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Thistle and Shamrock

Item posted: Monday 23rd May , 2005

It's Tuesday morning and when I'm not on tour I wake up in Birnam in Perthshire after the Monday evening session which I lead at the Birnam Hotel's bar -- the Tap. It's a beautiful location and a fantastic spot for a session with a bit of sightseeing to boot. Since Fine Friday's mega tour of Australia last year, the Monday session with overnight B and B is part of the experience for many antipodean friends who have come to visit.
Birnam and the surrounding area is home to many musicians of repute and the base for the pipe makers Hamish and Fin Moore. Last September Hamish asked me to run the Monday night session in the pub and come up with any musicians from Edinburgh. Of an evening we'll be joined by Hamish on the fiddle, Fin and Duncan on the pipes. The local singing group often turns up as well as a whole host of other musicians passing through.
The majority of the bar staff are fantastic musicians from Ireland and the MacKenzie boys from Cape Breton keep the bar's piano in shape. What's great about this session is there's a piano (in tune), plenty of space, no smoking and a wooden floor perfect for our step-dance outbursts.
Since we first started this session in September last year this place has been gradually building up so that now every Monday is starting to feel like a festival. Last night was no exception. You know when you play and the tunes that you didn't know that you knew keep coming -- and the ones you thought you had forgotten or even ones that you are just writing come to you even before you've finished the last -- you daren't stop -- even for the toilet -- well that was last night. The session went on into the early hours in the residents' lounge and we only hit the sack when we heard breakfast kitchens opening up. It's a joy. And a joy to be able to share these times with overseas friends.
Last night I brought Greg from Yackandandah, Australia to the Birnam session. Greg's a bazouki playing hand surgeon who was on the festival committee for the Yackandandah Festival 2003. When I booked that gig over the internet I couldn't believe that such a place name existed. It gets called Yack for short.
When Fine Friday recorded our first album, Gone Dancing, I had already done quite a bit of touring in the U.S. and Europe with a band called Anam. Australia felt as yet unconquered. I sent out loads of CDs and emails to prospective agents to no avail. So I typed then