Battlefield Band

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Battlefield Band
2012-01-25 BattlefieldBand 0097.JPG
The band performing in Freiburg in 2012
Background information
Origin Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Genres Scottish traditional music
Years active Since 1969
Labels Temple Records, Escalibur, Topic
Associated acts Alison Kinnaird
Members Sean O'Donnell
Alasdair White
Mike Katz

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 its 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 & Canada, and more than 60 cities annually in the United States.

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.

They have collaborated with other musicians including the Scottish harp player and glass sculptor Alison Kinnaird.


The band's brand of music was 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.[1]

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.[nb 1]

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.[2] 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 USA on 16 October 2015.[3][4]

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.[5]

Instruments and themes[edit]

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.


Current members[edit]

Past members[edit]

  • Alan Reid [1969–2010] (founding member; keyboards, guitar, vocals, accordion, melodica, Hammond organ, writing) – Alan was the last remaining founding member of the band before he left at the end of 2010.
  • Brian McNeill [1969–1990[6]] (founding member; fiddle, writing) – Brian has published two detective novels. In 2001, he took up the post of Head of Scottish Music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, which he has since relinquished.[6]
  • Ricky Starrs [1969?–1976] (founding member?; guitar, mandolin, whistles) – Ricky played on original Arfolk recording, later rereleased as Farewell to Nova Scotia.
  • Jamie McMenemy [1977–1978] (vocals, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, Irish flute) – Jamie is still a very active musician and co-founder of the Breton group Kornog. He now lives in Brittany.
  • John Gahagan [1977–1978] (fiddle, whistle) – John is now working as a graphic artist in Glasgow and continuing to play music.
  • Pat Kilbride [1978; 2002–2005] (vocals, guitar, cittern, bouzouki) – Pat lived in Brittany, Belgium, then the USA, has recorded with "The Kips Bay Ceilidh Band" and done solo albums.
  • Jen Clark [1979] (vocals, guitar, cittern and dulcimer) – Among other things, Jen is now running a psychotherapy practice and offering voicework in Edinburgh).
  • Duncan MacGillivray [1979–1983] (bagpipes) – Duncan has won many piping competitions, including the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in Inverness in 1997.
  • Sylvia Barnes [1980[7]] (vocals, dulcimer, guitar, bodhrán) – Sylvia came to Battlefield Band via Scottish folk group Kentigern (formed in 1978).[8]
  • Jim Barnes [1980[7]] (cittern, guitar, vocals) – Jim came to Battlefield Band via Scottish folk group Kentigern.[8] Jim passed away in 2004.[7]
  • Ged Foley [1980–1983] (guitar, vocal, Northumbrian pipes) – Ged has recorded with The House Band, Patrick Street and Celtic Fiddle Festival.
  • Dougie Pincock [1984–1990] (bagpipes) – Dougie is now director of the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music (Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd) in Plockton.
  • Alistair Russell [1984–1997] (guitar, vocal) – During his 13 years in the band, Alistair claims to have travelled one million miles. He currently has a solo career.
  • John McCusker [1990–2001] (fiddle, whistle, accordion, cittern) – John replaced Brian McNeill.
  • Iain MacDonald [1991–1997] (bagpipes) – Iain was the musician in residence at the Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye.
  • Davy Steele (1948–2001) [1998-2000] (lead vocals, guitar, bouzouki, bodhrán, writing) – Before joining Battlefield Band, Davy sang with Drinkers Drouth, Ceolbeg and Clan Alba as well as making solo albums.
  • Karine Polwart [2001-2002] (lead vocals, guitar)
  • Ewen Henderson [2011–2014] (fiddle, Highland pipes, whistles, piano, vocals) – At the time he joined Battlefield Band (2011), Ewen was the youngest member. He left the band during 2014.

Guests on album[edit]

