Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ron Gonnella: National Scotland (1985)

01 Loch Lomond 1
02 Loch Lomond 2
03 Miss Margaret Brown's Favourite/Lady Charlotte Murray
04 Flowers of Edinburgh
05 The White Cockade
06 The Yellow Haired Laddie
07 Will Ye No Come Back Again
08 Lady Madelina Sinclair/De'il Amang the Tailors
09 Major Graham of Inchbraikie
10 Corgarff Castle/Whistle O'er the Lave O't

An unusual solo recording by Gonnella, this was part of an LP which formed one of a large library of recordings by Chappell aimed at radio and television producers. So if, for example, a shot required a pipe band, a gaelic singer or a solo fiddler as background music, you would have a selection of recordings and snippets to choose from. The first track, "Loch Lomond" is played as an air, and then there is a 30-second "jingle" version of it.

The Ron Gonnella segment of this album is worth listening to, not least because it is completely solo (he usually used piano accompanists, and sometimes a bassist too).


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Bluebell Polka

One of the few times a traditional musician has entered the hit parade was when Jimmy Shand took his recording of The Bluebell Polka into the Top 20 in 1955. Many people have assumed that the tune is a Shand composition, but it predates him. Jimmy got a lot of his repertoire from the previous generation of Scottish melodeon players: The Wyper Brothers, Pamby Dick, James Brown, etc, and indeed, Brown recorded a version of the tune on a 78rpm record on the 19th April 1911, calling it Little Pet (Caledonian Polka) (I used to have a copy of that track but, frustratingly, I cannot find it right now).

Going back further in time, possibly the first appearance of the tune in print is in the popular Kerr's Merry Melodies Book 1, where it is attributed to no composer, although it does say "Pianoforte copies of above…" The attached is one of those sheets for piano, where the composer is clearly given as "F Stanley" (I have 

Irish musicians also recorded versions of the tune: fiddler James Morrison recorded it in the 1930s (along with Happy Birdie), and more recently by fiddler Jesse Smith. There is an old American polka by the name Little Pet (see here), but it's a different tune.

Although its origins are unclear, The Bluebell Polka captured the hearts of many people, musicians, dancers and listeners alike. It is still played and regarded fondly in Scotland to this day (I played a ceilidh last Saturday evening; during our break a singer made me do the Macarena while she sang a vocal version of the song!). 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Jimmy Shand: First Recording Session, London 1933

Jimmy Shand's first recording session was in 1933 with the Regal Zonophone company. His employer, Dundee music shop owner Charles Forbes, had agreed to underwrite the costs - unknown to Jimmy - and so the session took place in the Abbey Road studios in London. There was a pianist available, but on some tracks Jimmy asked if he could record unaccompanied. Two records were eventually issued, MR 1387 and MR 1388.

1) CAR2411 Bottom of the Punchbowl/My Love She's But a Lassie Yet/Fair Maid of Perth
2) CAR2412 Atholl Highlanders/Rakes of Kildare/Teviot Bridge
3) CAR2414 Londonderry Hornpipe/High Level Hornpipe

Presumably matrix no. CAR2413 was The Druken Piper/Laird o' Drumblair/Deil Amang the Tailors - mentioned in Shand's biography by David Phillips (Dundee 1976); alas, I have not got a copy of that track.


Other collections of Scottish 78rpm records:
Will Powrie, Scottish Melodeon from 78 rpm Recordings
Donald Davidson: Scottish Mouth Organ Classics
William Hannah: Scottish Melodeon 78s

Friday, 23 March 2012

Ron Gonnella, Scottish Fiddler

Fiddler  Ron Gonnella was originally from Dundee, and lived for many years in Crieff, Perthshire until his death in 1994. Gonnella’s great grandfather was a Robert Dewar, who was a shepherd near Tulliemet in Perthshire. Ron Gonnella recorded at least fifteen albums and taught at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff for many years. When he wasn’t there he was travelling the world playing Scottish fiddle, recording albums, and performing on radio, stage and dance halls. His great love was the music of the Golden Age of Scots fiddle, typified by the compositions of Niel and Nathaniel Gow, Robert Mackintosh, William Marshall and Joseph Lowe. Gonnella played in the Scottish Dance Band circuit with the bands of Jim Johnstone and Andrew Rankine. He had his own band for a while - featuring Iain MacPhail on accordion - but it was as a solo artist that he toured all over the world promoting Scots fiddle music. 

