Monday 23 March 2015

Women Musicians

Nicola Benedetti
When I decided to write this blog and I started to go through my photos of women musicians, I felt quite emotional about these wonderful artists - over the incredible gigs they have performed and the insightful songs they have written. Women have powerful voices. Women are often the heart of any home and strong families matter. When women are not respected countries and societies are the weaker for it.

Recently we have witnessed in the UK the huge success of several female singer songwriters – Adele, Emeli Sande, Laura Marling and several others.  I have been fortuate to follow Emeli's career since 2007 and i never imagined that I would see her sing at the London Olympic Games one day!

Laura Marling

I have noted that female rock bands have come over from America - Warpaint, Haim, The Bangles and others - and there are few female rock bands here in the UK.  

I was surprised to learn recently that women's numbers generally in music though are very small.  I was pretty surprised to learn some of the statistics - a PRS (Publishing Rights Society) statistic showed that only 14%  of its members were female. Other statistics -  BBC Proms - 4% women,
BBC Introducing compilations CD - women have 7 tracks out of 32 tracks.

In February 2015 singer songwriter Beth Orton looked at the lack of women generally in the world of music and the ways women might deal with the challenges today in the music biz with an event in Manchester.
Emeli Sande
Julie Fowlis

Certainly the Grammy's and Brits are testament to this - where women are viewed as 'youthful decoration.' Some women of course play along to this stereotype in ridiculous revealing outfits.  Another issue is that women are not allowed to age (??)  Yet look at the strong older women in the film industry and the positive image and role models they create - Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfry, Helen Mirren and others.

It is better in the folk world (and for writers) for women generally speaking - where age is viewed more as an asset and gender seems irrelevant in the main

Rab Noakes & Barbara Dickson
Cara Dillon
*Beverly Martyn (or Bev Kutner)
I also read the story of Beverly Martyn who co-wrote many of John Martyn's early songs but received little recognition - John told her not to worry and that she would get the credits.  Bev played piano while they wrote songs together for the album Solid Air and John would say that he would ‘credit her on the next song!’  Bev and Martyn recorded three albums together  - Stormbringer, Road to Ruin and Bless the Weather - before John was persuaded by his record label to go solo. Beverly was then left on the house on the hill to raise their children while John toured. I wrote about her here –

There are also several forgotten women poets.

Orchestra's have been mostly male - the Viennese Orchestra that plays Strauss for the New Years Day concert - it was all men until recent times when they have allowed in a few women musicians.

I read recently too of *Mrs Bach!  In the Age of Enlightenment (18TH Century) most women would never write under their own name and so they have been forgotten by history.

Sara Watkins

Mrs Bach – or rather Anna Magdelena – has been now revealed as the author of the cello suites by forensic musicologist Professor Martin Jarvis of Charles Darwin university in Australia. Anna has been airbrushed from history (much as many women painters have been) .
The program claims that she was the composer of the Cello Suites and more perhaps. Magdalena was a gifted soprano and came from a family of musicians and it is believed was writing with Johann Sebastian Bach from the age of 12.  After her death, Bach's older sons by his first marriage, had Magdalena air-brushed from the records and no composer Day books or family portraits have survived. Bach's first biography was written fifty years after his death. Bach was also blind for much for his life. 
Jarvis has been investigating the story for 25 years and the program is narrated by composer Sally Beamish. -

One of the greatest musicians and songwriters of modern times has been Canadian Joni Mitchell.
My Photo Gallery of Women Musicians here - musicians

Stevie Nicks

Sunday 22 March 2015

Scottish A Cappella Championships 2015

The Accidentals, A Cappella choir, won the 'Scottish A Cappella Championships' in St Andrews this March. There were great performances by all the choirs and it was wonderful to see and hear all these young people having such a great time!  Choirs taking part included The Other Guys, The Hummingbirds, Aperpella, The Bells, Choral Stimulation. The choirs now go to Birmingham for the National UK Championships in April. PHOTOS -     

Saturday 14 March 2015

Idlewild O2 ABC

I enjoyed a band on top form with the return of the celtic and soul-filled Edinburgh indie rockers Idlewild, who played two sold-out return shows for their fans at the O2 ABC Glasgow. 

