Tag Archives: Celtic music

Artist Profiles: Lauren MacColl

Lauren MacColl

Brought up in the Black Isle and now based in Glasgow, Lauren MacColl is the holder of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award 2004.

Immersed in the rich culture of the Highlands, Lauren learned fiddle through the Feisean movement of Gaelic arts in Ross-Shire and it was at the Feis annual summer-schools that she was taught by the some of the Highland’s leading musicians: Iain MacFarlane, Allan Henderson and Alpha Munro. Her repertoire reflects her northern background and is greatly influenced by visiting tutor Aonghas Grant of Lochaber.

In the past few years her playing has taken her to Montana (USA), Italy France, Norway, Galway, Co. Mayo and across Britain and has given her various radio and television opportunities including Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk Radio nan Gaidheal MNE’s Beolach on BBC 2 Alba and as part of Donald Shaw’s Harvest commission on 24s BBC Hogmanay Live Show.

Her win of the Radio 2 award will this year see her play Cambridge Festival and Towersay Festival and record a session for the Mike Harding Show. Currently playing solo in duos and with the Tom Orr Dance Band Lauren combines her studies and performance with a passion for teaching as a resident tutor for Glasgow Fiddle Workshop RSAMD Youthworks.

Discography:

When Leaves Fall (Make Believe Records 2007)
Strewn With Ribbons (Make Believe Records 2009)
Wooden Flute & Fiddle, with Calum Stewart (Make Believe Records 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Lau

Lau

Lau is a trio made up of fiddler Aidan O’Rourke, accordion-player Martin Green and Kris Drever who plays guitar and sings in the group. Aidan Martin and Kris have considerable experience and finesse that gives them license to play with a rare freedom. Despite the traditional music definition, their combined efforts make something new: great musicians doing something more than just showing their skills.

Lau pull together their influences which span most of the UK from the west coast of Scotland up and across to Orkney and down to the east of England. The combination is a modern sound with all the depths of these traditions backing it up.

Their debut album Lightweights and Gentlemen came out in early 2007.

Discography:

Lightweights and Gentlemen (2007)
Live (2008)
Arc Light (2009)
Race the Loser (2012)
The Bell That Never Rang (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke – Photo by Jack Vartoogian

Kevin Burke’s sparkling lyrical fiddle has earned him a reputation as one of the finest most influential players in music today. From The Bothy Band to Patrick Street he has defined Irish fiddling for a generation. His work with artists as disparate as Kate Bush Arlo Guthrie and Christy Moore has given him an audience that not only spans continents but defies attempts at categorization.

Born and raised in London England Burke picked up his first fiddle at age eight when his parents decided music studies were in order. “To this day I have no idea why they chose the fiddle except that it’s popular in County Sligo where the family comes from and where we spent our vacations ” he laughs. “For the next five years or so I dutifully diddled around on it. Then I discovered Irish music. Suddenly I was hooked. I spent my teens wandering into pubs waiting for a chance to sit in with the musicians.”

London in the 196s was a vibrant musical scene for the Irish emigrants could be heard playing the styles of Kerry Sligo Galway Limerick and Clare. And Burke was listening. Though he counts such masters of the Sligo style as Michael Coleman Paddy Killoran and Tom McGowan as primary influences he also points to fiddlers Bobby Casey (County Clare) and Brendan McGlinchey (Ulster) and to a wealth of Irish musicians on the London scene as important in his development. “I had access to it all whereas if I’d been living in Ireland I might not have been so lucky.”

Good fortune aside Kevin’s undeniable talents brought him to the attention of Arlo Guthrie in 1972 when he was invited to the United States to play on Guthrie’s Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys. Shortly after Christy Moore the great Irish singer/songwriter asked Burke to Ireland to play in his new band. He stayed with Moore two years before joining what would become one of the most influential Irish groups of all time The Bothy Band.

Hailed as “the Yardbirds of Irish music ” the Bothy Band boasts some of the finest musical alumni in all of Ireland including Matt Molloy (Chieftains) Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and Tríona Ní Domhnaill (Nightnoise) Dónal Lunny and Paddy Keenan. Burke initially joined the band as a temporary replacement for fiddler Tommy Peoples but his role soon become permanent. His elegant impassioned fiddle was a cornerstone of the band’s legendary sound from 1976 until 1979.

During their years together Burke and guitarist Míchéal Ó Domhnaill discovered a rare musical rapport. When the Bothy Band parted ways the duo toured Europe and recorded the groundbreaking Promenade which was awarded the “Grand Prix du Disque” at the 198 Montreux Jazz Festival. They went on to record Portland named for the adopted hometown where Burke still resides.

