Dec 082017

By Fred Wilkinson.

“Aaaah Grasshopper, you still have much to learn … you must first try to listen … and feeeel!”

Once upon a time there was a young man who fancied himself as the rebranded Anarcho Dennis The Menace.

Unfortunately, he did not have the means to put enough calories into his person in order to avoid being laughed and sneered at by the bespectacled Walter and his crew of ‘softies’.

So he developed a defiant, unflinching pose in order to look hard.

He got a punk band together and generally scared the crap out of folk … his relatives mostly,

Then he got a wee job doing sound for a band called Mabel Meldrums Ceilidh Band.

Working alongside his chum, and punk band colleague Frank Benzie, nephew of Mabels’ guitarist and vocalist, Ian F Benzie, the young man in question came to know and refer to the Benzies as ‘Frunk an’ Unc’ – which neither ever objected to.

But their influence on the stoic, stripey one was not only significant, but equal and opposite!

This brought about much confusion. Whilst Frunk would lead young Dennisesque astray, and goad him into strange and perilous situations, Unc would be much more a source of a calm and enlightenment – particularly with regard to the realm of music. 

Words of wisdom were dispensed freely:

“If the music is ‘at loud ye canna hear yersel think, then how d’ye ken yer actually listenin tae music?”

“The words ‘I love you’ should be spoken close up, and whispered ….. if ye scream them oot til there’s snotters comin oot yer mou’, yer likely tae get a blind date wi fower or six coppers wi big sticks in the back o’ a van”

“It’s nae jist the notes min, it’s the space in atween”

And ither such hippy stuff and fluff.

However, it sunk in eventually, to the point that young hardened cynic began to appreciate the understated and the subtle alongside the “in yer face wi a big slab ya ****” aspects of music and art.

But then, not long after, Ian F Benzie, along with Mabels’ bassist/banjo plucker Buzzby McMillan parted company with Sandie Wyles (fiddle/mando/vocs), Andrew MacDonald (keys/concertina/caller) and Ian Wilson (Bodhran/ percussion/whistle), and went on to form the notorious Old Blind Dogs.

Sandie continued playing with a new Mabel Meldrums line up with a very different approach and sound.

As for that defiant, unflinching, skinny, stoic, cynical, spikey, stripey, cartoon character wannabe, tribute act? Well that was me (still is I suppose) …. your Aberdeen Voice editor.

Which brings me to the purpose of this one off spontaneous and unusual Aberdeen Voice article.

In the last few hours, I discovered a forgotten, presumed lost (or borrowed and not returned) cassette tape which was recorded by myself and Frunkie B from the mixing desk we were charged with the task of operating … or at least, preventing teuchters from plonking/spilling their beer, or stubbing their fags out on.

And so, 30 odd years later, I decided, if I had gone to sleep when I should have … like about an hour before I found that ‘lost’ tape … it might become ‘lost’ again ….. maybe forever!

And so, instead, I lashed a load of wires and boxes together, and now have a digital copy of the whole gig, which I hope to share soon.

However, I felt, when listening to one particular track, which was not part of the band’s set, but performed ‘off the cuff’ while some technical problem was resolved, that there was a wee bit of magic which transcended the background noise and the tape hiss.

Therefore, I felt compelled to ‘splice’ it out, and with the bare minimum of processing, offer it here without any further delay. 

Westlin Winds by Ian F Benzie. Live at Premnay Hall, 86/7 … as part of Mabel Meldrums’ (ceilidh band) show.

Apr 012017

A guitar once owned by Hendrix has been put up for auction in Aberdeen, following a council hunt for heirs. Duncan Harley reports.

When council housing officer Dennis Potter was called to the home of a council tenant on Aberdeen’s Kincorth Housing Estate he thought that it would be simply a routine house clearance.

The elderly male who had lived there for over 30 years had passed away and, with no relatives on hand to see to his affairs, it fell to the council to clear the flat and prepare it for a new tenant.

“I was pleasantly surprised” said Dennis “to find that the place was clean and in good order.”

