Hard to believe it but Blazin’ Fiddles were formed way back in 1998 by Bruce MacGregor who was then a “lowly BBC Radio Scotland researcher with a chip on his shoulder.” So here they are ﬁfteen years down the line and what better way then to celebrate with a new album. ‘Six’ is due for release on Monday 3rd February, 2014. They’re still touring hard and are appearing at The Old Fruitmarket at Celtic Connections on 31st January which will be a fantastic show…and to top all that they won “Scottish Folk Band of the Year” at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Awards.
Commenting on the band’s beginning, Bruce said, “Funnily enough for a band celebrating their 15th year, the original concept was never intended to be a touring group. It was a statement of where we as Scots and Highlanders were in terms of musical identity – and I felt the best way to do that was in the shape of a musical showcase.”
So in early ’98, Bruce walked in to the ofﬁce of the Highland Festival with a plan to showcase the distinct voices of the Highlands & Islands ﬁddle music. “I had a list of ﬂiddle players I liked and had met at sessions or festivals. I had no budget and no idea what I was doing but I came out an hour later and the tour and the budget were in place.”
The name Blazin’ Fiddles came with a meaning – and some baggage. The most obvious explanation of the name for anyone who has seen the band play would be their frenetic, sometimes manic, style of playing. Performances that have won Blazin’ Fiddles admirers from Buckingham Palace to the Albert Hall as well as private performances for the likes of Billy Connolly and Sean Connery! The second meaning comes from Scotland’s history and the way in which religious orders and governments tried to stamp out music in the Highlands and Islands. Fiddles and pipes were piled in pyres and set alight because they were deemed instruments of the devil.
[pullquote]The continued existence and indeed revival of the music has been phoenix-like over the last few decades[/pullquote]The continued existence and indeed revival of the music has been phoenix-like over the last few decades, with Blazin’ Fiddles having more than played their part in this. “We’ve all been lucky enough to have been brought up and taught by true masters of the music – people who have passed on the tradition to us through difﬁcult times in history,” explained MacGregor, “For example, my own teacher was Donald Riddell, and Jenna Reid’s was the great Willie Hunter from Shetland. These guys didn’t just teach the music – they taught you the culture, the history and the importance of music to society.”
What sets Blazin’ Fiddles apart from anyone else on the scene today is their continued efforts to showcase the playing and tune styles of their local area. This allows audiences to hear the dialects within the music. Trends will come and go in folk music but what you get from Blazin’ Fiddles is 100% authenticity and passion no matter who is in the line-up – and that comes because of the material they play and each band member’s musical heritage.
Elaborating further, Bruce commented that, “The history is vital for us but so is keeping the music modern and relevant to today’s audiences. That’s where the likes of Anna Massie and Angus Lyon come into the equation. Both brought up within the tradition but both happily embracing new techniques. There is a ﬁne line between modernising a tune for the sake of it to show how clever you are with your chords, and at other times just knowing that the rhythm and the melody is the key to a great set. Knowing where that line begins is the secret to developing the music at the same time as respecting the tradition.”
Celtic Connections 2014
31st January 2014
Cheltenham Folk Festival
15th February 2014
More dates and information here: