Tag Archives: fiddle

The Enthralling Intensity of Michael Cleveland’s Fiddle

Michael Cleveland – Tall Fiddler (Compass Records, 2019)

Fiddler Michael Cleveland is one of the essential instrumentalists in the current bluegrass scene. On his album Tall Fiddler, he treats the listener to as tasty mix of well-constructed traditional and contemporary bluegrass, country and what is known as jamgrass (a mix of bluegrass and improvised acoustic music).

Tall Fiddler features an impressive cast of bluegrass musicians, some of the biggest names, including Del McCoury on vocals; Jerry Douglas on dobro; Tim O’Brien on vocals, banjo and mandolin; Bela Fleck on banjo; Sam Bush on vocals, mandolin and slide mandolin; Tommy Emmanuel on lead guitar; and the Travelin’ McCourys.

Michael Cleveland – Tall Fiddler

Cleveland has won the Fiddle Player of the Year bestowed by the International Bluegrass Music Association. This year, he added two more awards at the recently held 30th Annual IBMA Awards. Cleveland won the Fiddle Player of the Year. In addition, Cleveland and his band, Flamekeeper, were named Instrumental Group of the Year.

In 2019, Cleveland’s remarkable career was celebrated with the release of Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story, a documentary on his life.

Buy Tall Fiddler


Artist Profiles: Alex Caton

Alex Caton

Alex Caton grew up in England, Scotland and the East Coast of the United States. She first put a bow in her hands at the age of four and played violin through her college years at Binghamton University. As her interest in Irish and Old Time music grew, she changed her tunes (and her instrument name) and began playing and teaching fiddle on the side. But it wasn’t until she moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area to work on a PhD in Anthropology that she found her true calling.

Alex fell in love with the music scene in Charlottesville and soon cast aside her career as a professional archaeologist (she worked up and down the East Coast of the United States, as well as in West Africa) to focus on fiddle music full-time.

Since 2001, Alex has lived in Gordonsville, Virginia, teaching Irish, Old Time and Gypsy music out of her home and playing with a wide variety of local groups including the Irish band, The Ryegrass Rollers.

Alex Caton

In 2003, Alex founded the all-girl gypsy group Las Gitanas, a precursor to Verbunk, the “groovy gypsy” band she started in 2007. But gypsy music didn’t replace Alex’s love for Old Time and Irish music—it just enhanced what she brought to the other Charlottesville groups she played in: Odd Legged Jenny (Irish-Americana), The Two Dollar Bills (Old Time) and an acoustic roots duo with Chris Leva, lead singer and guitarist for the Guano Boys.

In 2005, Alex started a fiddle camp held one weekend in August at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo, West Virginia. What started as a small group of interested students has grown into a popular gathering for adults and children, beginners and pros, where Alex teaches different fiddle styles and other instructors come to share their expertise in guitar, bass, banjo Irish drum, voice and dance.

Alex’s self-titled CD was released June 7th, 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. Chris Leva plus aclaimed vocalist and guitarist Pat Egan were just a couple of talented musicians who joined Alex on stage.

Alex Caton

From her base in Central Virginia, Alex Caton has a custom-built barn/music studio for classes and concerts, a coop full of chickens and huge garden.


Alex Caton (2007)
The Sinners and the Saved (2009)
Swimming to Lindsey (2013)
Never Take a Daisy Down the Mine (2015)


Artist Profiles: Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss was born July 23, 1971 in Decatur, Illinois, but was raised in Champaign, Illinois. She began studying classical violin at five years old but soon switched to bluegrass. For Alison Krauss, musical collaboration has been a way of life. Her own story has been nothing short of amazing: signed to Rounder Records as a precocious 13-year-old fiddler from Champaign, Illinois, she has become the most recognized face in contemporary bluegrass, a critically acclaimed artist -who has brought modern sophistication to the genre while respecting its traditions.

She has also managed to sell upwards of 8 million records and garner 20 Grammy Awards, the most for any female artist in Grammy history. Yet Krauss has consistently worked to honor her influences, like contemporary bluegrass pioneer Tony Rice, to promote discoveries like the Cox Family, and to offer her skills as producer, most recently to country star Alan Jackson.

