Duncan’s Blog – February 2013

February’s gigs were both crackers – Edinburgh Folk Club, followed by Stirling five days later. These are both long-established, knowledgable clubs, and I was quite nervous. I needn’t have worried – we were well received and even sold a fair few CDs! I sometimes think the whole gigging thing is too stressful – dealing with the promoters, organising the band, rehearsing etc etc – and wonder whether it’s worth the hassle, but when I get to play really nice venues like these, I end up buzzing for ages afterwards, and that’s why I keep horsing on – it’s an itch you never lose, and you gotta keep scratchin’ it….

February also made me shiver, as the song says. My dear old pal Harry Barry called me right at the start of the month. We spoke for an hour or more about songwriting, mutual pals, gigging, his new play about Coatbridge’s history which is planned for May and the World in general. He was in great form. Three days later I got a call to say that Harry was gone – suddenly, during the night, and with no apology. An aneurysm, apparently – just tapped him on the shoulder. I spoke at Harry’s funeral – a real privilege and an honour for me, and also terrifying. I remembered a fine songwriter, a master writer of radio and TV jingles and a funny, daft, kind and utterly passionate human being. Bill Torrance led the service, and his pal Roy McCallum delivered a heartfelt eulogy, while Alastair Macdonald sang his song ‘The Leerie’ with words by one of Harry’s favourite poets, Robert Louis Stevenson. I can’t believe I’ll never see or speak to him again.

But life goes on, even though something will be missing. There’s a definite hint of Spring, and the endless cold sunshine definitely lifts the spirits. I spent today in Edinburgh, and even a chauvinistic old Weedgie like me was impressed, strolling down Prices St in the sunshine.

Musically, there’s talk of some more film and TV music to be written and produced by me and Cy, and we’ve got a couple of song ideas on the go (at long last…!). Three gigs in March, then nothing until late summer, although we’ve a few ideas about some trips to the west coast over the summer. I’d like to put on a few small shows around the country, but it’s finding the time to organise and promote them. I still work full-time in the music business, and love my job to bits, but it does take up a lot of time and energy. I think Irene and I might take off for a week in the sun, then I’ll come back with recharged batteries. After that, weekends in Skye, Arran, Islay, Kintyre and a few other places as yet undecided – good times ahead!!

Anyway, that’s February for you. Off to London for a couple of days tomorrow, then a weekend seeing various pals we haven’t seen for ages – can’t wait.

See you again in March…


Duncan xx

Duncan’s Blog – January 2013

A really nice festive break, but not that relaxing….lots of places to go, pals to visit, friends coming over, parties in the village etc etc. I like to get fired up for the new year ahead, but the early January weather is so grey, misty and dull it’s not easy to get into gear!

I always enjoy Celtic Connections, and I’m hoping to spend quite a lot of time in and around the Concert Hall – always good for meeting friends I haven’t seen for a while. It was fantastic to be offered a gig at the festival this year, and our concert at the Glasgow Art Club was a huge deal for us. We were supporting Jim Malcolm, who was delightful to work with. His set was superb, and featured his daughter Beth, who we all thought is a star in the making. If I could play guitar half as well as Jim I’d die happy, but we went down well too – it was a fantastic venue, and a really nice crowd. Icing on the cake was that two more gigs came in for us on the same day – Corstorphine and Dalgety Bay folk clubs.

I’m still struggling to find ideas for new songs though, and it’s starting to worry me a bit. I’ve never been able to churn stuff out, but I can usually manage a couple of new songs every year. I sit in the music room and spend most of the time chucking stuff away – maybe I’m thinking about it too much. Cy and I have just been asked to write a few new tracks for TV use, so maybe that’ll get things moving again! I’ve got a campervan parked out in the garden, that doubles as a studio cum office, so I’ll be spending a bit of time out there with the guitar and the workstation – wish me luck!

