“Aly Bain: First Album”
Aly Bain - fiddle
Violet Tulloch - piano
May Gair - bass
Willie Johnson - guitar
Tommy Thompson - banjo
Tich Richardson - guitar
Jack Herrick - bass
Whirlie Records - WHIRLIECD1 - CD, also available as a cassette - Whirlie 001
First published by Whirlie Records 1984
Digitally re-mastered for CD 1993
First Album by Aly Bain
I have recently acquired a mint-condition (unplayed) LP of Aly Bain’s original 1984 album, and as soon as I can track down a replacement drive belt for a record deck that is somewhat older than the LP itself I’ll be able to enjoy it. Meanwhile, I would like to share some extracts from the LP sleeve notes — I don’t whether they are still available on the cassette or CD; they sometimes aren’t.
From Aly Bain’s introductory notes to the album:
"The music on the album is very much a journey back to my roots. Violet Tulloch, May Gair and Willie Johnson provide the kind of accompaniment I was used to hearing as I grew up in Lerwick. Violet started playing piano as a young girl and was a member of Tom Anderson’s Islesburgh Dance Band during the 50’s. May played bass with the Shetland Fiddlers Society for many years. Peerie Willie Johnson learned his guitar-playing from records of Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang back in the 20’s and 30’s. He adapted the jazz style to traditional music and has accompanied Tom Anderson for more than fifty years."
Here are Aly’s sleeve notes to the tracks of the LP (identical to those listed above). Composers of the modern tunes are mentioned, and there is much material of historical interest.
1. Three contemporary reels. The first is from the late Ronald Cooper of Shetland. Ronald and I played music together on a regular basis during the 1960’s — a musically productive period time for both of us and a period when Ronald composed many of his best known tunes.
Jessica’s Tune I composed for my younger daughter.
The Barrowburn Reel comes from Addie Harper of Wick. I learned this from Addie at the Keith Festival of 1982.
2. These three traditional tunes all came to me from the late Louis Beaudoin of North Ferrisburg, Vermont. The waltz is probably Scandinavian and the reels French Canadian. Boys of the Lough recorded these three tunes with Louis during 1977 for “Good Friends, Good Music”.
3. I cannot remember when I first heard this traditional tune. The title was given to me by the American singer Jim Ringer. This track was recorded at Castle Sound in the summer of 1980 when the Red Clay Ramblers were appearing with Boys of the Lough during the Edinburgh Festival. Featured on the track are Tommy Thompson (banjo), Tich Richardson (guitar) and Jack Herrick (bass).
4. Another two tunes from Ronald Cooper. These tunes, together with Ronald’s other work, are published by Shetland Times Limited of Lerwick.
5. Shetland has had more than its fair share of fine composers. This slow air was written by Ronald Jamieson. One of a new generation of composers, he follows in the footsteps of his father, the late Frankie Jamieson of Vidlin.
6. Three traditional Irish reels. The first two were always popular in Shetland and among the first tunes played by the Shetland Fiddlers Society when they were founded in 1960. The Reconciliation I learned from the playing of Sean McGuire. Sean was the first Irish fiddler I heard and his recording with the Four Star Quartet one of my favourite albums.
7. This is a popular traditional French Canadian reel. The fiddle is tuned A.E.A.C#. to get the proper effect. Various tunings are common practice in Norway and in days gone by in Shetland, Scotland and Ireland. I first heard this tune from Jean Carignan on an album called “French Canadian Fiddle Songs”. I later met Jean in New York in ‘72 and then at many festivals over the years. His playing has been a constant source of joy to me.
8. Three reels I have played for many years, the first coming from Ronald Cooper. The other two are traditional. The Scholar is well-known and one of my favourites. Maid in a Box I first heard from Sean McGuire.
9. MacCann’s and Barclays were both composed by Tom Anderson in 1962. The first was for Dr. Kevin McCann, an Irish friend of his, and Barclays was composed for the late Marjorie Barclay Smith who played piano for the Fiddlers Society for many years. She was also the mother of May Gair who plays bass on this album. Munster Grass is an Irish hornpipe I learned from Jimmy McHugh of Glasgow.
10. Composed by Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, very much a friend to Shetland fiddle music. He made several visits during his life and collected many tunes. On evening, over dinner at our house, I played Margaret’s Waltz for him thinking he would like the tune. He then played it back to me on his melodeon as a morris dance and informed me that he had composed it over 20 years before. I first learned the tune in America from Jay Ungar.
11. The first reel is attributed to James Hill of Dundee and latterly of Gateshead, Tyneside, who composed many favourite fiddle tunes. The Almoottie was composed by Tom Anderson; “Almoottie” is the Shetland name given to the Stormy Petrel. I composed Dodd’s Farewell at a party for the late Freddie Dodds who was leaving Shetland.
12. The first is a slow air by Tom Anderson who composed it while watching the sea breaking over a reef (baa). The hornpipe, also by him, is for Violet Tulloch who plays piano on this album.
13. Shack’s Farewell relates to an incident at the workman’s club in Lerwick during the Second World War. The composer, Jim Stewart, is a fine fiddle player from Lerwick. The strathspey and reel are by the late Gideon Stove of Lerwick who taught violin and wrote many fiddle tunes.
First Album by Aly Bain
I’ve now got a new record deck, so am now able to listen to, not only Aly Bain, but to mint LPs of John Doherty’s Bundle and Go, Tommy Potts’ The Liffey Banks (his sole commercial recording I believe), and Sean McGuire’s On Two Levels. After many years of CDs I had almost forgotten the superior richness and pleasure of the LP. This has been a most useful reminder.