A Blair player

Blair Dunlop
Blair Dunlop
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AWARD-winning singer Blair Dunlop is another high-flying product of the ‘folkie triangle’ of the Peak District, writes Gay Bolton.

Blair, below, scooped the Horizon trophy for best emerging talent at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards recently and he hopes his recognition will silence some of the controversy surrounding his tenure of The Albion Band.

Blair was handed the reins of the band by his folk legend dad Ashley Hutchings in 2011 and reinvented it with a new generation of folk musicians.

“It was controversial because there weren’t any original members,” said Blair. “However, over the previous 30 years, The Albion Band had 160 members so it was a fluid line-up. I stuck my neck out musically taking on The Albion Band and I also got a lot of stick from people about nepotism. The band is probably rockier now yet it still sounds like English folk music of the Seventies.”

His multi-award-winning dad, founder of The Albion Band, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span who lives in Cutthorpe, near Chesterfield, was by Blair’s side at the ceremony in Glasgow.

Blair said: “I think Dad was crying when I went up for the award. It was a really good night. I saw so many amazing musicians that I love, like Jerry Douglas, Dirk Powell and Martha Wainwright. I got a lot of good wishes from people and it was a really nice atmosphere.”

The trophy is the icing on the birthday cake for Blair who turned 21 on Monday. He said: “Winning the award is definitely the best present I could have.”

Blair plans to return to Derbyshire to see his mum , Chesterfield-based singer Judy Dunlop, and dad this week. “I think we’ll go to Fischers in Baslow – I have not been there since I was five and my Mum said I loved it. I have got expensive tastes!”

Blair also performs as a soloist. His guitar playing is inspired by Nic Jones and Richard Thompson, his vocals by Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne.

Blair has been playing guitar since the age of six and credits his parents for allowing him to follow his dream.

He said: “I can’t thank them enough for not telling me to go to university and get a job. My Dad taught me so much about the trade, my Mum taught me to follow my instincts and be myself.”