Winner of several awards including the 2011BBC Radio 2 Horizon Award Ewan McLennan is an emerging folk artist that has been making headlines. His music combines traditional folk, with an inevitable focus on the music of Scotland, as well as his own self-penned songs that are receiving critical acclaim in their own right. BBC Radio 2's Mike Harding has said of Ewan, ‘he sings beautifully, with great sincerity and great empathy, he's terrific!’. His guitar playing, described as 'stunning' , is influenced by the rigour and technique from his years of studying classical guitar, while retaining a unique and compelling sound in which his immersion in folk music is evident.
His debut album,Rags & Robes, has been receiving glowing reviews. Described as 'a collection of truly captivating songs', it was chosen as a 'Top Ten Album of 2010' by MOJO and has won numerous accolades in radio and print media.
According to The Root and Branch Review Ewan‘may well be the best singer you'll hear all year' while Maverick have said he is 'quite possibly destined to become the UK’s finest folk singer!'.
A personal Account
At home I grew up hearing lots of music, of all types. My family sang as a matter of course – it was part of what you did, how you told a story. Many of the folk and pop songs they sang, and the albums they played which caught my attention were about social and political issues, whether everyday struggle or broader moments – though there were also plenty tragic ballads and love songs too!
I suppose, looking back, I grew up being exposed to a wide range of music and musical influences. Perhaps as a result of growing up in Edinburgh, the influences of Scottish culture and Scottish traditional repertoire became deeply ingrained in my playing and my musical taste, and are certainly evident in my music today. I was always drawn to Celtic music (for want of a better term), whether Scottish or Irish, and there was a kind of lilt and maybe melancholy in the melodies that really held me.
I began listening more and more to what I guess could be described broadly as folk music – particularly American songs first of all, and most of all Bob Dylan. As well as being blown away by the strength and sensitivity of the music, I felt the power of the lyric too – a great many of those songs are as relevant and meaningful today as they were when they were written. Great songs can’t be dated. This led me on to a broader exploration of English-language folksong and I gained a fascination for how radical political and social themes were and can be expressed through song. But most of all, being immersed in song in this way just made me want to sing.
Alongside this, I began to move away from the classical and jazz piano I had always played and I took up the classical guitar and formally studied it for some years. This training has quite strongly shaped my guitar playing, and I think the general rigour has also stuck with me and firmly influences my approach to music.
I began to become more and more involved with traditional music, with performing and singing, and more absorbed in particularly Scottish song. I took up formal study that connected my three big passions – music, history, and social change – which in turn greatly inspired the music I was writing, interpreting, performing. I felt it was an incredible privilege for me to have the time to spend digging deep into the vast repertoire of industrial folksong and being able to write in depth about the role of folksong in the American and British labour and working-class movements.
After some years of performing more and more, and with kind encouragement, I began to take my music further afield to venues up and down the country. About this time, I signed with Fellside Records and recorded my debut album – Rags & Robes – released in the summer of 2010. From here I have continued to have the privilege of writing, interpreting, recording, and performing music across the length of the British Isles and beyond.