Alison Krauss

Krauss is apparently not one for taking time off. While Union Station took a hiatus after the 18-month tour to support the 2004 Alison Krauss and Union Station release Lonely Runs Both Ways, Krauss took full advantage of the down time to explore new musical horizons. Krauss reached that extraordinary 20 Grammy milestone when Lonely Runs Both Ways was named 2005’s Best Country Album. It wasn’t the only award she and her band-mates took home from the 48th Annual Grammys; “Unionhouse Branch” garnered Best Country Instrumental Performance and “Restless” received the Best Country Performance by a Duo/Group Award. She also received several Country Music Association Awards, including Musical Event of the Year for “Whiskey Lullaby” with Brad Paisley, originally released on Paisley’s Mud on the Tires and reprised on A Hundred Miles or More.

She produced Alan Jackson’s 2006 release, Like Red on a Rose, which the Chicago Sun-Times declared “a masterpiece,” taking the best-selling artist out of his familiar surroundings to create a moody, intimate song cycle that has been favorably compared to Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours.

She also produced and recorded five new tracks with long time engineer Gary Paczosa to complete her twelfth release, A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection, gathering on one elegantly understated disc previously released collaborations with such artists and friends as Brad Paisley, John Waite, James Taylor, Natalie MacMaster, and The Chieftains, along with songs she cut for the films Cold Mountain, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and an “inspired by” album for the animated The Prince Of Egypt. She also recorded and produced five new tracks, including a soulful slow-dance tempo of Don Williams’ “Lay Down Beside Me” with Rounder Records label-mate Waite, to create something far more than just a compilation.

With the new tracks (among them the current country single “Simple Love”) she created something far more than just a compilation. Across 16 songs, A Hundred Miles or More gracefully balances the new with the familiar to form a vivid portrait of this adventurous artist. In the same “year off, she began the then-undefined project with Plant and Burnett, recording initially in Nashville, then moving to Los Angeles to complete the project.

Krauss’ musical collaboration, Raising Sand, is a superb album recorded in tandem with rock vocalist and songwriter Plant. Scheduled for release on Rounder on October 23, 2007, ‘ Raising Sand is their first recorded endeavor, and will prove revelatory to fans and the media on two counts: first that it happened at all, and, more importantly, that it is as successful and illuminating as it is.

Under the careful sonic stewardship of producer T Bone Burnett, rising Sand’s pitched three steps beyond some cosmic collision of early urban blues, spacious West Texas country, and the unrealized potential of the folk-rock revolution. Shockingly evocative, it is an album that uncovers popular music’s elemental roots while sounding effortlessly, breath-takingly modern. Despite hailing from distinctly different backgrounds. Plant and Krauss share a maverick spirit and willingness to extend the boundaries of their respective genres.

Raising Sand finds Plant and Krauss functioning as sympathetic equals: creating a powerful new sound from both their common musical ground and their unrivaled sense of empathy.

While finishing touches were being done on Raising Sand, Krauss and her equally celebrated band Union Station were busy fulfilling one of their long-time dreams@a special tour with their friend, mentor and inspiration Tony Rice, performing material from his storied career. Alison and Union Station moved directly from the dates with Tony Rice to a national summer tour in support of A Hundred Miles or More. Billed as “An Evening with Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas,” it showcases material from the new disc, along with fan favorites.

I never had any big dreams about doing something on a huge scale,” Krauss reflects. “But I have dreamt about liking my records. That’s the kind of stuff I dreamt about.”

Alison Krauss and Union Station in 2011

In May 2012, Alison Krauss was granted an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.


Different Strokes (Fiddle Tunes, 1985)
Too Late to Cry (Rounder Records, 1987)
Two Highways (Rounder Records, 1989)
I’ve Got That Old Feeling (Rounder Records, 1990)
Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder Records, 1992)
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, with The Cox Family (Rounder Records, 1994)
So Long So Wrong (Rounder Records, 1997)
Forget About It (Rounder Records, 1999)
New Favorite (Rounder Records, 2001)
Live (Rounder Records, 2002)
Lonely Runs Both Ways (Rounder Records, 2004)
Raising Sand, with Robert Plant (Rounder Records, 2007)
Paper Airplane (Rounder Records, 2011)
Windy City (Capitol Records, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Gregor Borland

Gregor Borland

Gregor Borland has had the good fortune of being the only current performing fiddler to have been taught by both Hector MacAndrew of Cults, (whose grandfather was a pupil of James MacIntosh of Dunkeld, the last pupil of the famous Neil Gow) and Donald Riddell of Clunes, who was the leader of the Highland Strathspey and Reel Society, also a prolific teacher in the Inverness area. Both these fiddlers are now legendary in Scottish traditional fiddle

Gregor has also had much success in competitions, winning the Daily record Junior Golden Fiddle Award in 1978 and then going on to win as many as eight Scottish Championships throughout Scotland over the next five years, including the “Henry Williams Trophy” at the Scottish Championship Contest, held in Inverness.