Another new year resolution is to de-clutter my life a bit. I’ve too many guitars, and too many vehicles! My lovely old Morris 1000 Traveller is earmarked for the old heave-ho, which will be tough, but it’s doing less than 300 miles every year, and it’s time someone else got to enjoy it. Driving it is wonderful – everyone smiles at you, and no testosterone-poisoned sales reps or sad ‘petrolheads’ carve you up. I can’t part with my 1968 MGC roadster, though – we’ve been together for fifteen years now, and it’s true love, even though we don’t spend enough time together. Selling guitars is altogether trickier. I did try to sell my Taylor Big Baby on email a few months back. Someone won it for 2/3 of its worth, but didn’t like it when it arrived, and complained it ‘wasn’t as described’, having more marks on the top than I’d indicated. I refunded the money in full, and paid another £25 to get it back, and I still think it’s in fantastic condition for a 10 year-old instrument. It’s put me right off eBay selling, though. In any case, you know what they say – whoever dies with the most guitars is the winner! I must be somewhere near the front, I’d say, but still a million miles behind my band-mate Stevie Lawrence!

Anyway, just in from a brilliant hill-walk in deep snow with Duggie the Dug. Irene’s been taken away for a weekend treat in Harrogate by our daughter Julie, so I’m home alone. I’ll have absolute control over the TV tonight, and with a roaring log fire and a nice bottle of Shiraz, life feels pretty good!

Stay safe and warm!

Duncan xx

Duncan’s Blog – December 2012

There’s something I like about December – cold, but there’s often quite a lot of sunshine around, and this year’s been no exception so far.

Only one gig this month – Me and Cy playing Helensburgh Burns Club’s St Andrews Night concert on the 1st. Organised by Kirsten Easdale, it was a fantastic night, playing to really nice, friendly people. Kirtsen’s a wonderful singer, and her set was much too short. We were also blown away by Bellevue Rendezvous’s set. Gavin, Cammy and Ruth – an ‘A’ list outfit in my opinion – should be much better known. Kirsten’s partner Steve Niblock, who is a masterful fine art photographer, took some great pictures at the concert, but when I look at me and Cy in them, I hope the camera lies, at least a bit!

Very proud moment watching ‘Scotland’s Greatest Warrior’ on BBC2 Scotland. An hour-long documentary about James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, and his escapades both with and against the Covenanters. A complex, fascinating man. Did I mention ‘proud’? Well, it was produced by my beautiful daughter Julie, who now has a string of broadcast credits to her name. She’s the most hard-working, conscientious person I know, and a truly lovely person as well. Proud doesn’t come close to covering it. Ach well, I’m her daddy, I’m allowed to go on a bit…

Irene and I headed up to Fort William for the Trad Awards on the 8th, and had a great time. Met up with lots of friends and people we haven’t seen for years, and the music was really good this year (as usual, to be fair). I’d kind of hoped Balerno might get the award for best club, but it went to Falkirk this year. I’ve never played there since the Clydesiders days in the 90s, but I’m sure it’s a worthy winner.

Talking of Clydesiders news, the new CD is finally here, and will be in the shops from 10th December, which is exciting news.

Well, I’m posting early for Christmas (not like me) in case I get lost in the nonsense of the weeks ahead and forget to keep up the blog. I hope everyone who takes the time to read this malarkey has a happy, relaxing time at Christmas, and I wish everyone peace and a nicer, gentler World in 2013.

Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – November 2012

Crikey – just noticed it’s the 29th, and I haven’t put up the November blog yet, so just a quick few words to keep the (ahem) continuity.

Cy, Stevie and I played Balerno this Tuesday, one of our absolute favourite gigs. Packed out on a Tuesday evening in late November – it’s how a folk club should be…..everyone out for a good night’s fun. Carole and Alan Prior, and Norman Lamont (no, not that one..) played sets too. Carole wrote the tune for Violet Jacob’s poem ‘Baltic Street’, which I covered on the new CD, and I was truly nervous singing it with her sitting in the front row. She was very nice about it, though.

Good news this morning – confirmation of a gig at Celtic Connections. The Trio will be playing on Jim Malcolm’s show at the Art Club in Bath Street on Tuesday 22nd January – I’m delighted.

Other piece of good news is that I replaced the written off car today. I’ve now got a hybrid Citroen, which seems to run on chip fat and Duracells. I’ll have to ease up on slagging Cy for his Toyota Prius, I suppose. The new car’s all hi-tech, so it’ll take me a while, but it’s supposed to do 74mpg. Aye, we’ll see……

I’ll try and be a bit earlier with the December update, but just in case – Merry Christmas!

