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The Young Folk

“It bemuses me when the media says Scottish and English cultures don’t differ,” Ryan confides as he greets me at his cottage in Cardross, Argyll and Bute. “English special occasions rely heavily on borrowed Scottish traditions, but you don’t get the reverse. I don’t even know what the English national dress would be. Folk is another part of Scots culture that is alive and thriving; people here can feel folk music in their very bones, it is part of our shared consciousness. When was the last time an English band filled an arena with young people singing folk music, like Runrig did at Balloch Park?” I try to imagine Lily Allen leading Wembley in a chorus of Greensleeves. “There’s a vibrant contemporary folk scene in Scotland right now – bands like Lau, Blazing Fiddles, Karine Polwart and Kris Drever.”

Ryan’s Charlie Bucket eyes peek timidly at me from beneath an urchin fringe; he’s still a bit bewildered by public attention. His waif-like frame and coltish limbs seem out of tune with his incredible musical maturity. He doesn’t make visual sense as he picks up his fiddle, his posture slumping as he tries to make the chair swallow him. And then comes the sound, and the world is suddenly still; this sound makes nothing else matter. It is the sound of all Scotland’s haunting, unmatchable beauty, of the pain of her many losses, and the dream of her liberation. It is the sound of a Scottish legend in the making. His evocative, melodic tone and irresistible rhythm made for an unforgettable performance in the Scottish “Young Trad” finals, bringing acclaim from fans and big recording names alike. He was head-hunted to perform live on stage with Paulo Nuttini at T in the Park, and is now launching his eagerly-awaited first album.

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iScot Magazine
July 2017
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