Until he married - late in his life - Gonnella would sit in his small flat and listen to his precious record collection and practise the fiddle tunes for his next recording. Top Scottish fiddlers such as Duncan Wood and Gregor Borland have told me of their admiration for his skills and techniques, and I think of him as a fiddler’s fiddler. The instrument he mostly played was a 1722 Italian violin made by Carlo Antonio Tanegia. I have been told that after his death there were a number of fiddlers desperate to try it to achieve the same wonderful tone that Gonnella produced; in the end it turned out to be a mediocre fiddle, and it was the musician who was special, not the instrument.

Ron Gonnella: A Discography
1964 An Edinburgh Fancy
1966 Scottish Violin Music
1973 Scottish Violin Music from the Gow Collections
1975 Fiddler's Fancy
1976 Fiddle Gems
1977 Ron Gonnella's Burns Night
1978 A Tribute to Niel Gow
1980 Scottish Fiddle Master
1981 Live from Crieff Hydro
1982 Ron Gonnella Plays the Fiddles of Gow, Marshall and Skinner
1983 Music for Eight Scottish Country Dances
1984 Ron Gonnella Playing a Stradivarius
1986 The Lad o' Kyle
1988 Ron Gonnella's International Friendship of the Fiddle
1992 Ron Gonnella's Fiddle Magic

Friday, 10 February 2012

I created this blog to draw attention to some of Scotland's forgotten musicians and folk groups, featruing records from my collection which were long out of print and which weren't likely to see the light of day again. I did not intend to deny people their rights, and I certainly never intended to profit in any way from other people's work. However, relatives of dead artists have contacted me and, as a result, these treasures will go back into their attics and cupboards and remain unlistened, their creators unheard of. Sorry.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Ian Powrie: At Home (1988)

Ian Powrie: At Home (1988)

01 Ian Powrie's Comps to Sir Thomas Wardle/Jimmy Shand's Welcome to Corrieburn
02 A Lass from Glasgow Town/Lunan Bay/Mary Shaw
03 Sir Kenneth Alexander/The Clan McColl
04 Mrs Hamilton of Pencaitland
05 Scotty Wilson/Donald MacLellan of Rothesay
06 Jimmy and Mickie
07 The Wild Flowers of Barra
08 Highland Cathedral
09 Gaelic Reel/In the Gloamin'/Tigh Na Gorm
10 Mackworth/Kemmel Hill
11 Catherine & John Fraser's Diamond Wedding
12 The Old Scottish Waltz
13 Kenny Thomson's Comps to Ian Powrie/A Tribute to Stan Hamilton/Peerie Willie
14 Ellenbrook/The Black Boy/Georgina Catherine MacDonald/C M Hall
15 Annie's Song/Country Roads/Thank God I'm a Country Boy
16 The Crags of Tumbledown Mountain

Powrie emigrated to Australia twice, once in the 1960s and once, I think, in the late 1980s. This was recorded while he was back on home soil in Strathearn, Perthshire, in his farmhouse with his old musical partners Jimmy Blue and Mickie Ainsworth on accordions, and Dave Barclay on bass.


Jimmy Shand & Ian Powrie: When Auld Friends Meet (1974)

Jimmy Shand & Ian Powrie: When Auld Friends Meet (1974)

01 Jimmy Shand's Comps to Ian Powrie/10th HLI Crossing the Rhine
02 Big Dougal/Margaret's Fancy/Carnie's Canter
03 79th's Farewell to Gibralter
04 The Bonnie Isle of Gletness/Sunset Over Foula/Rona's Voe
05 The Atholl and Breadalbane Gathering/Lord Elgin of Broomhall
06 O Gin I Were a Baron's Heir
07 St Andrew's Parade/Harveston Castle/Breadalbane Reel/Bobby Watson
08 Bill Black's Mirk/John Stephen of Chance Inn/Ian Powrie's Comps to Willie Hunter
09 MacLean of Pennycross/Sprig of Ivy
10 Soft Lowland Tongue/Annie Laurie/My Nannie's Awa'/I Lo'ed Nae a Lassie But Ane
11 Aunice Gillies's Farewell to Loch Gilphead/John Bain Mackenzie
12 My Ain Folk

Two giants of the Scottish dance scene collaborate on an album of great tunes, great music. There are solos by both, but most tracks are band efforts.