“It’s not unusual for us to enter a property where someone has died and find that they had perhaps not been coping during what may have been a difficult end of life period. But, in this case that was definitely not the case and our tenant had taken really good care of the property.”

Initially, the council had assumed that relatives would come forward to claim possessions and see to the estate, but after a three-year hunt for heirs no-one came forward.

“We knew that Mr Brown had no surviving friends in the locality” said Dennis “but we thought that maybe he had relatives somewhere who might have kept in touch.”

“But as his birthdays came and went, there were no cards, and even at Christmas the deceased only received a few begging letters from the likes of the Salvation Army and a charity specialising in promoting paintings made by limbless artists from North Korea.”

Eventually council bosses asked Dennis to dispose of the few possessions left by the tenant and an Aberdeen auction firm was asked to provide a valuation.

“We needed to cover the costs involved” says Dennis.

“There was a very small amount of outstanding rent, but on top of that there was the matter of the burial; and we felt we had a duty to recover what we could to protect the public purse.”

The valuation, however, far exceeded expectations, for in amongst the few possessions left by Mr Brown there was a guitar.

“I had assumed that it might be worth just a few pounds” said Dennis.

“I mean, it was badly scratched, the frets looked worn and the strings had seen better days. But you never know at auction since maybe someone is looking to get a real bargain.”

The auctioneers were initially unimpressed with the item and consigned it to the weekly general sale in expectation that it might be worth something to someone willing to restore the neglected instrument. However, and quite by chance, musicologist Jim Hawsworthy came to preview the lots for sale.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes” he said “at first I thought I was dreaming, but there right in front of me was a genuine Strattofaster!”

“I mean these instruments are the Stradivariuses of the guitar world. There are probably only around fourteen known examples worldwide, and this one is completely genuine.”

Seemingly Jimi Hendrix owned two of these instruments, but after his death aged 27 in September 1970, it emerged that one was unaccounted for.

In a strange twist, it transpired that Mr Brown had been drinking red wine with Marmalade stars Gary Farr and Jimmy Cregan, together with Eric Clapton at the Scotch of St James bar in Mayfair on the night of Hendrix’s death.

“When Jimi came in” said Clapton “he had no dosh and neither had the rest of us.”

“So we asked Bennie the roadie to bung us a few quid – just to keep the party going you understand. By that time the bar bill was astronomical and to be honest we were all a bit keen to get more wasted, so to calm Bennie Brown down, I suggested that we bung him a guitar as collateral. That’s how it all happened really. He was pleased as punch and went off strumming Jimi’s guitar.

“I know that ‘cause I was there. Or at least I think I was. That is until I awoke to find that Jimi had, well you know – gone off somewhere and died basically. Never forget that night really. What year is it today anyway?”

Be that as it may, the auction of the Hendrix Strattofaster takes place at Aberdeen Auction House on East Silver Street on April 1st with all proceeds going directly to the council.

The sales catalogue reads as follows:

LOT 405
Serial number CZ510969, maple tarnished finish, maple neck with skunk-stripe routing, red paper dot on back of headstock beside “Sandy Klaus Fender Custom Shop” transfer, twenty-two fret fingerboard with dot inlays, three pre-Vintage Noiseless pickups, three rotary controls, selector switch, tremolo/bridge tail block and white pick guard; and a black Harry Fender hard-shell bright-contour case with black plush lining and cream cloth sticker inscribed in hazy purple felt pen “Good luck Jimi from your good old pals Otis, Eric and Shanker” and tie on paper label inscribed on both sides in black felt pen “FENDER STRAT CZ510969 MAPLE  1”, one red and one green paper dot on two case latches.”

A reserve price of £2,500 has been placed on the item and international interest is expected.

Words and images © Duncan Harley
Additional reporting by April McGinty

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Mar 022017

David Innes reviews ‘The Wren and The Salt Air’ – a new E.P. release by Jenny Sturgeon on Fit Like Records.