In 1986 Burke joined an all-star cast of Irish musicians that included Andy Irvine and Jackie Daly for a tour that evolved into the legendary quartet Patrick Street. Eight albums and countless tours later the partnership is stronger and more electric than ever. In the late ‘8s Burke formed Open House his short-lived but critically acclaimed project with American musicians Paul Kotapish Mark Graham and Sandy Silva. Kevin created Open House to stretch beyond his Irish roots and explore music from all corners of the world.

As if that weren’t enough he is an active member of The Celtic Fiddle Festival a dazzling pan-Celtic ensemble that also features Scotland’s Johnny Cunningham and Christian LeMaitre of Brittany. Though the trio first came together for a one-off tour they went on to record two successful albums both highlighting the brilliant interplay between the fiddlers.

In Concert is Burke’s first solo release in 15 years. His fiddling tone and power are in mighty form as he sails through tunes drawn from throughout his remarkable career. “There are thousands of old tunes good ones that haven’t been played in years. When I find something I love I play it. And when I find something I like I bend it out of shape until I love it…Good music is good music. It should be heard.”

A lot of people think Irish music is wistful and melancholy. That’s one side of it but there’s also a great rough resilient spirit in the music an element of joy underlying even the most plaintive melody. I grew up listening to musicians with that spirit and I value it. So much in music today makes people passive bored and boring: three things I never want to be.</em>”

In 2002 Burke won the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship.

Discography:

Sweeney’s Dream (1972)

If The Cap Fits (Green Linnet 1978)

Promenade (1979)

Eavesdropper (1981)

Portland (1982)

Up Close (Green Linnet 1984)

Burke/Daly/Irvine/McGlynn: Patrick Street (Green Linnet 1986)

No. 2 Patrick Street with Patrick Street (Green Linnet 1988)

Irish Times with Patrick Street (Green Linnet 199)

Open House with Open House (1992)

Celtic Fiddle Festival with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1993)

All in Good Time with Patrick Street (Green Linnet 1993)

Second Story with Open House (1994)

Corner Boys with Patrick Street (Green Linnet 1996)

Hoof and Mouth with Open House (1997)

Made in Cork with Patrick Street (Green Linnet 1997)

Celtic Fiddle Festival: Encore with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1998)

Live From Patrick Street with Patrick Street (Green Linnet 1999)

In Concert (Green Linnet 1999)

Rendezvous with Celtic Fiddle Festival (2001)

Street Life with Patrick Street (Green Linnet 2003)

Play On with Celtic Fiddle Festival (2005)

In Tandem with Ged Foley (2006)

Across The Black River with Cal Scott (2007)

On the Fly with Patrick Street (2007)

Equinoxe with Celtic Fiddle Festival (2008)

Suite with Cal Scott (2010)
Live in Brittany with The Celtic Fiddle Festival (Loftus, 2013)

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Remarkable Welsh Talent

Calan – Solomon (Sain Records, 2017)

Calan is one of the finest contemporary folk music bands from Wales. The group sings in Welsh and English and mixes traditional music with modern elements.

The opening features great vocal harmonies, superb instrumentation and attention-grabbing mesmerizing spoken word. The rest of the album is a mix of virtuosic instrumentals and lively songs with real singing and really cool beats that resemble an acoustic form of electronic dance music.

Calan’s sound is driven by the remarkable fiddle, accordion, harp and bagpipe interplay, outstanding vocals and unconventional rhythms.

The lineup includes Angharad Jenkins on fiddle and vocals; Alice French on harp and vocals; Bethan Sian Rhiannon on vocals and accordion; Sam Humphreys on guitar, percussion, vocals and effects; Patrick Rimes on fiddle and Welsh bagpipes, pigborn, whistle, hulusi and vocals.

Guests: Greg Sterland on saxophone; Josh Barber on trumpet; Lloyd Pierce on trombone; and Nigel Jenkins on spoken word.

Solomon is a remarkable, beautifully-crafted Celtic music album by the exceptional Welsh band Calan.

Buy Solomon

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Artist Profiles: Johnny Cunningham

Johnny Cunningham

Johnny Cunningham was born in Portobello, Scotland on August 27 1957. He played fiddle since the age of seven and was known for his lightning-fast reels and hauntingly beautiful Scottish airs. He also delighted audiences worldwide with his wry humor and stories.

Johnny Cunningham was a founding member of Silly Wizard, the group that spearheaded the Scottish side of the Celtic revival in the 1970s and 1980s. He toured with his brother Phil Cunningham both as a duo and with the Celtic supergroup Relativity that also featured Micheal O’Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill of The Bothy Band.

