Mar 022021

By Suzanne Kelly.

Marc Ellington, musician, philanthropist, climate change activist, author has passed away. He leaves behind his family and many friends.

Dr Ellington, or Marc to his many friends, was a singer, songwriter and guitarist.  He occasionally performed with his lifelong friend Richard Thompson, and with Fairport Convention. 

Marc had not often performed in recent years, but joined Richard on stage at the Royal Albert hall in September 2019 for Richard’s 70th birthday party show along with many members of the Thompson family, and artists including Dave Gilmour, and Harry Shearer.

Marc and his wife Karen lovingly restored Aberdeenshire’s Towie Barclay Castle and gardens.  From its great hall he worked on his many projects. 

He founded and ran the charity The Scottish Traditional Skills Centre.  The Centre ran some of the first-ever courses on how climate change threatens our cultural and built heritage. 

Presentations were made by experts from various disciplines including the Met Office, focusing on historic properties and sites such as Skara Brae. 

The Centre ran courses for professional and amateur alike including topics such as gardening, dry stone walling, and property repair.  Perhaps its greatest success was running courses for young people with a variety of needs. 

Young people learned from different specialists about the environment, wildlife, botany, and enjoyed hands-on activities from dry stone walling to building lean-tos at locations such as Fyvie Castle grounds. 

Passionate about Aberdeen city’s and shire’s architectural gems, Marc edited The Lost City: Old Aberdeen by Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson. 

Marc knew any number of little-known historic jewels, and greatly enjoyed showing these off to his guests.  He was a keen student of the area’s history, not least its importance to folk music from the past through artists such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.

Along with Charles MacLean and Daniel MacCannell Marc Ellington was an editor on the book, Scotland’s Secret History: The Illicit Distilling and Smuggling of Whisky.  The book paints a vivid picture of whisky’s history and the Cabrach. 

He was instrumental in the creation of a memorial cairn in the Cabrach dedicated to those from the area who lost their lives in WWI and subsequent conflicts.  Whisky giants The Gordon family were the main funders. 

Marc said:

“Each and every aspect of the construction of the cairn has involved members, both young and old, of the Cabrach Community working closely with master craftsman Euan Thompson.

“As well as being one of the finest memorial cairns to be built in Scotland in recent years, this is an outstanding example of what a local community, working together with energy and determination, can achieve.”

Marc spoke at an exhibition of international artists in 2018 held at the Glenfiddich Distillery. 

He talked about the role art plays – or should play – in education and in our culture.  As part of the speech he applauded the creators,  rebels, movers, and individuals who stand up for what is right, who follow their passions and dreams.  Indeed, this was how many saw him.

As the historic landlord in Gardenstown and Crovie, he was shocked when in 2015 salmon farmers were illegally shooting seals from the land in order to stop them eating salmon. 

He was actively involved with stopping the destruction of wildlife, and cared deeply for the sea and marine life.

He acted as announcer and master of ceremonies for the annual Portsoy Boat Festival, often sailing his craft to the harbour. 

Marc never missed a chance to help people when it arose; he always had a hilarious, apt anecdote for whatever social situation he found himself in. 

He sought to impart his passions for the environment, culture, history, music and arts, and succeeded in influencing many.  He is greatly missed, but his music and his many accomplishments will continue to influence.

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Sep 162015

Richard Thompson returned to Aberdeen Music Hall, and as they say, ‘he owned it’. Biased devotee Suzanne Kelly reviews. Photographs by Julie Thompson.

It’s always a treat when Richard Thompson comes to town.  The Music Hall lobby was filled with fans before the show, speculating on what he might play, and comparing notes on when they’d last seen him.

Richard Thompson Music Hall (3) I only found out that The Rails were opening on the night; I’d long wanted to see them live.

Richard’s daughter Kami Thompson and her husband James Walbourne are giving us pure folk music, beautifully arranged with haunting harmonies and beautiful playing. You’d expect no less though.

They explain their new CD has been delayed, or they’d have it for sale tonight.

Happily, you can get more info on The Rails and their CD here.

They seem relaxed and seem to be enjoying it – but it can’t be easy opening up when your father – or father-in-law is basically a living benchmark.

“We still keep falling for the same old lies. Times are tough, times are tough, but that’s enough.”

