Tag Archives: Celtic music

Artist Profiles: Relativity

Relativity

Relativity was a groundbreaking Celtic super group that played traditional Irish and Scottish music with a new edge” as well as original tunes.

It tied together the talents of some of the best Irish and Scottish contemporary folk musicians, featuring members from The Bothy Band (Micheal O Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill) and Silly Wizard (Johnny and Phil Cunningham).

Several members of the band went on to create another band called Nightnoise which became very popular.

Musicians:

Johnny Cunningham – fiddle
Micheal O Domhnaill – guitar
Phil Cunningham – accordion, keyboards
Triona Ni Dhomhnaill – vocals, keyboards

Discography:

Relativity (Green Linnet, 1985)
Gathering Pace (Green Linnet, 1987)

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Artist Profiles: Rebecca Pidgeon

Rebecca Pidgeon

Rebecca Pidgeon, the acclaimed American actress has also displayed her gift as a singer-songwriter on her several well-received albums with Chesky Records. Pidgeon’s style includes elements from folk, pop, jazz and Celtic traditions.

Rebecca Pidgeon was born October 10, 1965 in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA). While a teenager in Scotland, music came as naturally to Pidgeon as breathing. She sang along with the radio and her parents’ Beatles and Joni Mitchell records as a light escape from her demanding acting studies. In Edinburgh, a friend asked her to sing on his demo tape. “I didn’t know I was a singer at all,” she recalls. “At first I felt ridiculous because I hadn’t trained to be a singer hadn’t even planned it. I didn’t feel like a genuine singer and the first songs I wrote didn’t feel like real songs. It was only when people started saying to me ‘That’s a wonderful song’ that I finally began believing I was a singer and a songwriter.”

Pidgeon made two celebrated British albums with the folk-pop band Ruby Blue, shared the stage with Lyle Lovett and Van Morrison and played a series of New York gigs with Anthony Coote while she was starring in the New York stage production of Oleanna.

By the age of 23 the actress had found work in theater film and on BBC television starring with Anthony Hopkins, David Warner, Ian Holm and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. She had just played a lead in a star-strewn BBC production of Uncle Vanya when she moved to the United States in 1990 and married playwright David Mamet. “Coming to America was a huge change. I didn’t have a plan in my head and I had to start all over again with both my acting and my music,” she says.

After returning to the United States, Pidgeon happened to hear a Kenny Rankin album that was released on Chesky Records, the New York-based audiophile record label. “It was recorded without overdubbing and the sound was so beautiful and natural that I knew it was what I wanted. I wished to get away from the over-produced approach I’d known in England.” So began Pidgeon’s relationship with Chesky Records.

Her first Chesky release, The Raven featured Pidgeon’s striking version of “Spanish Harlem.” The Raven went on to become an audiophile classic thanks to Pidgeon’s crystalline voice and Chesky’s high-fidelity recording techniques. Her second album, New York Girls Club brought her unique singing and songwriting to more music lovers. “Songwriting became a very important form of self-expression for me a rich part of my life,” Pidgeon explains.

While growing up in Scotland Pidgeon’s father knew many Scottish songs in addition to American and British music. Pidgeon’s third, Four Marys showcases Rebecca’s unique interpretations of timeless Celtic folk songs.

Between album projects, Pidgeon has starred in the Mamet plays Oleanna, Speed the Plow, The Old Neighborhood and the motion pictures The Spanish Prisoner, The Winslow Boy and State & Main.

Discography:

Down From Above with Ruby Blue (1990)
The Raven (Chesky Records, 1994)
New York Girls Club (Chesky Records, 1996)
The Four Marys (Chesky Records, 1998)
Tough On Crime (2005)
Behind The Velvet Curtain (2008)
Slingshot (2012)
Blue Dress On (2013)
Bad Poetry (2014)

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Artist Profiles: Phil Cunningham

Phil Cunningham – Photo by Annie Tuite

Accordionist Phil Cunningham was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1960. His musical career began with accordion lessons at the age of three and violin a few years later. His initial training was in classical music with a deep interest and love of the traditional music of his homeland developing simultaneously. In 1976 he joined his brother Johnny Cunningham in the highly acclaimed Scottish band Silly Wizard and was a full-time member until 1983. Phil contributed many of his own compositions to their mostly traditional repertoire adding to the musical heritage of Scotland and keeping the tradition alive.

