Papa Shandy & The Drams

I am converted.

One thing I put up with is street performers. One thing I cannot stand in the least is folk music. So when someone said, “There’s a great folk band on Buchanan Street”, I wasn’t exactly enthralled. But after a new version of Get Lucky filled the space between The Hard Rock Café and Forbidden Planet, I was as excited as the kiddie versions of Dirty Dancing.

You know who I’m talking about…

Filling the air of Glasgow is an experiment that could’ve spelt Frankenstein-esque catastrophe: folk and dance. Polar opposites seemed like a horrific clash, like fruit with savoury food. Then I tried it. And I wondered why I’d never put pineapple on my pizza before.

Imagine this: it’s the lunch break you’ve been waiting all morning for in that wall to wall grey office, you’ve got your pasta salad because nothing’s healthy anymore, not even pasta, you’re admiring the products you can’t afford in the windows running down Buchanan Street and you hear… clapping?

No, weirder… a banjo!

But this isn’t Louisiana. And Daft Punk sure don’t seem the type to pick up a banjo. What kind of twilight zone have you walked into?

About a year and a half ago, Sean was amusing himself with his banjo, Darryl his mandolin, Kieran his voice, when the three decided to start a band. A few months and a few added members (Rebecca, Calum and David with their fiddle, drums and bass respectively), became Papa Shandy and The Drams. Now, with dozens of Youtube videos and an album released, Papa Shandy’s name is floating between the high street stores of Glasgow.

The scene you’ve walked into is one of 21st century folk: a concept I for one wasn’t aware of. You’ve got the guy with no shame bouncing into the circle, the kids who won’t know shame until their parents show the video on their 18th birthday, the people who are desperate to dance but won’t until someone else does, and an odd version of The Offspring’s Hit That playing with a voice that seems too good for the song.

“We liked Hit That because it’s about the council estate and the people in it …like Glasgow” says the culprit of the banjo sound, Sean. “We’re going for music for the people.”

This, people, is the new folk. Not “My Great Aunty Margaret and Her Redneck Ways”, but the same concept in the world of Glasgow 2013: council estates, recession, a point to the problem of sectarianism and the same can-do we’ll-get-through-this attitude.

“Kieran loves Dan Tyminski …the guy who did the Avicii song, Hey Brother … and bluegrass”

So maybe the concept isn’t as unknown as I thought? Maybe not as crazy, either?

Soon it should be all over Scotland, with Papa Shandy leading his group from festival to festival starting with the Eden Festival in June, through to hopefully Celtic Connections next year and beyond. For now the band can be found most nights at The Glad Café and are playing tonight (Friday 31st) at Marcado in Merchant City and The Corinthian in early February.

But don’t worry; with an acceptable level of heat that won’t let Rebecca’s 16th century German fiddle “crumble”, or The Drams for that matter, they will be back outside Buchanan Galleries bringing a bit more merriment to the overcrowded street.

Their album can be bought here:


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