Irish folk duo Foster & Allen set to bring their traditional magic to Fife venue

Irish folk duo Foster & Allen have been playing together for an amazing 52 years and are currently on a tour of the UK and Scotland – with plans to visit Fife later this month.

Thursday, 14th March 2019, 10:21 am
Updated Thursday, 14th March 2019, 10:27 am
Foster & Allen are currently on a tour of the UK and Scotland. They will perform at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline on March 20.

Mick Foster (71) and Tony Allen (67) will take to the stage at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline on March 20.

The duo have released over 30 albums, all of which have gone into the British charts, achieving album and video sales in excess of 20 million worldwide.

In September they released a new album ‘Putting On The Style’ which features 100 tracks – 50 tracks on two CDs, including the single and video ‘Burning Bridges’ with Irish country star Nathan Carter.

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Foster & Allen have been playing together for an incredible 52 years.

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Foster & Allen have been on the road for 44 years and have no plans to retire! Pic: Nigel Schemuly.

Mick told The Press what audiences can expect from the show: “I’d say we probably have no strangers in our audience, we have been coming to the UK and Scotland for a lifetime,” he said.

“My wife, who is our band leader and keyboard player, is a Scot; she’s from Aberdeen so we are used to going back and forward. In the Fife neck of the woods I was great friends with Jimmy Shand senior and now with Jimmy Shand junior.

“But, to answer your question, in the show we do all the hits, a certain amount of tracks from our new CD and DVD and then a lot of our most requested songs from over the years. All in all, our show is two hours long and we don’t use a support act. In the first half Moyra sings a medley of songs, Ollie, our bass player, sings a song and Bryan, our guitar player, does a guitar solo. Other than that the whole show is Tony and myself.

“We have to do our biggest hits like ‘Bunch of Thyme’, ‘After All These Years’ and ‘Maggie’, otherwise we would be lynched! These are songs that we have to do all the time.

“People have come to see us over the years and they know what to expect. It’s a kind of easy listening, laid back show, and we try to send people home happy.”

He continued: “We love going to Scotland. There is a serious similarity with Scottish music and Scottish songs and Irish music and Irish songs. If we had an Irish ceilidh here and it played Scottish music you could still dance to it and vice versa. We were probably all connected at one time!”

But do Foster & Allen concerts attract a particular age group?

Mick said: “When we were in our 20s our audience were 40-plus and they are still 40-plus, from that up to their 90s! At one stage we were saying to ourselves, our audience is getting younger yet we are getting older!”

Talking about the new CD/DVD release, Mick said “There are a lot of old tracks as well as new ones. We did a television show, a series for 13 weeks on Irish television and there is a lot of footage from that on the DVD. Some of them are very old that you can hardly recognise us, and some of them are more recent.”

He said working with Nathan Carter was Tony’s suggestion.

“We are always looking for new ideas,” he explained.

“We have recorded with Daniel O’Donnell and the great Sir Jimmy Shand. Nathan and Tony were chatting one day and decided that maybe they should do a song together. Tony had either a CD or DVD of Status Quo, a kind of acoustic album.

“This song, Burning Bridges, was on it and we thought that we would have the violins, myself and Nathan would be on the accordions and Tony and Nathan would sing. We recorded it and went to Derry and Belfast to do the DVD for it, which was great fun. Nathan and I had two accordions the same, twin accordions, which was a pure accident! We didn’t know what each other was bringing!

“It was something different for us. Over the years we have recorded everything from Strauss music to Dire Straits in our own way.

“You have to keep one step ahead, you don’t want to get stale and do the same rigmarole all the time.”

Mick said since the age of five or six he has been fascinated with the music created by Sir Jimmy Shand, who lived in Auchtermuchty and played traditional Scottish dance music on the accordion.

He said: “My grandmother had an old gramaphone and a load of these 78 records. The more I listened, the more hooked I became and wanted to play the accordion.

“Now I have been playing the accordion for more than 60 years and I am beginning to get the hang of it a little bit! I love traditional Irish dance music and I play a lot of it when we are not on tour. Traditional Irish and Scottish dance music is my favourite music.”

Mick revealed that his personal highlight from the past 44 years is not the duo’s infamous appearance on Top of the Pops dressed as Irish leprechauns, but having the chance to play with Sir Jimmy.

“Being on Top of the Pops was a career highlight for Tony who was a fan,” he said, “but I had never heard of it until I was on it!

“The highlight for me was around 30 years ago we went to Auchtermuchty and we recorded the Bluebell Polka with Sir Jimmy in Jimmy junior’s house.

“For me nothing can pass that. I have won Irish accordion championships, been in radio and broadcasting and television since I was 15, but nothing can compare with that. If you are obsessed with someone or are a huge fan of someone from when you were five or six, to suddenly be actually playing with them is just amazing.

“People often say you shouldn’t meet your heroes in case you are disappointed, but in the case of meeting Sir Jimmy you wouldn’t be disappointed because he couldn’t be any nicer. I have never met a nicer man in my life.

“Playing with him on a DVD was the highlight of my music career, in 60 years of playing.”

Mick said that he and Tony had no plans to retire, adding: “We have always taken the business very seriously but we have never taken ourselves seriously. We have just got up and played and, hopefully, people liked what we did, and they must have for us to still be playing after 44 years!

“It is just fabulous to walk onto a stage and play to an audience that enjoys what you do.”

For tickets visit: www.onfife.com