Thompson opens with the rousing call to protest song ‘That’s Enough’. He explains it’s from the family album, and that he intended it for Occupy Wall Street but ‘was about a year too late’ with it. The night’s going to be filled with astonishing music, but a piece like this reminds you that aside from the 200 mile per hour riffs, haunting acoustic melodies, straightforward honest rock, it’s not just the guitar you come for, it’s the writing.

You have to love the directness and simplicity of a piece like this, but when it’s performed with harmonies supplied by his daughter and son-in-law filling the Music Hall, you remember what live performance at its best is.

Richard Thompson Music Hall (5)Genuinely, the impact of this song as performed was immense. I hope someone’s going to get a recording of this piece with all three musicians. Genetics. The stuff that gives you a family of Bushes or Kardashians. Or, if you’re really, really lucky, a family of Thompsons.

Now that we’re all riled up and ready to start a protest there and then, the music is taking us elsewhere. ‘All Buttoned Up’ leads with its uptight staccato tension leads into folky ‘Sally B’.

We hear a new piece, ‘Broken Doll’ – slow, haunting, touch of menace – in the way Richard makes wholly his own. As he does.

‘Al Bowlly’s in Heaven’ is introduced and explained by Richard. It’s the tale of a veteran who feels forgotten (lack of support for veterans sadly is still a huge issue and the UK fails its service people badly). The protagonist, a down-on-his-luck veteran remorsefully muses on the death of his musical idol. Al Bowlly’s gone to heaven, but our veteran is in limbo.

‘Guitar Heroes’ is an amazing voyage through the styles of the artists who inspired Richard including Les Paul and Chuck Berry. In this piece, the guitar tech is brought on to provide acoustic rhythm guitar support. “Sorry it’s for the same money,” Richard tells him.

The song is an extraordinary piece seeing Richard channel Les Paul to such a degree that I get teary; it was just like listening to Paul again in person like I did, enrapt, over 25 years ago.

To play this song, jumping in and out of styles, is a phenomenal workout. Everyone in the audience is loving the exhilarating, perfect work; it gets massive applause. I’m exhausted for them by this point; but they’re keeping on.

Clearly no one’s going to get onto a bill with Thompson if they’re not the business, but the bass and drums are such you’d have to go far and wide to find talents anything like these. I’ve heard percussionist Michael Jerome before touring with Thompson, but tonight he’s absolutely on fire.

Richard Thompson Music Hall (7)The range of techniques; the variety of the playing, the expressiveness is on particularly great form.

If it seemed like, if Thompson was channelling Les Paul, then Jerome was channelling Krupa and Bonzo.

A solo he’s got about halfway through the night has Davey Faragher making his bass speak like I’ve never heard anyone do before. Other than when his bass takes the lead, it’s always just right – never dominating, always creatively underlining; always felt. We’re liking this line up an awful lot.

The guitar solos exceed expectations. Maybe he has six or seven fingers? How’s he moving that fast? Why did they call Clapton ‘Slowhand?’ A few frivolous thoughts like that come quickly to mind and go. The greatest metal lead guitar players would have a hard time doing this material justice. The music and the material has me thinking and feeling some wonderful things; I’m finding this exhilarating, battery-recharging, and empowering. And I want to go and protest things even more.

Then he slows it all down with If Love Whispers Your Name ‘next time I promise I will be ready, ready to move when the clouds roll apart

It ends too soon. Afterwards, over a quick drink or two (the road manager is celebrating his 60th birthday – though he seems more like 20 to me), Richard’s got an effortless nonchalant demeanour; ‘down to earth’ doesn’t even quite do it justice; he’s just being a top bloke.

What others said:

Gemma Louise Cook said:

“it was a fantastic night and a real treat to be there – RT Electric Trio and The Rails gained two more very enthusiastic fans in Scott and I Thursday night.”

Portrait artist Keith Byres said:

“Blistering performance! Richard Thompson is a musician who doesn’t believe he’s a guitarist…. He just knows!!!!! This is true art!!!”

and Shaun Young said:

“great performance loved the new album too. enjoyed the rails too. great vocal. , the drummer from the electric trio was incredible couldn’t take my eyes off some of his drum beats very impressive.”

On a personal note:

Richard Thompson Music Hall (2)There was this particular point, maybe it was a solo early on in the proceedings, but I realised that something was missing – then I realised that someone was missing. Her name was Ruth MacPherson; she loved Richard’s music, and one year I was going to take her along, but on the night she was just too ill from her fight with cancer to make it. She’d have loved being here tonight.

Most musicians gracefully sign photographs and pose for photos as if they were an exhibit; I generally try to avoid asking them for any such favours when I could just be talking with them.

On that long-ago night though, I got Richard to sign a backstage pass or some such for Ruth. I slipped it under her door one day with a copy of ‘Electric’. She was ecstatic. I wished she was here.

I also got slightly teary like a silly girl when Richard’s ‘Guitar Heroes’ got to the Les Paul section. You try not to be disappointed over the many ‘would have/should have/could have’ moments. Still, the last time I had the opportunity to hear Paul play, I got conscripted against my will into something I didn’t want to do instead.

‘I’ll just go see him play next time’ I thought. There never was a next time, and there won’t be one. Maybe I finally learnt my lesson about following my instincts and appreciating what is available in the here and now. I’d like to hope so. But when I closed my eyes, it was just like being back in Fat Tuesday’s, sitting a few feet away from Les, and hearing those golden tones that no one else can match (Richard did it though).

On a less maudlin note, I would have liked to hear ‘Fergus Lang’ at the Music Hall, like Thompson did last year. That was the first time I’d seen it live, and I’ll try and make sure I see Richard perform it again. I hope RT realises that for a good number of people, that song is pure tonic (Trump not being one of them).

Aug 212015

TINA_2093-Blackout-contrastSqWith thanks to Rob Adams.

Leading jazz singer Tina May and top pianist Nikki Iles play The Blue Lamp in Gallowgate on Thursday, September 3 as part of a Scottish tour to celebrate twenty years of making music together.

The pair met when the then-Leeds-based pianist’s trio accompanied May on gigs in Yorkshire in October 1995 and they have been friends and musical partners ever since.

Gloucester-born May (pictured), whose musical experiences include performing in an Edinburgh Fringe student revue with impersonator Rory Bremner and recording Come Fly With Me as the theme song from television docusoap Airline, became interested in jazz when she was studying French at University College, Cardiff and she began singing during a year spent in Paris as part of her course, when she also met Bremner.

After working in theatre companies and singing with bands around Cardiff, she moved to London and released her first album, Never Let Me Go, in 1992.

She went on to develop both as a singer and lyricist, putting words to tunes by musicians including former Weather Report keyboards player Joe Zawinul and alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, and in 2002 she achieved a great honour in jazz terms when pianist Ray Bryant, accompanist to singing greats Betty Carter, Carmen McRae and Aretha Franklin, invited her to put lyrics to his compositions.

May and Bryant then recorded their collaborations in Rudy Van Gelder’s legendary Englewood Cliffs studio in New Jersey, scene of countless recordings for the Impulse! and Blue Note labels including John Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme.

Since meeting May in 1995 and moving to London shortly afterwards, Nikki Iles has gone on to establish herself as one of the UK’s foremost pianists, working with saxophonists Scott Hamilton, Peter King and Tony Coe and appearing with the Kenny Wheeler Big Band and the Julian Arguelles Octet as well as leading her own trio with top New York bass and drums team, Rufus Reid and Jeff Williams.

The two women enjoy a special relationship.

“I love singing with Nikki,” says May. “We’re kindred spirits really and the first time we worked together, in Halifax, there was an immediate affinity. Nikki just seemed to know instinctively what to play and when, and that’s continued down the years. She’s also a dear friend.”

The songs they’re likely to present on tour will come from a wide range of sources, including French songstress Edith Piaf’s repertoire (May speaks French fluently and now spends much of her time in Paris) and the Great American Songbook, and will be chosen with two important considerations in mind.

“I’ve always felt that entertainment and communication are the biggest things for me and the combination of words and music is the most natural way of engaging with an audience,” says May. “Songs are really the most marvellous little stories and that’s essentially what we do – we’re two storytellers working together.”

Jul 302015

When Big Country played The Lemon Tree last year as part of their 30th Anniversary ‘Steeltown’ Tour, fans had come from all parts of Aberdeenshire and further afield. The atmosphere was intense as well as friendly and warm, the band seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the large crowd. It was a great night – but when Big Country came to Huntly last week, there were a few new and special things going on. Suzanne Kelly reports. Photos by Rob Scott.

