Thomas Fraser (singer)
Fraser was born in on the isle of Burra. He never released any recordings while he was alive, choosing to play his cover versions of American folk, country and western and rhythm and blues songs to close friends and family. He rarely even played live before paying audiences. During his lifetime he made a number of recordings on a reel to reel tape recorder, and family members circulated these as a keepsake of him after his death. After a few years, these tapes began to circulate to a wider audience (Shetland, whilst isolated, has numerous folk and blues festivals, and is well connected in terms of international musicians). In the late 1990s some of these tapes were eventually transferred to CD, originally, again, simply as a more permanent record of his songs, but the greatly increased number of CDs pressed meant that Fraser's audience again increased.
Finally in 2002, Nel Records put out a small pressing of Long Gone Lonesome Blues a selection of some of the original tapes. To their great surprise this turned out to be a commercial success, and soon Fraser had fans in Japan, Europe, and, not least, the United States, who responded to Fraser as a "genuine" country and western singer, as opposed to what some see as the over-sophisticated sound of contemporary Nashville. Two more CDs followed (You & My Old Guitar (2003) and Treasure Untold (2005)), and a yearly Thomas Fraser memorial festival was begun in Shetland in 2002. Fraser's work is attracting increasing international attention, and there are plans for an American release of his best work. A fourth CD release of unreleased material "That Far Away Land" was released in November 2008. The following month, BBC Scotland aired a 30-minute documentary on the life of Thomas Fraser entitled "Shetland Lone Star". A DVD featuring this programme and highlights of the annual Thomas Fraser Festival was released in October 2009. The National Theatre of Scotland also toured Scotland during October with a full theatrical production on the life of Thomas Fraser, entitled "Long Gone Lonesome". The production was revived for a 2012 tour of the United States of America. A fifth CD of unreleased material is due out in November 2010.