Tag Archives: Scottish music

Artist Profiles: Alasdair Fraser

Alasdair Fraser at the Carrboro ArtsCenter – Photo by Angel Romero

Alasdair Fraser was born on may 14 May, 1955 in Clackmannan, Scotland. He is widely acclaimed as a top performer, recording artist and teacher of the rich fiddling tradition of his native Scotland.

His vast repertoire spans several centuries of Scottish music and also includes his own compositions, blending a profound understanding of the Scottish tradition. Fraser is justly renowned for his ability to communicate with his audience through his personal warmth and wit as well as through music. His richly expressive playing transports listeners across a broad spectrum ranging from haunting laments drawn from the Gaelic tradition to classically-styled airs and raucous dance tunes.

In addition to releasing critically acclaimed solo albums, Alasdair’s compositions and performances have also been included on top selling Celtic and New Age compilation albums (Celtic Twilight on the Hearts of Space label, and Wilderness Collection and Celtic Odyssey on Narada). His solo violin can be heard on the soundtracks of several major films, including The Last of the Mohicans and Titanic.

Alasdair Fraser with Skyedance Band

In May 1996, Alasdair’s album Dawn Dance received the prestigious NAIRD (now AFIM) Indie Award for best Celtic album of the Year. This is the first album by Alasdair to feature entirely his own compositions. The music brings together the best of Scottish, Baroque, Rock and Medieval/Ancient ideas and features some of the best musicians in these respective fields. Shortly after the release of Dawn Dance, Alasdair and the other musicians decided to name their band Skyedance.

Fraser has founded five summer fiddling programs in the USA, Spain and Australia.

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas at the Carrboro ArtsCenter – Photo by Angel Romero

In recent years, he has been touring and recording with American cellist Natalie Haas.

Fraser lives in northern California, in the United States.

Discography

Portrait of a Scottish Fiddler (Brownrigg Productions, 1982)
Skyedance, with Paul Machlis (Culburnie Records, 1985)
The Road North, with Paul Machlis (Sona Gaia/Narada, 1987)
The Driven Bow, with Jody Stecher (1989)
Dawn Dance (Culburnie Records, 1996)
Way Out to Hope Street, with Skyedance Band (1997)
Return to Kintail, with Tony McManus (Culburnie Records, 1999)
Labyrinth, with Skyedance Band (2000)
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol 1, with Paul Machlis (Piano) and Natalie Haas (Cello) – released 2002
Live in Spain, with Skyedance Band – released 2002
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol 2, with Muriel Johnstone and Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2004)
Fire and Grace, with Natalie Haas (Greentrax Records, 2004)
In the Moment, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2007)
Highlander’s Farewell, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2011)
Abundance, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2014)
Ports of Call, with Natalie Haas ( Culburnie Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Aly Bain

Aly Bain

Aly Bain was born on May 15 1946 in Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland. Lerwick is a small, enchanting town on the Shetland Islands. Aly began learning fiddle at the age of eleven. Tom Anderson, his teacher, is acknowledged as one of the true masters of Shetland music. Aly developed a highly dramatic style of playing, matching his great tone and technical ability with genuine emotion. Alert to the musical potential of the dynamic interaction between Irish and Scottish traditions, he helped establish the Boys of the Lough. The group is now recognized as one of the best in the tradition.

Simultaneously, Aly pursued his solo career. Since 1986, he has been working with Pelicula Films on various television series dealing with folk music. The first series, “Down Home,” traces fiddle music from its roots in Scotland across the Atlantic to the United States and Canada. The second, entitled “The Transatlantic Sessions” (1995), featured many prominent artists, such as Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, Kathy Mattea, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Donal Lunny, Dick Gaughan, and Phil Cunningham.

Aly Bain (left) &Phil Cunningham (right)

Aly Bain and accordionist Phil Cunningham are two of the most celebrated musicians 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.