Phil left Silly Wizard in 1983 to pursue a solo career as he found himself in demand as a composer and performer for television, radio, film and stage. Between 1985 and 1987 he toured and recorded with supergroup Relativity with his brother Johnny and Irish brother and sister Michael and Triona O’Domnaill.

Phil and fiddler Aly Bain formed one of the most celebrated acts on the Scottish traditional scene. The duo first worked together on a television series in 1988 and embarked on their first tour shortly after. They were so well received that they have been touring Scotland annually ever since in addition to frequent performances in Europe and North America.

Phil has produced albums for many popular traditional artists including Dolores Keane and Altan. In 1990 he wrote the music for Bill Bryden’s spectacular theater productions “The Ship” (1990) and “The Big Picnic” (1994). He has worked as music director and composer for various BBC Scotland series and also wrote The Highlands &Islands Suite, an orchestral work which was performed at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. He has also toured with Bonnie Raitt and Kepa Junkera in addition to running CAP recording studios with his partner Donna.

In 2002 Phil was awarded the MBE for services to Scottish Music and was voted Best Instrumentalist in the inaugural Scottish Traditional Music Awards in 2003.

His compositions are covered by musicians the world over and he continues to write and add to his prolific repertoire. His proudest moments have been the premiers of his two orchestral suites for Symphony orchestra and Celtic instruments. His piece Ceilidh was written for and performed by acclaimed Scots percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Discography:

Caledonia’s Hardy Sons, with Silly Wizard (1978)
So Many Partings, with Silly Wizard (1980)
Against the Storm, with Johnny Cunningham (1980)
Wild and Beautiful, with Silly Wizard (1981)
Kiss the Tears Away, with Silly Wizard (1983)
Airs and Graces (Green Linnet 1984)
A Glint of Silver, with Silly Wizard (1986)
Relativity, with Relativity (1986)
Gathering Pace with Relativity (1987)
Live Wizardry, with Silly Wizard (1988)
Palomino Waltz (Green Linnet, 1989)
Fire in the Glen (Shanachie, 1989)
Somebody, with Connie Dover (Taylor Park Music, 1991)
The Wishing Well, with Connie Dover (1994)
The Pearl, with Aly Bain (1996)
If Ever I Return, with Connie Dover (Taylor Park Music, 1997)
The Ruby, with Aly Bain (Green Linnet, 1998)
The Border of Heaven, with Connie Dover (Taylor Park Music, 2000)
Another Gem, with Aly Bain (Compass, 2001)
Spring The Summer Long, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2003)
Best of Aly and Phil, with Aly Bain (2004)
Roads Not Travelled, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2006)
Portrait, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2010)
Mark the Hard Earth, with Kris Drever (2010)
Five and Twenty, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2012)

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Artist profiles: Peatbog Faeries

Peatbog Faeries

Based on the Isle of Skye, The Peatbog Faeries have played to audiences all over the world. They incorporate many influences which take them from traditional jigs and reels through rock, jazz, reggae and more.

Mellowosity and Faerie Stories, the Peatbogs first two albums remain two of Greentrax Recordings best ever selling albums.

The Peatbogs released their third album Welcome to Dun Vegas on July 28th 2003 on Peatbog Records. It sold well and enjoyed some great reviews including 5 stars from the Glasgow Herald.

In 2005 the band promoted its new album Croftwork with some extensive touring including festivals such as Glastonbury Cambridge Folk Festival and Beautiful Days. In November the band won the award for Best Live Act of 2005 at the prestigious Scots TradMusic Awards.

