HAILED as the “greatest guitarist of his generation”, Bernard Butler’s career has taken him from the giddy heights of 90s pop stardom to a Mercury Music prize shortlisting and a current, glittering solo career.

Glasgow Times: Bernard ButlerBernard Butler (Image: Wesley Cameron)

Alongside Scottish singer songwriter James Grant and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, Bernard is kicking off a new series of Frets Concerts at the Strathaven Hotel tonight (January 27).

Glasgow Times: Blake, Butler and GrantBlake, Butler and Grant (Image: Les Hoggan Photography)

The former Suede and McAlmont and Butler musician, singer and record producer is delighted to be back at the off-the-beaten-track venue.

“Frets is a dream,” says Bernard, simply. “The audiences are great. And it’s a weekend away in a lovely town. Do the show on the Friday, have a wander about the next day – it’s the nicest thing in the world.”

The three men were put together by Frets founder and fellow musician Douglas MacIntyre, “to see what would happen.”

Despite their proclamation at the initial gig in the Strathaven Hotel, that it would be a one-off, the Butler, Blake and Grant phenomenon has grown to such an extent they have now toured together around the UK, including Manchester, Liverpool, London and Bristol.

Excitingly, the trio is now writing new music together and a record is planned. 

“I hadn’t done a lot of solo shows before Frets, actually, and one of the reasons I jumped at the chance of doing it was because I wouldn’t be up there on my own,” says Bernard. “Thirty odd years on, and I still feel terrified of doing a bad gig and letting people down.

“Frets made me feel really good about being a performer again, and that was something I hadn’t felt for a long time. I am very grateful for that.”

Glasgow Times: Douglas MacIntyreDouglas MacIntyre (Image: Les Hoggan Photography)

Musician, songwriter and producer Douglas runs Frets with his wife and fellow performer Katy Lironi.

More than 100 acts, including Altered Images, Lloyd Cole, Ricky Ross, Horse, Robyn Hitchcock, The Twilight Sad and Callum Easter, have now performed to around 8000 people at 36 concerts since the events began in the autumn of 2019, with the acoustic, all-seated and up-close-and-personal nature of the gigs inside the Strathaven Hotel’s function suite proving popular with a wide demographic.

Glasgow Times: Altered Images on stage in StrathavenAltered Images on stage in Strathaven (Image: Les Hoggan Photography)

“We get a great response locally, but we’ve had people coming from all over Scotland and up from England,” says Douglas. “They spend the weekend here, get to know the town and love it. I do believe Frets has put Strathaven on the map.”

Glasgow Times: Lloyd Cole kicked off Frets in 2019Lloyd Cole kicked off Frets in 2019 (Image: Les Hoggan Photography)

Tonight, Blake, Butler and Grant will be supported by The Countess of Fife, the alt-country outfit led by The Rezillos frontwoman Fay Fife.

New for 2024 at Frets is a series of “album concerts” in which an artist will play one of their celebrated albums in full. First up on February 17 is James Grant, performing Love and Money’s Dogs in the Traffic, and on March 22, The Bathers will perform Kelvingrove Baby.

We Could Send Letters, a strand of concerts featuring authors and musicians, will join Glasgow publisher Into Books for a special event on February 16 featuring music from The Secret Goldfish and discussion with authors David Cameron, Gillian Shirreff and George Paterson.