In 1993, his autobiography, Fiddler on the Loose, was published, co-written by journalist and editor Alasdair Clark. He continues to tour extensively with the Boys of the Lough in addition to his collaborations with Phil and many other musicians.

Aly Bain also tours with Swedish multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller and with American fiddler, singer, guitarist and banjo player Bruce Molsky.

Discography:

Aly Bain ( Whirlie Records, 1984)
Aly Bain & Friends (Greentrax Records, 1989)
Lonely Bird (Green Linnet, 1992)
The Best of Aly Bain:Volume One:A Fiddler’s Tale (2008)

With Phil Cunningham:

The Pearl (Green Linnet, 1995)
The Ruby (Whirlie Records, 1997)
Another Gem (Whirlie Records, 2000)
Spring the Summer Long (Whirlie Records, 2003)
Best of Aly and Phil, Volume One (2004)
Roads Not Travelled (Whirlie Records, 2006)
Portrait (2010)
Five and Twenty (Whirlie Records, 2012)
Best of Aly and Phil, Volume Two (2013)

With Ale Möller

Fully Rigged (Whirlie Records/Northside, 1999)
Beyond the Stacks (Whirlie Records/Northside, 2007)
Meeting Point, with Ale Möller and Bruce Molsky (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Anna Wendy Stevenson

Anna Wendy Stevenson

Raised in Edinburgh, and surrounded by music from a family steeped in the arts, violinist, composer and producer Anna Wendy Stevenson has made her name as a highly respected performer and teacher of traditional fiddle. She studied music with her grandfather, composer Ronald Stevenson, and won a scholarship to study in the USA when she was only 19.

A founding member of highly successful trio Fine Friday, Anna Wendy has recorded and toured extensively throughout Europe, Canada and Australia performing at many of the top festivals (The National Festival, Celtic Colours International Festival, Celtic Connections, Port Fairy). She is also a member of all female quartet Calluna and was a member of globe trotting band Anam. Anna-Wendy also performed with the Bella MacNab Dance Band, the ceilidh band of choice for the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Revels at the Assembly Rooms.

A holder of the London College of Music LLCM, ALCM (diplomas in teaching and performance) and renowned for her innovative approach to teaching, Anna-Wendy is a principle teacher at Lochgoilhead Fiddle Workshop and is involved with the Feis and other teaching organizations. Her excellent communication skills have led to extensive work with Yehudi Menuhin’s Live Music Now Organization bringing music to people with special needs.

Anna-Wendy released the CD Gowd and Silver with her grandfather Ronald Stevenson featuring a selection of Ronald’s arrangements of Scottish melodies as well as some of his original compositions.

Discography:

Dance Tunes, Airs and Songs from Scotland, with Calluna (Scottish Mill Records, 2000)
Gone Dancing, with Fine Friday (Foot Stompin’ Records, 2002)
Mowing the Machair, Fine Friday (Foot Stompin’ Records, 2005)
Gowd & Silver (Eclectic Records, 2005)
Anna-Wendy Stevenson (2006)
My Edinburgh (Anna-Wendy Music, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Annie Grace

Annie Grace

Annie Grace grew up in the Scottish Highlands. Music played a large part in her formative years, and she began learning to play the bagpipes at the tender age of ten. Music festivals and close harmonies with her four siblings gave her a solid grounding in singing and her wasted youth was spent marching up and down Fort William High Street with the Lochaber Junior Pipe band.

During her four years at Glasgow School of Art, she performed with The Gunsmoke Trio and Pedro, and The Mighty Peelly Wally Ceilidh Band before being invited to join a new band subsequently named Iron Horse. Iron Horse became one of the acclaimed new wave folk bands of the nineties. The group was in huge demand. Constantly touring and recording, they visited all corners of the world and headlined at major festivals. Annie?s voice became a feature of the band, as well as her ability to entertain audiences with her stories and infectious humor.

