Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Archie Fisher

Archie Fisher was born in Glasgow 1939. His father was a keen singer with catholic musical tastes and his mother, a native Gaelic speaker from the Outer Hebrides, was a strong influence on the lyrical quality of his songwriting. Like his siblings Ray and Cilla, they all became professional folk singers. Archie became interested in skiffle and along with his sister Ray formed a skiffle group in the mid-'50s. Later when he heard The Weavers at Carnegie Hall decided to concentrate on folk music.

In 1960, Archie moved to Edinburgh and became a regular at the city folk clubs including “The Howff” run by Roy Guest. He taught himself to write songs originally through patching up incomplete traditional material then following its example in the potent visual imagery and poetic economy which became his own trademarks. In 1962 Ray & Archie Fisher released a single on the Topic label called “Far Over the Forth.”

By the mid sixties, Edinburgh became a Mecca for folk artists drawn to the many clubs and pubs featuring ethnic music. Archie Fisher was a key figure in the Scottish folk movement and played with many luminaries of that period including: Anne Briggs, and the Ian Campbell Folk Group (with Dave Swarbrick), Bert Jansch and a young Barbara Dickson.

In 1963, he ran a weekly folk club at the Crown Bar in Edinburgh, there he met acoustic musicians Robin Williamson and Clive Palmer who were performing together as a traditional folk duo. Mike Heron later auditioned to play rhythm guitar and the trio became The Incredible String Band.

Archie preferred to play steel-string guitar more suited to rock ‘n roll but he and others developed a mix of new tunings and inventive picking that has influenced generations of his successors. Archie continued recording and released “Traditional and New Songs from Scotland” (1965) with the Fisher Family (Archie, Ray , Cilla and her husband Artie Tresize plus their parents).

The family group split up in 1966 when Ray married and moved to London and Archie began his solo career. His first self-titled album was recorded in 1968 with the fiddle and mandolin of John McKinnon and whistle player John Doonan.

During the mid 1970’s he formed a long-term partnership with Dundee musician Allan Barty, which was later grafted on to the revived pairing of Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy. As well as performing as a backing musician and arranger for the Makem and Clancy duo, he also produced a series of albums with them. Archie also helped produce Silly Wizard.

By the 1980’s, he worked on radio documentaries detailing the wealth and variety of Scottish folk music. In 1983, he took over from the previous presenter BBC Radio Scotland’s weekly flagship show Travelling Folk i.e. Robin Hall, and continued until 2010.

As a guitarist, Archie was in great demand and appeared as the lead guitarist on Tom Paxton's, The Very Best of Tom Paxton (1986).

In the 90s, Archie began working with Canadian songwriter Garnet Rogers and together they wrote and performed. The duo toured North America before recording the highly acclaimed Sunsets I’ve Galloped Into in 1996.

Archie continued to tour North America, playing with John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Several more albums have followed as the premier exponent of Scottish folk music continues to work and record.

Worth a listen
The Flowers o' the Forest (1969) with Barbara Dickson
The Highland Widow's Lament (1969) with Barbara Dickson
Witch of the Westmorland ( 1976)
Dark-Eyed Molly (1976)
Will ye gang, love (1976)
Lindsay (1976)
The Gallant Ninety Two (1976)
Twa Bonnie Maidens (1976)
Laird of Udny (1986)
The Great North Road (1995)
The Black Horse (1995) with Garnet Jones

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