_MG_5337Big Country have seen many many changes during their long, hit-filled career. Huntly was the scene for a further lineup change with Simon Hough on vocals.
There was something about the intimate old venue with its high ceilings having a definite acoustic edge over venues such as Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree.

There was something about the crowd; all who spoke to Aberdeen Voice on the night having encyclopaedic knowledge of the act. There was something about the Aberdeenshire setting and the summer evening that made it the perfect time and place for Big Country’s decidedly Scottish unique sound.

As the photos show, they also looked great. Things look very positive for the rest of this year’s demanding tour schedule.

The opening act, actor and singer Tom Urie entertained with covers and good humour.

The band played their classic hits and live favourites including Harvest Home – Fields of Fire – In A Big Country – Chance – Wonderland – Look Away – The Teacher. 

This line-up was a new one for us all; and it worked. The band line up – BRUCE WATSON (guitars/vocals); MARK BRZEZICKI (drums, vocals); JAMIE WATSON (guitars/vocals) and former SIMPLE MINDS’ bassist/vocalist, DEREK FORBES – was augmented on stage by SIMON HOUGH, ex-front man for Denny Laine (Wings), Eric Bell (Thin Lizzy) etc.

Event organisers Huntly Live said:

“after a shaky sound start, we did really good. The band are getting tighter and the sound of Simon’s voice won’t be Stuart’s – but it ain’t far away.”

Any sound issues were minor if not unnoticeable to those front of house on the floor or in the balcony, where the sound was perfect. Perhaps a few larger / city centre venues could learn a thing or two from Huntly.

The organisers have a mission to bring acts out of the big cities to the lovely Huntly area. As they told Aberdeen Voice:

“The idea behind the company is a simple one. To provide good quality entertainment on our doorstep… we have some great venues around the region and it’s our plan to use as many as we can.”

They’d succeeded on the night.

On a personal note – I was taken ill (very ill), or I’d have had a few words from the band to share. This will definitely be redressed when they play Aberdeen later this year. And even though I could barely stand, when they played, my focus was on them and I forgot how badly I was doing.

For further information on the rest of the band’s 2015 tour dates, news and more, visit including their future Lemon Tree date.

Visit Huntly Live Entertainment for information about further shows.

Apr 232015

Mark Olson featWith thanks to David Innes.

In another major coup for Martin Raitt of the city’s Almost Blue Promotions, Americana giant Mark Olson will grace The Blue Lamp stage on Sunday 26 April.

Olson is the founding member of pioneering country rock legends The Jayhawks, who are universally cited as being among the most influential bands from the 1990s with their albums Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass high on the must-have lists of Americana fans.

Olson’s new album, Goodbye Lizelle, is his first solo project for five years and features his Norwegian wife, Ingunn Ringvold on vocals.

It has been attracting hugely favourable reviews, and Mark’s visit to the city displays Alost Blue’s determination to bring the highest-quality acts to the NE, reflected in online interest and impressive ticket sales.

Opening the show is Stonehaven loon Colin Clyne, now back in the NE after a 10 year stay in Southern California where he built a sizeable following. Clyne combines Scottish influences with his love of American music, and has been recorded and produced by Grammy award winning Engineer Alan Sanderson, best known for his work with The Rolling Stones and Burt Bacharach.

cahalenandeli new picAlmost Blue’s May gig will feature Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, no strangers to the NE, but who seem to love coming here and putting on ever more skilful and uplifting shows.

Simply put, they are two of the most innovative and subtle roots musicians touring and recording today.

Their music draws from old folk sources, but it sounds vibrantly alive.

Cahalen Morrison writes songs that sound like a Cormac McCarthy novel, simple, beautifully-crafted, and giving the impression that they’ve been formed from raw natural elements.

Eli West brings jagged, angular arrangements based in bluegrass and old-time, but refracted through a 21st century lens. Like Ansel Adams’ photography, their music is instantly accessible and built from the simplest materials, but at the same time seems to transcend its base fundamentals.

Together, Cahalen and Eli tap the root of the old country and bluegrass duets. As the sparse landscapes of Cahalen’s vocals reflect the warm glow of Eli’s voice, it’s clear that this duo was made to sing together.