Their music has been used for several TV and DVD soundtracks they have undertaken numerous TV and radio performances as well as being commissioned by Scottish Ballet for an original piece performed for the first time in the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow.

Released on 25th April 2005 on the band’s own Peatbog Records label the Peatbogs fourth album Croftwork is their most ambitious and dynamic offering to date.

The Peatbog Faeries are:

Peter Morrison – Pipes & Whistles
Adam Sutherland – Fiddles
Tom Salter – Guitar
Graeme Stafford – Keyboards
Innes Hutton – Bass & Percussion
Iain Copeland – Drums

Discography:

Mellowosity (Greentrax Recordings, 1996)
Faerie Stories (Greentrax Recordings, 2000)
Welcome to Dun Vegas (Peatbog Records, 2003)
Croftwork (Peatbog Records, 2005)
What Men Deserve to Lose (Peatbog Records, 2007)
Live (Peatbog Records, 2009)
Dust (Peatbog Records, 2011)
Blackhouse (Peatbog Records, 2015)

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Rising Celtic Fiddle Talent Matt Tighe

Matt Tighe – Matt Tighe (Greentrax Recordings, 2017)

Matt Tighe is an excellent fiddler from South London in the UK. On his self-titled album he delivers an impressive set of original and traditional tunes highlighting his talent as a fiddler. The selection ranges from lively tunes and dances to mesmerizing slow airs.

On most of the tunes, Matt Tighe uses a fiddle and rhythm guitar format although a fuller ensemble featuring piano, percussion, bass and concertina also appears in some of the pieces. There is also great interplay between the fiddle and concertina on “Cronin’s” and the piano on “Clancy’s.”

Tighe is deeply influenced by of County Clare in Ireland and the Scottish music he was exposed to at the Cambridge Folk Festival and Glasgow.

Occasionally, Tighe treats the listener to beautifully-crafted fiddle overdubs that are best enjoyed with a good sound system or headphones.

Personnel: Matt Tighe on fiddle, octaive fiddle, and harmonium; Tad Sargent on bouzouki, guitar, mandocello, bodhran, piano and harmonium; Chris O’Malley on piano and harmonium; James Lindsay on double bass; Luke Daniels on button accordion; Brian McNeill on concertina; and Jock Turner on shaker.

Overall, an outstanding Celtic music album by a talented young fiddler.

Buy Matt Tighe in Europe

Buy Matt Tighe in the rest of the world

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Artist Profiles: Nightnoise

Nightnoise

Nightnoise began as a collaboration between American fiddler Billy Oskay and Irish singer and guitarist Micheal O Domhnaill. Together they released the album Nightnoise in 1984. The traditional Celtic music scene was become smaller in Europe and just beginning to take hold in the United States so attracted by the environment of Portland, Oregon O Domhnaill settled there in 1982. “I was tired of playing only traditional Irish music with is fairly well set,” said Micheal, “especially in the accompanist’s role playing guitar and I was ready to write my own music.”

Three years later Micheal’s sister, Irish pianist and vocalist Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, who had previously collaborated with her brother in Skara Brae, Relativity and The Bothy Band; and Irish-American flutist Brian Dunning, joined the original duo. Nightnoise the band was born.”When it came time to do the second record Something of Time in 1985,” O Domhnaill remembered, “we knew we needed additional players so I invited Triona from North Carolina and Brian from New York. They liked Portland so much they decided to stay as well.”

Something of Time, the quartet’s first album was released by Windham Hill in 1987. It would be followed by At the End of the Evening (1988), The Parting Tide (1990) and the compilation A Windham Hill Retrospective (1992). This would be the last album to feature Oskay’s playing and writing as he chose to leave the band to run his own recording studio, Big Red Studio.

Shadow of Time (1994), the fifth album of new Nightnoise music for Windham Hill Records marked the emergence of the band in a new alignment. With famed Celtic fiddler Johnny Cunningham joining, longtime members O Domhnaill Dunning and keyboardist and vocalist Triona Ni Domhnaill (pronounced Trina Nee Donnell) the direction for the group followed an unexpected and scenic detour. The band took on a much more Irish-centric sound while still retaining their own signature style.

