TWENTY-FIFTH anniversaries are all very well, but Ian Green sounds as if he’ll be glad to get this one out of the way.
When we meet, the one-time Lothian and Borders Police officer who retired after 30 years service and invested his pension in establishing Greentrax records, now Scotland’s largest label for folk and related music, is busy arranging some last-minute complimentary tickets for this Saturday’s celebratory concert at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall.
“To be honest I’m looking forward to it but at the same time I’m looking forward to getting past it, because it’s a lot of work,” says Green with a note of exasperation. At 77, he insists he’ll continue running Greentrax as long as he’s fit.
“I probably should retire,” he says, “but this has never become a burdensome occupation. There are no millionaires in this outfit, but I get so much enjoyment running it.”
Over the past 25 years, the hobby which became a business has released more than 450 albums, stacks of which, encased in brown cardboard boxes we can see in the stock room outside the office in which we are talking, at the label’s modest headquarters in the former Cockenzie School in East Lothian.
Fresh out of the police, early in 1986, Green – who had been running a folk record mail order service when not on the beat and was considering starting a small label – was approached by Jock Tamson’s Bairns fiddler Ian Hardie, who was preparing a book of his own tunes. It developed into a fully fledged album. And Green’s old friends, The McCalmans, offered to do an LP for the embryonic venture. Highland singer-songwriter Iain MacDonald made it three albums, simultaneously launched in late summer of that year. The label’s name was chosen through a competition on Archie Fisher’s Travelling Folk programme – the newly retired policeman was greatly tickled by a late entry suggesting “Copout Records”, but Greentrax it was.
The first of a series of lucky breaks was being asked to compile an album from STV’s highly successful series Aly Bain and Friends: the resulting disc remains the label’s best-selling release, closely followed by the two albums it recorded for folk-groovers Shooglenifty. Other high sellers have been the popular fusion band Salsa Celtica, the Gaelic Women project and, more recently, the well received Far, Far from Ypres anthology of music relating to the First World War.
Currently negotiating industry upheavals such as downloading, and its impact on CD sales, Green has also witnessed some major changes in the folk scene – not least the emergence of so many aspiring young musicians from the RSAMD and other college courses. “When I first started, musicians served an apprenticeship in the folk clubs or wherever they could sing. Now all these youngsters are coming straight out of college and they’re all brilliant, but where the hell will they get work?”
While the current economic slump has seen the label ease back on its frequency of releases, Green has never looked back. Neither have many of the notable performers he has recorded, many of whom will be heard at the Queen’s Hall on Saturday, including Barbara Dickson, Margaret Stewart, Archie Fisher, Dick Gaughan, the Paul McKenna Band and Haddington Pipe Band.
A celebratory double CD, Music and Song from Scotland, further marks the anniversary with 25 tracks selected from the Greentrax catalogue. The record also features a bonus recording of Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham playing an air that Cunningham wrote for yet another milestone, Ian and his wife June’s golden wedding anniversary, which they marked in 2006 – the same year the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama acknowledged the one-time beat policeman’s contribution to Scottish music with an honorary doctorate.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
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