Since the late ’60s, Scottish folk troubadour Archie Fisher has remained in the spotlight in his native land. In the U.S., however, it’s a different story.
In 1983, he became the host of BBC Radio Scotland’s long-running folk show “Travelling Folk.” While the program helped increase his profile in the U.K., it cut into his own folk music career — during his 27-year hosting tenure, he released only two albums, 1995’s “Sunsets I’ve Galloped Into” and 2008’s “Windward Away.” His radio obligations also kept him off the road, especially overseas in North America.
After retiring in 2010, he began playing folk clubs in the States again, for the first time in nearly 20 years.
“In the U.K., I’m working on a much smaller footprint — I’ll see people at festivals, and the audience that comes to see me at festivals there are much more familiar with what I do,” he said recently from his agent’s home in Chatham.
“In the States and Canada, a lot of people thought I died, because I hadn’t been on the road for 20 years. I find the appreciation of American and Canadian audiences very refreshing, because in the U.K., it’s like, ‘Oh, this guy; he’s been around for a while.’ ”
Old Songs Festival
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Altamont Fairgrounds, 129 Grand St., Altamont
How Much: Full festival with camping: $125, $115 (seniors and students), $55 (ages 13-18). Without camping: $105, $95 (seniors and students); $55 (ages 13-18).
More Info: 765-2815, www.oldsongs.org
So far this year, Fisher has tackled a series of U.S. folk festivals after having stuck to clubs and concert halls for the past few years since retiring from the radio show. His last stop is this weekend, performing at the 32nd annual Old Songs Festival, taking place Friday through Sunday at the Altamont Fairgrounds.
He is one of the featured artists for the main concert Saturday night, on a bill that also includes master of ceremonies Dan Berggren; Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins; Patrick Ball; Galant, tu perds ton temp; Comas; and Dennis Stroughmatt, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.
Other headliners throughout the festival’s three days include Sharon Katz and the Peace Train, John McCutcheon and local folkies John Kirk and Trish Miller.
Old Songs caps off a short Northeast run for Fisher that has also included dates in Maine, the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival in Connecticut, and the Black Stone River Solstice Festival in Rhode Island. The festivals have helped to reintroduce him to American audiences, and have given him a glimpse of the folk music he’s been missing in America, as well.
“That’s the nice thing about festivals,” he said. “When you’re a touring singer on the road, unless other musicians come to see your concerts, you don’t meet up with other American musicians.”
During his years as a radio show host, he grew accustomed to picking and choosing his concert appearances. Though he has more time to pursue touring these days — and has been enjoying the opportunity to play live more — he’s still only interested in shorter runs of shows.
“I could in fact on certain occasions prerecord [radio] shows, and that allowed me in the late ’80s to tour with Garnet Rogers in Canada and America,” he said.
“But when you’re balancing the two things together at the same time, commitment is really the main thing. When I gave up the radio show really and went back on the road — when you’re a road musician, you have to do this; it becomes a part of what you do. You have to keep working and traveling.”
Songwriting has always been an ongoing process for Fisher as well, even though his recorded output only includes six studio albums since his self-titled debut in 1968. “Windward Away” is heavy on original songs, with eight of the album’s 19 tracks coming from a lost recording session in the 1970s.
“Most artists or songwriters have got a lot of songs on the back stock, so to speak, getting them ready,” he said. “Sometimes you finish them; sometimes you never finish them. It’s very difficult to write on the road. You can get the start of a lot of songs on the road, and then when you get home you might have some peace and quiet to maybe formulate and finish them.”
Fisher is working on a follow-up to “Windward Away” and has already completed half of the basic tracks featuring American violinist and mandolinist Peter Ostroushko. He’s planning to work with British musicians for the other half of the tracks, with the album slated for release early next year.
But for Fisher, new recordings and new songs aren’t as important as the live show.
“That’s not the job; the job is to perform,” he said. “I’m listening to and playing much more different songs. We songwriters swap songs — the songs that I’m singing are as many other people’s songs as my own now. You never let a good song pass you by.”
A full schedule of performers and workshops during the festival is available at www.oldsongs.org.
Following are the main stage concerts:
Friday, 7 p.m. — John McCutcheon; Nuala Kennedy Trio; Anne Hills and David Roth; Bruce Molsky; Sharon Katz and The Peace Train; Mulebone; Ellis; Brother Sun; hosts John Kirk and Trish Miller.
Saturday, 7 p.m. — Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins; Patrick Ball; Galant, tu perds ton temps; Archie Fisher; Comas; Dennis Stroughmatt; Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer; host Dan Berggren.
Sunday, 3:30 p.m. — Kim and Reggie Harris, Ken Whiteley, Magpie, Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, Andrew and Noah Band, hosts Bill Spence and Roger the Jester.
Categories: Life and Arts