It seems beautifully appropriate, somehow, that Ian Green’s original apprenticeship was as a gardener. For as the founder and director of Greentrax Records, Ian has done more than almost any other individual to cultivate the flowering and fruition of Scottish folk music over the last two decades.
The route from gardening to record-company management was, as you might imagine, a somewhat circuitous one. Ian’s first choice of career followed that of his father, a keen amateur piper who hosted frequent informal ceilidhs at the Green family home in Forres, thus also instilling what Ian has called his “obsessional” interest in traditional Scottish music. In 1955, after National Service, Ian embarked on a 30-year career with the Edinburgh police force, under whose auspices he set up the Edinburgh Police Folk Club – affectionately known as “Fuzzfolk” – during the 1960s. He went on to co-found the Edinburgh Folk Club, meanwhile serving as joint editor of Sandy Bell’s Broadsheet, and also turned his hand to concert promotion, staging the debut Edinburgh appearances of both Clannad and the Bothy Band.
Despite the ferment of activity taking place on Scotland’s folk scene, decent recording opportunities for artists remained few and far between. In the late 1970s, Ian and his wife June set up Discount Folk Records, a mail order and mobile retail business whose stall became a regular fixture at festivals, providing an important conduit for independent and specialist releases. And in 1986, a year after taking early retirement from the police, Ian staked his pension on the launch of Greentrax Records, an inspired gamble that has since paid off beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Now boasting a catalogue of well over 200 recordings, Greentrax has, in the words of Brian McNeill, “changed the face of Scottish music, permanently and hugely for the better”. The combined breadth, depth and discernment of the company’s output makes it the undisputed leader in its field, from priceless School of Scottish Studies archive material to cutting-edge insurgents like Shooglenifty and the Peatbog Faeries. Ian’s roster reads like a comprehensive Who’s Who of the Scottish folk scene, across all its many sub-sectors including Gaelic and Scots song, contemporary singer-songwriters, bagpipe music, ceilidh bands, solo instrumentalists and today’s world/fusion outfits, with a healthy smattering of international acts – from Ireland, Cape Breton and the US – among the predominantly home-grown fare.
Debut albums have always accounted for a strikingly high proportion of Greentrax releases, reflecting Ian’s unwavering support for new artists, and his keen eye for fresh talent. Other landmark Greentrax ventures have extended far beyond the recording studio, including the wealth of new tunes introduced to the repertoire by The Nineties Collection, the rich harvest of contemporary ballads reaped by the Songhunter album, and the successive song-based triumphs of the Gaelic Women, Scottish Women and Scots Women projects.