Jim Malcolm was brought up in the heart of Scotland, in Perthshire and Angus, and was steeped in traditional music and song from a young age. He learned to play guitar while at school and by his early twenties was winning songwriting contests and playing in folk clubs all over Scotland. He took up harmonica in his twenties and is now a leading exponent of simultaneous guitar and harmonica, “displaying more talent than many who have made their living from harmonica alone”, as a critic from The Scotsman wrote after Jim’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe show.
His career began to take off when he hosted the open stage at Edinburgh Folk Festival. The critics recognised that his talent was the strongest on show. His debut album, Sconeward, was acclaimed by critics and chosen as one of the year’s best by Radio Scotland’s folk programmes Travelling Folk and Celtic Connections, and it brought in bookings at folk clubs and festivals in Britain and abroad. Soon established as one of the leading songwriters in the traditional idiom in Scotland, Jim was welcomed as: “The new male voice of Scotland.”
Songs from Sconeward have been recorded and are regularly performed by international acts such as The McCalmans and The Poozies (sung by Kate Rusby), and Jim was asked to give songwriting and song accompaniment masterclasses at many festivals, including Scotland’s foremost festival, Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
Next up was Rohallion, a collection of Jim’s new songs recorded with gifted pianist and fiddler Dave Watt and percussionist Iain MacFadyen. “An intoxicating display of lyrical and musical genius” was how Rock ‘n’ Reel described the CD, from which Jim’s song Battle of Waterloo, to the pipe tune of the same name, was an instant hit.
Rohallion consolidated Jim’s reputation as one of Scotland’s most exciting young folk acts, and brought
repeated requests for television and radio appearances. STV broadcast a documentary on Jim and Angus singer Jim Reid for its Artery series, and their singing was featured in the “best of” programme which rounded off the series. He also sang in the Northern Nights series on Grampian Television and STV.
In January 1999 Jim joined one of Scotland’s most popular international folk acts, the Old Blind Dogs from north east Scotland, and worked with them all over the UK, in France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Germany, USA, Canada and Bulgaria. His song Battle of Waterloo was recorded on their sixth album, The World’s Room and another of his compositions, The Wisest Fool, is on their eighth album, The Gab o Mey. Jim had seven eventful years touring with Old Blind Dogs until he left in August 2006 to concentrate on his solo work.
To date career highlights also include solo tours in England, Ireland, Denmark, Germany and Canada, solo
studio spots on Travelling Folk, an appearance on STV’s Hogmanay show and a tour in Uganda. His song Neptune featured on an award-winning documentary about a North Sea oil spill. He was one of twelve leading Scottish singers who performed Andy Thorburn’s epic work Tuath gu Deas, and has featured on volumes four, five and six of Linn Records’ exemplary Complete Songs of Robert Burns, produced by Dr Fred Freeman.
Jim’s fourth solo CD, Home, was released in 2002 by which time his career, solo and with Old Blind Dogs, had become truly transatlantic, with four tours each year in the USA to fit in alongside his performing and recording commitments at home, and various jaunts to play festivals around Europe.
Jim recorded his first live album, Live in Glenfarg, at his home folk club, and it was released to great reviews in spring 2004. In December that year Jim picked up the coveted Songwriter of the Year award at the Scots Trad Music Awards, beating off formidable opposition from Dougie MacLean and Karine Polwart.
His fifth solo CD, Tam o Shanter & Other Tales, was released on November 1st 2005, and includes his remarkable 15-minute musical version of Burns’ best-loved poem, Tam O’Shanter, which the critics called “a masterpiece”.
His latest CD, Acquaintance, has fourteen songs by the great Robert Burns, including the beautiful love songs "My Luve is Like A Red, Red Rose" and "Ae Fond Kiss" alongside humanitarian anthems such as "A Man's A Man for A' That' and "Auld Lang Syne".
At home Jim loves to relax by the riverbank, drink good coffee, drink good whisky and play Blind Man's Buff with his two children. Not necessarily in that order.