An Interview With Iona Fyfe


Hello Iona, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Huntly in Aberdeenshire. I moved to Glasgow when I was 17 to study Traditional Music at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I’ve been living in Glasgow for two years now.

When did you first realise you were musical?
Apparently when I was infantile, I would press keys on my uncles piano and the family knew I’d be musical.

When did you first realise you could sing?
I actually was a very “backgrounded” singer until I was around 12. I’d always be in the background of choirs and such like. It was folksong and ballad competitions which brought out my confidence. It was quite a natural progression.

What for you makes a good song?
What makes a good song… Well, ballads ought to be told in an economic fashion. But to me, I think the melody makes the song. The melody really makes a song.

What is it about the Scottish ballad tradition that makes you tick?
I think the ballad tradition makes me tick because all of the messages and stories of the ballads are still more than relevant today; whether that be in a social or political or domestic context.

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Iona & her band

What does Iona Fyfe like to do when she’s not being all musical?
Iona Fyfe used to rock climb, swim and gym, but hypermobility syndrome means she just shops now.

You won Best Female Singer at Aberdeen TMSA 2016. Can you tell us about the experience?
I grew up within the competitive ballad tradition and was often adjudicated by some of the finest traditional singers of Scotland. I learned in a very specific style representative of the North East and each year there are several competitions within the year. They are held yearly and it offers a chance to re-connect with the rawest form of traditional song.

What are the secrets to modernizing the old folk classics?
The secrets to modernizing the old folk classics? Learn the song in a way which would be accepted within the competitive ballad idiom, then innovate upon it and make it your own. At least then, you’ll know what you’re changing, how you’re changing it, this is because you’ll know it in its rawest form and can then build on that.

Can you tell us about your Edinburgh performances : where & when & what?

I shall be playing an intimate performance of Songs of the North East at the Acoustic Music Centre on the 18th of August. Doors will open at 21:30 for a 22:00 start.  Held in the Ukranian Community Centre, tickets will cost £8 for adults with concession tickets costing £6/5. Tickets are available online or on the door. Do bring along your voices and join me in rhyme. Tickets available here:
Brown Paper Tickets:
Edinburgh Fringe Box Office:

What will Iona Fyfe be doing for the rest of 2017?

I will be on tour for the rest of 2017, whilst recording my debut album which is set to be released early 2018. I go back to university in October too! Here are my tour dates:

5/8 Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival
18/8 Edinburgh Festival Fringe at Acoustic Music Centre
19/8 Innerleithen Music Festival with Nomad Beat
7/9 Linlithgow Folk Festival
10/9 Best Of The West Festival – Inveraray Castle
13/9 Edinburgh Folk Club  
16/9 Naklo Music Festival, Poland
23/9 Wauchope Hall Yetholm
10/10 Leith Folk Club
31/10 Star Folk Club, Glasgow
8/11 Aberdeen Folk Club
9/11 Folk at the Salmon Bothy
10/11 Hootananny Inverness
18/11 Milngavie FolkClub
20/11 The Burns Club of London (Koshka Duff/Carol Anderson)
14/12 Loughton Folk Club
15/12 The Big Comfy Bookshop,

Loudon Wainwright III, with special guest Beth Nielsen Chapman

Southern Fried Festival
Perth Concert Hall
29th July 2017

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I’m trying to remember when I last, if ever, attended a bad gig at the Perth Concert Hall during Southern Fried. Ah yes, it was Los Lobos a good few years ago, who disappointed me with a lacklustre performance. That fact – one less than excellent act in the past ten years – will give you some idea of the high expectations I have of this festival. I even bought a T-shirt this year!

Beth Nielsen Chapman - credit Paul Thompson.pngWell, tonight I went in, yet again, to a concert given by someone I hadn’t listened to in years, supported by someone I hadn’t heard before. That’s two nights in a row – Nick Lowe and Jim Lauderdale last night, Loudon and Beth tonight. The main difference between the gigs, however, was the fact that neither singer appeared alone on stage. Beth Nielsen Chapman had a musical sidekick, who sat there patiently and accompanied her on harmony vocals, bass guitar, keyboard, and percussion, as each song demanded the appropriate extra facet. That ‘sidekick’ was Ruth Trimble, who is in fact a brilliant singer-songwriter in her own right, as was demonstrated when she and Beth swapped roles for one number, which Ruth led from the grand piano.

