The Early Days: 1978 - 1979
HOM BRU began playing in the winter of 1978, with their very first booking being in the "Fishermans Arms" in Scalloway. Little did anyone realise what the future would bring for the band.
The line up on that memorable night was Gary Peterson (mandolin, tenor banjo, drums), Davie Henry (vocals, mandolin, tenor banjo), Brian Nicholson (guitar, electric guitar, vocals) and Alec Johnson (bass guitar, vocals).
HOM BRU were probably the first “folk group”, as such, in Shetland. However, in the beginning, the band had to play half-and-half country songs and traditional material to please the locals who were very much into country music, and not so much into the traditional songs.
In the first few months of existence the band entered a local talent competition. They came second, but were highly acclaimed. They also had their first ever venture into recording at Douglas Bentley's Viking Vision "studio", which was actually his front shop. This led to the release of the first album – "First Swig" – which, with the harmony mandolins on "Gardebylaten" (Swedish Polka) and the songs "Greenland Whaling" and "Banks Of Newfoundland", featured what was to become the recognised sound of HOM BRU. This album also had the country songs "Delta Dawn" and the Don Williams classic "Till The Rivers All Run Dry".
1979-1980: Line-up changes
1979 saw Brian leaving the band, and they were joined by Peter Miller on guitar and vocals. This period coincided with the material becoming more traditional and less country – a lot to do with Peter's influence. The line up was also augmented by the appearance one night at the Fisherman’s Arms of John (Cass) Cassidy (whistle, flute, vocals), a construction worker from Paisley who was working for one of the companies building the Sullom Voe oil terminal. The workers from the construction camps used to fill all the venues around Shetland at the weekends, and a lot of them were heavily in to traditional songs and tunes. Cass, as it later transpired, was a founder member of the now famous "Tannahill Weavers". He became a fixture with the band for the remainder of his work in Shetland.
This line up went back in the Viking Vision "studio", and recorded an E.P. of four tracks of Shetland and Irish music, the most memorable being "The Wilds Of Yell".
1980: Edinburgh and Beyond:
Peter and Gary had always
wanted to try and perform their
music to a wider audience, and in 1980 they decided to move to Edinburgh to play Shetland music to the world. This saw the departure of Alec on bass, as he had already had a period as a professional musician during the 70's and didn't want to go through the experience again.
The band was joined by Stewart Isbister (bass guitar, vocals) and Davy Tulloch, a good friend already staying in Edinburgh, who was building a great reputation for himself around the city.
The line up now was Gary Peterson (mandolin, tenor banjo), Davie Henry (vocals, tenor banjo, mandolin), Davy Tulloch (fiddle), Stewart Isbister (bass guitar, vocals) and Peter Miller (guitar, vocals). The sixth member of the band was sound engineer and roadie, Michael Stout from Fair Isle: the band now realised they needed someone who knew what they should sound like on the mixing desk.
The band was taken under the wing of the Edinburgh Folk Festival, who had set up an agency, run by director Dr. John Barrow. This opened the door for the band in many ways by providing the opportunity to play to a wide and international audience, and led to them getting very high praise in the press.
This also led to their first experience of a real studio when, with the help of John McKinnon, they went to Robin Morton's Temple Studio to record a demo tape.
The band did a few tours with this line up, with highlights including a performance on the BBCs "Pebble Mill At One", live to the nation, and a very memorable first venture abroad with a Scottish Tourism trip to Ridderkerk in Holland. The Ridderkerk gig was one of Davy Tulloch’s final appearances with the band as he wanted to do other projects, such as forming the band "Curlew".
November 1980 saw the band on tour in Northern Ireland. With Davy having left the band, they called upon the help of old friend Bob Maclaine, from Skye, who had been staying in Shetland for a number of years. This tour was a strange experience for the boys as, with the "hunger strikes" at their peak, tensions were high. However, the friendliness of the locals more than made up for any worries the band might have had.
The 1980s: Back in Shetland
Steven joined the band, which was now to make its home in Shetland.
The line up now was Gary Peterson (mandolin, tenor banjo), Peter Miller (guitar, vocals), Ivor Pottinger (vocals, guitar) and Steven Spence (fiddle).
Though their roots were still firmly in Shetland the band didn’t lose the taste for travel and would play at least a couple of times each year outside the islands.