Almost Blue gig listing 2015

Mark Olson supported by Colin Clyne
The Blue Lamp, Sunday 26 April

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West
The Blue Lamp, Wednesday 6 May

JP Harris & The Tough Choices
The Tunnels, Saturday 23 May

The Red Dirt Skinners
The Blue Lamp, Friday 7 August

Greg Trooper
The Blue Lamp, Tuesday 22 September

Ben Rogers
The Blue Lamp, Friday 23 October

Tickets for all shows are available from See Tickets, Aberdeen Box Office or

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Jan 302015

TV Smith is about to tour Germany with the UK Subs, and looks set to spend most of 2015 on the road as per usual. The recent album ‘I Delete’ contains all the observation on society you’d expect and is doing well. He continues to write his tour diaries; the latest is Book Of The Year, another candid account of a year touring, warts – lots of warts – and all. In between dates, merchandising, and admin, he talks with Suzanne Kelly.

 The Warm Up.

24_Credit Steve White

TV Smith Live – Credit: Steve White.

The Adverts dissembled a mere thirty something years ago, but Tim Smith doesn’t seem to have stopped touring or writing since. Before we speak, I watch a particular video of ‘I Delete’ again that I particularly like. The song speaks to me of our surveillance-happy society, personal memory overload, and the little acknowledged fact that sometimes the camera does lie or can be made to lie.

Smith’s vocals vary from quietly controlled but edgy to powerfully angry. ‘I Delete’ is the title track on the latest album – you can pick it up here as well as the tour diaries.

Around nine years ago he began publishing his tour memoirs; there are five books out now.

Aberdonians may be interested to know the latest one ‘Book of the Year’ closes with his date at the Moorings in December 2013 and his meeting Fred Wilkinson, Hen, Flash, and Flash’s sick parrot. The diary entries provide an insight into a life spent in music with a matter-of-fact humour and plain speaking, direct prose.

It’s perhaps a bit of a paradox, Smith’s music can convey such anger and frustration, yet he keeps his calm and keeps his head in situations that would tax anyone else to breaking point and beyond. For those who don’t know, life on the road for any musician is hardly one glamorous adventure after another.

Smith’s put up with late-cancelled shows, vehicle breakdowns, freezing cold hotels, disappearing sound people, kipping on floors, lack of edible food, lack of inedible food, and on more than one occasion amazing rudeness, daftness, incompetence and/or a mix of all these. If you wonder why he bothers, he’s written five engaging tour diaries that spell it out.

The Main Act

5_Credit_Minna Waring

Credit: Minna Waring

I call Tim; he’s at home after 4 UK dates with a luxurious two days to relax “surrounded by boxes of merchandise” before he joins the UK Subs European tour.

I tell him Fred Wilkinson’s tried to get Atilla the Stockbroker down here; and we both hope Tim can make it back to Aberdeen sometime soon.

He’s friendly and polite – he always seems to be.

I will say he sounds a little tired; he’s for one thing answered pretty much the same questions in interviews for 30+ years.

Added to that, his schedule would make anyone else exhausted.

We briefly talk about the phases the music business goes through, and I suggest that anyone who wants to have a career in music on their own terms is managing their career themselves.

“It’s not that far from the way punk started.” He explains.

“it’s the DIY ethic. Right back when that’s how it was. The original punks are older and smarter now. You did what you wanted to do then; that made it new and special. Gradually that DIY spirit got consumed by the industry – people see how terrible the business is now.”

We fairly naturally move to the subject of the ubiquitious TV talent shows and what that’s doing to new music and the more unusual artist.

“It’s an entertainment industry; it’s not about the music. It’s not like the ‘60s where there was at least the pretence of pushing good music.” 

I ask about this new tour he’s to start with the Subs.

“I’m on a never ending tour,” [ which of course he is now I think about it a bit more]

“Another thing that’s changed – you put a record out, went on tour, did nothing for a bit, then did another album and then the record company put you out again. I do 130 dates a year. The subs tour is a bit different. 5 weeks on the trot. For most of the rest of the year it’s 4 or 5 dates here, a trip to Finland or Switzerland, then back to the UK.”