Cheers Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – October 2012

Very glad to see the end of September. It’s a month I’ve always disliked, as it marks the end of summer – not the beautiful colours of autumn, but faded, tired greens, chilly damp air and short days. Ugh. It’s also my birthday month, so I get to be a year older…I say I’ll stop counting, but you can’t fool yourself – time marches on! Nice gig at Mugdock to finish off the month, too – quite a good turn out, which would have been excellent if everyone who said they were going did – around 17 no shows. Ah, well.

October’s gig free, so a wee bit of time spent sending emails to clubs and promoters, a job I really hate. Some reply, some don’t…plus ca change! Cy and I have some library tracks to finish, so that’s good, but I really need to start thinking about writing songs again – I gave myself a holiday from writing after all the energy spent on the album, but it’s high time I got my mojo working again, such as it is! Hopefully the new guitars will spur me on a bit.

Home life has been a bit stressful – my poor old father-in-law is having a real struggle with the last stages of emphysema, which means that my wife Irene is constantly running back and forth to hospitals etc, and looking after her mum. As an only child, she has a tough job, but our beautiful daughter Julie shares the load with her, despite her own hectic career as a TV producer. I’m very proud of them both.

Just as things were bad enough, I managed to get involved in a serious road accident on the first black ice morning of the autumn. I’ve been told that the car will cost £6000 to repair, and may be written off, but neither I or the young guy in the other vehicle were hurt, thankfully, so it’s just so much metal, glass and rubber. Could have done without it, though!

Anyway, this is starting to sound a bit too doom-and-gloomy, and life’s actually really good. Three gigs have come in for 2013 in the past week, and work at PRS/MCPS has been good fun.

We heard this morning that the wonderful songwriter Michael Marra passed away this morning. Michael was just a lovely guy – gentle, witty, humble and blessed with the most incredible talent for songwriting. I recorded his song ‘The Lonesome Death of Francis Clark’ back in 2001, after asking his permission first. I remember how pleased he was that someone liked his work enough to record it, and he gave his blessing. I met him several times after that, and had the honour of playing support to him twice. I’ll never forget how nervous he was before a performance, and how assured amd professional he was during it. Rest in peace, Michael.

Duncan’s Blog – September 2012

Great to get back to gigging after two months – a concert at the Royal Yacht Club in Greenock, and the audience was just fantastic. Everyone out to have a good time, and great chat afterwards. Sadly, I had to drive from there straight to Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow, where my father-in-law had been taken earlier. Got there around 1.30am, and it seemed as though it was time to say goodbye, but he improved a bit during the night, and at the time of writing he’s still with us, although very tired. I married his only daughter, and my daughter’s his only grandchild, so it’s a tough old time.

To be honest, September’s not my favourite month, and brings some sad memories for me, so its good to have the music to take my mind off things. I’m looking forward to the next concert on Friday 28th – me, Cy and Stevie at the brilliant wee theatre in Mugdock Country Park, outside Milngavie. I’ll be using the new Gibson for the second time and I have to say I’ve fallen for it in a big way, after not being 100% sure to begin with. Fantastic big sound, and it looks fabulous – playability’s good, and I’m working on that.

After all the initial excitement of the album launch, things on that front have quietened down. Radio plays have slowed, but that’s how it goes – you get your five minutes in the sun, then it’s someone else’s turn. Ah well!

I’m hoping to get seriously back into the writing in October – 2012’s been so busy, I haven’t had time to even think about it, and I think I exhausted my mojo a bit with all the album malarkey!

I’m looking forward to the new Clydesiders album – the record label has been showing some ideas for the artwork, so hopefully it’ll be a tasty looking item. I’m hopeful it’ll make the shops by Christmas, but these things seem to take forever. Cy and I are also finishing a few tracks for a London publisher – the project is 95% finished, but that last 5% seems to be taking superhuman effort to get done!

Anyway….all work and no play just now, and relaxation’s not easy with the poor old dad in law being so ill. A holiday would be tremendous, but not possible in the meantime. Maybe a few nights away at a nice hotel on the West coast – we’ll see.

