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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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)
Battlefield Band – Live in Concert at the Brunton Theatre (Temple Records, 2008
Although well established as a duo Bachue, has expanded to include the fantastic percussion talents of Edinburgh-based drummer Donald Hay. The unique combination of electroharp, piano, voice and percussion has dazzled and mesmerized audiences wherever they play.
Corrina Hewat and David Milligan first performed as Bachue back in 1996, originally appearing with percussionist Davy Cattenach (then with The Old Blind Dogs) and fiddler Kenny Fraser. The band has performed and recorded with various line-ups since then, but for the most part it’s Corrina and David’s duo format that has earned their enviable reputation as one of the Celtic music scene’s most innovative groups.
For the new album, The Butterfly, Bachue joined forces with jazz trumpeter Colin Steele, whose warm, lyrical sound complements the band’s unique sound perfectly.
Paul Anderson an acclaimed virtuoso in the time honored tradition of Scottish fiddle music. Paul Anderson has won most of the fiddle championships in Scotland. His crowning glory was the Glenfiddich Scottish Fiddle Championship at Blair Castle in 1993.
Paul Anderson, from the heart of rural Aberdeenshire, is one of Scotland’s most respected traditional musicians. His album Land of the Standing Stones is really a love letter to Paul’s native Aberdeenshire as all but a couple of the 51 tunes on the album are inspired by the people, landscape and history of the North-East of Scotland.
The music on the album has all been composed by Paul himself and at 70 minutes in length, it’s a considerable achievement. The music, though rooted in the traditional Scots fiddle idiom, is also contemporary in style. He has been ably supported in this by a superb group of musicians, which includes Shona Donaldson (Scots singer of the year 2009), Swedish cittern master Ale Carr, Ali Napier (Dougie MacLean band) and Scottish acting star Kevin McKidd on guitar and vocals.
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.
Aidan O’Rourke is a fiddle player and composer from Oban on the West Coast of Scotland. He has toured extensively in Europe and North America from the age of 15 and has made his name as one of Scotland’s most expressive and dynamic musicians.
At 19, Aidan formed Tabache with Claire Mann and went on to record the internationally acclaimed album Waves of Rush. Aidan now performs with the hugely successful Blazin’ Fiddles (Live Act of the Year 2004) and is a much sought after session musician, having performed on over dozens of albums ranging from Runrig to Michael McGoldrick and Karen Matheson.
Commissions have included a piece titled Mantra Alba which welcomed the Dalai Lama to Scotland.
Sirius is his first solo album which evolved from a commission by Celtic Connections in 2003.
Are You Willing?, with Tabache (1996)
Waves of Rush, with Tabache (1999)
Live in Scotland, with The Unusual Suspects (2005) Sirius (2006)
Lightweights and Gentlemen, with Lau (2007) Live, with Lau (2008) Arc Light, with Lau (2009) An Tobar (Navigator Records, 2011)
Big Like This, with The Unusual Suspects (2011) Race the Loser, with Lau (2012)
Hotline (2013) The Bell That Never Rang, with Lau (2015) Sleeper, with Kan (2015)
Songs of Separation is a fascinating project featuring 10 of the leading female folk musicians from Scotland and England. In September of 2014, Scottish residents were given the option of regaining independence from the UK. Although the no vote won, 44.7% of Scots voted in favor of independence. Set in this post-referendum context, these talented artists have recorded a set of original and traditional songs that revolve around the subject of separation.
Songs of Separation was recorded in the fabulous setting of the Isle of Eigg (in the Scottish Inner Hebrides). The process of cultivating the music was revealed to audiences each day, through a series of videos. The songs highlight the connections and differentiation in the musical traditions, language and cultural heritage of England and Scotland.
The impressive “dream team” of musicians includes Eliza Carthy and Karine Polwart, two of the UK’s most celebrated vocalists; Mary Macmaster and Kate Young, two groundbreaking Scottish singers and instrumentalists; Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans, from the award winning English ensemble Lady Maisery; Jenn Butterworth and Jenny Hill, gifted musicians who have worked in both English and Scottish traditional music; and Hannah Read, a New York-based musician who spent much of her infancy on the Isle of Eigg.
Highlights include the memorable opening track “Echo Mocks the Corncrake”, “Poor Man’s Lamentation” , “’S muladach mi ‘s mi air m’aineoil (Sad Am I and in a Strange Place)”, “Sea King”, and the delightful Celtic beat of “Over the Border: The Withering / Flowers of the Forest / Blue Bonnets Over the Border / Hope Lies Over the Border.”
The lineup on the album includes Hazel Askew on lead and backing vocals, flute, harp, melodeon; Jenn Butterworth on vocals, guitar; Eliza Carthy on lead vocals and backing vocals, fiddle, Indian harmonium, percussion; Hannah James on lead and backing vocals, percussion, piano accordion; Jenny Hill, double bass, backing vocals; Mary Macmaster lead and backing vocals, clarsach (Celtic harp), wire harp; Karine Polwart on lead and backing vocals, Indian harmonium, percussion, tenor guitar; Hannah Read on lead and backing vocals, fiddle, guitar; Rowan Rheingans on lead and backing vocals, banjo, fiddle, percussion, viola; Kate Young on lead and backing vocals, fiddle.
Songs of Separation showcases a wonderful set of exceptionally expressive vocals from Scotland and England enhanced by beautifully crafted arrangements.
Scottish contemporary folk music band Breabach has a new album titled Astar (Breabach Records, 2016). After five years traveling the world, Breabach presents a recording inspired by the people and places they have encountered and collaborations they have been involved in.
Astar is a multiethnic celebration, embracing the music of four nations in partnership with their own. The band invited friends from Norway, Quebec, Australia and New Zealand to be part of this recording, all of which has been brought to life under the guidance and production of Greg Lawson.
The guests include Aboriginal artist Yirrmal Marika (Australia), Maori tradition keeper Scott Morrison (New Zealand), Hardanger fiddle master Olav Luksengård Mjelva (Norway), Quebecois fiddler Olivier Demers (Quebec) and Le Vent Du Nord (Quebec) with guest vocals.