Born in Scotland, Cunningham was known for his role as a founder of the legendary Celtic folk band Silly Wizard and for playing in numerous folk and rock settings with Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Don Henley, the Waterboys, Bill Morrissey and others. His membership brought a new sense of common heritage and musical unity to Nightnoise. “We’ve been playing with Johnny for years and years and years,” noted O Domhnaill, referring especially to a double sibling collaboration in the revered and wryly named Celtic “supergroup” Relativity featuring Micheal and his sister Triona and Johnny and his brother Phil Cunningham. “Relativity was almost exclusively a band that played jigs, reels, traditional folksongs, and ballads,” he continued “and Nightnoise is a band that composes its own material. That’s the biggest difference. But since Johnny’s a Celt himself, our sort of musical alliance allows a lot of things to go unsaid and makes us a more fluid cohesive unit.”

A Different Shore (1995) and the fan-favorite White Horse Sessions (1997), an album featuring live concert performances mixed in with in-studio live performances with their Windham Hill colleagues as their audience. The album also featured original material only available in this live format (the songs “Heartwood”, “Do We” and “Murdo of the Moon”) as well as a cover of Van Morrison’s classic “Moondance”. “The white Horse Sessions” marked the end of the band’s contractual obligations to Windham Hill and they decided to relocate to Ireland going on hiatus while the yeach focused on their own projects.

1997’s Sessions remains the last Nightnoise album. Cunningham left the band following its release and was replaced by Irish fiddler John Fitzpatrick. In a 1999 interview Micheal O Domhnaill stated that Nightnoise had not broken up and that the band would be getting together again shortly. The band has recorded new material since then
(both original compositions and covers of classic songs) but they’ve all been made for albums others than their own.

Johnny Cunningham died on December 15, 2003 from a heart attack. He was 46 years old. Micheal O Domhnaill died in July 2006 at his home in Dublin, Ireland at the age of 54.

Discography

Nightnoise (Windham Hill Records, 1984)
Something of Time (Windham Hill Records, 1987)
At the End of the Evening (Windham Hill Records, 1988)
The Parting Tide (Windham Hill Records, 1990)
Shadow of Time (Windham Hill Records, 1993)
A Different Shore (Windham Hill Records, 1995)
The White Horse Sessions (Windham Hill Records, 1997)

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Artist Profiles: Na h-Oganaich

Na h-Oganaich

Na h-Oganaich (pronounced “na hawkanich” and means Young Blood) are widely credited with reviving interest in Gaelic music in the 1970s for a younger generation and influencing many musicians who followed in their footsteps, including Capercaillie.

Founding members Margaret and Donnie MacLeod were brought up in Edinburgh and Peterhead (Gaelic was always spoken in their home as their parents came from the Isle of Lewis). Following many musical and Mod successes Margaret won the Gold Medal at the 1970 Mod and the following year she formed Na h-Oganaich with Donnie and friend Noel Eadie. Na h-Oganaich went on to win the folksong competition at the National Mod in 1971 and the Celtavision Song Contest at Pan-Celtic week in Killarney in 1972.

Over the following years they breathed new life into Gaelic music with their three part harmonies accompanied by guitars bodhran and whistles. Their youth and energy combined with the inspiring words of Murdo Macfarlane the Melbost Bard successfully took the Gaelic world by storm. Gradually their appearances onstage and television spread through the Celtic nations Europe Canada and the USA earning them the cult status that they now enjoy.

Na h-Oganaich disbanded in 1976 and went on to enjoy individual success as musicians and broadcasters but their huge fan base from the 1970s haven’t forgotten them.