  • Alison Kinnaird [1985; 1995–1996; 2001; 2015] (cello, Scottish harp)
  • James MacKintosh [1995] (percussion)
  • Quee MacArthur [1995] (bass)
  • Kate Rusby [1996] (guitar, vocals)
  • Seamus Tansey [1996] (Irish flute)
  • Eric Rigler [1996] (Uilleann pipes)
  • The Radio Sweethearts [1996]
  • Donald Hay [1999; 2001] (percussion)
  • Kris Drever [2001] (upright bass)
  • Simon Thoumire [2001] (concertina)
  • Mike Whellans [2007; 2011; 2013; 2015] (harmonica, moothie)
  • Mitch Greenhill [2007] (guitar)
  • Allan MacDonald [2009] (vocals, small pipes)
  • Christine Primrose [2015] (Gaelic song)
  • Jim Kilpatrick [2015] (snare, bass drums)
  • John Martin [2015] (fiddle)
  • Nuala Kennedy [2015] (Gaelic song, flute)
  • Leo McCann [2015] (melodeon)
  • Aaron Jones [2015] (vocals, bouzouki)
  • Barry Gray [2015] (Highland bagpipe)
  • Robin Morton [2015] (vocals, bodhrán)
  • Don Meade [2015] (harmonica)
  • Tony DeMarco [2015] (fiddle)

Guests on stage only[edit]

  • Kieran Munnelly (bodhrán, flute, vocals) – Irish musician leaving in Dublin, Ireland. Founding member of the Irish music band Hot Spoons (formed in 2009). Currently touring with Battlefield on the January/February 2016 tour of Germany, Austria & Switzerland.
  • Skip Healy (flute, piccolo) – Based in Switzerland. He often joins Battlefield for a guest appearance when they plays at Parterre in Basel, Switzerland (as it happened during the show on 20 January 2016).



Battlefield Band albums[edit]

  • 1976 [#01] Farewell to Nova Scotia debut studio album (first released on Escalibur label as Scottish Folk)
  • 1977 [#02] Battlefield Band studio album #02 (first released on Topic label)
  • 1978 [#03] Wae's me for Prince Charlie studio album #03 (first released on Escalibur label)
  • 1978 [#04] At the Front studio album #04 (first released on Topic label)
  • 1979 [#05] Stand Easy studio album #05 (first released on Topic label ; reissued as Stand Easy/Preview in 1980)
  • 1980 [#06] Home Is Where the Van Is studio album #06
  • 1982 [#07] The Story So Far 1977-1980 compilation album #1 of the 3 first studios albums released on Topic label
  • 1982 [#08] There's a Buzz studio album #07
  • 1984 [#09] Anthem for the Common Man studio album #08
  • 1986 [#10] Music in Trust Vol 1 Soundtrack album #01
  • 1986 [#11] On the Rise studio album #09
  • 1987 [#12] After Hours: Forward to Scotland's Past compilation album #2 of the five last previous albums
  • 1987 [#13] Celtic Hotel studio album #10
  • 1988 [#14] Music in Trust Vol 2 Soundtrack album #02
  • 1989 [#15] Home Ground - Live From Scotland live album #1 (recorded live in Aberdeen, Scotland during the group's Scottish tour in Spring 1989)
  • 2001 [#23] Happy Daze studio album #16
  • 2002 [#24] Time and Tide studio album #17
  • 2003 [#25] The Best of Battlefield Band/Temple Records: A 25 Year Legacy compilation album #4
  • 2004 [#26] Out for the Night studio album #18
  • 2006 [#27] The Road of Tears studio album #19
  • 2007 [#28] Dookin' studio album #20
  • 2009 [#29] Zama Zama... Try Your Luck studio album #21


  • 2002 [#01] Scottish folk : the rough guide to scottish folk (1 CD) – includes "Clan Coco / The Road to Benderloch / Fifteen Stubbies to Warragul" from the 1999 studio album Leaving Friday Harbor.
  • 2009 [#02] Three Score and Ten (Topic Records 70 year anniversary) (7-CD) boxed set – includes "Miss Drummond Of Perth / Fiddler’s Joy / Traditional Reel / The Shetland Reel" from the 1979 studio album Stand Easy as track one on the fourth CD titled "Scotia The Brave".


  • 2008 [#01] In Concert (At the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh) (DVD) (concert in 2006 at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Scotland)


  1. ^ As Battlefield Band revealed it in an e-mail sent to their fanbase on 1 January 2015...


  1. ^ Alan Reid & Rob van Sante duo Web Site / Biography
  2. ^ "New tourdates for Germany / Switzerland / Austria posted now...". Twitter. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Battlefield Band: new album 'Beg & Borrow'". 14 August 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Beg & Borrow by Battlefield Band & Twelve Special Guests". Amazon. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Battlefield Band web site: Tour". Retrieved 15 December 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Brian McNeill - The Baltic Tae Byzantium". Retrieved 18 December 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c "Jim and Sylvia Barnes". Retrieved 18 December 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Kentigern (Scottish folk group)". Retrieved 18 December 2015. 

External links[edit]