Tag Archives: Celtic music

Artist Profiles: Billy Jackson

Billy Jackson

Billy Jackson has been a major figure in traditional Scottish music for many years, and was a founding member of the influential folk group, Ossian. A native of Glasgow, Billy often visited Donegal in his youth and his music reflects this mixture of Scottish and Irish influences.

In addition to his reputation as a harper, Billy has made quite a name for himself as a recording artist and composer, with a dozen albums to his credit. In 1990, he formed The Scottish Orchestra of New Music, combining classical and traditional musicians to perform his compositions. He premiered his major commission for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, A Scottish Island, and appeared as a featured soloist on uilleann pipes with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

In 1999, his song, Land of Light was selected as the winner of The Glasgow Herald’s year-long Song For Scotland competition to select a ‘new anthem for a new era in Scotland.’ Billy is also a trained music therapist specializing in work with autistic children.

Discography

The Wellpark Suite (1985)
Heart Music (1987)
St Mungo: A Celtic Suite For Glasgow (1990)
Celtic Tranquility (1992)
Inchcolm (1995; reissued 2007)
The Ancient Harp of Scotland (1998)
A Scottish Island (1998)
Celtic Experience vol. 1: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (1997)
Celtic Experience vol. 2: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (1998)
Celtic Experience vol. 3: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (1999)
Celtic Experience: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (2000)
The Celtic Suites (1999)
Land of Light (1999)
Notes From A Hebridean Island (2001)
Duan Àlbanach (2003)
The New Harp (2008)
Music From Ireland and Scotland, with Gráinne Hambly (2009)

With Ossian

Ossian (1977)
St. Kilda Wedding (1978)
Seal Song (1980)
Dove Across the Water (1981)
Borders (1983)
Light on a Distant Shore (1986)
The Best of Ossian (1993)
The Carrying Stream (1997)

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Artist Profiles: Karen Matheson

Karen Matheson

Karen Matheson is widely recognized as the acclaimed vocalist of Celtic band Capercaillie. Karen started performing as a child in her local village hall in Argyll on the West coast of Scotland. She was brought up listening to traditional songs that have been her inspiration for over 30 years.

With Capercaillie, Karen has enjoyed tremendous success. Capercaillie have sold more than a million albums. The group composed the music of the movie ‘Rob Roy’, with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, in which Karen appeared, singing a Gaelic lament.

As a solo artist, Karen has been involved in various projects of collaboration worldwide including the award-winning BBC series Transatlantic Sessions, where she filmed tracks with artists like James Taylor, Emmylou Harris, The McGarrigle Sisters, Nanci Griffith, and various esteemed Scottish musicians. Her many collaborations include Algerian singer Idir, Breton guitarist Dan Ar Braz and Portuguese star Dulce Pontes.

In December 2010 she was presented with an Honorary degree in music from the Robert Gordon University – another achievement to add to her OBE and award of “Best Gaelic singer” from the inaugural Scottish folk awards – just some of the many plaudits earned from an astonishing career.

Her 2015 solo album Urram is a musical love letter to her families’ Hebridean roots, with a collectionset of timeless Gaelic songs that draws out the character of Island life, through waulking songs, love songs, lullabies, mouth music and evocative poems to the surroundings. The album features international guest musicians including Seiko Keita (Senegal) on West African kora, Soumik Datta (India) on sarod, Scotland’s McFall’s chamber on strings, Innes White & Sorren MacLean on guitars, and long-timemusical partner Donald Shaw on piano.

Solo Discography:

The Dreaming Sea (1996)
Time to fall (2002)
Downriver (2004)
Urram (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Tannahill Weavers

The Tannahill Weavers

The Tannahill Weavers are one of Scotland’s leading traditional bands. Their diverse repertoire spans the centuries with fire-driven instrumentals, topical songs, and original ballads and lullabies. Their music demonstrates to old and young alike the rich and varied musical heritage of the Celtic people. These versatile musicians have received worldwide accolades consistently over the years for their exuberant performances and outstanding recording efforts.