Beth was talkative throughout, never shy of telling us the intimate details of her life that account for some of her songs. She has a voice that has not only a considerable range but also great variation in dynamics and timbre, which enables her to inject emotion into her singing. Once or twice there is a slight crack in her musical patina, but only a slight one, and not enough to merit the deduction of a whole star. She could even rock it with upbeat numbers like This Kiss or Willie Nelson’s Nothing I Can Do About It Now (which she actually wrote, so is it his or hers?). I can’t direct you to a decent YouTube clip of her in action – those that exist seem to be phone quality only – so maybe you should make a point of catching her when she’s in your town.

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Now then, to Loudon Wainwright III. Well, I thought I was going to see Loudon Wainwright III but what I did see was ‘The Loudon Wainwright Three’. Like three grizzled eccentrics perched on a park bench, David Mansfield, Loudon, and Chaim Tannenbaum faced the audience with wry smiles – “Oh look, a YOUNG person! Your grandparents dragged you here tonight!” With that, Loudon declared ‘his’ demographic to be in the majority at the concert. That includes me; It’s about thirty years since I last/first saw Loudon, so I had no idea what he had been up to, apart from growing old. I was surprised and, I must admit, delighted by the bluegrass spin that mandolin/fiddle to his right and banjo to his left brought to his songs. Loudon shared lead vocals, often taking a verse of a song by turns, with Chaim, the latter having a voice that reminded me a little of Pete Seeger but with Pete’s urgency smoothed off. Chaim soloed with a gentle version of the 1893 version of Bates and Ward’s America The Beautiful, having mentioned in the preamble that the vast majority of Americans only know and only sing the first verse, and that they take it to be a poem of uncritical ultra-patriotism. Chaim, by the way, is Canadian.

Loudon and company didn’t mind singing other people’s songs at all, from Tom Lehrer’s The Old Dope Peddler to an Americanised version of Michael Marra’s Harmless (Hermless in the original). The evening was one of weirdness, wistful irony, and wit – “Put your hands together. No, don’t clap, just put your hands together.” Loudon established a point of reference for me by singing the song that, he claimed and I haven’t quite verified, was the first one he ever recorded – School Days. He got us involved in a sing-along with I Went To The Doctor and Dead Skunk.

A total departure from the festival’s norm of music on stage came in the middle of Loudon’s set, when he sat alone and read a passage from his forthcoming book, giving us an insight on how it feels to be visited by children from a previous marriage and cope with their fighting whilst he fails to make them scrambled eggs. Yes, it was one of those evenings. It’s remarkable just how many of his presentations had to do with failed relationships – Unhappy Anniversary and I’d Rather Be Lonely for two – or ageing – Old And Only In The Way – that nevertheless made the audience chuckle.

As this is my last visit of the weekend, thank you to the folk at Southern Fried for another great festival. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Reviewed by Paul Thompson

The Songs of Chuck Berry / Andy Fairweather Low and guests

Southern Fried Festival:
Perth Concert Hall
27th July 2017

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What you have to remember when you read any review from Perth’s Southern Fried Festival is that it will only scratch the surface. There’s so much going on, not only in Perth Concert Hall, but outside, and in venues all over the burgh. Some of it is free, some events are ticketed. But the point is that although the reviewed gig may be over and done, by the time you read it there may still be time to nip down to Perth and catch something else, or at least to get a plate of soul food. And you can make a note to get in on the action next year – the festival has been going for ten years and shows no sign of stopping.

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It’s often said of the late Chuck Berry that he only wrote two songs – My Ding-a-Ling and the other one. That’s a little unfair. It’s true that he recycled intros, solos, licks and tricks, riffs and biffs, and even whole tunes, but there was never a single song that didn’t feel original when you heard it. In the opinion of Geraint Watkins, who played electric piano on the night for Andy Fairweather Low’s Hi Riders, as well as bagging some solo spots, any songwriter who could come up with lines like “I was campaign shouting like a Southern diplomat” was a poet, pure and simple. I think that in Nadine Chuck Berry fought against the impulse to make that “Southern Democrat” as a dig at Governor George Wallace, but still as a songwriter he had a simple, imaginative genius for narrative.