I’m thinking about his accounts of cars breaking down in the middle of nowhere, of vans laden with gear with flat tires on the way to shows, getting lost on the way to clubs, cancelled trains, planes and automobiles. Then, as often as not, the problems start when he gets to a venue – no PA, missing engineers, strange people, malfunctioning equipment – it’s enough too give anyone nightmares.

‘How do you keep your cool on the road?’ – I genuinely wonder. I think of artists I’d worked with in the past who’d get threatening if their dressing room wasn’t to their liking.

“When you set your mind to do something and it becomes increasingly obvious there will be obstacles.. equinamity takes over and you can either just get on with it, or moan and give up. There is a tendency to start moaning and whinging but then the atmosphere gets even worse. It is hard; it is soul destroying and it is irritating. 

“But you have to try in retrospect to see the funny side. Re-writing what happens later is therapeutic. When the van’s broken down and it’s 25 degrees below zero in Finland and you wonder how you’ll get to the show, it’s not fun at the time. But if you lack confidence in how to achieve what you want to do, you’ll just sit and home and become a bedroom artist.”

3_Credit_Anne Schelhaas-Wöll

Credit: Anne Schelhaas-Wöll

His music has touched on virtually every modern social ill I can think of – Lies (senseless, cruel animal experimentation), March of the Giants (which I always associate with Trump), Straight and Narrow (our ‘justice’ and ‘class’ systems) and so on.

‘I Delete’ speaks to me of our CCTV surveillance society (it’s no secret I don’t think Aberdeen Inspired should track us by our mobile phones, by imagery and know how long we spend in any shop – it’s a blatant infringement of our privacy all in the name of ‘footfall’ and marketing – but is a handy tool for anyone wishing to get our details and routines – but I digress); we are apparently the most spied on nation on earth ever.

I spout a rambling question of sorts at Tim about this new song, about writing, about social commentary.

Somehow he’s made sense of where I was trying to go:

“I’m a bit shy about describing lyrics… if I could tell you where it came from I’d be doing it all the time; it’s kind of a mysterious thing. Every now and then you get a snap of an idea, you grab it roll around with it and see if something comes out if it. It’s as much a mystery to me now as it was when I started in 1975. 

“I’m always getting people saying thing to me like ‘that would be a good idea for a song for you.’ But the ones that filter into your brain and spark something off and you get some poetry out of it is a completely different thing than someone demanding to know why ‘I’ve not written something about the aborigines yet’.”

“It’s not my ambition to correct injustice but to write poetry – if I can combine the two, then I’ve done the job.”

It’s not a matter for me of ‘if’ he can do the job of mixing social commentary and poetry – but how often he’s managed to masterfully do so over the decades. Another look at his website and I find the archives offer a list of some of his songs ranked by fans.

‘Immortal Rich’, ‘Gather Your Things And Go’, ‘Generation Y’, ‘Only One Flavour’ – all of this material ‘does the job’ of mixing the issues and concerns of a bewildering world with poetry. I can’t remember which tour diary book (it’ll be the first or the last) this quote is from, but at one point Smith recounts a fan saying to him “You sing about what we’re all thinking.”

All I can say is – absolutely.

It must be these kinds of reactions that makes TV Smith go out year after year on tour. It’s not the food or the hotels. But I ask him about touring all the same.

“You’re a bedroom artist if you don’t get out there. At the end of the day if you see that people have responded to your songs it makes the whole journey worthwhile. If I get to a gig after going through manic situations [and some of them sound very manic indeed] – that’s the fuel that keeps me going. When people go home motivated with their eyes shining you can’t ask for anything else – except maybe heat.”

I mention Fred Wilkinson and that Fred’s keen to try and get both TV Smith and Atilla the Stockbroker back to Aberdeen asap.

“I remember Fred – he gave me two Toxik Ephex CDs after Rebellion last year. Give him my love.”

I will do – Fred will be over the moon.

I mention that when we next get him up here, we’ve got a great place for him to stay near the Moorings; a luxe B&B where he can stay up and drink all night if he so wishes.

