Hotly-tipped Edinburgh balladeer Adam Holmes crafts lyrics that resonate like old folk songs, set to melodies rooted in haunting slow airs. John Martyn’s strum and sting, laced with a slice of Paolo Nutini soul and a touch of traditional folk.
The 23-year-old Edinburgh-born singer/songwriter is one of the brightest rising stars on the Scottish folk scene, with influences from either side of the Atlantic mixing traditional and contemporary folk with his own brand of Americana.
Starting out on fiddle, Holmes switched to guitar at 14, and began writing songs only a year or so later. A finalist in the 2009 Celtic Connections Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition, he was also nominated as Best Newcomer at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2011 and was further nominated for Best Up and Coming Artist at the 2013 Scots Trad Music Awards.
In 2013 he and his band, The Embers, recorded his debut album Heirs and Graces with legendary producer John Wood (responsible for seminal albums by John Martyn, Nick Drake, Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny amongst many others). It was mastered by Simon Heyworth, co-producer with Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells, and was launched to great critical acclaim in January 2014.
Heirs and Graces has received radio play in the UK, including the influential BBC Radio 2 Folk Show and live interviews/sessions on BBC Radio Scotland, and international airplay from stations in mainland Europe, the US and Canada.
Despite his youth, Holmes’s music distils a long and diverse wealth of experience. Childhood memories of growing up in Edinburgh include getting sneaked into afternoon sessions by his mum – a keen folk fan since the 1960s – at the city’s best-known folk pubs, the Royal Oak and Sandy Bell’s. Dad, meanwhile, was a devotee of classic singer-songwriters, introducing his son to Stateside greats like Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Townes Van Zandt and Ry Cooder, while Holmes’s own adolescent tastes extended to grunge and hip-hop.
“I’ve never really seen any big distinctions in music,” he says. “What hip-hop’s doing now is essentially the same as whoever wrote traditional songs was doing 300 years ago: both are telling everyday stories about people’s lives, and that’s what’s always drawn me.”