He has recorded and toured with many bands and artistes, including the Kathryn Tickell Band, Burach, Caledon, (With Davie Steele) and also Jim Malcolm to name but a few.

Gregor currently is living in Spain with his family where he has started a Traditional Scottish Fiddle School, in the beautiful town of Biar, north of Alicante. He is also a fully qualified piano tuner. Gregor has also recently started making fiddles, he now faithfully plays one of them on tour.

The CD Bowstroke demonstrates Gregor’s versatility. He is a traditional fiddler, but also has a contemporary side, as he has played with some of the best British folk groups, Kathryn Tickell Band and Burach to name a couple and this contemporary element comes out on the new cd. He is accompanied by Julian Sutton on melodeon & Ian Stevenson on guitar and harmonium.

For the traditional portion, Greg has three pianists, James Gray, Morag MacAskill, and last but not least Bob Turner. They all add a different flavor with their wonderful playing and it all adds up to a very enjoyable mix of old and new.


Artist Profiles: Seán Keane

Seán Keane

One of the early members of The Chieftains, master fiddler Seán Keane joined in 1968, making his band debut at the open-air Edinburgh Festival. His first recording experience with the band was The Chieftains 2 (1969).

Keane was born in Dublin in 1946 into a musical family. Both of his parents were fiddlers, but he chose to start out on the pipes. Keane began exploring the fiddle when he was five years old and was sent to a violin teacher a year later. He entered the Dublin College of Music to study classical music. However, by the time he was in the seventh grade, he abandoned his classical studies and began playing traditional music in pubs and at house parties.

At the age of 14, he was in several performing bands, and by 16, he had quit school. A year later Keane entered a fiddle competition and came to the attention of Seán Ó Riada, who invited him to join the Irish band Ceoltóirí Cualann. This not only got him accepted into the Dublin music scene, but also got him acquainted with Paddy Moloney who was a member of the band at the time.


The Chieftains 2 (Claddagh Records CC 07, 1969)
The Chieftains 3 (Claddagh Records CC 10, 1971)
The Chieftains 4 (Claddagh Records CC 14, 1973)
The Chieftains 5 (Claddagh Records CC 16, 1975)
The Chieftains 6: Bonaparte’s Retreat (Claddagh Records, 1976)
The Chieftains 7 (Claddagh Records CC 24, 1977)
The Chieftains Live! (Claddagh Records CC 21, 1977)
The Chieftains 8 (CBS 35726, 1978)
The Chieftains 9: Boil the Breakfast Early (Claddagh Records CC 30, 1979)
The Chieftains 10: Cotton-Eyed Joe (Claddagh Records CC 33, 1981)
The Year of the French (Claddagh Records CC36, 1982)
The Grey Fox (1982) (soundtrack to The Grey Fox)
Concert Orchestra (1982)
The Chieftains in China (Claddagh Records CC 42, 1985)
Ballad of the Irish Horse (Claddagh Records CCF, 1986)
Celtic Wedding (RCA 6358, 1987)
In Ireland, with James Galway (1987)
Irish Heartbeat, with Van Morrison (Polydor 834496, 1988)
The Tailor Of Gloucester (WD-0710, 1988)
A Chieftains Celebration (RCA 7858, 1989)
Over the Sea To Skye: The Celtic Connection (1990) (with James Galway)
The Bells of Dublin (RCA 60824, 1991)
Another Country (RCA 60939, 1992)
An Irish Evening (RCA 60916, 1992)
The Celtic Harp: A Tribute To Edward Bunting, with The Belfast Harp Orchestra (RCA 61490, 1993)
The Long Black Veil (RCA Victor 09026-62702-2, 1995)
Film Cuts (RCA Victor 09026-68438-2, 1996)
Santiago (RCA Victor 09026-68602-2, 1996)
Long Journey Home (1998)
Fire in the Kitchen (1998)
Silent Night: A Christmas in Rome (1998)
Tears of Stone (1999)
Water From the Well (2000)
The Wide World Over (2002)
Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions (2002)
Further Down the Old Plank Road (Arista/BMG, 2003)
Live From Dublin: A Tribute To Derek Bell (2005)
The Essential Chieftains (2006)
San Patricio, with Ry Cooder (2010)
Voice of Ages (2012)