“I have stopped the staying with the friends scenario – I’ve stopped it because it becomes a non-stop party. People assume you’re the life and soul but when you’re doing it 130 times a year…”

I’m not surprised. In his diaries he seems to always be hunting out the friend of a friend he’s meant to stay with, finding that he’s got a kids’ bedroom to sleep in and the kids have been sent off elsewhere; dogs and cats barge into what little sleep he gets; and everyone expects that he can wake up, travel for hours, not eat, sound check eventually, play, socialise, merchandise, pack up, and then stay up all night drinking and talking.

One hundred thirty plus nights a year.

Before I let him get back to the mountains of work that undoubtedly await, we discuss a few upcoming festivals, and that TV Smith and the Bored Teenagers will play at Rebellion this year. They’ll do two sets; and TV will quite probably do an acoustic set as well. I’m just hoping that he’ll find time to get back up this way soon.

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May 012014

Singer Christine Tobin, who appears at The Blue Lamp on May 22, might be crowned Vocalist of the Year by order of Parliament by the time she arrives in Gallowgate, says promoter Rob Adams.


Christine Tobin appears at The Blue Lamp on May 22

Dublin-born Tobin, who studied at the Guildhall School of Music, has just been shortlisted for the title, along with recent Aberdeen Jazz Festival star Zara MacFarlane and two other singers, in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, the UK’s most prestigious recognition for jazz musicians, educators, media workers and organisations.

Nomination is open to the public but the final decisions are made by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group, whose members represent both Commons and Lords and work to raise the profile of UK jazz.

The results will be announced on May 13 in a ceremony on the Commons’ Terrace Pavilion and having come close to awards for Best Musician and Best Album in previous years, Tobin, 51, is hoping that this will be third time lucky.

“It’s always nice to get recognition for your work,”

says Tobin, who won Best Vocalist at the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards and a British Composer Award for her 2012 album Sailing to Byzantium. She also won a Herald Angel at the Edinburgh Fringe last August for the show that she’s bringing to Aberdeen, A Thousand Kisses Deep, her salute to singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

She will be accompanied by guitarist Phil Robson, who has worked with Barbra Streisand, and double bassist Dave Whitford

A Thousand Kisses Deep is also the title of Tobin’s latest Proper Note album, launched at a sold-out concert at Ronnie Scott’s in March. It comes just in time to mark Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday year.

“I’ve been a fan of his since I was ten,” says Tobin.

My sister had the Fill Your Head with Rock album, a diverse compilation of early 1970s music. Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Know Who I Am’ was on it and I loved it. Forty years later I still love it and I’m really looking forward to singing it at The Blue Lamp because it’s such a great, warmly-intimate venue.”

Thu May 22: Blue Lamp, 121 Gallowgate, Aberdeen 8pm 01224 641122

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Dec 242013

At the Lemon Tree on the 29th December, Terry McDermott & The Bonfires make their first return to the UK since launching their debut CD ‘Palmetto Heights EP’ on Fat Hippy Records in June this year.

Terry McDermott - Credit Matt JollyAberdeen’s Terry McDermott has made a big difference to the city’s Fat Hippy Records since they released the CD back in June.

Following his success last year on ‘The Voice USA’, Terry has developed a massive worldwide fan base, and has brought a lot of attention to Aberdeen and its many amazing musicians by choosing to work with Fat Hippy again.

Thanks to Terry, the label made it to LA earlier this month with Amy Sawers and Craig John Davidson; and with his help they are planning a tour to New Orleans next year.

Terry’s continued support and passion for all things Aberdonian is never-ending!  So get along and support one of Aberdeen’s most avid supporters and ambassadors when he returns to Scotland in December to play The Lemon Tree with his most favourite label mates Amy Sawers and Craig John Davidson.

If ever there was a hard working Aberdeen musician that deserved a sold out Lemon Tree to play to, it’s this guy!

More Info:


Aberdeen tickets:

Events page: Fat Hippy Records presents Terry McDermott Music & The Bonfires with support from Amy Sawers and Craig John Davidson at Aberdeen’s The Lemon Tree on 29th December

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Oct 042013

An Optimistic Sound – The Songs of Michael Marra, Dundee Repertory Theatre, 28 September 2013. David Innes reviews.


It’s difficult to believe that almost a year has passed since Michael Marra was taken from us, and the world was deprived of a supremely talented writer, artist and performer.

The affection and respect which poured out from fellow artists, fans and friends in October 2012 validated his status and the esteem in which he was held.

