On 11th November 2016 Battlefield Band were inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. Over almost half a century these ambassadors for Scottish folk music have released thirty acclaimed albums and travelled thousands of miles, playing thousands of concerts worldwide. Great musicians have passed through the ranks - an Alma Mater that reads like a 'Who's Who'. Each brought new instruments, new compositions, new voices to the mix - learning much while adding a freshness and creativity, that became a real and widely quoted measure of quality.
Battlefield Band are a Scottish traditional music group. Founded in Glasgow in 1969, they have released over 30 albums and undergone many changes of lineup. As of 2010, none of the original founders remain in the band.
The band is noted for their combination of bagpipes with other instruments, most notably on their cover of "Bad Moon Rising", and for its mix of traditional songs and new material. Battlefield Band tours internationally, playing to audiences in Europe, Australia, Asia, the Middle East, and Canada, and more than 60 cities annually in the United States.
They have collaborated with other musicians including the Scottish harp player and glass sculptor Alison Kinnaird.
The band was formed in 1969 by four student friends from Strathclyde University (Brian McNeill, Jim Thomson, Alan Reid, Eddie Morgan) and took its name from the Glasgow suburb where Brian McNeill was living at the time.
Their brand of music developed when Brian McNeill and Alan Reid were joined by Jen Clark (vocals, guitar, cittern, appalachian dulcimer and whistle) and Duncan McGillivray (pipes and whistle). Stand Easy, the album they recorded in 1979, still stands up as one of the band's finest. The next line-up included new comers Dougie Pincock (bagpipes) and Jim and Sylvia Barnes along with veterans Alan Reid (vocals and electric keyboards) and Brian McNeill (fiddle).
The band has gone through many line up changes over the years.
Alan Reid, who had been a member ever since and the last remaining founding member, finally left the band at the end of 2010, concentrating on his musical duo with guitarist & singer Rob van Sante who has been Battlefield Band's sound engineer for the past thirteen years.
On 1 January 2015, Battlefield Band revealed in an e-mail sent to their fanbase that, back from their US tour in October/November 2014, they were working hard in the studio on a new recording project with the working title Beg, Borrow & Steal. The Irish / Scottish album would highlight and explore the cultural cross-fertilisation of the vibrant musical traditions of Scotland & Ireland and the group would collaborate with many other leading traditional musicians and scholars. Mick Moloney (USA/Ireland), Nuala Kennedy (Ireland), Aaron Jones (Ireland), Christine Primrose (Scotland), Alison Kinnaird (Scotland) & Barry Gray (Australia) were due to be all on board, with more to follow. The band has been awarded Creative Scotland assistance for this project. If all would have gone well as initially announced and expected, the recordings would have been available on Temple Records by March 2015 – it might even have turned into a tour if all would have gone well and the musicians would have been available.
On 22 June 2015, on their Twitter page, Battlefield Band announced a January 2016 (11-date) tour of Germany, Switzerland and Austria due to begin on 14 January in Offenburg, Germany and end on 31 January 2016 in Hamburg, Germany. This would be Battlefield Band's return to the stage for the first time since November 2014 i.e. after more than a year of inactivity as the band had not tour during the whole year 2015...
On 14 August 2015, Battlefield Band's label Temple Records finally announced that the (delayed) new album had been re-titled simply as Beg & Borrow and would be released as a digital download (and on streaming) on 21 August 2015, on CD in the UK on 18 September 2015 and on CD in the United States on 16 October 2015.
Battlefield Band later confirmed that they would embark on 14 January 2016 on a 16-date tour of German-speaking countries (Germany, German-speaking Switzerland, Austria) including a radio show and a TV show in Germany, due to end on 31 January 2016.
Battlefield Band were winner of "Best Live Act" at the inaugural Scots Trad Music Awards in 2003. In 2011, they were winner of "Best Band" at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2011.
Battlefield Band's "Compliments to Buddy McMaster" (a track from its album Dookin' released in 2007) was nominated for the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for World Traditional Song of the year. They also have been nominated for the 11th Independent Music Awards "World Traditional Song" category for its recording of "A' Bhriogais Uallach" ("The Pompous Trousers"), a track from their album Line-up released in 2011.
On 11 November 2016, Battlefield Band were inducted into Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame for "Services to Performance".
Every line-up since the Stand Easy album has had at least one bagpiper. Unusual aspects of the instrumental line-up for a traditional band include the presence of electric keyboards and the absence of percussion. Every album mixes traditional Scottish songs and tunes with modern (often original) compositions. Themes range from drinking, friendship, and hard times to history, geography and politics.
The band's 2006 album, The Road of Tears, deals explicitly with the theme of displacement. Many of the songs deal with emigration, both voluntary and forced. Battlefield Band's 2007 album, Dookin′ (the Scots word for what you do at hallowe'en – as in «"dookin" for apples») has a lighter feel, after the eloquently somber tone of The Road of Tears. Dookin' includes instrumentals and a mix of vocals, with lead being shared by Alan Reid and Sean O'Donnell.
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Date: February 2017.
Photo Credits: (1),(3),(4) Battlefield Band, (5) Alasdair White, (11) Mike Katz (unknown/website); (2) Freiburger Kulturbörse 2012 (by Michael Lucan/Wikipedia); (6) Alistair Russell, (7) Davy Steele, (8) John McCusker, (9) Brian McNeill, (10) Karine Polwart (by The Mollis).