Born of a session in Paisley, Scotland and named for the town’s historic weaving industry and local poet laureate Robert Tannahill, the group has made an international name for its special brand of Scottish music, blending the beauty of traditional melodies with the power of modern rhythms. The Tannahill Weavers began to attract attention when founding members Roy Gullane and Phil Smillie added the full-sized highland bagpipes to the on-stage presentations, the first professional Scottish folk group to successfully do so. The combination of the powerful pipe solos, Roy’s driving guitar backing and lead vocals, and Phil’s ethereal flute playing breathed new life into Scotland’s vast repertoire of traditional melodies and songs.

Three years and a dozen countries later, the Tannahills were a Celtic music sensation in Europe, having won the Scotstar Award for Folk Record of the Year with their third album, The Tannahill Weavers.

Since their first visit to the United States in 1981, the Tannahills’ unique combination of traditional melodies on pipes, flute and fiddle, driving rhythms on guitar and bouzouki, and powerful three and four part vocal harmonies have taken the musical community by storm.

Over the years the Tannies have been trailblazers for Scottish music, and their tight harmonies and powerful, inventive arrangements have won them fans from beyond the folk and Celtic music scenes.

1994 saw the release to critical acclaim of Capernaum, which won the Indie Award in the USA for Celtic Album of the Year from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers (NAIRD, now AFIM).

Tannies veterans Phil Smillie, Roy Gullane, John Martin and Les Wilson are versatile musicians who have received worldwide accolades over the years for their exuberant performances and outstanding recordings. From reflective ballads to foot stomping reels and jigs, the variety and range of the material they perform is matched only by their enthusiasm and lively Scottish spirit.

The lineup that appeared on 2006’s Live and In Session featured Roy Gullane on guitar, vocals; John Martin on fiddle, viola, mandola, mandolin, cello; Colin Melville on Highland bagpipes, Scottish small pipes, whistles, guitar; Phil Smillie on flute, whistles, bodhran, vocals; Les Wilson on bouzouki, keyboards, vocals. Guests included Douglas Millar on keyboards and Hugh (Shuggie) MacCallum on assorted percussion.

In 2011, Tannahill Weavers was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, and in 2014 they were joined by innovative piper Lorne MacDougall.

Discography:

Are Ye Sleeping Maggie (Hedera Records HRCD11, 1976)

The Old Woman’s Dance (Hedera Records HRCD12, 1978)

The Tannahill Weavers (Hedera Records HRCD13, 1979)

Tannahill Weavers IV (Hedera Records HRCD14, 1981)

Passage (Green Linnet Records GLCD331, 1984)

Land of Light (Green Linnet GLCD167, 1985)

Dancing Feet (Green Linnet GLCD181, 1987)

The Best of the Tannahill Weavers (Green Linnet GLCD11, 1989)

Cullen Bay (Green Linnet GLCD118, 1990)

The Mermaid’s Song (Green Linnet GLCD1121, 1992)

Capernaum (Green Linnet GLCD1146, 1994)

Leaving St Kilda (Green Linnet, 1996)

The Tannahill Weavers Collection (Green Linnet GLCD1182, 1997)

Epona (Green Linnet GLCD1193, 1998)

Alchemy (Green Linnet GLCD121, 2000)

Arnish Light (Green Linnet GLCD 1226, 2003)

Live and In Session (Compass Records 445426, 2006)

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Artist Profiles: Capercaillie

Capercaillie – Photo by Lieve Boussauw

Capercaillie is the band that created a stir like no other Scottish band since Silly Wizard. Capercaillie plays groundbreaking contemporary Celtic music featuring the ethereal, yet powerful Gaelic vocals by Karen Matheson, intricate rhythms, and a combination of traditional Scottish and electric instruments.

The original founders of the band, vocalist Karen Matheson, accordionist Donald Shaw and multi-instrumentalist Marc Duff, met at school in Oban, their hometown in northwestern Scotland. Matheson’s voice was described by acclaimed actor Sean Connery as having “a throat that is surely touched by God”.

