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Previous updates...

Tomfoolery performed at Fringe By The Sea in North Berwick recently and I like to think that the audience enjoyed the gig as much as we did...which was a heck of a lot.

Tomfoolery and I have had a busy time recently what with performing in the USA, coming back and getting straight into the Vibrant Musselburgh Festival, which was quickly followed by the Three harbours Festival and then the Loanhead Music Festival. I've done a couple of song writing workshops  and judged a couple of song writing competitions as well as performing and going along to support people like Kathy Stewart and The Gallus Crows. It has all been wonderful.

More recently, I have been writing short stories inspired by reading Ambrose Bierce. They are meant to amuse and I have added them to the Humour page of this website. Any comments, critical or otherwise, would be greatly welcomed. I would hope to add some new and revised poetry to the Poetry page as well...once I finish revising a few poems.

Well, Tomfoolery continues to go from strength to strength. We recently performed in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah and I think I can say that it was a successful tour. We really enjoyed playing house concerts and some lovely venues. The people we met have left an indelible impression on us all. America is a country that can dumbfound and thrill in equal measure. The music of America has been, and continues to be, a major influence on my own music. 

Since returning I have played solo at the inaugural Vibrant Musselburgh Arts Festival and Tomfoolery performed at the Three Harbours Festival in the Lighthouse Central in Prestonpans. I will be holding a song writing workshop at the Loanhead Music Festival on Saturday the 11th June 2016. Check out the programme to find out exactly where and when.

I had the privilege of winning the inaugural Vibrant Musselburgh Arts Festival Poetry Slam, which took place in Staggs. I was totally overwhelmed to have false modesty, simply gobsmacked.

There are two significant updates for you - firstly I've formed a band with singer Madelaine Cave and guitarist/singer Graham Whyte, who along with singer Jane Fairnie make up Tomfoolery. We sing a range of songs mostly written by myself and Bob Shields, although we have also been know to sing a couple of more traditional songs which Madelaine covers beautifully.

Tomfoolery is launched our first CD on December 6th at Tyninghame Village Hall, East Lothian, supported by Karen Dietz and Richard Klein.

My other significant news is that Bob Shields and I have entered the realm of radio presenters! We now have a weekly show on Radio Saltire on Tuesday evenings from 21.00 - 23.00. The show is called "My Little Radio Show" and is essentially a celebration of singer/songwriters, both famous and not so famous, who we enjoy listening to and who have influenced our own song writing. We hope in the future to have guests appearing on the show to showcase their songs and discuss their song writing influences.

 Since writing this update Bob has decided to leave My Little Radio Show to me. I have a sneaking suspicion that he will return for the odd guest appearance on the show but, in the meantime, I am still enjoying presenting the show and providing an opportunity to promote and play great songwriters.


 I ran a songwriting workshop at Loanhead Music Festival and then hotfooted it down to the
Archerfield Americana Night on 14th June in Archerfield Walled Garden near Dirleton East Lothian

We had our annual series of Foakies concerts at St Cecilia's Hall, 1st -5th August as part of the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival

We've been practising hard with Madelaine Cave and Graham Whyte who, along with Jane and myself, have formed a new band, which we call Tomfoolery. We completed  a small tour of Germany and the Netherlands in October and it looks as though we'll return to wonderful Wolpinghausen on 17th October 2015. I did my very best to have another album ready for Germany and thanks to a few late night recording sessions we managed to produce a CD to take with us. As well as Wolpinghausen we played gigs in Apeldoorn, Arnhem and Eindhoven. 

I also played various gigs throughout the year including

The Scottish Bird Fair at Hopetoun House
10 Red
An impromptu session in The Gin Mill in Indianola, Mississippi
Moniaive Folk Festival
Musselburgh Hotpot


This was an incredibly busy year on the music front. Highlights to date include a very special House Concert in Tuningen, Germany, playing Athelstaneford (birthplace of the Saltire) on St Andrew's night, and playing live on Lionheart Radio on Fiona Elcoat's fabulous Big Boots and Celtic Roots show.

