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Aly Bain is a master of the Shetland, Scotland style of fiddling. A member of the Boys of the Lough since 1971, Bain has been a featured contributor on albums by Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch, Connie Dover, and Jay Ungar. In addition to several solo albums, Bain has recorded and toured in a duo that he shares with ex-Silly Wizard accordionist/keyboardist Phil Cunningham. He collaborated with Norwegian composer Henning Sommerro on an album of Shetland and Norwegian music, Songs of the Sea.
Bain began playing the fiddle at the age of 11 and studied under influential Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson. In the late '70s, he played on two of Anderson's albums -- The Silver Bow and Shetland Folk Fiddling, Vol. 2. Honing his craft in a series of local bands, Bain attracted international attention after joining Irish/Scottish band, the Boys of the Lough, whom he met at the Falkirk Folk Festival in 1969. He released his debut solo outing, First Album, in 1985. Three years later, he traveled to Louisiana to record the album, Aly Meets the Cajuns. The same year, he met Phil Cunningham at a pub near Edinburgh and they agreed to tour together. Their first duo album, The Pearl, released in 1994, was followed by The Ruby in 1997.
Bain has hosted several musical series for BBC Television. Down Home explored the spread of the Celtic fiddle tradition from Ireland and Scotland to North America. Push the Boat Out, shown in 1991, was taped during the Mayfest celebrations in Glasgow. The Shetland Set, shown the same year, was taped at the Shetland Folk Festival. Bain's autobiography, Fiddler on the Loose, co-written by Alistair Clark, was published by Mainstream Publishing in 1993.
Aly Bain MBE (born 15 May 1946 in Lerwick, Shetland) is a Shetland fiddler who learned his instrument from the old-time master Tom Anderson. In 1967 he was a member of the Shetland-based band Gordon Hank and the Country Ramblers, with Gordon Smith, Ian Stewart and Jack Robertson. Bain is now considered one of the finest fiddlers in the Scottish tradition. Shetland times, 11 January 2012
In the early days of his career he formed (briefly and unofficially) part of the band The Humblebums with two other ‘unknowns’ Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey. He became nationally prominent as a founding member of The Boys of the Lough, a Scots- Irish folk group, with whom he played for over 30 years. He received several honorary doctorates in the USA.
Simultaneously, Bain pursued a solo career in collaborative and television projects with Pelicula Films Director, Mike Alexander and Producer, Douglas Eadie, working on several international television series: 'The Down home Recordings', 'The Shetland Sessions', 'Aly Meets The Cajuns', and six series of the Transatlantic Sessions - in 2010 winning the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, "Good Tradition Award". Since the early eighties Bain has regularly collaborated and recorded with prominent musicians from across the globe, including: Jerry Douglas, Emmylou Harris, Mark O'Connor, Jay Ungar, Mary Black, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Dan Tyminski, Rosanne Cash, James Taylor, Eddi Reader, Paul Brady, Darrell Scott, Michael Doucet, Martha Wainwright, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, John Martyn, Danny Thompson, Iris DeMent, Karen Matheson, Karan Casey, Donal Lunny, Joan Osborne, Allison Moorer, Bruce Molsky and Allan MacDonald, bringing traditional music to a constantly widening audience.
In 1993 his autobiography "Fiddler on the Loose" was published by "Mainstream". It was co-written with Alastair Clark.
Bain has received many honours for his services to music: in 1994 he was awarded the MBE for his musical accomplishments. In 1989 he received a Silver Disc from the Record Industry Association for his 'Aly Meets the Cajuns' recording. A further Silver Disc followed in 1991 for The Pearl, recorded on his own Edinburgh Record Label, Whirlie Records. He also has received five honorary Doctor of Music (DMus) degrees: Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama; Stirling University; The University of St Andrews (2003); The Open University (2005) and Edinburgh University (2009). In addition, on 27 November 2007, Bain - along with Phil Cunningham - were awarded Doctor of Letters from Glasgow Caledonian University for their contributions to music and to the education and encouragement of young musicians.
In 2005, together with Edinburgh’s Phil Cunningham, he won the BBC’s "Best Duo of the Year" award.
In 2006, a television programme celebrating his 60th year, documenting Aly Bain's life and works, was broadcast by the BBC.
In 2006, Bain was inducted into the Scots Traditional Music Hall of Fame.
In 2012, Bain and Cunningham celebrated their 25th anniversary of touring as a fiddle and accordion duo. Bain also tours with Swedish multi-instrumentalist, Ale Möller, with whom he has recorded two albums, and with American old-time fiddler, singer, guitarist and banjo player: Bruce Molsky. As a trio the released their first joint album in 2013.
In 2009 Bain collaborated with Nicola Benedetti to create on an hour long television programme for BBC Scotland: "When Nicola Benedetti Met Aly Bain", broadcast in 2009. In 2010, together with Pelicula Films and Billy Connolly, Bain made a further hour long television programme for BBC: "Fishing for Poetry", celebrating the life and works of the Scottish Poet, Norman MacCaig.
In the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Bain was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.Graduation Honorary Awards : News Headlines : Glasgow Caledonian University Tait, Jim (1 February 2013). "Lifetime achievement accolade for Aly in Radio 2 folk awards". The Shetland Times. Retrieved 7 February 2013.