IAN BRUCE by Mike Raven
Appeared in The Living Tradition - Jan / Feb 1998)
Ian Bruce is one of the most popular singer-songwriters on the British folk scene today with a gig diary the envy of many. His popularity is in no small part due to the fact that he not only writes good songs but also has the big, strong voice of a traditional singer. Indeed, his latest recordings are of Robert Burns songs (where he is in the company of the Battlefield Band, Ossian and The Tannahill Weavers) and he has just finished recording a traditional CD with Dougie Pincock, Malcolm Stitt, Ian Lowthian and Catriona Macdonald. Its called Hodden Grey and is dedicated to the memory of his father, Pipe Major John Bruce.
In general, Ians songs are socially relevant but rarely politically aggressive. His introductions demonstrate a quick- witted humour and he has developed a modern chord based guitar style which is most effective and needs no augmentation. Although his overall sound is traditional, word phrases and rhythms from many sources keep popping their heads over the parapet - blues, gospel, country, reggae and rock. Writers such as Ian are new shoots of the traditional trunk of folk music, without whom the old tree would wither and die.
When I first met Ian Bruce he struck me as fodder for a front line infantry regiment - you know, one of those rough, tough Highlanders who were hired by the British Army to scare the living daylights out of colonial troublemakers with claymores and whisky-hardened battle cries. In fact, he has the sympathetic nature and gentleness of one who has been to the edge and understands the darker side of the human condition.