In September 2016, commissioned by The National Trust for Scotland, Donside’s own Jenny Sturgeon visited the abandoned North Atlantic Hebridean archipelago, St Kilda, to derive inspiration for a musical release to commemorate this wilderness’s thirtieth anniversary as a World Heritage site.

The Wren and The Salt Air, a four-track EP, inspired by the island’s bird life and history, is the impressive result.

Maintaining the distinctive writing and performance style of recent release From The Skein, Ms Sturgeon imbues haunting Celtic melodies with her trademark natural imagery and unobtrusive, custom-fitted arrangements.

‘Seabird’ is a word painting describing the majestic movement of the colony’s thousands of birds in flight, and at rest, in almost architectural terms, and the title track takes on the vibe of an ancient folk tale, as the juxtaposition of unforgiving weather and the frailty of a tiny St Kilda Wren paints a vivid picture of the stoicism of living creatures “where salt air pinches skin”.  

The bird life of St Kilda assumes co-billing with Jenny, Jonny Hardie and Pete McCallum, to the extent that on the final segment of ‘St Kilda Set’, after some fine, evocative blue-edged Hardie fiddle-led tunes, the local Kittiwake and Leach’s Petrel are given a featured ninety-second solo spot. The St Kilda Wren’s urgent song too, provides unusual but fitting counterpoint to the melody of ‘The Wren and The Salt Air’

With 10% of the profits of the CD sales going to support conservation work on St Kilda, The Wren and The Salt Air is even more worthy of your small investment.

The Wren and The Salt Air
Fit Like Records

This review was originally posted on the reviewer’s own website where the old fool gamely attempts to be some sort of tastemaker.


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Oct 312014

Ags ConnollyBy David Innes.

With a growing reputation for giving classic country writing and performance a new, contemporary British sheen, Ags Connolly impressed a respectable Blue Lamp crowd keen to see if the favourable reviews could be borne out.

It should never have come down to his competing with the Dons re-arranged Friday evening home game against Motherwell.

This show was trailed months ago, but promoter Martin Raitt is a Dons fan too and has no plans to organise gigs for 3pm on Saturdays, if they are ever played at that time again.

Coincidentally Ags revealed that his favourite player is Dons legendary ‘keeper Jim Leighton and wore red since he was in Aberdeen.

The songs from his debut album How About Now were the core of his interval-scorning 90 minute set, interspersed with classy songs from Connolly’s heroes and influences, including Kris Kristofferson, Shel Silverstein, Robert Earle Keen and Guy Clark.

Responding to audience requests, Ags delivered Johnny Paycheck’s ‘Trusty Companion’ immaculately, and led a Dale Watson singalong of ‘I Lie When I Drink’. The autobiographical ‘I Saw James Hand’, from How About Now paying homage to the ‘hillbilly spirit who appears as a man’ was followed by a Hand song in tribute. His single ‘When Country Was Proud’ was enthusiastically received, ‘my rant’ as he described it.

It is heartening that the original Connolly material, including the road-tests of new songs which he claimed tongue-in-cheek would ‘be on a bootleg within hours since this is no doubt being streamed to a pirate website’ stood up very favourably in the company of those of the giants to whom he paid tribute.

It was a delight to spend a couple of hours in this hard-working and affable man’s company. That second album promises to be a treat too.


Oct 282014

Mark Ayling 1 Acoustic artist Mark Ayling released his second album, ‘Out Of Step, Out Of Time’ this week, following on from his 2011 album ‘Memories and Ghosts’.

The Turriff-based singer-songwriter played with Justin Sullivan (New Model Army), Robb Johnson and Tracey Curtis at the 2011 ‘Raise Your Banners’ Festival and with many other fine musicians at various gigs throughout the past three years.

A lifelong drummer, with lyrics that range from personal to political, he has branched out to play acoustic guitar, taking the energy of punk and rock music to make his own style.

He will be embarking on a UK tour next month to promote the album.

The CD album will be available from, Four Dogs Music, Ethical Wares and Amazon. A download will also be available from iTunes and Amazon.

Oct 242014

Ags ConnollyfeatWith thanks to David Innes.

