52nd Marymass Folk Festival

The 52nd Marymass Folk Festival – already!
Seventeen events over three days of live music, storytelling and sessions plus two World Championships – it must be the annual Marymass Folk Festival! Springing into life on Friday 23rd August and continuing right through to Sunday 25th, this will be the 52nd Marymass Folk Festival – acknowledged as the longest continuously running Folk Festival in Scotland.
Who’s playing? Only The Tannahill Weavers, Celine Donoghue & Friends, Tom McConville & Andy Watt, The Jeremiahs, The Alistair McCulloch Trio, John Graham & Jim Jack (ex-Clydesiders), Stephen & Pernille Quigg and, all the way from Norway, The Stavangar Harbour Band. None the wiser? Read on about some of them.
The Tannahill Weavers headline the Marymass Saturday Night Concert in the Volunteer Rooms and given their musical pedigree, that’s a night not to be missed. Their combination of traditional melodies, driving rhythmic accompaniment and rich harmonies will once again demonstrate the rich and varied musical heritage which they do so very well. The Marymass Saturday Night Concert is always a terrific night. Just go!
The outstanding Celine Donoghue – fantastic tenor banjo player and fiddler and vocalist – will be joined by Neil Sturgeon on guitar and vocals and Thomas McCabe on Button Box for the opening concert on Friday Night at Vineburgh Community Centre. Be advised to book a seat – Celine is a firm favourite with Irvine audiences.
The softly spoken Geordie and brilliant fiddler and singer Tom McConville is back again at Marymass, on this occasion with Andy Watt on guitar. Tom is a world class act. From slow airs, to jazz, to fiery reels and great singing plus a canny humour, he often steals the show. Guaranteed not to disappoint.
And these are just some of the quality line-up at this year’s Marymass Folk Festival. If you know the names you will want to go and if you don’t know the names you’ll kick yourself if you don’t go!
For all info on the 52nd Marymass Folk Festival email phone 01294 551047 mob 07798 572926

3rd July – Barbara Dymock and Chris Marra

The very good news is that the special guests at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 3rd July are Barbara Dymock & Chris Marra. Expect a night of well-chosen songs well sung with hunners of opportunities to join in!

Between them, Barbara and Chris have been part of a number of musical collaborations. Dundonian Chris began playing guitar when he was a teenager and has been in every kind of band imaginable – from Bighair Rock to sophisticated pop plus a lot of time recording and performing with his late brother Michael.

Barbara on the other hand learned Scottish and Irish traditional songs from her grandparents in Fife and probably it was from such early influences that Barbara’s natural storytelling talent came to light. Whilst at Dundee University playing at sessions in the 70’s, Barbara was one of the founder members of the celebrated band Ceolbeg – their inspiration coming from bands like De Danann and The Bothy Band. Then, after a 20 plus year break to concentrate on her career and raise three sons, she became known as a tradition bearer. As well as Ceolbeg, Barbara has been part of Rathlin and Palaver and, along with Christine Kydd, she formed a duo called Sinsheen. Barbara freely admits that she doesn’t like singing on stage on her own – preferring the comfort of other musicians.

After her 20 year enforced break from singing, Barbara’s return to the folk scene was very well received and she was happy to hang around sessions and festivals and has since released a couple of albums. She was invited to do a track on Malinky’s 20th anniversary CD Handsel which was released at the beginning of this month – a recognition of Barbara’s enduring quality singing.

Barbara loves being part of the constant evolution of tradition. It’s that enjoyment which has sustained her 35 plus years interest in music. At the Irvine Club expect Barbara and Chris to play Jacobite songs, Bothy Ballads, Burns, Michael Marra and perhaps a bit of Dylan.

Barbara and Chris have a considerable musical pedigree. Make sure you are in the audience on 3rd July at Irvine Folk Club to hear this duo. The Club starts at 8pm and it’s BYOB.