For the 2012 Festival Fringe I joined fellow Foakies organisers Mark Barnett and Simon Kempston for a 5 night run of the highly successful Scottish Songwriters in the Round.

My previous Edinburgh Festival Fringe gig in 2011 at The Acoustic Music Centre in St Bride's was a big success. I really enjoyed the show and I think the songs went over well.

I've been a guest on Leith fm twice recently; once to promote the show at St Bride's and also on Laura Kerr's Light and Dark Show where I read some poetry. I was also a guest and played a couple of songs live on Celtic Music Radio and had a song played by Jackie Storrar on her wonderful country music show on CMR Nashville, which is Europe's number one country music radio station. Jackie is a great singer songwriter and I've really enjoyed listening to her music and her shows. You should all tune in on Saturday mornings. Just Google CMR Nashville.

I appeared on The Maid of the Loch, which is moored at Balloch Pier, as part of Folk on the Boat, which was an event organised by Celtic Music Radio. It was a great line-up and I'm proud to have been a part of it. Check out the Celtic Music Radio website and, in particular, my favourite CD Ciaran Dorris who is a great singer songwriter and a lovely guy.

July's Foakies was absolutely one of the best ever. Kathy Stewart and The Fequent Flyers provided a wonderful show. I love Kathy's songs and she is a great performer who engages with the audience better than anyone I know. We also had two great poets in Jo MacFarlane and Rachel McCluskey who both did tremendous sets. Bruce Hogg also played two superb instrumental pieces that demonstated his technical ability as well as the way he can create a mood and convey an emotion. I realise that I'm sounding effusive but the atmosphere that was generated by the performers and the audience that night was just magical. I won't ever forget that evening.

When I was listening to the masters of Banishment and As Eden Lay In Darkness reminded me of how much time and effort it has taken to get to this point. It's amazing how many decisions have finally developed into finished productions. I could go on endlessly about songwriting, recording and mixing but what it all comes down to is something of a mantra for me, "emotion in, emotion out". If I had reached the end of all of this process and lost the original emotion that inspired the songs then I think I would have felt that it had failed but I honestly think it's still there although, of course, it isn't for me to judge. It's ironic that what I think is the most essential ingredient in the whole thing depends on every other listener.



Tom Ovans: I first heard about Tom Ovans from a guy I met on a bus trip in Turkey. It was a long hot trip and we talked all the way about films, music and books. I think we both had the feeling that we liked pretty much the same kind of music so before we went our seperate ways I asked him to give me the name of an artist that he thought I might not have heard of but one that he thought I would like...he suggested Tom Ovans (I suggested he listen to Jackie Leven). When I got back to Edinburgh I looked out Dead South and my first reaction was that I wasn't very impressed. However, after a few listens it started to get into my blood and even though he sounds like a Dylan clone he is really an outstanding talent. I would recommend this CD and I promise you that it will grow on you and you may well end up liking his music as much as I do.

Tom Clelland: Tom is one of the Lanarkshire songwriters and I've loved his songs ever since I first heard him perform a great song called "I Wish That I Could Write Like Old Guy Clark". That song came from his first CD "Spit & Polish" and it has some brilliant writing on it. Let It Snow and Still A Friend Of Mine are another couple of personal favourites from that CD. Tom has recently produced another CD called Life Goes On, which maintains the same high standard of writing with songs like Bands, The Balancing Boy and The Wind She Changed. Tom's lyrics are a treat and he obviously enjoys wordplay. He has a lovely relaxed style that makes his songs easy to get into and is without doubt one of the best songwriters in Scotland.

Sonny Landreth: I first heard Sonny Landreth's music when I bought a cassette of Outward Bound several years back and it really knocked me out. I felt he had some of the raw guitar style of Link Wray along with a great blues and rock feel. He is an astonishing guitar player and a very good songwriter. I'm not sure whether I prefer him rocking or acoustic but either way he has been an influence and I just love his material. Personal favourites would be Planet Cannonball and Common-Law Love but really, there's hardly a song that doesn't work for me. I don't play slide but I would recommend him on feeling alone.

