Jim Malcolm comes back to play for Forest Grove friends at coffee house

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Jim Malcolms West Coast tour touches down in Forest Grove.With only his trusty wit, guitar and harmonica, Scottish folksinger and songwriter Jim Malcolm has traveled extensively throughout Europe and North America performing traditional and contemporary songs of Scotland for all who will listen.

Highly regarded in his home country as a musical interpreter of Scottish poet Robert Burns — to Scotland what Shakespeare is to England — Malcolm sings old songs steeped in Scottish history and legend.

In 2004, Malcolm was selected as songwriter of the year in the Scots Traditional Music Awards, and he has been nominated three times for Scots Singer of the Year.

Malcolm began touring America in 1999 as the lead singer of the Scottish folk band, Old Blind Dogs. Since then, the singer has left the band to work solo and now has 11 CDs on his repertoire. He’ll play in Forest Grove Friday at BJ's Coffee in Ballad Towne Square.

With family roots in Perthshire and Strathclyd, a young Malcolm, educated in classical guitar, was imitating the songs of the Beatles and rock n' roll legends like Led Zeppelin before he gave up electric guitars and synthesizers for folk music's quieter and more down-to-earth instruments like acoustic guitars and fiddles.

Malcolm became well-versed in Scottish history at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland before entering the country's folk music scene. Folk music “doesn't have much about height or glamour — it's about real things,” he said.

Inspired by poems

His songs are inspired by ancient stories and poems, such as “Sir Patrick Spens,” about a great sailor sent by the King of Scotland to fetch a princess across the North Sea during the winter of 1290.

“I was really influenced by how authentic folk music was and [Scotland], a place and people that were close to me,” said Malcolm. Since the release of his latest album “Sparkling Flash” (2011), Malcolm has now recorded 50 songs which are either entirely original or built using some ancient fragment of text, poem or melody.

Even many American folk songs come from old Scottish music, Malcolm said. “Scotland is a central strand of America's DNA.”

People who have come to see the Scottish singer for years love Malcolm for his beautiful voice, excellent guitar skills, gentle and humorous demeanor — and of course, the stories he tells from years of observation and life on the road.

“I am pleased to see I have people come to see me every time I play, especially in Forest Grove,” Malcolm said. “It's like catching up with old friends.”

He says Oregon is one of his favorite states to revisit. With its “beautiful coastlines and mountain ranges, agricultural land and liberal people,” he enjoys getting the chance to go skiing or fishing and walk along the beaches.

After his West Coast tour, which includes stops in Portland and Eugene, the Scottish singer returns home to Perthshire, where he spends time his wife and road manager, Susie, and their two children.

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