Robin Williamson

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Cover of Ring Dance (1998)

Robin Williamson (November 24, 1943, Edinburgh) is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist musician, singer, songwriter and storyteller.

He became a professional musician at the age of 16, and in the early 1960s traveled to London with Bert Jansch to play the metropolitan folk circuit. By 1965 he had returned to Edinburgh and formed a duo with Clive Palmer, specialising in fiddle and banjo arrangements of traditional Scots and Irish songs. Joe Boyd signed them to Elektra Records in 1966, by which time they had recruited third member Mike Heron. As resident band at Clive’s Incredible Folk Club in Glasgow, they called themselves the Incredible String Band.

Between 1966 and 1974 the Incredible String Band, based around the duo of Williamson and Heron, released some 13 albums, becoming in the UK one of the most popular, best-loved and influential groups of the era. For more information, see ISB main entry

Williamson released his first solo LP, "Myrrh", in 1971 when still a member of the Incredible String Band. After the band split up in 1974, he began living in Los Angeles and, for a while, turned his attention to writing, co-writing an espionage novel, "The Glory Trap". By 1976 he had returned to music, forming The Merry Band, who released three albums "Journey’s Edge", "American Stonehenge", and "A Glint At The Kindling".

After the breakup of the Merry Band, Williamson returned to the UK and started to tour solo, offering sets dominated by traditional stories set to song. Releases of this period include "Songs of Love and Parting" and "Legacy of the Scottish Harpers". Williamson's concern with the British bardic tradition also manifested itself in several books and tapes containing spoken renditions of traditional tales. He has also written a tutorial book of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Fiddle Tunes (ISBN 0-8256-0165-7)

Williamson's live album with John Renbourn, 'Wheel Of Fortune' (1995), was nominated for a Grammy, (as was the ISB album 'Hangman's Beautiful Daughter', in 1968).

In the late 1990s he took part, with Palmer and Heron, in a reformed ISB. Williamson left the band some time around the start of 2003 - some rumours had it that he was forced out in acrimonious circumstances. The reformed band disbanded once again in 2006.

Meanwhile Williamson resumed his solo career, notably on record with a series of albums for the prestigious ECM label. "Seed-at-zero' (2000), 'Skirting The River Road' (2002) and 'The Iron Stone' (2006) featured him combining his own words with those of the likes of Dylan Thomas, William Blake, and Walt Whitman. Musically these records show him increasingly working in a fusion style (similar in some ways to the avant-garde work of the Incredible String Band in the 60's) which incorporates folk, jazz, Renaissance, Classical and Eastern influences. A group of distinguished jazz musicians accompany Williamson on the two most recent ECM records, notably violist Mat Maneri, bassist Barre Phillips, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Ale Moller, and English sax player Paul Dunmall.


for Incredible String Band albums see main ISB entry

• Myrrh (1972) • Journey’s Edge (1977) (with The Merry Band) • American Stonehenge (1978) (with The Merry Band) • A Glint At The Kindling (1979) (with The Merry Band) • Songs of Love & Parting (1981) • The Fisherman's Son And The Gruagach (1981) • Prince Dougie And The Swan Maiden (1982) • Rory Mur And The Gruagach Gaire (1982) • Music From The Mabinogi (1983) • Legacy Of The Scottish Harpers 1 (1984) • Selected Writings (1984) • Five Humorous Tales (1984) • The Dragon Has Two Tongues (1985) • Five Tales of Enchantment (1985) • Five Legendary Tales Of Britain (1985) • Five Bardic Mysteries (1985) • Five Tales of Prodigies and Marvels (1985) • Legacy Of The Scottish Harpers 2 (1986) • Winter's Turning (1986) • Songs For Children Of All Ages (1987) • Ten Of Songs (1988) • Music For The Newly Born (1990) • Wheel Of Fortune (1995, with John Renbourn) • The Island Of The Strong Door (1996) • Songs For The Calendarium (1996) • Farewell Concert At McCabe's (1997, with The Merry Band) • Mirrorman's Sequences (1997) • Celtic Harp Airs And Dance Tunes (1997) • Memories/Erinnerungen (1997) • Dream Journals (1997) • Gems Of Celtic Story 1 (1998) • Ring Dance (1998) • Gems Of Celtic Story 2 (1998) • A Job Of Journey Work (1998) • The Old Fangled Tone (1999) • Music from Macbeth (1999) • At The Pure Fountain (1999, with Clive Palmer) • The Seed-at-Zero (2000) • Just Like The Ivy (2000, with Clive Palmer) • Carmina (2001) • Skirting The River Road (2002) • Gems Of Celtic Story 3 (2002) • The Iron Stone (2006)

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Robin Williamson

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