Artist Profiles: Martin Hayes

Martin Hayes

Born in Ireland, Martin Hayes plays in the slow, lyrical style of his native East County Clare. He grew up playing traditional music with his father, P.J. Hayes, leader of the famed Tulla Ceili Band. The younger fiddler has a great reverence for the old players, “whose music contains the longing and essence that moves you at the level of your soul.” Martin brings the same intensity to his own playing, rendering it unique with passion and intimacy.

Martin frequently performs with guitarist Dennis Cahill, whom he met in Chicago when he first moved to the United States in the 1980s. They formed a jazz/rock/fusion band called Midnight Court, in which they experimented with a variety of new music styles. Eventually, though, they both turned back to their traditional roots, and after recording two acclaimed solo albums, Hayes began a new musical relationship with Cahill. In 1997 they released The Lonesome Touch (Green Linnet).

Our allegiance is to the spirit of the moment,” says Hayes, “Our primary wish is that the musical experience be one that lifts our spirits and those of the audience.”

Martin Hayes has recorded several albums with Dennis Cahill and founded the Celtic music supergroup The Gloaming.

In 2019, Hayes released The Butterfly , a collaboration with American chamber music ensemble Brooklyn Rider.


Martin Hayes (Green Linnet, 1992)
Under the Moon (Green Linnet, 1995)
The Lonesome Touch, with Dennis Cahill (Green Linnet, 1997)
Live in Seattle, with Dennis Cahill (Green Linnet, 1999)
Welcome Here Again, with Dennis Cahill (Green Linnet, 2008)
The Blue Room (2017)
The Butterfly, with Brooklyn Rider (In a Circle Records, 2019)

With The Gloaming:

The Gloaming (Real World Records, 2014)
2 (Real World Records, 2016)
Live at the NCH (Real World Records, 2018)


Artist Profiles: Gerry “fiddle” O’Connor

Gerry “fiddle” O’Connor

Gerry was a founding member of highly regarded 4-member group Skylark, and with them recorded four albums for the Claddagh Records label. He then went on to form his own very distinctive band La Lugh, which featured the acclaimed singer/composer Eithne Nf Uallachain. La Lugh have toured extensively throughout Europe and collaborated with Anuna and Cooney and Begley at the major Breton Festival de Cornuaille, Quimper. They have recorded four albums.

Independently, Gerry has participated in projects with such prominent musicians as Donal Lunny, Breton guitarist Gilles ie Bigot, Irish flute /alto sax player Gerry O’Donnell and Italian pianist Antonio Breschi as well as a number of solo performances. The “West Wind” project, involving twelve prominent Breton and Irish musicians was one of the creative highlights of L’lmaginaire lrlandais in France in ’96. in July.

In addition to being a fiddle player of considerable ability with a bow hand admired by many, Gerry is also a trained violin maker and an experienced and enthusiastic fiddle teacher who has given master classes to students of Traditional Music in over 16 countries on three Continents. With Desi Wilkinson he has developed an entertaining and informative schools Concert / Lesson program “About Traditional Music”, based around the fiddle and flute, and he is presently designing a course to facilitate the introduction of Traditional music by second level music teachers to their music students.


Journeyman (Lughnasa Music, 2002)
In Concert, with Gilles le Bigot (Lughnasa Music, 2005)
White Raven: The Place where Life Began (2006)
Jig Away the Donkey (Lughnasa Music, 2011)
Merry Merry Time of Year, 2011 (The Irish Rovers, 2011)
Oirialla (Lughnasa Music, 2011)
Merry Merry Time of Year (The Irish Rovers, 2011)
Companach (2018)

With Lá Lugh:

Cosa gan Bhróga (Gael Linn, 1987)
Lá Lugh (Claddagh Records, 1991)
Brighid’s Kiss (Lughnasa Music, 1996)
Senex Puer (Sony Music, 1998)
Bilingua (Gael Linn, 2014)

With Skylark:

Skylark (Claddagh Records, 1987)
All of It (Claddagh Records, 1989)
Light and Shade (Claddagh Records, 1992)
Raining Bicycles (Claddagh Records, 1996)


Artist Profiles: James Kelly

James Kelly

A native of Dublin, James is one of the greatest Irish traditional fiddlers alive today. He received the 2006 TG4 Irish Traditional Musician of the Year award in recognition of his outstanding musicianship and contributions to Irish music.