Time was when the folks at Southern Fried made the introductory concert of the long weekend a kind of casual affair, with artistes sitting at café tables and strolling over to the microphone to give an unplugged tribute to a chosen songwriter. Now, with Andy Fairweather Low and the Hi Riders hosting and providing the musical platform, what you have is a full-on gig. Of course it asks visiting singers and players to step out of their comfort zone, sometimes to have to read the lyrics from a music stand – perform a kind of all-star karaoke, if you like – but what is eventually produced is a compilation of interpretations, not covers. This is because of the diversity of the performers. Two peripheral things struck me. Firstly the fact that the combined value of guitars on stage must have been astronomical. Secondly that the stage crew’s activities were perfectly choreographed, as they changed mics and mic-stands, handed over and took back instruments, making the sharp-eyed aware that the night’s performance was not as ad-hoc as all that.

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Andy Fairweather Low is still the King of Bustle, hustle-bustling around the stage in his immaculate mohair suit. “I’m not a good guitarist,” he lied. What he isn’t is a shredder in a smoke-and-lights stadium band; what he is is a solid, rocking, R&B guitarist, with fifty years of practice. His solos drove along most of the performances tonight, and what they didn’t drive they backed up. Not all the guests were on the bill – there were one or two surprises. James Hunter turned up and rocked it, as you would expect. Andy and James were on the same wavelength, although I believe this was the first time they had met, let alone played together. Angeleena Presley brought her young son on stage to duet on Hail, Hail Rock and Roll.

Chuck Berry wanted to be a Country and Western singer, and in fact thought of himself as that. This was brought home when the likes of Doug Seegers tackled Oh Carole, or during an unplugged interval when Flats and Sharps delivered a bluegrass version of Sweet Little Sixteen. For Promised Land Geraint Watkins stepped forward with a small, dry-tuned piano accordion and paid tribute to Johnnie Allen’s version and Belton Richard’s Cajun playing style.

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Cyndi Cain

I mustn’t leave out any of the performers, or their interpretations. The Hi Riders are an enlarged version of Andy’s Low Riders, with added keyboards and horns, and they gave a lot of body to the sound (but see my overall views on sound, below). Cyndi Cain, with her soaring voice turned I Do Really Love You into a soul ballad. Hamish Stuart made Havana Moon into something so cool, so laid back, that it almost took on a spooky sound. Amythyst Kiah – oh how I love her voice, her intense, serious delivery! – turned It’s My Own Business into a relaxed country blues. Steve Gibbons, barely touching his Gibson Les Paul, managed to inject a little Elvis into No Money Down. Throughout there were jazz, country, blues, rock, and big band echoes. The final ensemble numbers provided the nearest you could get, this side of the pond, to the Louisiana Gator Boys. The audience was by then, of course, on its feet.

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Flats &  Sharps

One or two things didn’t work. The Concert hall is a great venue, but trying to balance the sound in such a switch-and-swatch format must be a nightmare; as a result some solos tended to get lost. But it was a party. Maybe it would have been more of a party if they actually had sung My Ding-a-Ling and got us to join in, but you can’t have everything!

Reviewed by Paul Thompson

An Interview with Bartosz Zachlod

a1ib000000AICs6AAH-500x300.jpgHello Bartosz, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Poland and have studied in Vienna. Presently, I live in Göttingen. But this is just technically speaking, as I am there just approx. one week a month, the rest of the time I am traveling across the Europe and abroad, active as a musician, mostly as a member of the Apollon Musagete Quartet.

When did you first realise you were musical?
As a child, I have spent a lot of time building simple musical instruments. I have played them along with already existing ones. O played from hearing every known and rememberd songs. And so my mother thought it would be good to start a regular lessons.


What instruments do you play, & which do you consider as your forte?
I am 33 now and have been playing the violin already 26 years so it is more than enough time to consider violin and everything around as my main interest. I played also a piano quite good and a electric guitar for a while in the past, but it is the violin which was always my primary focus.