Capercaillie sold over a million albums worldwide. These include three silver and one gold album in the UK, and the first Gaelic Top 40 single. Capercaillie also wrote the music for the 1995 Hollywood movie “Rob Roy.” Karen Matheson appeared in the movie, singing the song “Ailein duinn”.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Capercaillie, Survival Records released the double CD anthology “Grace and Pride – The anthology 2004 – 1984” on September 13, 2004. The album collected 38 tracks from each of the band’s 15 albums, including previously unreleased and rare tracks.

In 2013, the band released an album titled At the Heart of It All. The Capercaillie lineup at that time included Karen Matheson (vocals), Donald Shaw (keyboards), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Manus Lunny (guitar), Ewen Vernal (bass), and Michael McGoldrick (flute/pipes), all of whom are some of the finest musicians in the Celtic music scene. The list of guests on At the Heart of It All includes: vocalists Julie Fowlis, Kathleen MacInnes, Darren MacLean, Sineag MacIntyre and Kris Drever (Lau). The instrumentalists include Irish banjo virtuoso Gerry O’Connor, masterful uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson, fiddler Aidan O’Rourke (also from Lau), percussionist James Mackintosh, and jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith.

Discography:

Cascade (1984)

Crosswinds (Green Linnet, 1987)

Sidewaulk (Green Linnet, 1989)

Delirium (BMG UK in Europe, Green Linnet in USA, 1991)

Get Out (BMG UK in Europe, Green Linnet in USA, 1992)

Secret People (Survival Records/BMG SURCD 17/Green Linnet in USA, 1993)

Capercaillie (Survival Records SURCD 18, 1994)

To the Moon (Survival Records SURCD 19, 1995)

Beautiful Wasteland (Survival Records SURCD 21, 1997)

Dusk till Dawn, the Best of Capercaillie (Survival Records SURCD 23, 1998)

Nadurra (Survival Records SURCD 25, 2000)

The Blood Is Strong (Valley Entertainment, 2000)

Capercaillie Live in Concert (Survival Records SURCD 27, 2002)

Choice Language (Sanctuary Records, 2003)

Grace & Pride: Anthology 2004 – 1984 (Survival Records, 2004/Valley Entertainment, 2005)

Roses and Tears (Compass Records/Vertical Records, 2008)

At the Heart of It All (Compass Records/Vertical Records VERTCD1, 2013)

www.capercaillie.co.uk

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Artist Profiles: Battlefield Band

Battlefield Band

Battlefield Band plays Scottish music of rare passion and joy. Inspired by their rich heritage of Celtic music and fired by the strength of today’s Scottish Cultural scene (which they themselves have done much to create and fuel), Battlefield Band mix the old songs with new self-penned material, and perform them on a unique fusion of ancient and modern instruments – bagpipe, fiddle, synthesizer, guitar, cittern, flute, bodhran and accordion.

This is the gold standard, the band against which all others are measured. After 3 years they still lead the way for Scottish music — introducing new musicians, new music; always involving their ever widening audience, as they travel the world.

In 22 the band welcomed back Pat Kilbride. A member of the band in the mid-seventies, and featured on the classic album At The Front, this was his second stint on the Battlefield. In the intervening years, this fine musician and singer has toured with Kips Bay and recorded a highly regarded solo CD.

Dookin’ was released in 27. Dookin’ is the Scottish word for what you do at Halloween – as in ‘dookin’ for apples. This is a reference to what Battlefield Band has been doing for all these years, Dookin’ into the great pool of Scottish and Irish music and song.

