In the past, Scottish folk programmes seemed almost to be made exclusively to plug gaps in the schedules, when the rest of Britain would be watching something infinitely more exciting. The English newspaper listings would promise live coverage of Liverpool v Everton in the Littlewoods Cup Fifth Round, or some suggestive Cockney sitcom, but a glance at the regional variations would reveal that viewers in Scotland would be getting a ceilidh band live from the South Uist sheep-shearing championships, or something very similar.
BBC Scotland's new music show, Push The Boat Out, comes as a welcome change. Recorded on the Renfrew Ferry at last year's Mayfest,1 it presents acoustic music in an unusual and original setting, with a rather more contemporary feel than is offered by endless ballads concerning medieval massacres. The series features live performances from acts as diverse as Andy White, John Martyn and Carol Laula. "I suppose if you had to label it, you could call it folk," says producer/ director Maureen White, "but I don't think it's necessary to divide music up into little categories. There are all sorts of different styles included on the shows." White herself was more accustomed to working with rock acts, having previously been involved with Halfway to Paradise.
The shows are introduced by Aly Bain and Edinburgh multi-instrumentalist Phil Cunningham, who perform a couple of tunes in each show. Guests in the first programme are former Fairground Attraction Eddi Reader, performing with her new band, and singer/ songwriter John Martyn doing old favourites May You Never and Solid Air.2 Future attractions include Northumbrian piper and fiddle player Kathryn Tickell, Dylanesque protest singer Andy White, and American punk folkie Tymon Dogg. Maureen White's own highlight, Irish singer Mary Black, has been saved for the final show. "She's astonishing," says White. "She has kept a low profile up to now, but I think she's going to be a very big name. She's sort of folk-rockish, with a superb voice, and her performances on the programme are simply stunning." (Tom Lappin)
Push the Boat Out, BBC1, Saturdays 23 Feb, 9.25pm; 2 Mar, 11.10pm.
1 The actual date was Monday, 7 May 1990.
2 Recorded were The Cure, May You Never, The Easy Blues and Solid Air.
This article was printed in The List of 22 February 1991, on page 68.