Johnny not only enjoyed a successful career as a solo performer but was also greatly in demand as an award-winning record producer. Among other ventures he toured with blues-guitarist Bonnie Raitt, contemporary singer-songwriter and author Bill Morrissey and crossed over into the world of rock, appearing with Hall & Oates. His own alternative band Raindogs made two successful CDs for Atlantic/Atco Records Lost Souls (1990) and Border Drive-In Theatre (1991) and toured with artists such as Bob Dylan, Don Henley and Warren Zevon.

After completing a four-year stint with the successful Celtic music act Nightnoise, Johnny worked with acclaimed New York-based theater company Mabou Mines on their production “Peter and Wendy.”

Johnny composed the music and lyrics for this new version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, which enjoyed several sold out runs including the Spoleto Arts Festival in Charleston S.C. in June 1996; The Public Theater New York City in September of 1996; and The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street New York City in February 1997. The response of audience and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive. Thesoundtrack album from the innovative production Peter and Wendy, winner of two OBIE awards was released in a special hardcover package by world music label Alula Records.

Johnny also recorded and produced “La Musgaña Live” on tour in the band’s native Spain for Ediciones Resistencia. In addition he collaborated with Thomas Moore, best selling author of “Care Of The Soul”. The result is a double CD set “The Soul Of Christmas” which through the heart of Celtic culture and Thomas Moore’s readings explores ways to spiritually re-interpret traditional Christmas music and thought.

In his final years Johnny Cunningham toured as part of the Celtic Fiddle Festival and with Irish singer Susan McKeown. He died on the evening of December 15th, 2003.

Discography:

Silly Wizard with Silly Wizard (1976)
Caledonia’s Hardy Sons with Silly Wizard (1978)
So Many Partings with Silly Wizard (1979)
Against the Storm with Phil Cunningham (Shanachie 198)
Thoughts From Another World (Shanachie 1981)
Fair Warning (Green Linnet 1983)
Live In America, with Silly Wizard (1985)
Golden Golden, with Silly Wizard (1985)
A Glint Of Silver, with Silly Wizard (1986)
Relativity, with Relativity (1986)
Gathering Pace, with Relativity (1987)
Live Wizardry (1988)
Lost Souls, with The Raindogs (1990)
Border Drive-In Theatre, with The Raindogs (1991)
Shadow of Time, with Nightnoise (1993)
Celtic Fiddle Festival, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1993)
To Warm the Winter’s Night, with Aine Minogue (1995)
White Horse Sessions, with Nightnoise (1997)
Peter and Wendy (Alula Records 1998)
Celtic Fiddle Festival: Encore, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1998)
Rendezvous, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (2001)
A Winter Talisman, with Susan McKeown (Sheila-na-Gig Music/Caledonian Musicworks 2001)
Live on 11th Street, with Casey Neill Band (2003)
Sweet Liberty, with Susan McKeown (2004)

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Artist Profiles: John Williams

John Williams

John Williams was born in Chicago in 1967. He is a third generation concertina and button accordion player from both sides of the family. His father Brendan and his grandfather Johnny Williams were noted musicians in their native Doolin County Clare where concertina is most often the instrument of choice. There was no shortage of traditional music around the house as he was growing up. He began playing in sessions around Chicago encouraged by such musical residents as the late Johnny McGreevy flutists Seamus Cooley and Kevin Henry and uilleann piper Joe Shannon.

John developed a maturity in his playing rarely heard in one so young. The adjudicators sensed it in 1989 when they awarded him the Senior All-Ireland championship for concertina making him the first American ever to win that honor. His subsequent summers in Doolin served to widen his repertoire and associate him with some of Ireland?s most respected musicians.

As a founding member of the groundbreaking band Solas Williams received wider recognition playing to sold out audiences internationally and earning two NAIRD (later called AFIM) awards and Grammy nominations for the ensemble’s 1996 and 1997 releases Solas and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers.

The Irish national broadcasting network RTE has featured Williams as the subject of the radio program The Long Note the television series The Pure Drop and the Christmas special Geantrai.

His album Steam features Dean Magraw and Randal Bays former Solas bandmates Seamus Egan and John Doyle fiddler Liz Carroll as well as Chicago jazz greats Larry Gray on bass and Paul Wertico on percussion.

Outside traditional music John has collaborated on productions with Gregory Peck Doc Severinson Studs Terkel Mavis Staples jazz pianist Bob Sutter bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien director Sam Mendes the London Symphony Orchestra and the Irish Chamber Ensemble. Audiences nationwide recognize Williams from numerous appearances on Mountain Stage A Prairie Home Companion and The Grand Ol’ Opry as well as guest performances with The Chieftains Nickel Creek and Riverdance.

On film he appears as a bandleader music consultant and composer in Dreamworks’ classic Chicago thriller Road to Perdition. Centrally featured in the Academy Award-Nominated score by Thomas Newman Williams’ autumnal Perdition Piano Duet was released on the 22 Universal soundtrack album as performed in the film by stars Paul Newman and Tom Hanks.

