Dochas attracted a lot of attention in the Scottish traditional music scene in 2003. The band initially featured five talented young women from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They used fiddle, accordion, pipes, whistles, clarsach, piano and guitar. This was complemented by powerful Gaelic singing.
The band’s self-titled album was released in 2002. The success of the band led them to be nominated as Best Newcomers 2003 at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards.
The final lineup included Kathleen Boyle on piano; Julie Fowlis on vocals, whistles and pipes; Carol-Anne Mackay on bagpipes, accordion and Scottish small pipes; Eilidh Macleod on clarsach; Martin O’Neill on bodhran; and Jenna Reid on fiddle.
Julie Fowlis grew up in North Uist, a small island in the Hebrides, in a Gaelic speaking community, and has been involved in singing, piping and dancing since she was a tot. She is a member of the successful Scottish sextet, Dochas, who were voted winners of Best Newcomer Award at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2004. Having toured extensively, and after releasing two albums, Dochas are widely considered as one of the most exciting and dynamic young bands in Scotland today.
In 2005, Julie released her debut solo album, Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is), which immediately launched her music career into an exciting new direction. She was named Gaelic Singer of the Year at the 2005 Scottish Traditional Music awards and was nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Horizon Award.
Her good nature, natural charm and energy on the stage makes her a popular performer, and this is evident in her busy touring schedule, which included a prestigious Showcase concert at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2005, Julie being the first ever Gaelic artist to perform at a Showcase slot.
Before any of this, Julie was already quietly making a name for herself as soloist. In 2003, she was invited to be part of a special project Gluaiseachd a Chuain Siar which showcased singers such as Maighread and Triona Nic Dhomhnaill, Alyth McCormack, Mary Jane Lamond, Mary Smith and Julie Murphy.
She was also selected as part of the Celtic Connections ‘Master and Apprentice’ series, where she performed with Arthur Cormack. Julie’s reputation as a singer was confirmed when she was named Winner of the prestigious Pan-Celtic Sean-Nos singing competition in 2004, which took place in Tralee, Ireland.
As well as appearing on numerous Gaelic Television Programs such as Tacsi, Failte, An t-Urlar Ur, Air an Urlar, Ceol, Ceilraidh and D? a-nis, Julie has also been involved in numerous musical commissions – three by Mark Sheridan, The Curve of the Earth (performed at Celtic Connections 2002 and the Festival Interceltique de Lorient 2002), The Evangelists, which has been performed three times since 2002 and When They Lay Bare, an Opera Ballad which was performed over three nights in the Tramway Theatre at Celtic Connections 2003.
She was also involved in Maggie’s MacInnes’ Commission, A Woman’s Song in 2004 and in the musical settings of Sunset Song and Cloud Howe by Wendy Wetherby in 2004 and 2005.
Uam (Cadiz Music/Shoeshine Records; March 9, 2010)
Last year Julie Fowlis attracted the attention of Celtic and world music fans alike with her excellent album titled Cuilidh. She’s back now with Uam, an exquisite recording of contemporary Scottish folk music and beyond. Julie Fowlis has one of the finest voices in the current Scottish music scene and she is comfortable singing in a group format and a cappella as well. Fowlis, who also plays whistle and oboe on the album, uses Scottish Gaelic and, to a lesser extent English, to express herself with her impeccable voice.
Most of Fowlis’ material is composed of traditional Scottish, Scottish diaspora and Breton songs with new arrangements by Fowlis and her collaborators. “We spend a lot of time in places like Brittany and Galicia,” explains Julie, “performing at Celtic and world music festivals. We have a real affinity with the people there. They have minority languages there which are struggling. It’s always an honor to go to parts of countries like that, where they have smaller pockets of a cultural identity that are still finding ways to thrive.”
Fowlis’ songs include mesmerizing instrumental work. Indeed, she is accompanied by superb musicians. Her band is formed by Irishman Eamon Doorley on bouzouki & fiddle (Danú), Highland fiddler Duncan Chisholm (Wolfstone), guitarist Tony Byrne and bodhran master Martin O’Neill. On Uam we can also find Celtic music legends such as Phil Cunningham and accordionist Sharon Shannon, renowned bluegrass guitarist Jerry Douglas, Alan McDonald on pipes, Mary Smith on vocals, Ewen Vernal on bass, Eddi Reader on vocals, Tom Doorly on flute and whistles, and Michelle Fowlis on vocals. “We were so lucky to work with loads of musicians in the past, and the lineup was sort of more fluid,” Julie says. “We knew their strengths. You naturally go where they are.”
Uam is a captivating album by one of the leading figures in the current Celtic music scene.