Martin Boland: Martin is one of the best songwriters I know. I've written several songs with him but that doesn't in any way influence my opinion of his ability. He recently produced a solo CD called Dreams In Blue and it features some of his best songs. He appeared on the Companions CD and is very well known in folk circles in Scotland. He is an accomplished guitarist, especially in DADGAD and a fine interpreter of both contemporary and traditional songs. He should be far better known than he is and should play his own songs in concert far more often than he gets the chance to do.

Jackie Leven: My good friend Richard Paterson introduced me to the music of Jackie Leven several years ago and I can't thank him enough. If there was one performer whose songs I felt I could identify with then it's Jackie. His songs are full of poetry, they are melodic and he takes risks that many performers would baulk at. I know it's very pretentious to talk about music in these terms but there was a time I felt his songs almost saved me. Forbidden Songs of the Dying West, Fairytales for Hardmen and The Argyll Circle are all absolutely superb CDs. He can be disturbingly raw but, at times, he is simply unsurpassable. I can't recommend him highly enough.

Mark Barnett: Listening to Mark sing Leaving Jerusalem By Train was one of the pivotal experiences in my musical career. I just couldn't believe that such a great song wasn't being heard everywhere. He and I then started on a road that led us to Companions, The Travelling Waverlies, The Journeyman and some great gigs. Mark has written some tremendous songs and I've been priviliged to co-write several songs with him. He has a solo CD nearing completion and it is filled with music that he has put his heart and soul into. He also happens to have written one of the best songs I've ever heard. 

Allan Taylor: A brilliant songwriter. I attended a songwriting workshop he held in Livingston and it was great to hear his insights. I have favourite songs and the obvious choice would be It's Good To See You, which is simply perfect; however, I think I would say that what impresses me most about Allan's songwriting is the fact that the songs feel expertly crafted. It would be hard to add or subtract words and the melodies are always accessible and sympathetic. I can hardly imagine a more moving song than Roll On The Day, which evokes the sadness of a personal human tragedy without becoming over sentimental. I come from a mining commmunity and that song speaks volumes. If any aspiring songwriters wanted to model themselves on a performer then it should be him. 

Mike Dillon: I first heard Mike at a Poems and Pints evening in Edinburgh around about six years ago. The first thing that hit me was the wordplay in his songs. He is simply and unquestionably the best lyricist I know. He can twist phrases, conjour multiple meanings, give passing nods to a huge variety of literary and musical sources and still manage to deliver well constructed songs. He is distinct and original, which can make him difficult to categorise but he is endlessly interesting to listen to. Because he's so talented it is daunting for me to play alongside him in The Travelling Waverlies and although we haven't written together a lot I think I can say that Rockets Over Babylon, which i wrote with Mike and Bob Shields is one of the songs I'm most proud of. Mike is a great performer and I'd recommend checking him out. He's terrible at self-promotion so you'll need to keep a sharp look-out to see him...he's the one with the tin of snuff. 

Ted Hawkins: I would suggest that anyone who has heard him sing would say that Ted Hawkins had one of the finest and most expressive voices ever recorded and I don't say that lightly. Like Ray Charles, he covered that gloriously underexploited area between country and soul...with a dash of folk and pop thrown in. I first heard that voice singing Corina Corina in the movie of the same name and it made me seek him out and track down the soundtrack and then the "Songs From Venice Beach" CD. Ted had a curious life full of ups and downs but when he died in 1995 he left us some fantastic recordings. If you haven't heard him please try and do so, you won't regret it.

Bernard Brogue: I first met Bernard some years ago when I was running a songwriting session in The Royal Oak on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn't the most successful venture but it was an opportunity to meet other songwriters and to talk about writing. Bernard was over in Scotland playing a few gigs in Whistlebinkies and The Taybank etc and had just dropped into The Oak before heading back to his native Holland. He managed to get along to the next Foakies night and we became friends and have since co-written perhaps ten or twelve songs. Bernard is a complex writer, his lyrics can be sparing but the arrangements are second to none. He is a superb guitarist and has some amazing chords and tunings in his repertoir. I've helped co-write lyrics with him and have always found the experience rewarding. Bernard is just about to release a new CD and all I can say is that it is filled with great songs, wonderful arrangements and the best production values you're ever likely to hear. He'll be playing some gigs to launch the CD in Scotland in the very near future so please try and get along to hear him. My favourite track of his is probably "Birdwatching" but the new CD is crammed with great songs like "Better Than Sex" and "Not Before". A great talent. 