Can you tell us about the Apollon Musagete Quartet?
We are four Poles, we have formed our group in Vienna and after winning one of the most prestigious music competition in Munich are now traveling extensively throughout the Europe, Asia and America to share our musical ideas with a public worldwide.

2245_2902_120603_Apollon_nn.jpgHow do you choose the numbers for your repertoire?
As a string players, we are extremely lucky to have an extraordinary repertoire counting of never ending masterpieces. There are always periods of time when you have particularly strong interests to specified styles which are changing with time to another areas. This keeps freshness in your mind and also allows you to approach different types of music always with a background and experience of a music played before. There is always a private list in your head of works you would like to play in the nearest future. As our interests are rather vast, there is always polish and slavic music at our music stands accompanied with strong classical and romantic core and a modern music.

You have played all across the globe, which have been your top three performances?
I would name Carnegie Hall in New York, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the tour with Tori Amos in Europe and USA, it was quite new and exciting experience.

What does Bartosz Zachlod like to do when he’s not being musical?
I like to read. Especially, when I can focus on it more than just a short while, so that I can really get into what I am reading. My second passion are instruments. I have a small collection of instruments and bows. I made also a violin maker course once in Munich which gave me some basics that I now can spread and practise on. It was always my big curiosity how the violin and it’s part are made and how can they influence the sound of the violin.

What is it about performing live that makes you tick?
That it is not 100% predictable what will exactly happen during the performance. You have of course everything planned, but you also react to what is being developed. You are able to reach the forces that are not to achieve while you are practising at home. It is because you know that it is this very moment when you stand at the stage to communicate with a public.


Can you tell us about your Edinburgh performances : where & when & what?
We will perform at Queen’s Hall on Tuesday 8th of August 2017… The program will include works of Puccini – Crisantemi, Mozart -String Quartet in C K465 ‘Dissonance’ and Grieg- String Quartet in G minor

What will Bartosz Zachlod be doing for the rest of 2017?
I have still many festivals ahead, also recitals, solo performances with orchestras and a CD recording. So the schedule is, as usual, quite busy. In my private life, I will be a father for the second time and I am looking very much forward to this small revolution at home also.

An Interview with Julie Fowlis


Hello Julie, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m a Hebridean and Highland mix! Originally from North Uist, but now based near Inverness.

When did you first realise you were musical?
I’ve never really thought about it. I suppose looking back, my sister and I would memorise entire film scripts and countless songs then endlessly regurgitate them to anyone who would listen. I’d also regularly fib to my chanter teacher that I could read music when I couldn’t – I wasn’t found out for years because I could memorise tunes very quickly, so maybe I always had an ear for music.

What instruments do you play, & which do you consider as your forte?
Ah – this is a tricky one. I started off playing chanter (pipes) and piano, before moving onto oboe and cor anglais at University. But I have ended up spending most of my time singing. And I just made my ukulele debut on our new album. Maybe that will be the new thing….

What for you makes a good song?
Strong melody, a great story, and feeling.

How musical is the Gaelic language?
Incredibly musical. It would require an essay to answer this one fully.

You have played all across the globe, which have been your top three performances?
It’s really hard to choose. Well, three memorable shows of late – singing Joni Mitchell songs to a sold out audience at the renowned Celtic Connections Festival, getting to sing Hearts of Olden Glory with Runrig live in Denmark at Tonder festival last year, and singing a Galician song for the first time just last week in Spain. I think for me – they stand out because the audiences were so appreciative. It makes such a difference.

Where do you get your songs from?
Family, friends, contemporaries and archive recordings.

What is it about performing live that makes you tick?
The feeling of sharing something, of connecting to people through music.

What does Julie Fowlis like to do when she’s not being all musical?
Being outside! Rowing, swimming, running, cycling. In any weather. And most of all, being with my family.


Can you tell us about your Edinburgh performances : where & when & what?
August 26th, Queen’s Hall. A special preview of our brand new album material.

What will Julie Fowlis be doing for the rest of 2017?
Performing in the US, England, Scotland, and some TV work in France. And releasing a new album on November 3rd!

Julie will be gracing Edinburgh with her music

August 26th, The Queen’s Hall