Oh, and yet another birthday this month. September…..I really don’t like it at all! xx

Duncan’s Blog – August 2012

Big news of the summer for me was getting my new guitar – a fabulous-looking Gibson J200 – stunning in ‘antique natural’ maple.  The first one let me down at a gig with intermittent distortion through the electrics, so Guitar Guitar in Glasgow – who have been great to deal with – replaced it with a brand new one.  Problem is…….I don’t think I like it as much as the one it replaces!  It’s been back a couple of times for adjustments to the action, so hopefully I’ll get to like it better as it plays in a bit.  Meantime, I’ve ordered another guitar to my un-neccessarily large collection – a Loar LH200VS –  which should be arriving any day.  It costs – I kid you not – a twelfth of what the Gibson did, and I’m told it sounds every bit as good.  We’ll see……

After a flurry of activity up to the launch date, radio plays of the album have slowed a bit – keeping the momentum is always difficult, so Me and Adam at Circular Records are looking at ways of giving the campaign a new lease of life.  Too much stuff out there!

Great to get away for a couple of weeks, though.  Kintyre, Ullapool, Lochinver and Gairloch.  Marvellous – would have been even better if the sun had shone a bit!!

A few new gigs coming in – Greenock Boat Club, and a new folk club at Lambhill in Glasgow.  Time we were getting a marketing campaign going again – I really hate that side of things, though.

The new music library CD ‘Scottish Roots’, which Cy and I arranged and produced for a London-based publisher was released in July….mostly arrangements of trad works for film and TV, so fingers crossed we get a few tracks used over the next few years.

The new Clydesiders album has been mastered too, and will be released on a well-respected Scottish label in September (hopefully), so quite a year for new recordings – more to come, too!  Watch this space……….

Duncan’s Blog June 2012

Leaving it a bit late to get the monthly news update done, but here goes……


May was an incredibly busy month one way and another – quite a few gigs in the diary to co-incide with the launch of the new album ‘Colourblind’ on the 14th.  Circular Records set up a really nice launch evening at the City Halls in Glasgow, with around 60 or 70 people attending, including musicians, songwriters, friends in the Scottish music biz and many more.  The usual Duncan McCrone Trio of me, Cy and Stevie were joined by Chris Stout on fiddle and Finlay Macdonald on whistles for a half hour set of songs from the CD, which seemed to go down quite well.  Now we wait to see if the nice reviews we’ve had in many of the well-known magazines (such as Maverick, Rock’n’Reel and Muso’s Mag) together with the round of radio interviews across the country set up by Bob Buchan PR translate into sales……it’s not easy out there, and realistically it’ll be a case of trying to get as many gigs as possible, as that’s where the sales are most likely.


In the midst of all the mayhem, Cy and I managed to finish off another library music album for a London-based publisher, and De Wolfe Music launched our CD ‘Scottish Roots’, which is a collection of ceilidh and pipe band tunes, aimed at TV, radio and film producers, and if that wasn’t enough, I managed to get together with my old bandmates The Clydesiders to record an album of songs for a Scottish roots-based label, to be released hopefully in late summer, and aimed squarely at the tourist market.  It was incredibly good fun – we hadn’t played together in this line-up for (gulp) 26 years and honestly, it was just like getting back on a bike – the years just fell away.  As a one-off special, we played a 45 minute set at the Fintry Music Festival, and I actually think it sounded better than it did in the 80s…….no plans to repeat the experience, but..never say never!


June started with a gig for me and Cy at the Kintyre Songwriters Festival in Campbeltown, which was one of the most inspiring evenings I can remember in a long, long time.  The musos, singers and writers down there support each other to an incredible degree – not an atom of competitiveness, just everyone wanting everyone else to do well, and huge support over the three nights from the local community.  I’ve read a lot of dreadful negative stories about Campbeltown in recent months, but all I saw was a vibrant crowd of people proud of the beautiful place they live in, and determined to put it on the musical map.  Kintyre’s one of my favourite places in the World, and we’re heading down there again on holiday in late July – can’t wait.


Back from Kintyre and down to London for a two-day work trip, which was actually really enjoyable – I work with genuinely nice, friendly people at MCPS and PRS, and the big Metropolis is always very atmospheric in early summer, so all good stuff.


After months of deliberation, I decided to take the plunge and buy a new guitar – I took delivery of an absolutely stunning Gibson J200 in antique natural .  Maple back and sides, and a stunning sound.  Some issues with the onboard electrics as I write this, but Guitar Guitar in Glasgow have been great so far.  Nice people to deal with.


Unsurprisingly, I was getting a bit knackered after all the fun and games, so Irene and I took ourselves off for a week in Puerto Pollensa, in Northern Majorca.  Lovely, sunny weather and very relaxing – except for  being royally ripped-off by the car hire company.  A new trick is to charge you a non-negotiable fee for a tank of fuel – some £90 for a Ford Focus, which would fill for about £60 in Scotland (where diesel’s a lot more expensive!), telling you to bring it back empty…try that in a 7 day holiday on an island when it’s enough to go 850 kilometres.  We brought it back over half-full and – you guessed it – no refund..they just top it up and charge another sucker £90.  oh, and they hit you for another £40 to insure glass, tyres, key etc.  If you’re going abroad and renting a car this summer, watch out!


Back in time to play at my local gig in Gartmore Village Hall, the last concert before the hall shuts for refurbishment.  This was the big set up – we call it the ‘Tron Band’ as it was originally set up to record my first live album ‘Just a Glasgow Boy’ at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre in 2001.  Me, Cy, Stevie, Chris, Finlay and Ray Laidlaw on drums.  A packed house, and the boys played their hearts out – it was a magical evening.


So, that’s it for the time being.  Things are quietening down over the summer, and I’m looking forward to getting some decent walk with Duggie the Dug around the Trossachs hills where I live, and some trips away in the campervan and in my old 60s MG, if weather permits.


Have a great summer – catch you again soon!


Duncan xx

Duncan’s Blog – 1st May 2012

Well, maybe it’s time I put my first blog on the new website…seems to be the done thing.

Recording the Colourblind album took an awful lot of time between August and December last year (2011), not to mention a hoor of a lot of money.  I’m so delighted Adam at Circular Records had enough faith to agree to release it on CD, and to pay for artwork, pressing, marketing and promotion.  Circular’s an eclectic label, and I’ve always regarded it as very high-end, with artists like Nigel Clark, Koshka, Savourna Stevenson, Hobotalk and hip-hop rising stars Stanley Odd, to name just a few. I feel privileged to be label-mates with them.

Now the time has come to try and start the tricky business of selling a few.  Launch is on the 14th of May – just two weeks away – and Bob Buchan, who is running the press and PR campaign for us, has been doing a fantastic job.  ‘Songwriter of the Week’ on Iain Anderson’s BBC Scotland show at Easter was a real high point.  Some really nice reviews too, and I’ve done a fair few live radio interviews so far, with several more booked in.  I actually quite enjoy this side of things, although it’s a bit weird sitting at home talking live to radio listeners  in Yorkshire. The presenters are really friendly and chatty without exception, and I have to concentrate on not letting the odd wee jovial swearyword creep out!

Quite a few gigs coming in, as you’ll see in the gigs section here.  That’s always a difficult thing for me – getting bookings.  In my band days, someone else took care of that, and I just turned up on time and behaved myself.  Now though, you have to go out and look for the work, and that’s a nightmare – I’d rather eat my own head than phone people up cold looking for a gig.

The last six months of 2011 and this year so far has been incredibly busy for me and Cy on musical projects.  Two substantial music library albums of ceilidh and pipe music written and recorded, music for the STV series ‘Too Good to Waste’, the Colourblind album, a remix of our song ‘When The Lion Wakes’ for a forthcoming digital album and, bizarrely, a new Clydesiders album, twelve years after the band called it a day!  That was really good fun, and quite emotional – I worked with these guys for 18 years in the 80s and 90s, and it was incredible how quickly it all came back together.  A one-off live festival gig at Fintry on May 20th – looking forward to it very much.

