Tag Archives: Scottish music

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
music.

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.

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Artist Profiles: Calasaig


Calasaig – Photo by Alan Wylie


Since the group’s formation in the late 1990s, Calasaig secured an admirable reputation in the world of traditional music through their numerous performances and recordings. Their albums, Until Then, Making For The Shore and Near & Far have brought the band critical acclaim and have ensured their continued inclusion in the top ten of several traditional music album charts in Europe and the US, as well as on radio play lists around the world.

Their 4th album, Merchants’ City, was recorded in Phase One studios in Toronto and at The Foundry in Glasgow. It was released in North America on REL Records in August of 2003 and was released in the UK and Europe by Lazy Mist Records in February of 2004.

The band: Keith Johnston – cittern, guitar, vocals; Celine Donoghue – fiddle, tenor banjo, mandola, vocals; Andy Webster – guitar, bouzouki, vocals; Keith Easdale – Highland pipes, small pipes, mandocello, whistle, flute, mouth organ, vocals; Kirsten Easdale – vocals, viola, bodhran

Discography:

Until Then (Bellcraig Records, 1998)
Making For the Shore (Lazy Mist Records, 2000)
Near & Far (Lazy Mist Records, 2002)
Merchant’s City (Lazy Mist Records, 2003)

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Artist Profiles: Daimh

Dàimh

Dàimh offer a fresh, up to date approach to Scottish traditional music, with a rich sound that moves from driving, fiery reels to slow sets of lyrical beauty.

Based in the West Highlands, with musicians from Cape Breton Island, Ireland, the West Highlands of Scotland and the ever-innovative Irish/American scene, the band effortlessly blends music from their native traditions with a few more tunes picked up en-route, producing a breathtakingly fluid and exciting sound.

Their music is a very high energy, fast-flowing mixture of tunes and songs from the traditions of their countries represented. Fusing together their individual styles on bagpipes, fiddle, banjo, guitar, bodhran and mandola to create a unique and compelling sound, their music knows no boundaries.

Its members are Angus MacKenzie (whistle, highland and border pipes), Gabe McVarish (fiddle), Ellen MacDonald (voice/bagpipes), Murdo Cameron (mandolin/accordion) and Ross Martin (guitar).

Discography:

Moidart to Mabou (2000)
Pirates of Puirt (2004)
Crossing Point ( Greentrax , 2007)
Diversions (2010)
Tuneship (2014)
The Hebridean Sessions (2015)

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Stunning Scottish Rajasthani Synthesis

Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora – Written in Water (Shoogle Records, 2018)

Written in Water is a fascinating collaboration between Scottish music innovators Shooglenifty and acclaimed Rajasthani ensemble Dhun Dhora. It’s a captivating fusion that brings together the Celtic traditions of Scotland and the music of Rajasthan (India). The album was recorded at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and in Craigrothie, Scotland.

Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora had been collaborating for a few years and decided it was time to make an album together. The plan was to record at Mehrangarh Fort in 2016. The fort is one of the wonders of the world. It’s the former palace of the Maharaja of Marwar-Jodhpur that includes one of the most important museums in India.

Sadly, a member of each band passed away so plans were postponed. Shooglenifty’s fiddler Angus R Grant died on October 2016 of cancer. Then in February 2017 the band was informed that Dhun Dhora’s dholak player Roshan Khan had died in a traffic accident.

With assistance from Divya Bhatia of Jodhpur Riff, a music festival held in the Fort each year, Shooglenifty got the permits from the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and HH Maharaja Gaj Singhji to record in the Fort.


Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora – Written in Water

Shooglenifty arrived to India in September 2017 with producer Ben Seal and met with their Indian colleagues Dhun Dhora. Both ensembles contributed melodies and songs. They rehearsed and recorded in the 17th century Chokelao Palace, previously the Maharaja’s guest quarters.

The album pays tribute to the two musicians who died before the recording by featuring performances on two tracks recorded earlier.

The lineup on the album includes:

Shooglenifty: Angus R Grant on fiddle (track 1); Ewan MacPherson on mandolin, tenor banjo, jaw harp; Garry Finlayson on acoustic and electric 5-string banjos, EBow; James Mackintosh on drums, percussion, bass; Kaela Rowan on vocals; Malcolm Crosbie on guitars; Quee MacArthur on bass; and Laura Jane Wilkie on fiddle (tracks 2 – 8).

Dhun Dhora: Chanan Khan Manganiyar on dhol, dumbek; Dayam Khan Manganiyar on vocals, harmonium; Ghafoor Khan Manganiyar on khartal; Latif Khan Manganiyar on bhapang, morchang; Pyaru Khan Manganiyar on dhol; Roshan Khan Manganiyar on vocals (track 3); Sardar Khan Langa on sarangi, vocals; Sattar Khan Manganiyar on dhol; and Swaroop Khan Manganiyar on dhol, dholak.

Written in Water is an innovative and refreshing album where the music of two ancient and distant cultures come together with ease.

Buy the CD from beloud.co/shop/en/shooglenifty or the digital version from amazon.

headline photo: left to right: Swaroop Khan (dhol), Kaela Rowan (vocals), Quee MacArthur (bass), Sattar Khan (dhol), James Mackintosh (drums), Sardar Khan (sarangi), Ewan MacPherson (mandolin), Dayam Khan(vocals), Latif Khan (morchang), Ghafoor Khan (khartal), Channan Khan(dhol), Laura Wilkie (fiddle), Malcolm Crosbie (guitar), Pyaaru Khan (dhol).

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Delightful Scottish Fiddle Inspired by Short Stories

Aidan O’Rourke with Kit Downes – 365: Volume 1 (Reveal Records, 2018)

365: Volume 1 is a truly exquisite double album of instrumental music composed by Scottish fiddler Aidan O’Rourke. He’s joined by Kit Downes on piano and harmonium.

365: Volume 1 was inspired by the short stories of James Robertson, one of Aidan O’Rourke’s favorite Scottish authors. Robertson wrote a short story each day for a year, and every story had exactly 365 words. Aidan O’Rourke decided to do something similar and composed a tune every day for 1 year, each one connected to a story from James’s collection.

Although the plan is to record all 365 tunes, 365: Volume 1 features the first set of highlights. The musicianship is superb. The wonderful music is rooted in Scottish folk music tradition, although Aidan O’Rourke goes beyond, incorporating classical and jazz elements.

The nicely-packaged two CD set includes a booklet with all the stories that inspired the recordings and the date they were composed.

Aidan O’Rourke is the founder and fiddler of acclaimed Scottish band Lau. His other solo albums include Sirius (2006), An Tobar (2008) and Hotline (2013). The Lau albums are Lightweights and Gentlemen (2007), Live (2008), Arc Light (2009), Race the Loser (2012), and The Bell That Never Rang (2015).

365: Volume 1 is an impeccable contemporary Scottish folk music album featuring exceptionally expressive violin performances.

Buy 365: Volume 1

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Artist Profiles: Nuala Kennedy

Nuala Kennedy

Nuala Kennedy grew up in Dundalk, Co. Louth where she was a member of the ceilidh band Ceoltoiri Oga Oghrialla. In 1995 she moved to Scotland where she now lives. She is best known for her work with trio Fine Friday, with whom she has toured extensively and recorded two critically acclaimed CDs, Gone Dancing (March 2002) and Mowing the Machair (Dec 2004).

An accomplished and versatile musician, with a wide repertoire of Scottish traditional and contemporary music, she is much in demand as a session musician and plays with the Celtic big band The Unusual Suspects.

Nuala has tutored flute at the Boxwood Flute School and The Coast String Association in Canada, and on the Traditional Music Degree in Newcastle University. She has worked for Channel 4 ‘ideas factory’, teaches for Feisean Nan Gaidheal and assists teachers using ABC, an innovative new creative music program for primary schools.

In 2006, Nuala toured the U.K. and Ireland with Harem Scarem alongside Bonnie Prince Billy (a.k.a. indie poet Will Oldham) and returned to Cape Breton Island for Celtic Colours International Festival.

Discography:

The New Shoes (Compass, 2007)
Tune In (Compass, 2010)
Enthralled, with Oliver Schroer (Borealis, 2011)
Noble Stranger (Compass, 2012)
Behave the Bravest (Under the Arch, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Celtic Fiddle Festival

an early lineup of Celtic Fiddle Festival

Celtic Fiddle Festival was initially Kevin Burke, Johnny Cunningham, Christian LeMaître, and Soig Siberil, representing Ireland, Scotland and Brittany. Burke, Cunningham and LeMaître were three of the finest fiddlers in the Celtic world, together with Brittany’s hottest guitarist, Soïg Sibéril, as accompanist .

In 1996 a completely new group was formed under the name Celtic Fiddle Festival II. The new group was formed by Martin Hayes (Ireland), Natalie MacMaster (Cape Breton, Canada) and Brian McNeill (Scotland), with guitarists Dennis Cahill and Tony McManus.

The original line-up of Kevin Burke, Johnny Cunningham, and Christian LeMaître came back in the year 2000. The onstage camaraderie of these three attracted and delighted leagues of new fans all over Europe and the USA, from Folk to Classical enthusiasts. Cunningham performed the most incredible feats of digital acrobatics on his fiddle whilst at the same time delighting audiences with his huge sense of fun. Burke’s dryer sense of humor was nevertheless relentless as he feeds the audience a feast of Irish delicacies with his fluid finger work, and Le Maître’s seductive Breton dance tunes, both rhythmic and beautiful were backed delightfully by Sibéril.

After the unexpected passing of founding member Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, in December 2003, fiddlers Kevin Burke (Ireland) and Christian Lemaitre (Brittany) along with guitarist Ged Foley were left with an unimaginable hole to fill in their hearts and in their lineup. The band made the difficult decision to play on, and invited the young French-Canadian fiddler Andre Brunet (of La Bottine Souriante) to join them. “The news of Johnny’s death was heartbreakingly sad and it did not seem possible that the Celtic Fiddle Festival could continue without him,” said founding member Kevin Burke. “Yet once the initial pain and sadness subsided a little, we started to think that Johnny would have been horrified at the idea of us calling it quits! After much soul searching we decided to ask Andre if he would like to join us on the upcoming tour.

On tour, Brunet’s lively Quebecois dance tunes and contagious enthusiasm lifted both tempos and spirits. At the end of a tour in March 2004, the group recorded three shows in Portland, Oregon. The result was a new CD, Play On (Green Linnet GLCD 1230), the fourth album by Celtic Fiddle Festival. It is dedicated to the memory of Johnny.

“Once the tour got under way,” Burke continues. “It became quickly evident that inviting Andre along was an inspired decision. There was great excitement in the music, we enjoyed each others playing immensely and it was evident from the audience response that they too felt they were witnessing something special.

Celtic Fiddle Festival in 2014

Discography:

Celtic Fiddle Festival (Green Linnet, 1993)
Celtic Fiddle Festival: Encore (Green Linnet, 1998)
Rendezvous (Green Linnet, 2001)
Play on (2005)
Équinoxe (2008)
Live in Brittany – 20th Anniversary Concert (2013)
Storm In A Teacup (Loftus Music, 2016)

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Saor Patrol’s Effective Mix of Scottish Music and Heritage

Saor Patrol – Battle of Kings (ARC Music EUCD2788, 2018)

This magnificent new release by Scottish heritage band, Saor Patrol, examines events related to the struggle between Robert the Bruce and Edward II Plantagenet. Creating images of slices of life and history from three decades at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries, the album centers on the Battle of Bannockburn, June 23rd and June 24th, 1314. “Battle of Kings” official release date is June 22nd, doubtless to align with the eve of that amazing, decisive Scots triumph.

Beginning in early 1313, Stirling Castle, held by an English garrison, came under siege by Scottish forces under Edward Bruce, brother of King Robert the Bruce. The English commander agreed in June, 1313 to surrender the castle if a relief force did not reach him by Midsummer Day (June 24th) of 1314. Specifically, an English army would have to be within three miles of the castle within eight days of that date.

This agreement compelled King Edward II of England to invade Scotland, but it also gave King Robert the Bruce of Scotland a predictable year to prepare his own plans and army. He used the time to standardize his soldiers’ equipment to a greater extent than was usual among the Scots of that period, and to drill them to move and fight in “schiltrons,” densely packed formations of foot soldiers relying on long spears. These units were highly effective against cavalry, but as highly vulnerable to archers, who could hardly miss hitting one of so many targets so close together.

Through intentional strategic prodding by Robert’s army and bad decisions on the part of the English commanders, latter were forced into a position where they could not deploy their archers effectively and had to rely on their heavy, armored cavalry, which ran fruitlessly onto Scottish spears until discipline cracked and the routed army fled as a disorganized, panicked mob across the stream (“burn,” “Bannockburn”) that ran on both sides and in back of their position, losing as many or more men to drowning as to actual combat.

Like the battle that made Scottish independence, for a time, a reality, this album follows a year of thought and planning. Saor Patrol members were, relative to their usual ways, on separate sabbaticals before going into the studio to create this new opus. Like Bruce’s schiltrons, it reflects a new level of tightness, discipline and flexibility. Frontmen Charlie “Chick” Allan (bagpipes) and Steve Legget (electric guitar) have achieved something akin to the Keith Richards/Ronnie Wood interplay that Richards famously refers to as “the ancient art of weaving,” a supportive, near-psychic knot that blurs distinctions between rhythm and lead, leaving hearers with effective punch and power.

These dozen songs are all better than good, and each is a vignette clearly evoking a moment or mood from the most focal days of Scottish history. Liner notes include background on the tunes’ themes, making the packaging an important partner piece to the CD contents.