The room was full of palpable nostalgia and love from the fans ready to rock!  Their dramatic melodic rock offers hopes - as Woomble put it 'For all you lovely people come to see us.' 

The strength of memories lost forgotten hopes and dreams –
The crowd waited eagerly for those songs replayed and also for the new material and sound of this refreshed re-energized band with their new members - bassist Andrew Mitchell, keyboard player Luciano Rossi and Hannah Fisher on electric fiddle.

The set was a good mix of both the old and new, which kept fans more than happy. Their music was at times understated and subtle and then with full-on throttle and energy on other tracks, such as A Modern Way of Letting Go.

Lead singer Roddy, displayed assured warm confidence, while guitarist Jones played his guitar like an energy wand and their older songs were reworked and energized. There were strong five-part harmonies on 'Roseability' and 'Little Discourage' and their sing-able choruses were enjoyed by the audience on familiar songs such as 'Love Steals Us From Loneliness.' They played melodic catchy riffs on  'So Many Things to Decide' and 'American English'.

The new album songs from their Everything Ever Written album - ‘Come Along Ghost' and 'Collect Yourself' were well received. Their sound is a blend of rock and folk with the emphasis at times on the rock - with impressive high-wire guitars and soulful melody from Rossi's keys and Fisher's electric fiddle.  

It was good to see new member, guitarist and bass player Andrew, up front for several songs. I saw him perform solo at Edinburgh festival last year and was impressed with his music there. On the new track (Use it) If You Can Use It, he and Jones rocked the sound up a few notches with a full on bluesy guitar duel.

Their influences are broad from Americana, folk earnestness and 90s full on rock. During the band's hiatus Woomble has written for Ballads of the Book and worked with folk musicians - I have seen him solo with John McCusker and Kris Drever.     

They are part of the forerunners of today's melodic pop rock bands (notably Scottish bands such as Biffy Clyro)  while there was also edges of REM here - Night Swimming came to mind.

All in all a winning formula. Hope the tour goes great for you!

Idlewild are a Scottish indie rock band, from Edinburgh Scotland formed in 1995. They are now a seven piece band with guitar, keys and electric fiddle - previous members are Roddy Woomble (lead vocals), Rod Jones (guitar), Colin Newton (drums) and now with new members - Andrew Mitchell (bass), Hannah Fisher (electric fiddle) and Luciano Rossi (keys). They have released seven full-length studio albums, with recent album Everything Ever Written released in 2015.

I was pleased to be the only photographer at this fun gig but would also have enjoyed to be creative and have shot the whole set too. My gig photos here -

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Karine Polwart & Dick Gaughan

One of the special moments at Celtic Connections is when some of our top musicians collaborate together. At ‘Blood and Roses: Concert for the Songs of Ewan MacColl’ at Celtic Connections 2015  we were treated to two of my favourite Scottish folk artists and top Scottish folk musicians  -  folk legend Dick Gaughan and Karine Polwart, who began the concert with a strong interpretation of Ewan's song Ballad of Accounting. 

Gaughan also sang a dramtic Father’s Song, whil Karine sang a truy felt interpretation of MacColl’s song Nobody Knew She was There.

I first heard many years back in Edinburgh and was taken on with the power of his very individual guitar playing and the moving expression and strength of his voice. He sings questioining songs of social commentary with a poignant honesty. Karine was moved when she first heard his album, A Handful of Earth.
 I first heard Karine perform at an initmate wonderful gig at The Tall Ship Glasgow where I enjoyed her memorable htoughtful songs and subtle insightful voice. She has a lovely quality to her voice.

Karine has a warm, sincere personality and a huge smile! Polwart is a Scottish singer song writer. She writes and performs music with a strong folk and roots feel.  She has been recognised for her solo career, winning three awards at the BBC Folk Awards in 2005, and was previously a member of Malinky and Battlefield