Trying to organise a concert with the six-piece band – me, Cy, Stevie Lawrence, Finlay Macdonald, Chris Stout and Ray Laidlaw – in my home village of Gartmore for Friday 22 June.  Not easy, as it involves a fair few musicians, and we’ll need a very serious PA as there’s drums involved, too.  Just organising quotes, but by the time we pay the PA and ensure the guys get a modest wage, it looks an expensive gig to put on.  We brought over 200 people (the hall’s capacity) in when we last played here in February 2011 and I’d hope to do the same again, but there’s always that risk – as it’s for funds to refurbish the hall, I can’t risk it losing money.  Originally I’d planned to put it on this month and double it as a CD launch, but a couple of they key players werent available, so we put it back to June.  Too far away to make it any kind of launch gig, so it’ll just be a concert, with parties to follow locally!

Anyway, that’s the first ramblings over.  Not sure if anyone ever reads these things, but it seems Twitter and the like would prove me wrong……..

Off to watch the 10 o’clock news now.  Pictures of people trapped in floods down South after the wettest April on record……but still suffering from drought!

New album ‘Colourblind’ – May 2012

I’VE BEEN planning a follow-up to All You Need to Know for a long time…..the idea is to release a new album every three years or so, but somehow it’s taken nearly six! 

I’d like to be able to say that Cy and I are constantly coming up with new songs and bursting to get them recorded, but the truth is that the film and TV music work gets right in the way of songwriting much of the time, and it’s difficult to think about lyrics, middle eights, choruses and the like when you’ve a deadline to produce albums of Celtic themes or pipe bands for TV and radio productions.

They’re really good fun too, and in less work-dominated lives we might be able to do both, but we have been gradually introducing new original songs into the live set over the years, while working away at a few songs we’ve been really excited about.

At the same time, I’ve been tripping over all sorts of brilliant songs by other writers, and have so much enjoyed playing and singing them it became a priority to stop talking about recording a new album and just get on with it!

The first two albums are hugely important to me, of course, and in their way are milestones not just in my musical career (if you want to call it that!) but in my life itself.  Both were commissioned and fully funded by independent record labels, and I will be eternally grateful to Downtown Records and to The Music Kitchen for their faith in me and the terrific support I got from both.

This time, however, I decided to spend a lot more time on the recording process, and in the current climate for indie labels, this would be difficult financially, so Cy and I decided to finance the master recording ourselves, through our own production company Ranza Music.  All well and good, but to release a quality CD album, recording’s just the start of the process.  There’s artwork, CD pressing, distribution costs, press and radio promotion – all the expensive stuff.

Luckily, a good pal of mine, Adam Armit, who owns the highly-respected Edinburgh-based Circular Records, offered to release the new album on the label, and so things were set in motion. I can’t tell you how pleased and honoured I am to be part of the Circular roster.

It’s an eclectic and very discerning label, and to be part of a catalogue that includes virtuoso jazz guitarist Nigel Clark, legendary harper Savourna Stevenson, the amazing Scottish Guitar Quartet, hip-hop stars Stanley Odd and Americana band Hobotalk among others is a real privilege.

Recording of the new album began in early August 2011, and was completed four months later.  As with the previous two CDs, everyone connected with playing and recording was a friend of ours – musicians, sound and mastering engineers, arrangers, backing vocalists – and the list of contributors reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of traditional and contemporary music (to use a well-worn cliche…).  Apart from Cy and I, there’s Stevie Lawrence, Chris Stout, Finlay Macdonald, Mike Bryan, Dougie Stevenson, Sandy Brechin, John Goldie, Ray Laidlaw, Allan Cuthbertson, Paul Edwards, with a guest appearance on backing vocals from my old band The Clydesiders – Sandy Kelso, John Graham and Dave Whitton – and my beautiful daughter Julie.

The ‘friends only’ rule extends to the artwork, with the sleeve design and studio photography by alt-blues star Dave Arcari (swapping the National guitar for a Nikon SLR for a short while) and cover photo by Steve Richards, who lives near me in my home village of Gartmore, while the sleeve notes are written by my pal (and fellow old car enthusiast) Rab Noakes, who also wrote one of the songs on the album.

Colourblind is a mix of Duncan & Cy songs, traditional Scottish works and some very carefully chosen covers by top songwriters of the past and present, and release is scheduled for May 2012. Vast amounts of time and love have gone into it, and I hope that comes across to the listener, whoever he or she may be.