Such was this esteem that Celtic Connections, only three months after his death, featured an evening of celebration of his music and influence entitled All Will Be Well.

Quite what he would have made of this we can only guess; but as a fiercely proud Dundonian writer and performer, one can imagine that a further commemoration, An Optimistic Sound, played to a sold-out Dundee Repertory Theatre, would be the finest accolade that he could imagine.

Whilst the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall event was emotional and celebratory, by contrast the Dundee event had a more relaxed feel. It was as if Michael’s ‘bairns’ The Hazey Janes, with son Matthew on bass and daughter Alice compering and performing, and wife Peggy, had invited friends round for the evening to sing a few songs and share an anecdote or two.

That spirit of inclusion extended to the audience, loudly appreciative of every artistic effort extended for our entertainment.

Whether it was Rod Paterson telling of Michael’s generosity in completing a muse-deserted Paterson song overnight, Peter McGlone blowing heart-rending saxophone, or Saint Andrew declaiming Woodwork Woodwork  and revealing that its refrain was based on the late Gus Foy’s school timetable, standards of performance never fell below outstanding.

Could Muscle Shoals have assembled a more soulful backing chorus for Eddi Reader’s white-hot Here Come The Weak than Alice Marra, Karine Polwart and sisters Fiona, Gillie and Eilidh Mackenzie?

Dougie McLean has thankfully preserved a song, never recorded, which Michael would sing in his early performing days at Blairgowrie Folk Club, and took obvious delight in performing it.

These are merely a few highlights among many. The whole was indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

Michael had always shied away from stardom. As our national Makar Liz Lochhead reminded us, he once said, ‘I don’t want my name in lights; I want my name in brackets’. Ever the songwriter. His generosity was well-known and he would have been proud, without doubt, that all profits from the evening are to go to Optimistic Sound, a Michael Marra Memorial Music Trust for the young people of Dundee.

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Jun 142013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

Aberdeen Lord Provost, George Adam, has officially inaugurated Scottish singer and producer Fiona Kennedy as Honorary President of VSA in recognition of 30 years of incredible enthusiasm, dedication and fundraising.
Fiona’s career has been diverse and includes singing, acting, public speaking and performing at international events, as well as producing the vibrant and hugely successful production The Kist.

Kenneth Simpson, chief executive at VSA, said:

“Fiona has given an enormous amount of support and done a tremendous amount of profile-raising for the charity.  We’re so grateful and can’t wait for the next steps.

“Fiona has a long history with us, having been a Trustee, Convenor of the Carers Committee, Vice Chair and Chair of VSA Board.  She has shown endless passion and tenacity, working hard for causes close to her heart. 

“The team at VSA, past and present, are incredibly grateful for Fiona’s hard work in publicising and supporting campaigns, particularly for older peoples’ services Broomhill Park and Broomhill Activity Centre.”

On accepting the honour Fiona, who began her involvement when asked to accept a cheque on VSA’s behalf and has been an ambassador and an active fundraiser for the charity over the last 30 years, said:

“I’m completely thrilled and delighted to become VSA’s Honorary President. 

“I love being part of the VSA family and will continue to do whatever I can to support the organisation.  VSA is doing a brilliant job and I’m proud to be part of it.”

“I went to see the range of work VSA is involved with and was just so impressed.  The work VSA continues to do is really inspiring. 

“I felt this amazing organisation was not blowing its own trumpet enough, so I was very glad roll my sleeves up.

“My main priorities were to raise awareness and fundraise.  What’s really impressive is the fact that 96p of every pound raised goes directly to charitable expenditure.”

A particular highlight for Fiona was spearheading and chairing the campaign for the £4million Broomhill Park, that she and her committee helped raise significant funds for, of which she went on to say:

“I’m never afraid to knock on doors to champion causes I believe in and was so delighted to attract supporters like Sir Alex Ferguson to help fundraise for the new Broomhill Park.”  

Kenneth Simpson, chief executive at VSA, also presented local businessman James Stevenson with the title of Honorary Vice President at Tuesday’s event.

Making the presentation to James, Kenneth said:

“James too has done so much for VSA during his time as a Trustee, Vice Chair and Chair of the VSA board. 

“He has terrific business expertise, which VSA values greatly and has given many years of extremely generous support.”