Battlefield Band founder Alan Reid describes the group’s 29th album Zama Zama… Try Your Luck: “This album started as a collection of songs and tunes about gold. But as we searched, like the alchemists of old, it turned into a wider idea. In the process we saw the greed, disasters and victories inherent in the search and exploitation of various sources of wealth in this world. Then, as if by demonic serendipity, along came the worldwide economic crisis. We watched the major banks, insurance companies and Hedge Funds etc., implode, discrediting the entire financial system and many of its managers and advisers – but there was still more to come. We, in Britain, could only stand and watch aghast as many Members of Parliament, and the House of Lords at Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments’ were exposed for their cynical misuse of the expenses system, often amounting to fraud. As we put this album together we have been amazed, angered, depressed and hilariously horrified.”

Line-up came out on the 18th August 2011. The musicians featured in the recording include a new member, fiddler and piper Ewen Henderson, from the Highlands of Scotland. The lineup at the time was Sean O’Donnell on Vocals, Guitar, Cittern; Ewen Henderson on Fiddle, Bagpipes, Vocals, Piano; Alasdair White on Fiddle, Whistle, Bouzouki, Bagpipes; Mike Katz – Bagpipes, Whistles, Bouzouki, Guitar, Bass, Vocals; and a special appearance on harmonica from Scottish bluesman Mike Whellans

Discography

Battlefield Band (1977)
At the Front (Temple Records, 1978)
Stand Easy (Temple Records, 1979)
Preview (Temple Records, 198)
Home is Where the Van Is (Temple Records, 198)
The Story So Far (Temple Records, 1982)
There’s a Buzz (Temple Records, 1982)
Anthem for the Common Man (Temple Records, 1984)
On the Rise (Temple Records, 1986)
Music in Trust Vol 1 (Temple Records, 1986)
After Hours: Forward to Scotland’s Past (1987)
Celtic Hotel (Temple Records, 1987)
Music in Trust Vol 2 (1988)
Home Ground – Live From Scotland (1989)
New Spring (Temple Records, 1991)
Quiet Days (Temple Records, 1992)
Opening Moves (Topic Records, 1993)
Farewell to Nova Scotia (Escalibur, 1996)
Threads (Temple Records, 1995)
Across the Borders (Temple Records, 1997)
Live Celtic Folk Music (Munich, 1998)
Rain, Hail or Shine (Temple Records, 1998)
Leaving Friday Harbor (Temple Records, 1999)
Happy Daze (Temple Records, 2001)
Time and Tide (Temple Records, 22)
Best of Battlefield 1976 – 2003 (Temple Records, 2003)
Out for the Night (Temple Records, 2004)
The Road of Tears (Temple Records, 2006)
Dookin’ (Temple Records, 2007)
Zama Zama… Try Your Luck (Temple Records, 2009)
Line-up (Temple Records COMD214, 211)
Room Enough For All (Temple Records, 2013)
Beg & Borrow (Temple Records, 2015)

Videos

Battlefield Band – Live in Concert at the Brunton Theatre (Temple Records, 2008

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From Brussels to Santiago

Ialma – Camiño de Bruxelas a Santiago (Home Records, 2016)

Ialma has evolved into of the finest exponents of contemporary Galician folk music. The core of the group are four women based in Belgium who have Galician ancestry. Galicia is the northwest region of Spain, where there is a rich tradition of female ensembles who sing and play tambourines (pandeiretas in Galician).
The album’s title indicates their musical route: Camiño de Bruxelas a Santiago (the trail from Brussels to Santiago). The group’s style revolves about strong vocal harmonies backed by tambourines, guitar and accordion.

Camiño de Bruxelas a Santiago features traditional lyrics and melodies as well as original compositions by members of the ensemble and a few other authors. Although the majority of the pieces have deep Galician roots, Ialma has brought in other traditions such as flamenco palmas (handclap percussion), Basque chalaparta and a song by Italian songwriter Lucilla Galeazzi.

The lineup includes Verónica Codesal on vocals and pandeireta; Magali Menéndez on vocals and pandeireta; Natalia Codesal on vocals and pandeireta; and Marisol Palomo on vocals and pandeireta.

 

Ialma – Photo by Marius Schoonbroodt

 

The band’s regular instrumentalists are producer and arranger Quentin Dujardin on guitars, bass, bodhran, percussion and backing vocals; and Didier Laloy on diatonic accordion.

