And I do think that it shouldn’t be one of the singers doing it, so we need someone from outside. But it’s true that women on the folk scene continue to be marginalised. For future projects I don’t see why the whole band couldn’t be women.’
lshbel McAskill expresses the gender distinction. ‘A song is different when it comes from a female perspective. You’re performing it from a different emotional basis.’
Karine also sees the instrumental accompaniment as reflecting a similar shift in approach. ‘The actual instrumentation is Brian’s stamp. It’s not what most of us would necessarily wish. I mean, I would never use kit drums. Percussion, but not kit. Then she chuckles ‘You know, it’s almost impossible to imagine a Scottish Men’s tour - there’d be too many egos. Imagine that amount of testosterone!’ (Norman Chalmers)
Surface noise I
and rock’n’roll that ruled the school. Totally Sensmve Emo Kid: No need to tear dad. Jetplane Landing prowde intelligent Pavement-style yelps. rifts and splutter a la ldeWlld and songs that come across like a spiky Costello blues- art-rock attack.
OPD: Ah fantastic son. A tremendous anarchic racket just like the Pistols . . . TSEK: Err no. dad. For a start they're an Anglo-Irish trio. Lead singer and guitarist Andrew Ferris is from Derry. and Jamie Burchell, bassist. and drumming brother Raiie are Sussex born and bred. They make their own t-shirts and record sleeves. write songs about Pythagoras and are redefining punk as a valid part of vocabulary. They believe in bands helping each other out to get their music heard. a
50 THE LIST 1.2 28 Mar 2002
GPO: Ah, I get it. Irish punk-pop like the Undertones. Teenage scissor kicks and all that.
TSEK: Well. Tim Wheeler loves them right
enough. They recently supported Ash and word has it that their infectious debut Zero For Conduct hasn't been off the Ash frontman's stereo for months. OPD: Enough of this nicey nicey mush. What about the live performance? Ramshackle and vitriolic as hell?
TSEK: Well they don't smash up their equipment and they look relatively indie but on hearing their heavy and rearing angular live sound. grown men have made mutterings of an Irish At The Drive In Wllll Fugazi tWIsts.
OPD: Surely it’s not possible . . . I’m off to order my advance copy of the
re-released ‘God Save The Queen’ Golden Jubilee special: at least you know where you are with the Pistols. Jetplane? Emo? Hmmphf.
I Jerri/ant} l .‘1/2ti’iirg; r‘xst .‘e‘v'fi‘e. 2.. G/asgo'.i'. SM? ."-1 'qii Barium (2.1:: Fri/iibui'g/r, Iue . ’(f leer Zero For (Io/rims? is; air
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