Around 1984 Davie Henry rejoined the band, giving back to HOM BRU the HOM BRU sound of frontline harmony mandolins.
This line up became very popular throughout Shetland. With Ivor's singing and Steven's very fast fiddle style, the band went down a storm everywhere for most of ten years. The peak for this line up was probably the album "Rowin Foula Doon", released in 1990 just in time for the Christmas market. This is still recognised as one of Shetland’s best sellers of all time.
The Early 1990s:
A more contemporary sound
In 1993 Ivor left Shetland. When considering who should replace him the main concern was to find a good guitarist as it was felt that Davie and Peter could still do the singing. The boys eventually decided to ask Andrew Tulloch (Violet's boy), to join them. Andrew had only recently become interested in traditional music, having mostly played in rock bands, but he readily accepted the offer and so a new member entered the frame bringing with him some new ideas. Andrew was a prolific songwriter, and these skills led to the band taking a more contemporary direction with their music.
Andrew’s song-writing meant that the band had to learn lots of new material. Steven, who was living in Unst (Shetland’s most northerly island) and who had work commitments, was finding it difficult to rehearse with the band and thought it would be a good time for HOM BRU to find a new fiddler.
John Robert Deyell was soon asked to join. John Robert had already made a name for himself as a great fiddler, and having recently left the local band "Eart Kyent", it was an opportune moment to get him to join HOM BRU.
The line up was now Gary Peterson (mandolin, tenor banjo), Davie Henry (vocals, mandolin, tenor banjo), Peter Miller (bass guitar, vocals), Andrew Tulloch (guitar, vocals) and John Robert Deyell (fiddle).
Andrew had his own studio, and was heavily into recording, so it was ironic that this line up never recorded an album. They did, however, contribute tracks to various compilation albums. The great instrumental track "The Moving Bog, Oni Bucharesti" features on two albums: the Shetland Folk Festival CD "20 years on", which was released on the 20th anniversary of the festival, and the “Tall Ships” CD that was made for the Cutty Sark Tall Ships race coming to Shetland in 1999.
Also, Andrews own song "A Thousand Miles Away" was brought out on a 1996 release "Lift The Aeshins", a Young Enterprise project by pupils of the Anderson High School.
1995 saw a very busy year for the band with performances in Oslo at an Irish music festival, and the St. Magnus arts festival in Orkney. Another highlight was a mini-tour of the North of Scotland with concerts in Caithness and Sutherland.
The late 1990s to the present day
In 1996 Peter left the band after 17 years. The band invited various different bass players to guest with them, until ex-guitarist Brian Nicholson came back to the fold. Brian had been playing with various rock and country bands at the time, and was delighted to take on the challenge of playing bass, as lead and rhythm guitar had been his main instruments.
Around this time, Andrew was becoming more interested in a recording career. With limited recording work in Shetland he decided in 1997 to move to London, where he now works as a sound engineer.
The great Whalsay guitarist John (a'Burns) Hutchison guested with the band for the next few years, but couldn't commit himself to joining permanently due to other projects he was planning. Among these was the recording of a CD of his father – the fiddler Gibbie Hutchison of Whalsay.
The line up in 1998 was Gary Peterson (mandolin, tenor banjo), Davie Henry (vocals, mandolin, tenor banjo), Brian Nicholson (vocals, bass guitar), John Robert Deyell (fiddle) and John Hutchison (guitar, vocals).
By now the band was thinking that a new album was long overdue, and in 1999 they started recording, using the facilities of local musician Willie Barker.
By this time, John was already working on another project, and the year 2000 was to see him depart to Glasgow to do a course on guitar making, something he had always wanted to do. Brian found himself having to play the remaining guitar parts on the album, and the band decided not to replace the bass player, but leave Brian on guitar.
The line up now is Gary Peterson (mandolin, tenor banjo), Davie Henry (mandolin, vocals), Brian Nicholson (guitar, vocals), and John Robert Deyell (fiddle).
2001 saw the band meeting up with Andrew Tulloch again, as Hom Bru and Shetland band Filska (of which Andrew is now a member) did a memorable festival on the French island of Tatihou, off the coast of Normandy
2002, saw the boys trying to finish the album, and now in 2003, it lives up to its title "No Afore Time".
2003 looks to be another busy year for Hom Bru. They have already performed in Edinburgh at the Queens Hall, and later this year they will be performing at the Orkney Folk Festival and the Keith Folk Festival.
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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