On a larger scale, Saor Patrol itself is a partner piece to the overall project, goal and motive of the band members, which is Scottish heritage awareness through the Clanranald Trust.
After listening to the “Battle of Kings” CD a few times, fans will enjoy hearing it again while online searching “Duncarron,” a reproduction of a medieval Scottish walled town, or “Combat International,” the related medieval and ancient fight reenactment unit, or the school visits by educators from Clanranald Trust or any of the other activities that boil Saor Patrol members’ blood as their music does ours.

One does more than purchase an excellent CD with “Battle of Kings.” One acquires an informative touch of Scottish history and heritage and contributes back to it. And aren’t good Scots supposed to like good bargains?

Buy Battle of Kings

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Artist Profiles: Calum MacCrimmon

Calum MacCrimmon – Photo by Lindsay Addison

Calum MacCrimmon is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist born in Canada. He plays bagpipes, whistles, and bouzouki.

Calum MacCrimmon began learning the bagpipes at the age of 9 under a local piper and family friend in Edmonton, Canada. In 1991 Calum and his family moved over to a small town in the East of Scotland where he furthered his piping in and around many junior competitions with much success in the North and Southeast. Some of Calum’s tutors include Anne Spalding, Lindsay Ellis, Norman Gillies, John D. Burgess and Alan MacDonald of Glenuig.

In 2000 Calum was accepted in the traditional music course at the RSAMD in Glasgow. During his time in Glasgow, Calum has pursued the whistle, guitar, smallpipes, and Gaelic song. He has also taken a great interest in teaching classes in the National Piping Centre, Glasgow over the last two years.

Calum became involved with the Scottish Feisean movement as a tutor of pipes and whistle, he is also a member of the 52nd Lowland Regiment Pipe Band in Glasgow and Hamish Moore’s Na Tri Seudan, based in Edinburgh. Calum assisted the musical production of the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland as a pipe teacher and accompanying musician alongside Paul Warren (director) and Brian McNeil (producer).

He has participated in various bands, including Breabach, Mans Ruin, The Unusual Suspects, Seudan, RTK9000, Knobsquad, and Saxon Pop.

In 2007 Calum MacCrimmon won the Dewar Award.

Discography:

The Big Spree, with Breabach (Vertical Records, 2007)
Man’s Ruin (Box of Chocolates Records, 2009)
The Desperate Battle of the Birds, with Breabach (Breabach Records, 2010)
Big Like This, with The Unusual Suspects (Big Bash Records, 2010)
String Theory, with Mike Vass (2010)
Seudan (Greentrax, 2011)
Bann, with Breabach (Breabach Records, 2012)

Seudan, with Seudan

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Scottish and Global Flavors at Rudolstadt 2017

Various Artists – Rudolstadt Festival 6 – 9 Juli 2017 (Galileo, 2017)

Rudolstadt Festival 6 – 9 Juli 2017 is a beautifully-packaged triple disc set featuring two audio CDs, a DVD and a hard cover book with photos and liner notes in German and English. This album features the artists that appeared in the 2017 edition of Rudolstadt Festival, one of the largest world music festivals in Europe.

Even though the focus in 2017 was the music of Scotland, the festival also brought in a wide range of artists from many other parts of the globe.

The highlights on disc 1 include Argentine composer Gerardo Jerez Le Cam, who combines Argentine folk with Eastern European infleunces; American folk diva Ani DiFranco; the dazzling virtuosity of Kurdish ensemble Nishtiman; mesmerizing choir Riho from the nation of Georgia; young Polish female ensemble Sutari; the spellbinding work of Tuultenpesä featuring two wind ensembles from Finland and Sweden; reggae stars Toots & The Maytals; a trio of virtuoso musicians: Efrén López (Spain), Stelios Petrakis (Greece) and Bijan Petrakis Chemirani (France/Iran); and the electric krar-fueled modern Ethiopian sound of Krar Collective.

The center of attention on disc 2 is Scotland. The highpoints includes Scottish roots band Fred Freeman Group; the cutting edge sounds of Niteworks, who mix Gaelic vocals, Celtic roots and electronica; acclaimed contemporary folk ensemble Breabach; the wonderful western-Indian fusion of Yorkston Thorne Khan featuring hypnotic sarangi; the lovely vocals of Margaret Stewart accompanied by Patsy Seddon on harp; the talented multi-instrumentalists Mairearad & Anna; fiddle master Paul Anderson; and the irresistible electric Ceilidh sound of Sketch.

Overall, Rudolstadt Festival 2017 is a fine sampling of some of the great world music out there and a good way to discover new artists.

Buy the album from shop.rudolstadt-festival.de

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