Martin Stephenson
: I was introduced to Martin's music a long time ago by a very good friend, Richard Paterson, and as soon as I heard songs like There Comes A Time and Wholly Humble Heart I knw that he was a gifted songwriter. I tracked down a couple of his albums on cassette and really enjoyed them. Since that time I've regularly listened to his songs and his Best Of... CD is a frequent choice on my cd player, mainly because of the eclectic nature of his songwriting. He mixes quirky, interesting, sentimental and really thought provoking lyrics and adds them to some knockout melodies. Not only do I admire him as a songwriter but also as a performer. He recently played Foakies, which was a major coup for us, and he was outstanding. I'm smiling right now just thinking about that gig. If you ever get the chance to go and see him you won't be disappointed.

Kathy Stewart: I first met Kathy about 4 years ago and was immediately impressed. You know straight away that she is very talented and very professional. There have been some real highlights in the years I've known her, she sang on The Journeyman, Wild Geese and My Little Radio; Raglan Festival in Wales, brilliant party sessions and now The Snakes. She and her partner Ken Kennedy are virtuosos and bring a really high level of musicianship and perormance to songs. For very selfish reasons I'm so glad to have met Kathy and Ken but the bonus comes when you discover just how good a songwriter Kathy is, her cd, Celestial Shoes features some wonderful songs and I am constantly amazed that she doesn't play them more often and promote them more. There are a lot of songwriters I know who would improve from a bit of honest critical appraisal but I couldn't find a fault with her songwriting, which is really saying something coming from me.

Previous gigs

I'll include notes about previous gigs here...

The Travelling Waverlies played The Hague Festival of the Spoken Word.

The Travelling Waverlies played Appeldoorn.

The Travelling Waverlies played The village in Leith as part of the EdRush Festival.

Tom Fairnie and The Snakes played The Village in Leith as part of the EdRush Festival.

I sang a new song called I Wish I Was One Of Those Guys at the Edinburgh Folk Club Songwriting Competition. It was a great night but I guess I should have worn the monster outfit I was threatening to wear. Fairnie nul points.

I'm hosted a songwriting session at the Loanhead Music Festival on Saturday the 10th of June from 1.30pm until 2.30pm in the Midlothian Council Community Education Building. I did it last year and it was a great event. There are some great songwriters out there and I'm happy to participate in any event that encourages that talent. 

Bruce Hogg, one of the Festival organisers said,
"Boy, does a year come round fast! I think I've still got things to do for last year's festival, and I keep saying I must plan better "next time". Still, were musicians not administrators, and we're in it for the fun. The festival kicks off on Friday the 9th of June, with the concert starting at 7:30 in the ExServicemen's Club, (LEX, or "the bottom club") and tickets at £6 each will be available at the door. If you don't know where the club is, just ask. Details are also on the website. It's a great £6 worth, with three acts (and a raffle), and after the finish at around 10:30, the venue stays open for sessions till around 1am, so bring your instruments along.
There are workshops on Saturday, starting at a sociable 12:30. There's a craft fair starting at 11am up at the Miners Club, and an open mic with songwriting and "recycled instrument" competitions staring at noon in the adjacent Croft Suite. I shall be entering my "Volvonator" (if the neck doesn't snap when I put the strings on tomorrow!). At 7:30, the Ceilidh starts, and again there will be sessions afterwards. The ceilidh was fantastic last year, with only one hospital case. Lastly, with the weather forecasts predicting a scorching weekend, don't forget to give the beer gardens at the Forresters, Gaffers and The Roadhouse a visit. Hope to see you during the weekend."

Although the workshop wasn't well attended it was still worthwhile and I hope the participants got something from it. Perhaps next year the timing will be more conducive and the workshops won't run at the same time as the Open Mic session.