In August 2003 Chicago Magazine selected Williams in their annual Best of Chicago issue as one of the city’s finest instrumentalists. He recorded a collaborative album Raven with composer and guitarist Dean Magra.

Discography:

John Williams (Green Linnet Records 1157 1994)

Whistle on the Wind, with Joanie Madden (Green Linnet 1994)

Solas with Solas (Shanachie 1996)

Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, with Solas (Shanachie 1997)

Steam (Green Linnet 2001)

Raven (Compass Records 2006)

website: www.johnwilliamsmusic.com

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Artist Profiles: John Munro

John Munro was born in Glasgow in 194. He moved to Adelaide, Australia in 1965. John Munro has made a name for himself as an inspiring and talented songwriter best exemplified by his two historical song cycles The Kelly Collection and The Eureka Suite, the latter recorded by Festival Records in 1999. Having toured most of the world with fellow Scotsman Eric Bogle from 1980 until the present day, John has become recognized as being one of the elite of the Broitish folk world. He is known as one of the best bluegrass mandolin players around performing with the legendary Country Express for many years as well as being a fine guitarist and singer.

John’s recording credits include 8 albums with Eric, four with Country Express nine with Colcannon, three with Gordon Mcintyre and Kate Delaney, two with Mike Quarmby and one with Margaret Christl (Canada), Mary-Jane Field (Sydney), Irene Petrie Denis, and Lynne Tracey as well as countless guest appearances. His experience extends to production as well as performing.

John has won two Celtic Music Club Awards for Guitar and one for Mandolin two Folk Federation awards and two SAMIA (South Australian Music Industry) awards with Colcannon – the latter being for Most Outstanding Contribution to Folk Music. He has also won the SCALA-run Songwriters Event (songwriter award) in 1990 and 1996.

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Artist Profiles: Jerry O’Sullivan

Jerry O’Sullivan

Uilleann piper flutist and whistler Jerry O’Sullivan has been at the very heart of the traditional Irish music scene in New York for many years and is always the first to help when a member of the community needs it. A gifted performer he has worked with many groups in the area as well enjoying an enviable career as a solo artist.

He has amassed a substantial discography with appearances on over sixty albums. He has been a music teacher for many years at The Tara Circle and many Irish arts weekends and has always been happy to share his time and talent.

Discography

The Invasion (Green Linnet 1997)
The Gift (Shanachie 1998)
O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell (2005)
O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell: Volume II (2010)

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Artist Profiles: James Grant

James Grant

James Grant’s career began in the early 1980ss when he formed Friends Again with Chris Thompson (The Bathers). Although short-lived their influence was huge helping to define the emerging sound of the Scottish bands that followed them.

It was in Love and Money that James found more widespread recognition; four albums several hit singles a world-wide following and silver discs in the UK helped seal his reputation as one of the best songwriters in the country.

In 1996 he contributed four songs to the solo album of Capercaillie vocalist Karen Matheson, The Dreaming Sea, including the title track The Dreaming Sea. This in turn led to him working with musician and producer Donald Shaw the result being James’ stunning debut album Sawdust in My Veins followed by the equally acclaimed follow-up My Thrawn Glory.

In October 2004 James released Holy Love on Vertical Records featuring Karen Matheson, Monica Queen and Jerry Douglas.

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Artist Profiles: James Graham

When James Graham won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year award in 2004 James was not only the first Gaelic singer to win, he was also the first male winner. James who also plays the pipes grew up in a household where music was an essential part of family life. Although his mother an accordionist is the only other family member who plays an instrument James’s father and sister are good singers and were always singing around the house and at weekends, friends and family members regularly gathered for ceilidhs.

James began singing Gaelic at competition level at the age of ten and quickly became a prize-winner at both local and national Mods the Gaelic music and poetry festivals. By the time James moved on to Ullapool High School he was playing the bagpipes under the tutelage of Norman Gillies. He continued piping as a subsidiary study when he went to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in 1999 with singing as his principal study.

Coached and encouraged by his tutor at the RSAMD the well-known singer and immensely knowledgeable Gaelic scholar Kenna Campbell James became increasingly passionate about singing and he credits Kenna Campbell with giving him the confidence to enter the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition.

While studying at the RSAMD where he gained his BA (Hons) in Scottish Music James researched the songs of his home area Assynt for his dissertation talking to the few remaining native Gaelic speakers and collecting songs from them. He feels emotionally tied to these songs and is dedicated to keeping them alive. He is also passionate about singing pibroch which he learned from the brilliant piper and folklorist Allan MacDonald.

Discography:

Siubhal

Greisean Greine [Sunny Spells] (2007)

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