The Great Fife Road Show returns

The Great Fife Road Show
Photograph by Jurek A Putter

One to look forward to in January…The Great Fife Road Show featuring; Maureen (Chalmers) Blyth, Davie Craig, Barbara Dickson, Noel Farrow, Cilla Fisher, Jim Herd, Jimmy Hutchison, Brian Miller, Rab Noakes, Davey Stewart and Artie Trezise.

Back in late 1969 a troupe of singers from the Fife Folksong Scene gathered themselves together for a trip to Belfast. The occasion was an invitation to provide a show around Folksong from Scotland at Queens University. Later that year a wee tour of East Anglia was undertaken and here the name The Great Fife Road Show was unveiled.

As 1970 emerged, ambition was rife and a tour over the summer months was suggested. And so it came to pass. The numbers expanded and the tour was plotted. It’s here the late John Watt makes his presence felt and a level of professionalism and organisational skill is introduced. The tour covered Scotland from Dumfries to Ullapool, a total of some 25 dates.

Following that outing, the personnel altered slightly as new members arrived and others went on to establish substantial presence in the world of music’n’song. Reunions and celebratory events have occurred occasionally and The Great Fife Road Show has gone on to achieve legendary status.

This celebratory show will be performed by all surviving ex-members. Singer/Guitarist Des Haldane, who died too young in 2008, will be fondly remembered and there’ll be a segment of the show devoted to the seminal John Watt which will contain several of his masterly compositions. The show will revisit some of its renowned ensemble pieces and solo performances. There’ll be old songs, new songs, old jokes and a delicious camaraderie on display.

To quote the song ‘Fife’s Got Everything’ – “Fife’s entertainment, finest in the country, when it comes to arty talk we’re no’ the mugs”. But we’ll let the audience be the judge of that claim.

Laughter, tears, nostalgia and memories of 50 years of friendship, wrapped up in The Great Fife Road Show.

Saturday 18 January 2020 Lochgelly Centre, Lochgelly, Fife. KY5 9RD. Show 8pm Tickets £10 Tel. 01592 583303


Along The WayDougie Mackenzie began his musical life singing Gaelic songs but later turned his attention to the Scots ballad tradition. The result is Along The Way, a collection of mostly traditional songs sensitively produced by Ian McCalman. Dougie comes from a tradition of unaccompanied singing – some would say that’s the only way to sing these songs – but some need a little more which is where the guitar and cittern of Brian Miller come in.

Most of these songs are well-known. That said, I don’t believe that I’d heard the opener, ‘The Bonny Wee Lassie’s Answer’ before and, without buying The Greig-Duncan Collection or at least the first volume, I’m unlikely to discover much more about it. It’s the record’s big production number with two instruments and a chorus and it seems to be about a man enlisting in the army but the significance of her answer evades me. One “new” traditional song on an album is a fair return, however. The other unfamiliar title is ‘Here’s A Health To All True Lovers’ which is a variant of a familiar night-visiting song.

The first of the two contemporary songs is Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’ and so widespread has it become I confidently expect to see it credited as traditional very soon. The other modern song is Mike Waterson’s ‘Jack Frost’ in which he invokes Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow as he contemplates the frost patterns on his window.

As for the rest – take your pick of your favourites. The set ends with Sean Cannon’s version of ‘The Wild Rover’ (no table banging) and Sheila Stewart’s ‘The Parting Glass’. I‘ve always liked ‘Mill O’ Tifty’s Annie’ and Brian’s arrangement of ‘The Bonny Light Horseman’ doesn’t let the song drag as it sometimes can. Finally, I will draw attention to ‘Erin Go Bragh’, a song which seems to be taking on a new and different resonance in these troubled times.

Sometimes simple and direct traditional songs are just what you need and this set will do nicely.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Ned O’ The Hill’ – live:

NORAH RENDELL- Spinning Yarns (Two Tap Music TTM016)

Spinning YarnsSpinning Yarns is a collection of traditional songs mostly harvested in eastern Canada from Newfoundland southwards. Two actually surfaced in Wisconsin but they passed through Canada to get there. Norah is probably best known in Britain as a member of The Outside Track and it’s good that her other projects are beginning to appear here.

Norah’s sound is gentle and pastoral with Brian Miller and Randy Gosa on guitars, mandolas and bouzouki and fellow Tracker Allie Robertson on harp. Dáithí Sproule guests on one song. Norah herself plays flute, whistles and harmonium and her vocal style is strong but unfussy – she lets the songs tell their own story.

I’ll leave it to the folklorists to trace the origins of some of the songs back across the Atlantic although some are obvious. ‘The Carrion Crow’ is immediately familiar – it’s just the words and tune that have changed over the course of its long journey. ‘Here’s A Health Unto All True Lovers’ is a classic night-visiting song complete with crowing cocks and lily-white breasts. ‘The Pinery Boy’, one of the Wisconsin songs, was originally ‘The Sailor Boy’ with elements of ‘A Sailor’s Life’ and follows the well-known story of a young woman going to sea in search of her true lover only to find that he has drowned. In contrast, ‘Sir Neil And Glengyle’ is a Scots ballad, pretty much unchanged and is of a type of song that had already fallen out of favour when it was recorded in Nova Scotia in 1909.

At the risk of continuing to bore our readers, I will say that there is clearly a huge supply of traditional song collected in Canada over the last century and which is only now appearing here in the UK. Spinning Yarns may be seen by some as a bit pastoral but within it is a variety of songs that reward repeated listening.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Here’s A Health Unto All True Lovers’ with Brian Miller and Randy Gosa:

Norah Rendell – new album – Spinning Yarns

Spinning YarnsWith: Brian Miller (Guitar, Bouzouki, Mandola)
Randy Gosa (Guitar, Mandola)
Ailie Robertson (Harp) –
Dáithí Sproule (Guitar)
Adam Kiesling (Bass)

Spinning Yarns is a hand-picked collection of traditional songs that come from the rich singing cultures that were once part of the fabric of communities across Canada. This collection especially features the songs of Canadian singers of Irish, Scottish and English descent for whom old songs provided connection to memories of special times, people and places. As such, they were cherished by their singers and by the communities that enjoyed them.

“In my early twenties, I found a portal into the world of traditional music in Vancouver’s Irish scene. My fascination with the melodies and rhythms led to an interest in the stories behind the tunes, which in turn compelled me to follow them to their source. I enjoyed two years in Limerick, Ireland, immersed in a living musical tradition. My roundabout return to North America as a touring musician brought me into contact with traditional music communities all over the eastern half of Canada”.

“The thing I love the most about this music is that everyone (of any age!) has a place at the table—whether they be listeners, aficionados, singers, dancers, instrumentalists, mentors, larger-than-life characters or recluses. The performer is only a portal: an entry point into a rich world of human connection”.

Track Listing

  1. Letty Lee
  2. The Sailor’s Bride
  3. The Carrion Crow
  4. Little Jimmy Whalen
  5. The Pinery Boy
  6. Pretty Susan
  7. Biddy Rooney
  8. Sir Neil & Glengyle
  9. St Patrick’s Day
  10. Here’s A Health Unto All True Lovers
  11. Forty Fishermen
  12. When I Awake In The Morning

Artist’s website:

‘Letty Lee’: