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About Jock Tamson's Bairns

Although they remained together only a short time in the initial stage of their career, Jock Tamson's Bairns became one of the most acclaimed traditional Scottish bands of the last two decades of the 20th century, with luminaries like Alasdair Fraser and Richard Thompson counting themselves as admirers. Formed in Edinburgh in the late '70s, the group took its name from the Scottish saying "we're all Jock Tamson's Bairns," meaning that people are all essentially the same. The Bairns grew out of the Scots band Chorda, which played frequently in the Sandy Bells Pub, the center of a thriving scene of Scottish musicians, writers, and artists inspired to re-examine the traditions of their homeland -- partly by their nearby university studies, and partly (on the musical end) by the way the Chieftains were doing much the same thing in Ireland. Rod Paterson (vocals, guitars), John Croall (whistle, bodhran), and Norman Chalmers (concertina, accordion) all played on the 1977 concert document Sandy Bells Ceilidh as part of Chorda, and they decided to keep playing together once that group disbanded. Adding guitarist/vocalist Tony Cuffe (ex-Alba), Welsh guitarist Jack Evans, fiddler/vocalist Adam Jack (also of Chorda), and fiddler Ian Hardie, the newly constituted Bairns signed with Robin Morton's Temple label and recorded a self-titled debut album, which was released in 1980. The Bairns toured Scotland heavily in support, but personnel shifts ensued in short order -- Cuffe left to join Ossian, while Jack was replaced by ex-Chorda fiddler Derek Hoy. Cuffe, Chalmers, Hoy, and Paterson all provided instrumental backing for reader Billy Kay on a 1981 tribute to Scottish poet Robert Fergusson, Fergusson's Auld Reikie. Then, in 1982, the Bairns signed with the Topic label and released their landmark masterpiece, The Lasses Fashion, a spirited recording which drew from across the spectrum of traditional Scottish music. Abruptly, however, Jock Tamson's Bairns went on a long hiatus starting in 1983, with most of its members moving on to other projects. Paterson, Chalmers, and Evans formed the Easy Club, with the latter two soon moving on to the more progressive Cauld Blast Orchestra, and Paterson to Ceolbeg. (Chalmers eventually began teaching collegiate courses on Scottish music as well.) Hoy and Hardie, meanwhile, both played in dance bands (Bella McNab and the Occasionals, respectively), among other projects. In 1996, the Bairns reunited with a lineup of Paterson, Chalmers, Hoy, Hardie, and Choall (no Evans) and began performing live once again. That same year, the Greentrax label reissued the Bairns' two '80s albums on a CD two-fer titled A' Jock Tamson's Bairns. Finally, in 2001, the Bairns recorded and released their third album, May Ye Never Lack a Scone, also for Greentrax; also under their belts were their first international touring appearances. ~ Steve Huey

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