Ags Connolly, described as ‘the closest we’ve ever come to an English Willie Nelson’ by Duncan Warwick, of Country Music People, makes his Aberdeen debut at The Blue Lamp on Friday 24 November following on from his last Scottish show at Perth’s Southern Fried Festival in July.
His debut album ‘How About Now’ was released in February 2014 and reviews have been incredibly positive, especially for a first outing, and he has just released a video for his first single ‘When Country Was Proud

Almost Blue Promotions are excited about their coup in bringing Ags north, and this show is guaranteed to add to the agency’s already-excellent reputation in the city and its hinterland.

What the reviewers have said:

“One of the best records you are likely to hear this year…so strong is Connolly’s writing, dare I suggest that Ags Connolly is the closest we’ve ever come to an English Willie Nelson? Yes, he’s really that good, and his voice is unique.” – Duncan Warwick, Country Music People

“How About Now is a masterpiece of British country” – Maverick

“A compelling debut” – Independent on Sunday

“One of the most promising new talents on the Brit country scene” – Record Collector

“Drop all the qualifiers, discounts, and rhetoric about origin, Ags Connolly deserves to be considered right beside his Stateside counterparts as one of the carriers of the country music holy ghost whose carefully-crafted songs can speak to the human heart universally, irrespective of borders” – Saving Country Music

“Extraordinarily accomplished…hard to believe that it’s a UK product. As good a country record as you’re likely to hear from anywhere this year” – Flyinshoes Review

Tickets are available now for £8.80 from or

Buying directly from!buy-tickets/cq91 will avoid the booking fee, or, if there are tickets left, they’ll be available at the door for £10.


Apr 252014

Patrick Duff brings his remarkable skills back to Aberdeen on 30th April, but this time with some exciting added extras. Esther Green writes.

Patrick Duff BnWPatrick Duff returns once again with Craig John Davidson as Special Guest, but this time as a collaborator in an exciting new venture – a white vinyl 7” split release single.

Because of the special connection the Bristol-based singer now has with the Granite City, The Blue Lamp has been selected for the Launch Party for the record.

2013 saw Patrick release two albums; Visions of the Underworld, now available through Rough Trade and Seven Sermons to the Dead, a record originally commissioned by Bristol City Council.

With that in mind, here are seven reasons why you ought to come along to what promises to be a fantastic night…

1) The Songs.  Patrick has an incredible body of work behind him, whilst trying out new material all the time.  He may include the occasional cover in his shows, rarely – if ever – dipping into his extensive Strangelove back-catalogue, but mainly taps the rich vein of his solo career.

2) The Stories.  He’s a man of many stories, all of them fascinating, many of them almost unbelievable and some hilarious. As well as the eloquence of Patrick’s delivery of these tales, their intensity and personal nature is something to savour.

3) The Atmosphere.  If you have ever attended one of Patrick’s concerts, you know what this is about.  The audience silence means something, an experience he often refers to “deep listening”.

4) The Special Guest.  A Fat Hippy Records favourite, Craig John Davidson’s talents are outstanding.  A great songwriter and musician in equal measure, he never fails to impress audiences with his finely-crafted guitar style.  He recently toured successfully with label-mates in Los Angeles and can be found playing various venues around Aberdeen.

5) The Single.  It’s a celebration of the friendship and musical brotherhood of its collaborators and we’re all invited. Patrick’s “Thought Birds” and Craig’s “Mr Manners” are popular live tracks among their respective fans and you will have the chance to grab a copy of this very limited edition collector’s item.

6) The Voice.  Patrick has the most beautiful singing voice – often unexpectedly courageous and cavernous, it is a soulful, pure and expressive sound.

7) The Experience.  You will never forget it.

Links and Info.


Pre-order the single

Upcoming concerts

Patrick Duff on Facebook

Patrick Duff on Twitter

New interview with Bristol’s Artscare Records

Craig John Davidson on Facebook

Craig John Davidson on Soundcloud

Links to previous Aberdeen Voice articles about Patrick Duff

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Feb 072014

By Bob Smith.
800px-Pete_Seeger2_-_6-16-07_Photo_by_Anthony_Pepitone lopro

Last wikk we lost a legend
Pete Seeger wis his name
The chiel he wis aged 94
Fin oot wis snuffed his flame
Awa back in his young’r days
The lad he wis a commie
Atween him an yon McCarthy
There wisnae much bonhomie
A folk singer o warld renown
An an activist forbye
Supportit the Spanish Republicans
In a war far mony wid die
A singer fa fair protestit
The arms race an Vietnam war
He supportit the Civil Richts
An wis agin the colour bar
His singer sister Peggy
She mairrit Ewan MacColl
A bet at faimily githerins
They wid hae hid a ball
A freen o Woody Guthrie
An a early backer o Dylan
Fin Bob wint aa “electric”
Pete didna fin es thrillin
A lover o the environment
Tae es life he wis a giver
An got thingies fair stairted
Tae clean up the Hudson River
A ca’ed the chiel a legend
O es a hiv nae doot
A singer o folk sangs
An an activist tae boot
Seeger, Guthrie an Dylan
Protest lyrics wis their thing
Sangs fer the common man
Wis fit es three did bring
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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Sep 172013

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Gerry Jablonski

Gerry Jablonski and The Electric Band have long been one the most successful acts to come out of Aberdeen.

Their first 2 albums on Fat Hippy Records have sold to classic blues rock fans all over the world and both albums have had to be re-pressed to supply demand for their music!

On the 23rd September Fat Hippy will release their stunning third album Twist Of Fate.

Recorded whilst the band were fighting for their future as drummer Dave Innes (Midge Ure, Marillion, Fish, Bay City Rollers) battles with stomach cancer there is real passion and pain on this album and it takes the band and their electric music to a whole new level.

The band will play Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree on September 20th; other upcoming dates include 21st September at Non-Zeros, Dundee and 27th September in Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms.

With tours of Poland, Germany and Czech Republic already booked for 2013 and 2014 to launch the album and interest from the USA growing every day you should probably catch this band whilst you can!  More info:

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Aug 272013

With his first full length CD Do What You Love, recorded in Nashville, attracting considerable radio and media interest, Voice thought it a good time to send David Innes out to interview his fellow Banffshire native, Colin Mackay.  A Buckie loon and a Keith cyard meet without a fecht breaking out? The UN should take notes.

Colin MacKay 10

You’re still a bairn at 42, Colin. How long ago did you leave Buckie?

I left Buckie where I’d lived all my life when I was 18, to study at The Robert Gordon University.”

Was there always country or folk music on in the house as you grew up?

“There was always a lot of music in our house growing up. A huge eclectic range. My parents love so many different styles.

“My dad’s actually a trained tenor and I can remember going to see Handel’s Messiah where he was singing tenor lead. I sat at the back of the hall with a huge ghetto blaster recording it. I was only about 8 at the time. That guy Handel can write some nice melodies, I’m sure he’ll do well. 

“Dad still sings with Mario Janetta’s Big Band Sound, playing material in the style of Glen Miller, Count Basie, Sinatra and Dean Martin. Michael Buble has done a lot to make that style contemporary and popular in recent times.

 “I used to love going to rehearsals to watch the guitar players. I loved the melodies and how all the instruments gelled together, to produce that big band sound.

I’m sure that had an influence on me, although at the time I was struggling to play a B7 chord, and hadn’t even progressed to the mysteries of bar chords.”

The arrangements on Do What You Love are very full, come to think of it, but I’d never have picked up on a big band influence. What else has influenced you?

“I was only 6 when Elvis died (coincidentally we carried out the interview on the 36th anniversary of Elvis’s death), and that’s when things really took off. The TV was full of Elvis and that’s when I discovered my parents’ record collection – Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins. I wanted a leather jacket and a guitar!

“Similarly I was just 9 when John Lennon died, and I discovered The Beatles in the same way by digging into the records at home. Everyone else was into Duran Duran, and I’m obsessed by the White Album!

