Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 26 November 1940, Glasgow, Scotland) Folk revival singer and guitarist. Early influences included skiffle, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Buell Kazee and Aunt Samantha Bumgarner. She is the sister of singers Archie and Cilla Fisher. Her father sang in the City of Glasgow Police Choir; she came to folk song through skiffle, and learned from the remarkable ballad singer, the Scots traveller Jeannie Robertson. Her commercial recording debut was with Archie on Far Over The Forth on Topic '61 but she also recorded for the School of Scottish Studies archives in Edinburgh. She married Colin Ross of High Level Ranters '62. She contributed to several compilations '63-5, such as A.L. Lloyd's The Iron Muse on Topic UK/ Elektra USA, two volumes of Edinburgh Folk Festival on Decca and Folk Festival: Festival Folk on Waverley. Six of the seven children banded together as the Fisher Family for an eponymous album subtitled Traditional & New Songs From Scotland, on Topic '66. With Archie she worked on the television magazine Here And Now, one of the many programmes devised in imitation of BBC TV's Tonight current affairs magazine and its topical song/folk song duo of Jimmie Macgregor and Robin Hall. Of the Fishers' broadcasting slots, Dick Gaughan told the American Sing Out! magazine '92, ‘That had an enormous influence on me because at that point, it was very unusual to hear people singing traditional Scottish songs, what we now call folk songs. I wouldn't be singing now if it weren't for them. It's as simple as that.'
Ray Fisher's debut solo album was The Bonny Birdie on Trailer in '72, produced by Ashley Hutchings, which sympathetically married her strong singing style to accompaniments by members of Steeleye Span and High Level Ranters among others. Deliberately a studio album, the settings contrasted with her next, Willie's Lady on the U.S. Folk Legacy label '82, far closer to her live work; but like Bonny Birdie it showed an extraordinarily mature skill with ‘big ballads’, only rivalled by fellow folk revival performer Martin Carthy's skill with the form. Kindred spirits, they would bounce ideas for new treatments off each other when working out new material. ‘Willie's Lady’, a detailed exploration of supernatural forces, was impressive in execution and concept; Carthy anglicized the basic structure of this Child ballad that they had worked on and developed it for himself for Crown of Horn in '76; unusual because he rarely covers others' material. She showed little interest in recording, indeed disliked the atmosphere of studios, preferring the spontaneity of live performance. Carthy described her, Norma and Lal Waterson as the best singers in the folk revival in an article in Folk Roots '89. She developed a line in parodies of songs such as The Beverley Sisters' ‘Sisters’ (renamed ‘Twisters’) and ‘I'm A W.O.M.A.N.’ which frequently address feminist or political issues but with a deep vein of humour. Guested on Di Henderson's By Any Other Name on DH '91; her return to recording continued with her third solo album Traditional Songs of Scotland on Saydisc '91 with accompaniments by Carthy, John Kirkpatrick and Ross, and she contributed another track from the sessions to All Through The Year on Hokey Pokey UK/ Green Linnet USA.