19th June – The Mile Roses

A new band for Irvine Folk Club, The Mile Roses are the special guests on Wednesday 19th June and perhaps there might be an explanation during the evening of how their name came about.
The band describes themselves as a contemporary British folk band with a nod to Nashville. Kate Bramley, Simon Haworth and Kari Macleod are the band members – three singer songwriters with eclectic and diverse roots. Their set list includes haunting ballads, swinging country, celtic roots and driving folk choruses.
Kate and Simon have most likely played in Irvine before as members of the excellent Jez Lowe & the Bad Pennies. A multi-instrumentalist, Kate is best known as a Fiddler and she does vocals too. She is also a member of Montana based band Sweetgrass and is an established playwright.
From Morpeth, Guitarist and vocalist Simon has toured as accompanist to Tom McConville & Pauline Cato among others and also plays in ceilidh band Real to Reel.
Most recent Mile Roses member Kari Macleod hails from Tain in Ross-shire and is now based in Newcastle. A virtuoso Fiddler, Kari’s unique vocal style is well suited to Americana music. This week The Mile Roses release their new CD Blue Skies. It features 12 new original songs on the Tantobie Records label.
The Mile Roses are known for close three part harmonies and playing guitars, fretless bass, cittern, mandolin and fiddle. Hear them at the Irvine Club on Wednesday 19th June at Vineburgh Community Centre starting at 8pm.
Elsewhere, the Stonehaven Folk Festival is on from 11th – 14th July and, down in the heart of Galloway, the Newton Stewart & Minigaff Traditional Music & Dance Festival will be in full swing from 12th – 14th July. And from 2nd July – 20th August there are events galore at the Skye Festival: well-nigh two months of music, theatre and events all over the island. Just go!

5th June – Kent DuChaine

Kent DuChaine the nomadic Bluesman from Minnesota and Leadbessie, his National Steel Guitar, are back at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 5th June – welcome news for his many fans in the area. His abundant energy and enthusiasm for the Blues plus his exceptional guitar playing, combined with the power of his voice means it’s a night not to be missed at the Irvine Club.

Born in Wayzata, Minnesota, Kent was six years old when his father taught him to play the Ukulele and from then he knew he wanted to be a musician. Having formed a garage band at 13, it was reading Eric Clapton album notes that led him to check out a Robert Johnson album at his local library – the music of the Mississippi Delta had captured him.

Kent learned to play slide guitar and after a ten year search, found his beloved Leadbessie – ‘a beat-up 1934 National Steel Guitar’ as he describes her. Kitted out with extra heavy strings to cope with Kent’s powerful style of playing, the name Leadbessie is an affectionate amalgam of Blues legends Leadbelly and Bessie Smith. Kent has listened to, hung out with, opened up for and travelled and played with most of the great Blues men and women his whole adult life.

He has played at almost all of the major Blues Festivals in the UK and Europe, and his popularity is such that for the last 25 years, Kent has been doing UK tours three times each year. That adds up to thousands of shows and millions of miles! Plainly, Kent is a hard worker and off stage he is a quiet almost shy man who lives to spread the Blues – and watch the beautiful sunsets and enjoy fishing in Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma.

Kent sings and writes songs about the people and situations he has met in his life and always brings something of his own interpretation to covers of standards such as Little Red Rooster, St James Infirmary, I’ll Be True To You and Trouble in Mind. One of his albums features a song he wrote about Marilyn – a 1956 Cadillac in which he lived and toured throughout the ‘80s. It’s maybe Kent’s guitar playing that he is noted for as much as his voice. His intricate, finger-picking slide-guitar and use of his hand as a hand-hammer is a much admired skill of Kent’s.

For sheer intensity of performance, it’s difficult to beat Kent DuChaine. If you like the Blues, make sure you are in the Irvine Folk Club audience on Wednesday 5th June for 8pm. The Club meets in Vineburgh Community Centre in Quarry Road and it’s BYOB.

22nd May – The Lasses (Dutch Duo)

With a name sounding like they could hail from Ayrshire, The Lasses are from Amsterdam and they are the special guests at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 22nd May.
Margot Merah and Sophie Janna are The Lasses. They started off their singing partnership after meeting at a session in an Irish bar in Amsterdam in 2012 and since The Lasses have released three albums and toured extensively including the USA fairly regularly plus Japan, Germany, Belgium, Canada and the UK.
The Lasses sing trad songs plus some original material. Their harmony singing is much admired and their effective arrangements on bodhran and guitar make for a strong package.
The Lasses are on tour in Scotland in the second half of May and the 22nd May date will be their debut appearance at the Irvine Club. To hear this Dutch duo make sure you are in the Irvine Folk Club audience on Wednesday 22nd May at Vineburgh Community Centre in Quarry Road. The Club starts at 8pm and it’s BYOB. All info on Irvine Folk Club is at
And finally, the final farewell to the late Malky MCormick at Kilmarnock was an upbeat occasion – just as Malky had planned. It was attended by some 3/400 people including Irvine Folk Club representatives. His daughter Jane speaking for the family quoted a line that her Dad frequently used at home – ‘He always said that he could draw a crowd! Rest in peace Malky.

8th May – Alastair McDonald

Veteran troubadour Alastair McDonald is the guest at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 8th May. He has played in Irvine so often that he nearly has the vote!

