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Alistair Hulett: `A truly great singer, songwriter, activist and socialist'
January 29, 2010 -- Alistair Hulett died at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow on Thursday evening, January 28, 2010. Alistair's partner Fatima thanks all those who wrote in with messages of support in the past week since news of Alistair's illness became public. The response was overwhelming, and shows just how many people cared about Alistair and his music.
* * *
Alistair, a truly great singer, songwriter, activist and socialist, will be greatly missed by us all.
Alistair Hulett was born in Glasgow and discovered traditional music in his early teens. In 1968 he and his family moved to New Zealand where he established a reputation on the folk circuit with his large repertoire of songs and his interpretation of the big narrative ballads.
In 1971, at the age of
eighteen, Alistair moved over to
In the early 1980s
Alistair was again performing folk material around
For the next five years the Jacks
made a startling impression on the Australian music scene. Their first album, Street Celtabillity, was released in 1986
and reached No. 1 on the local indie charts. By the
time the second album, The Cat Among The
Pigeons was released in 1988 the band was headlining in major Australian
rock venues, as well as opening for overseas acts including Billy Bragg, the Pogues, and The Men They Couldn't Hang. The The Cat Among The
Pigeons was nominated for an
Australian Music Industry Association (ARIA) award and was released in
Alistair's solo work was always a part of the Jacks' live shows and offers to appear at festivals and clubs in his own right drew him further back into the folk orbit. By 1989 his songs were being extensively covered by several stalwarts of the Australian folk establishment. The demise of Roaring Jack coincided with this period and after the release of their third album, Through The Smoke of Innocence, the band decided to call it a day despite another ARIA nomination.
Alistair's first solo
CD, Dance of the Underclass, was recorded in 1991. Completely
acoustic, with contributions from other members of Roaring
Jack, the album was instantly hailed as a folk classic and proved to be the
turning point in Alistair's return to the folk fold. His position as one of the
most influential musicians on the Australian scene was now beyond dispute. In
Rather than follow with
more of the same Alistair recorded his solo CD with a return to the punk
fuelled energy of the days with Roaring Jack. In
the Backstreets of
In 1995 Alistair compiled a collection of songs that owed little to punk and everything to the folk revival that inspired him in the sixties. Saturday Johnny and Jimmy The Rat was originally intended as a solo affair in homage to the likes of Ewan MacColl, Jeannie Robertson and Davie Stewart, as well as an acknowledgment of the time when the folk movement was a vital political and musical force.
At the time Dave Swarbrick was living in
Following a hugely successful Australian tour the duo returned to the
Alistair, having returned to live in Scotland,
continued to work solo and with Swarb. He wrote and performed three workshop presentations. "From Blackheath To
Alistair, based once again in Glasgow, toured Australia in a double bill with US singer/songwriter David Rovics in December 2008-January 2009, playing benefits for Australia's leading radical newspaper, Green Left Weekly. Two more solo albums, In Sleepy Scotland and more recently Riches And Rags, confirmed Alistair Hulett’s position as one of the most consistent songwriters, musicians and interpreters of the tradition in Scotland. Folk On Tap called him "One of the defining voices of Scottish music" and a reviewer in the influential music magazine fROOTS wrote: "Hulett is at once an intense singer, radiating conviction, and a genuinely imaginative lyricist."
In partnership with 1960s veteran Scots folksinger Jimmy Ross, Alistair Hulett presented word and song presentations with powerpoint visual images at various events and festivals around the UK. Alistair and Jimmy shared a common political perspective, with both being deeply involved in socialist politics, and this bond was evident in the scripts they prepared together for these presentations. The three they have performed so far are titled Which Side Are You On? The Life And Times Of Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl And The Politics Of The British Folk Revival and Ireland – A History Of Struggle In Song.
Most recently, Alistair Hulett joined with several Yorkshire based musicians to form a five-piece, semi-electric band called The Malkies. This was Hulett’s first return to working with a full-time band since Roaring Jack called it a day in 1992. Their debut album was Suited And Booted (2008).
Alistair toured Australia for the last time in late 2009, and again made his talents available to the socialist cause.