Guests: Esteban Murillo on vocals and palmas; Ross Ainslie on whistle; a children’s choir; Jonathan De Neck on diatonic accordion; Olivier Hernández on chromatic harmonica; Sebastien Taminiau on violin; Rémi Decker on bagpipes; Raf De Backer on Hammond organ; Iñaki Plaza on chalaparta; Boris Schmidt on double bass; Fred Malenpré on percussion; Stephan Pougin on percussion; Philippe Mobers on snare drum; and Nicolas Scalliet on drums.

 

 

Camiño de Bruxelas a Santiago is a superb album rooted in Galician music traditions performed by one of the finest Galician music ensembles in the current music scene.

Buy Camiño de Bruxelas a Santiago

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Absorbing Celtic Flute and Human Beatbox Encounters

Matthew Olwell – CyberTrad (2016)

Celtic music and beatbox beats come together in a fascinating album titled CyberTrad. Multi-instrumentalist Matthew Olwell uses several types of flutes to deliver a mix of Irish and Breton traditional pieces, along with original compositions backed by body and vocal percussion.

Although the combination is uncommon, the result is very satisfactory. Celtic music goes well with frame drums and hand percussion and the talented Shodekeh Talifero does a fabulous job with his beatbox and vocal rhythms.

Matthew Olwell grew up listening to music on a boombox radio. The mix included his parents’ wide-ranging tape collection, as well as radio programs like National Public Radio’s Celtic music show The Thistle and Shamrock.

His father, Patrick Olwell is a renowned Irish flute maker and both his parents and brother played flute, so there were always musicians around. The Olwell family was active in the United States’ East Coast Irish music scene, regularly attending the Washington D.C. Irish Festival and Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia.

This splendid music community gave Matthew an appreciation for many folk traditions, including Canada’s Quebecois, old time, and Cajun music. Through this festival scene, Matthew met Eileen Carson-Schatz and The Fiddle Puppet Dancers at Augusta, and ultimately joined the later incarnation of that group, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. From 1994 to 2004 Matthew performed with Footworks, touring internationally, situating him on a pathway to a career in music and dance.

The lineup on CyberTrad includes Matthew Olwell on wooden and bamboo flutes, vocals, cornamuse and bodhran; Shodekeh Talifero on human beatbox, vocal percussion and panpipes; Aimee Curl on vocals and upright bass; Simon Lepage, the bass player of famed Quebecois band Matapat; Aimee Curl on vocals and upright bass; Jaige Trudel on cello, and Joey Abarta on uilleann pipes.

Cybertrad is a superb alchemy of flutes from the Celtic regions and the contemporary human beatbox tradition.

Buy the digital version of Cybertrad

Buy the Cybertrad CD

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The Talented Gaelic Sounds of Bywater

Elias Alexander, Eamon Sefton, Kathleen Parks and Patrick Bowling Bywater (Fresh Haggis Music, 2016)

Bywater is the debut by an American Celtic music band inspired by the traditional Gaelic music of Scotland. The project was started by American multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Elias Alexander. He spent some time in Scotland, where he immersed himself into traditional music, including reels, jigs, coalminer and boat builder songs, and sorrowful love songs.

Most of the music on Bywater is original, composed by Elias Alexander and his bandmates. It’s a set of beautifully-crafted fresh tunes and songs that are respectful of tradition, while sounding modern at the same time with the addition of elements borrowed from Irish music, American folk-rock and jazz.

Bywater was formed after Alexander graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in music from Middlebury College in Vermont and moved to Boston, which is one of the hotspots for Celtic music in the United States. In Boston he put together the Bywater Band: guitarist Eamon Sefton, fiddler Kathleen Parks and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Bowling.

The lineup on Bywater includes Elias Alexander on border pipes, lead vocals, fiddle, low whistle, and cajón; Eamon Sefton on guitar and backing vocals; Kathleen Parks on five-string fiddle and backing vocals; Patrick Bowling on flute, whistle, bodhrán and uilleann pipes. Guests featured: Nate Sabat on bass; Neil Pearlman on accordion; and Jake Galloway on trumpet and trombone.