Alastair is the folk-singing, jazz banjo player or the jazz banjo playing folk singer – it all depends where he’s appearing! He is equally at home in folk clubs, jazz venues, theatres, concert halls or churches. His TV and Radio appearances are too numerous to mention and likewise the number of albums he has recorded. Suffice to say that since becoming a fulltime performer in 1970, Alastair has built up a successful career in Scotland and globally too.

Glasgow born Alastair emigrated with his family at the age of eight to Australia. It was while growing up in the Australian outback that he developed an interest in ‘home made’ entertainment. Returning to Scotland four years later, there was a growing pop scene and skiffle had also arrived. At just 21, Alastair was already regarded as one of the leading jazz banjo players.

As years passed Alastair’s musical horizons extended and took him into variety shows, pantos, plays, TV and Radio work. His continued popularity is down to his commitment to entertain. Performances by Alastair McDonald can be described by words like wholesome, uplifting and entertaining. He likes humorous material and Matt McGinn’s terrific song Sam the Skull often features in Alastair’s playlist.

Hear Alastair at the Irvine Club on the 8th May at Vineburgh Community Centre in Quarry Road. The Club starts at 8pm and it’s BYOB.

Elsewhere, this coming weekend being the May holiday means that many roads will lead to Girvan for the annual folk festival. Whilst the emphasis is on traditional music, there is a lot more besides so it’s well worth checking out the programme online.

Malky’s Funeral details

Wednesday 1st May
1400 hrs:
Funeral Celebration of Malky’s life in The Park Hotel, Rugby Park, Kilmarnock KA21 2DP

Cremation at Holmsford Bridge Crematorium, Dreghorn, Irvine KA11 4EF

24th April – Wildwood Jack

Topping the bill at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 24th April is Wildwood Jack. This will be their first appearance in Irvine and it may be of particular interest to budding ukulele players!
Wildwood Jack are Jayne Freeman and Alan Piggott from Kent. They met at university and started a shared musical journey which has continued. They play ukulele and acoustic guitar with their fingerstyle playing being described as outstanding. Their repertoire of songs and instrumentals reflects their main musical influences of folk, country and world music.
In 2013 Jayne and Alan sold their home and have travelled extensively playing at folk clubs and festivals, touring village halls and churches in Denmark and busking in Croatia and Italy. In between their travels they have released three albums, the most recent being Liberty Ship last year.
Currently, Wildwood Jack are on a Spring Tour and as well as the Irvine Club, other Scottish venues have included Tayvallich, Ullapool, Inverness and Edinburgh.
Wildwood Jack a new sound for Irvine Folk Club. Hear the duo on 24th April at Vineburgh Community Centre in Quarry Road. The Club starts at 8pm and it’s BYOB.
Elsewhere, Girvan Folk Festival is on from Friday 3rd – Sunday 5th May. There are concerts, a number of informal sessions, a Big Sing, a Songwriters Concert plus storytelling. Artists are many and include Brian Miller, Colum Sands, Mike Vass, Bob Fox, Cathal McConnell and Fiona & Heather Heywood. Full details at or just go!

Sad News

Just heard this morning that a good friend of Irvine Folk Club and Marymass Folk Festival Malky McCormick sadly passed away last night. Malky had been ill for a couple of years and was in a care home in Ayr. Will publish details of Malky’s funeral when known.

On Wednesday 10th April in a change to the scheduled top-of-the-bill, Wilson McGladdery will be the special guests – there’s two of them! Due to illness, the date for Catherine Craig & Brian Willoughby has had to be re-scheduled.
Gaynor Wilson & Paul McGladdery have each performed as solo artists and with bands. Five years ago, after meeting through fellow musicians, they realised that their voices blended well together and they were both keen on promoting original songs rather than covering well-known material. The duo have built up a healthy gig list in that five years, playing the length and breadth of England with occasional forays into Scotland.
They both live in Saddleworth in Oldham. Gaynor plays violin, piano and recorder but is best known for her powerful vocals. She really enjoys acoustic singing. Paul is a guitarist known for his prolific songwriting that reflects musical influences from folk to country to classic pop. His first love is writing ballads. Their most recent single Beans on Toast is available electronically and it’s a love song.
Wednesday 10th April, Wilson McGladdery at Irvine Folk Club in Vineburgh Community Centre in Quarry Road starts at 8pm.
Elsewhere, the Hannah Rarity Band plays at The Star in Glasgow on 16th April. It’s Hannah plus three fine musicians and will be well worth a listen.
And finally, the audience at Irvine Folk Club last week had yet another terrific night with Davie Craig with Rab Noakes as special guests. The skilled songwriting of Rab and the songs, stories and harmonies of both of them made for a first class night.