Discography

The Great Gaelic Sound of Na h-Oganhaich (Beltona Sword SBE 145, 1972)
Gael Force Three (Beltona Sword, 1973)
Scot-Free (Beltona Sword SBE 184, 1975)
Gun Stad (2009)

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Artist Profiles: Mouth Music

Mouth Music (Martin Swan and Talitha MacKenzie) – Photo by Gavin Evans

Through perceptive experimentation and with undeniable confidence, Mouth Music combined the ancient puirt-a-beul vocal tradition of Gaelic Scotland with the powerful rhythms of Africa and cutting edge electronica. Puirt-a-beul is the vocalization of instrumental music.

The Edinburgh-based group’s haunting and sensual compositions seamlessly combined vocals and acoustic instrumentation with synths and samples.

On Mouth’s Music debut album, fiddler Martin Swan and vocalist Talitha MacKenzie developed their distinctive mix of “mouth music.” Swan and MacKenzie based Mouth Music on traditional Gaelic source materials much of which MacKenzie first discovered when she traveled to Edinburgh to study Scottish and Gaelic culture in depth. “There’s something about ancient Gaelic songs that’s different….straight from the heart and very intense,” said MacKenzie.

Jackie Joyce replaced Talitha MacKenzie in 1994.

Mouth Music’s third release, 1995’s Shorelife, which reached #1 on Billboard’s World Music Chart, was powered by the ever-evolving musical vision of founder Martin Swan and the passionate voice of Jackie Joyce.

Although Mouth Music sound delved deeply into sounds with dance floor pleasing beats, Seafaring Man returned the group to a more primal state with passionate vocals. Seafaring Man vocalists included Michaela Rowan and Gaelic singers Ishbel McCaskill and Martin Furey.

Mouth Music disbanded in 2005.

Discography

Mouth Music (Triple Earth/Rykodisc, 1990)
Blue Door Green Sea, EP (1992)
Mo-Di (Triple Earth/Rykodisc, 1993)
Move On, EP (1994)
Shorelife (Triple Earth/Rykodisc,, 1995)
Seafaring Man (Meta 4/Nettwerk, 2001)
The Scrape (Skitteesh, 2003)
The Order of Things (Skitteesh, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Milladoiro

Early lineup of Milladoiro

 

Combining Celtic melodies, medieval music jazz and contemporary music, Milladoiro modernized traditional Galician folk music and started a revival movement among young musicians. They are still its most renowned practitioners drawing huge crowds throughout Europe.

Milladoiro is the Galician name for the heaps of stones built by shepherds. The group was formed in Santiago de Compostela (Spain), the final stop on the historic Saint James pilgrimage route (Camino de Santiago) and today also a thriving college town. The seven group members met at the university bringing with them a variety of musical backgrounds.

Fernando “Nando” Casal, Ramón García Rei “Moncho” and Xosé Ferreiros played together in Faíscas do Xiabre, a traditional music band born on the banks of river Ulla in Catoira. They recorded a beautiful record titled In Memoriam. They played traditional Galician music as wandering minstrels in native costume at fiestas and traditional festivals gathering experience by listening to old ‘gaiteiros’ (bagpipers) and learning from other traditional bands like Os Campaneiros, Os Irmáns Garceiras, Os Areeiras, and Os Rosales.

Rodrigo Romani and Antón Seoane were students of medieval music traveling through Galicia seeking the craftsmen who still built the offspring of instruments from the middle age like the zanfona (hurdy-gurdy), the citola and the freixolé. Those were times of scarcity and enthusiasm was a testimony of a hard reality. As a fruit of their work the record Milladoiro was released in 1978.

Xosé Méndez came from a jazz background and used to spend his time at musical libraries in cathedrals and old archive buildings. He was starting the core of what later would be the Grupo de Cámara da Universidade de Compostela. Milladoiro became six with the incorporation of Xosé A. Méndez. They just had to find a violinist, a nearly impossible task in Galicia in those times but emigration was generous and gave back to the country somebody who had left one day: Laura Quintillán, violinist in Milladoiro in 1979-1980. Later, Michel Canada who played in a pop band joined the band after Laura’s departure and played with Milladoiro until 1991. Antonio Seijo has been Milladoiro’s fiddler since then.

