The Music of James Scott Skinner
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The Collection
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The Music Clips

James Scott Skinner was one of the very first Scottish artists to be recorded – he made his first recordings in 1899. On many of his early tracks, he used a Stroh fiddle. The Stroh fiddle was developed especially for the early recording studios. It had a metal horn attached to it instead of a hollow body – this amplified the sound the instrument made. A large number of the early recordings were produced on wax cylinders.

The Recordings

All the excerpts featured on this site date from two recording sessions in particular: one took place in early 1910, and the other in late 1922 (see JSS0276) - his final session. These recordings are on the Regal label, a cheap label issued by Columbia. His niece, Ethel Stuart, is his accompanist on many of the 1922 recordings, e.g. cd112a, cd112b, cd112c.

Skinner re-recorded particular melodies throughout his recording career: cd201a, The Bluebells of Scotland, features in his very first session, in Glasgow in 1899, and again in his last session in 1922. By this time, he was using his precious Guarnarius fiddle when recording.

There are around eighty examples of his recordings on this site. Some of the 1910 examples in particular, may sound a little strange to modern ears as we have digitised them directly from the original 78 rpm shellac discs. The later recordings have a stronger, more ‘realistic’ quality; for even in those early days of the recording industry, technology was continually improving.

You can experience Skinner’s rhythm and style on such excerpts as Sandy Cameron (cd107a), or his lively playing in Gladstone’s Reel (cd117d). You can also listen to old favourites: The Laird o’ Drumblair (cd117c), The Cradle Song (cd213a), Hector the Hero (cd214a). Try the ‘novelty’ recordings: The Zeppelin (cd208c), a ‘humorous hornpipe’, and the not-to-be-missed Parrot (cd114c), a ‘humorous pizzicato’!

The recordings are a wonderful legacy – they justify James Scott Skinner’s reputation as a superb fiddler.

Pat Ballantyne


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