Bywater is a superb debut album by one of the most promising ensembles in the American Celtic music scene.

Buy Bywater in the Americas

Buy Bywater in Europe

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Acclaimed Irish Folk Musician Padraig Duggan Dies at 67

Pádraig Duggan (left) with Clannad.
Pádraig Duggan (left) with Clannad

Pádraig Duggan, Irish musician, songwriter, and co-founder of much-admired contemporary folk music band Clannad, died in Dublin on August 9, 2016 at the age of 67. He passed away in Blanchardstown Hospital from a recurrent illness.

Pádraig Ó Dúgáin (Duggan) was born on January 23, 1949 in Gweedore, County Donegal in the Northwest of Ireland. Pádraig and his twin brother, Noel played music from early childhood. Padraig player guitar and mandolin.

After playing in dancehall bands in their youth, Pádraig and Noel, joined their niece and nephews, Moya, Ciaran, and Pol Brennan, to form Clannad in the early 1970s. Clannad became one of the most famous contemporary Irish folk music bands of all time, combining Celtic folk music, ethereal vocals and pop.

In the 1990s, Pádraig and Noel toured widely with Pan-European Celtic band Norland Wind.

Pádraig and Noel released a recording of traditional songs and ballads in the Irish language together with self-penned songs in English titled Rubicon in 2005. The album included Moya Brennan, Finbar Furey, Orla Fallon (Celtic Woman), and Norland Wind’s Thomas Loefke and Kerstin Blodig.

“Padraig Duggan was a truly gifted musician, with extraordinary skills on both the guitar and mandolin. As a founding member of the Irish folk group Clannad, Padraig beautifully blended the traditional sounds of Ireland’s musical past with contemporary pop music, helping to push the Celtic sound into the mainstream. Not just bandmates, Clannad were also family members, and their deep Gaelic roots and ethereal stylings shined on more than 15 full-length albums, including the much-celebrated Landmarks, for which they won the GRAMMY for Best New Age Album for 1998. We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to Padraig’s family, friends, and collaborators,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.

Pádraig Duggan is survived by his wife Jan.

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Stirring Acoustic Sounds from Prince Edward Isle

Ten Strings and A Goatskin is a superb acoustic music trio from Prince Edward Isle in Canada. The three young musicians play primarily original compositions, along with a handful of traditional pieces, inspired by the Celtic traditions of Brittany, Scotland, Ireland and French-speaking Canada, incorporating modern music elements such as Hammond B3 organ and pump organ.

The three multi-instrumentalists skillfully intertwine fiddle, banjo and other string instruments with irresistible dance beats. The rhythms range from the classic Irish frame drum, bodhran, to Acadian foot percussion and Peruvian cajón.

The album was produced by Leonard Podolak of acclaimed Canadian rots music band The Duhks.

The Ten Strings and A Goatskin lineup includes Rowen Gallant on fiddle, viola, tenor banjo, and lead and backing vocals; Jesse Périard on guitar, pump organ, backing vocals; and Caleb Gallant on bodhràn, foot percussion, snare, cajón, clawhammer banjo, and lead and backing vocals.

Guests include Leonard Podolak on banjo and vocals; Colin Savoie-Levac on mandolin, cittern, foot percussion and vocals; Anna Lindblad on fiddle; Josianne Hebert on vocals; Marie Savoie-Levac on bass and vocals; Sarah Marchand on keyboards and vocals; Béatrix Méthé on fiddle and vocals; Eléonore Pitre on guitar and vocals; and Mark Busic on Hammond B-3 organ and bass.

Auprès du Poêle showcases the work of three talented young musicians who are creating stimulating new acoustic music based on Canadian and European musical traditions.

To purchase the CD or MP3s, check the band’s website: www.tenstringsandagoatskin.com/music/

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