Colin MacKay 6

“I’ve always loved the raw energy that’s on those first 50’s Rock n Roll recordings. I find it totally infectious. I think if you don’t feel it you don’t have a pulse.

“In a similar vein The Rolling Stones are huge for me. I love how Keith Richards fuses rhythm and lead together and you can’t miss the Chuck Berry influence. I’m always picking things up from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and U2. I pick up other new influences all the time. But to make a great song, I feel you have to make the lyrics read like poetry, the melody make you want to whistle and the rhythm make you want to dance. Get that right, then you’ve got something.”

What about bands you played in when you were a loon?

“I first played with my good friends Frazer Clark, Alan Mo Morrison, and Graeme Slapp in a school band called Exodus. We played the local pubs and clubs and wedding dances from when we were about 14 and carried on through university. Peter McKay and James Alexander, our music teachers were a great help to us.

“Our high point came in 1987 when we were placed third out of 600 bands in the UK Battle of the Band Competition, TSB Rockschool. We were on TV and radio and thought we were going to be the next U2. That’s when my writing really got an airing as two songs in our set had to be originals.”

Colin’s big break and the route to recording Do What You Love in the country music capital came when he was in Fochabers, at the Moray village’s popular Speyfest. His Sun Studios t-shirt was spotted by Craig Duncan, a big name in bluegrass circles and they got on famously.

“He invited me to Nashville and I was introduced to Bil VornDick, a producer who works with household names like Alison Krauss, Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler. He liked what he heard of my demos and asked me to return to record an album. This was a chance I couldn’t turn down as he’s always in demand to produce records for big names.

“We sent mp3s back and forth across the Atlantic before the recording and he put together a session band of some of the most talented musicians I’ve had the good fortune to work with. These guys have played with some of the biggest names in rock and country music and I was continually amazed by their ability to find exactly the right lick or tone and by their humour and humility.

“I’m delighted with the records and to see my own songs up there beside the names of some of Nashville’s best writers delights me.”

Colin MacKay 9Are there plans to record over there again?

“Nothing concrete yet, but I am hopeful that I can work with Bil again. We’re still in contact and it would be terrific with his contacts if one of the big Americana names picked up on one of my songs and recorded it.”

Given that you don’t really want to give up your day job, how do you fit in touring?

“I’ve always been able to juggle the two, so far. It takes a bit of planning and flexibility and I always travel with a guitar.

“One winter I was snowed in over in Applecross and I met a helicopter pilot who also was an accordion player. We had such a great time that we were hoping for more snow!”

Country’s been described as the white man’s blues – is this a fair assessment?

“Absolutely, you don’t only hear the music you have to feel the music. Hank Williams? Robert Johnson? It’s the same thing. You know that music is coming from the heart.”

I hear a lot of soul on your album – do you have influences from that direction too?

“I love all the stuff that came out of Stax in Memphis, and all the Motown stuff. Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, so many greats.

“I feel the album is more Southern Rock, with shades of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Eagles than strictly country. It was made in Nashville because that’s where my friends and contacts were, but there’s a lot more than country music coming out of Nashville. We used a pedal steel on the slow songs and that gives them a country flavour.

It’s amazing how just one instrument can change the style. I’d never worked with steel before and totally loved it. It did help that we had the legend that is Sonny Garrish on the session.”

Are there any particular Scottish or NE influences in your songwriting?

“We were influenced by NE giants Johnny and the Copycats. We supported them a few times, including their 25th anniversary gig. Now I believe they’ve recently been celebrating their 50th year playing. They were in Hamburg at the same time as The Beatles, and had a deal with EMI, a proper rock n roll band.

“I’m also friends with Gavin Sutherland, of the Sutherland Brothers who wrote Sailing among other greats. He records at the same studio as me and both of us are helped by the Beechwood Studio recording colossus that is James Hunter, one of the best sound engineers I’ve ever met.”

We’ve got a review copy of Do What You Love and it’s impressive. We’ll carry a review soon. It’s available from any CD stockist and as a download.

Thanks to Colin and to Martin at Birnam CD Ltd.