James has an extraordinary discography, including his recently released solo album, Melodic Journeys.

Now living in Miami, James continues to tour and record with some of Irish music’s leading accompanists.


John & James Kelly (Tara Records)
Crooked Road (Gael-Linn)
Star Of Munster (Gael-Linn)
Is It Yourself (Bowhand)
Spring In The Air (Shanachie)
Words And Music (Warner Bros)
Sail Og Rua (Gael-Linn)
Up The Airy Mountain (Green Linnet)
In Our Time (Bunnan Bui)
Capel Street (Bowhand)
Irish Times (Green Linnet)
My Love Is In America (Green Linnet)
The Ring Sessions (Claddagh Records)
James Kelly (Capelhouse Records)
Melodic Journeys



Artist Profiles: John Daly

John Daly

Born in Burnfort, near Mallow in Co. Cork in 1963, John Daly first learned the fiddle at age 12 from Limerick music teacher, Sean O’ Carroll.

He was introduced to Kerry fiddle player Johnny Cronin by his father in the 80’s, and around the same time became interested in the playing of Andy McGann from New York and Longford man Paddy Reynolds who has spent over 50 years in New York.

The early Sean McGuire recordings grabbed John’s interest too, and Leitrim’s Charlie Lennon and Chicagoan Liz Carroll are currently among John’s favorite composers in the Irish style.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s John became aware of Shetland fiddle master, Willie Hunter, who soon became his strongest influence in the playing of Scottish and Shetland slow airs.

John has played concerts and conducted workshops in Iceland, Scotland and the Shetland Islands, the UK, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. He now lives in Chicago where he runs the ‘Live Tradition’ concert series which has featured Tommy Peoples, Liz Carroll, Jimmy Keane, Kieran O’Hare, Brian Conway, Liz Knowles, the Baltimore Trio of Sean McComiskey, Cleek Schrey and Matt Mulqueen as well as many others.

John’s first album, simply titled, John Daly, features old, tried and tested tunes from many years ago sitting comfortably among John’s own compositions, and features the harmonies of Liz Knowles on viola and violin, and no fewer than five different piano players. John Shine, Marty Fahey and Cleek Schrey from Chicago, Kevin Brehony from Sligo and Davie Keith from the Shetland Islands all lend their own distinctive supporting piano styles. ‘This album is an hour’s joy and harmony in a topsy-turvy world‘, said Tommy Peoples.


Irish Traditional Fiddle (Celtic Grooves)


Artist Profiles: Kevin Crehan

Kevin Crehan

Although Junior Crehan’s original tunes are played by many in sessions around the world, Kevin Crehan is his only direct descendant to be playing the fiddle. Kevin has recorded a number of his grandfather’s tunes and presents them in a very special performance that honors Junior and his contemporaries who kept traditional music alive in Ireland through trying times.

Kevin is the seventh generation of musician in his family. Born in Ireland, he was raised in Co. Wexford listening to the music of his father, the Clare concertina player, Tony Crehan. Through his father and his grandparents. Junior and Cissie Crehan, he had access to the rich hinterland of traditional Irish culture in West Clare.

He had been studying and learning traditional Irish music since the age of 7, but now has dedicated his efforts to the West Clare fiddle style and recording and cataloguing many of the aspects of rural life which contributed to the culture and shaped the music.

Kevin is an award winning fiddle player, and has performed in festivals and concerts throughout Ireland and The United States. Some have described him as a modern day Seanchaf (storyteller), rich in the folklore, history and music of a bygone era that was alive with imagination and creativity. Today that era still incites our imaginations through Kevin Crehan as he remembers and shares the magic of Ireland with his music, story and song.


An Bhábóg sa Bhádóg – Music from West Clare