Ed's Journal

  journalcontent JULY 2014
   Finally I am back in Austin after a greatly enjoyable, and successful, month in Scotland. It's good to be "home," but as always part of me stays across the water with the friends, family, music, language and landscape of the hameland.
   This year's Folksong Tour of Scotland could hardly have gone better - a very enthusiastic group of folks from all over the USA, miraculously good weather (2nd warmest June on record), lots of fine music and a new itinerary. This took us from Edinburgh to the far northwest Highlands and across the Minch to the Isle of Lewis, my first time in the Outer Hebrides, let alone the group members. It really is another world out on the  heartland of Gaelic culture and we travelled round both Lewis and Harris over a 3 day period. Enjoying the landscape and visiting historical; sites was very interesting in itself; but having Margaret Bennett with us to sing or tell stories at Rodell Church, the blackhouse or Callanish standing stones made the experience quite magic. Also, it was a huge pleasure to have fiddler Iain Fraser along for 5 days, always ready to play some tunes that went with wherever we were. I wonder how long it has been since people last danced in the Carloway broch?!
   From Harris, it was back on the ferry (singing all the way) to Skye, and through the "misty isle" back to Plockton on the mainland, where some of the incredibly talented young traditional musicians from the national program based there kept us on our toes at a dance in the village hall. Driving from there back to Edinburgh, we were treated to crystal clear weather, perfect for photographs of Kintail, Ben Nevis, Glencoe and the Braes of Balquhidder. With conditions like that, I cannot imagine anywhere more beautiful than Scotland.
   As alway, huge thanks to our trusty guide Charles Hunter, driver Ian Cowie and all the singers and musicians who shared their music and craic with us, including Jim & Susie Malcolm, Scott Gardiner, Calum Martin, the Ness Melodian Band, Charlie Milne & George Archibald.

    Due to the success of this itinerary, we plan to repeat it in 2016 (yes, hotels need to be booked 2 years in advance). Also, because demand was so high for this year's tour, we will offer two in 2015.
Tour No. 1 (May 24 - June 3) will involve less long distance travel days and offer a hike (as well as lots of other activities) in each location - 3 nights in Peebles to explore the Borders region and the ballad tradition of this history-rich area; 2 nights near Ft William to have more time in the majestic scenery of Glencoe; 2 nights by the River Tay in Dunkeld; and 3 nights in Edinburgh, which has such a multitude of attractions, from the Castle & Old Town and wonderful museums to hikes, walking tours and a tour round East Lothian.
Tour No. 2 (June 7-17) will feature a similar itinerary to that which was so successful in 2012 and 2013. - 2 nights in the Borders; 2 nights in Ayrshire to follow the life and songs of Robert Burns; 2 nights on the Isle of Mull with a trip to the holy island of Iona; 2 nights in a Victorian-era hotel in Blair Atholl in the Central Highlands; and then back through Angus and Fife for 2 nights in Edinburgh.

    This year's tour was sold out by early October 2013 and we had to disappoint many others who applied too late; so if you are interested in coming on either (or both?) of these tours, please download the application form on the Folksong Tours page of this website and don't delay.

    Both before and after the actual tour, I had the opportunity to do four gigs at Scottish folk clubs, all of which went really well, and I'd like to thank all the old (and I mean old) friends who came out to give support and provide tremendous chorus singing. After performing for American audiences for so long, its always a "reality check" to sing for fellow-Scots, who don't need any explanations of words or song backgrounds; so it was heart-warming to get such a good reception.
    After a visit to Amsterdam to hang out with my wonderful older daughter Anna, my time across the water ended with a small festival in the ancient village of Falkland in Fife. What a joy to be part of a 4 hour singing session  on the Saturday evening with a room full of great singers and not an instrument in sight.....probably the best session I've ever been part of.

    There were two main subjects of conversation with friends along the way - the World Cup in Brazil was one of course; while the other was the upcoming referendum in September when Scots will vote whether or not to become independent. Most friends in the folk music community were strongly in the YES camp; but I also heard many NO opinions, especially in the media. Whichever way it goes, it is wonderful to see how Scottish culture, language, music, literature and overall self-confidence appear to be thriving and steadily growing....and the ongoing folk music revival of the past 40 years continues to be one of the major streams in this growth.

     Now, its off to the Blueridge Mountains of N.Carolina...to the Grandfather Mtn Highland Games for the 23rd year in a row; then a week of teaching at the Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week near Asheville. the rest of July and August are looking pretty quiet; so I'll have plenty time to whine about the Texas summer!




There is a order form in this web site for ordering all 9 CD's by mail using a check, money order or credit card.  CD's, however, are  also available from CDBaby.com
    For ordering other peoples' CD's, if you don't like I-Tunes, I would recommend going to the websites of Greentrax Records, Compass Records or Coda Music (in Edinburgh)