In the year 2000, Rodrigo Romaní left the group. At that time two musicians, harpist Roi Casal and guitar player Manu Conde joined the band.

The 2006 CD Unha estrela por guia is a tribute to poet Manuel Maria. It is Milladoiro’s first fully vocal CD. The songs are based on poems from Maria’s works: “Terra Che”, “Cancions do Lusco ao Fusco”, “As rias do vento ceibe”, “Soneto casa de Hortas”, “Cantigas” and “A Rosalia”. In addition to Milladoiro’s vocals there are several guests: Laura Amado, Leilia, actors Luis Tosar and Mabel Rivera.

The compilation XXV was released in 2005 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the band.

 

Milladoiro in 2013

 

The lineup in 2013 included Xosé V. Ferreirós on gaita (bagpipe), oboe, tin whistle, mandolin, uillean pipes, bouzouki, pandereta; Nando Casal on gaita, clarinet, tin whistle, pandereta; Moncho García on percussion; Xosé A. F. Méndez on flutes; Antón Seoane on accordion, zanfona, acoustic guitar, keyboards; Harry. C on fiddle; and Manú Conde on acoustic guitar and bouzouki.

 

Discography:

Milladoiro (Ruada 1978)
A Galicia de Maeloc (Ruada 1979)
O Berro Seco (Ruada 1980)
Milladoiro 3 (CBS 1982)
Solfafria (CBS 1984)
Galicia no Pais das Maravillas (CBS 1986)
Divinas Palabras ( ION 1987)
Castellum Honesti (Ariola/Green Linnet 1989)
Galicia no Tempo (Discmedi/Green Linnet 1991)
A Via Lactea (Cormoran 1993)
A Xeometria da alma (Cormoran 1993)
Iacobus Magnus (Discmedi 1994)
Gallaecia Fulget (Cormoran 1995)
As Fadas de Estraño Nome (Discmedi 1995)
No Confin dos Verdes Castros (1999)
Auga De Maio (Discmedi 1999)
Cabana de Bergantiños (1999)
O Niño do Sol (2002)
Adobrica Suite (2002)
XXV (2005)
Unha estrela por guia (2006)
A quinta das lagrimas (2008)
Milladoiro en Ortigueira (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Michael McGoldrick

Michael McGoldrick

Inspired by Irish parents and encouraged by the thriving traditional music scene in his home town of Manchester, England, multi-instrumentalist Michael McGoldrick began playing Irish music at the age of 8. By the age of 15 he already had already won numerous All-Ireland Championship and became well-known as a member of influential Manchester-based Celtic rock band Toss the Feathers. He later performed with leading Celtic and folk music acts Capercaillie, Flook, Lunasa and Kate Rusby.

On Fused, McGoldrick teamed up with members of Capercaillie and Flook to create a sound that borrows as much from ambient trance as it does from traditional Irish music. Guests on the record include Karan Casey formerly of Solas and Karen Matheson and Manus Lunny of Capercaillie.

In 2010 he performed at Celtic Connections with the Future Trad Collective along with Ian Fletcher and Andy Dinan. The band released a self-titled album in 2011.

Discography:

Live at the 32 Club with Toss the Feathers (1988)
Rude Awakening with Toss the Feathers (Magnetic Music, 1993)
Columbus Eclipse with Toss the Feathers (Magnetic Music, 1989)
Awakening with Toss the Feathers (1991)
TTF’94 Live with Toss the Feathers (1994)
The Next Round with Toss the Feathers (Magnetic Music, 1995)
Flook! Live! with Flook (Small, 1996)
Morning Rory (Aughgrim Records, 1996)
Lunasa, with Lunasa (1997)
Otherworld with Lunasa (Green Linnet GLCD12 (1999)
Fused (Vertical Records, 2000)
At First Light, with John McSherry (Vertical Records, 2001)
Wired (Vertical Records, 2005)
Aurora (Vertical Records, 2010)
Future Trad Collective (Vertical Records, 2011)
Live, with John McCusker & John Doyle (Vertical Records 2012)

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