Musical projects with Iron Horse included the award-winning Voice of the Land (1995) commissioned by the BBC, Stri (1997) a collaborative fusion piece with the RSNO and tours with British Council projects in Central Asia. In 2002, Iron Horse collaborated with Sogdiana, the national orchestra of Uzbekistan, touring parts of the country, and producing a CD of the project.

Annie started to expand her musical horizons by guesting on other albums with backing vocals or instrumentation. In 1998, she found herself surrounded by thirteen world music divas in the fantastic Female Factory show. Based in Amsterdam, this show toured Russia, Spain and Holland with a ten-piece band. Other projects included Scottish Women (2001-2002), commissioned by Celtic Connections. Annie is also a member of the Scottish big band The Unusual Suspects, who were formed at Celtic Connections 2003.

In February 2004, Annie released her debut solo album Take Me Out Drinking Tonight to an overwhelming response, including a 5 star review in the Sunday Herald. The album, a sparkling collection of contemporary and traditional material, shows Annie at her mature and confident best, living up to her reputation as a superb singer and exponent of the whistle.

Discography:

Take Me Out Drinking Tonight ‎(Greentrax Records, 2004)
The Accidental Death of An Accordionist, with The Tour-a-Rural Ceilidh Band (2008)
The Bell (Gracie Records, 2011)

With The Iron Horse:

The Iron Horse (Lochshore, 1992)
Thro’ Water, Earth and Stone (Lochshore, 1993)
Five Hands High (Lochshore, 1994)
Voice Of the Land (Lochshore, 1995)
Demons and Lovers (Lochshore, 1997)
The Wind Shall Blow For Ever More (Lochshore, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Arthur Cormack

Arthur_Cormack – Photo by Cailean Maclean

Arthur Cormack was born in 1965. He is one of the finest Gaelic singers of his generation. Since winning the Mod Gold Medal in 1992, he has sung world-wide with fellow Skye musician and former Cliar member Blair Douglas and with the highly-acclaimed MacTalla.

He runs the Macmeanmna record label and is known as the busiest man in Skye, also running the youth tuition festivals organization, Feisean nan Gaidheal and The Aros Experience, a tourist center, theater and restaurant in Portree. He has also made two CDs with Cliar in addition to his own releases Ruith Na Gaoith and Nuair Bha Mi Og.

Discography:

Nuair a Bha mi Òg (Temple Records, 1984)
Ruith na Gaoithe (1989)
Seinn O Ho Ro Seinn!, with Fiona Mackenzie ‎(Mairi Mhòr, 2003)
Buanas (Macmeanmna, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Back of the Moon

Back of the Moon

Back of the Moon was Scottish group that formed in 2000. Back of the Moon rapidly gained a reputation for their dynamic live performances. Gillian Frame, Ali Hutton, Findlay Napier and Hamish Napier made up the band.

The giant acoustic sound came from their tightly woven frontline of Scottish pipes and fiddle, the intimate pairing of low whistle and flute, the distinctive rhythmic force of their guitar and piano rhythm combo, and the three-part vocal harmonies in their Scottish songs – in which each unique singer took the lead.

Back of the Moon released three albums, and were named Best Folk Band at the 2005 Scottish Trad Music Awards.

Discography:

Gillian Frame and Back of the Moon (2001)
Fortune’s Road (Foot Stompin’ Records, 2003)
Luminosity (Foot Stompin’ Records, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Alyth McCormack

Alyth McCormack

Alyth is one of today’s most exciting new talents in the world of Gaelic song. Born in 1970 and raised on the Isle of Lewis (Outer Hebrides, Scotland), Alyth was immersed in the music, poetry and drama of her native Scottish Western Isles from a very early age.

Although aware of the long tradition in all things Gaelic, McCormack understands that within the tradition there is and must be a constant transition for the Gaelic language, culture and heritage to survive. With this in mind, she recorded her debut album An Iomall (The Edge). “This recording began a long time ago in my mind. I come from the Island of Lewis and loved being raised there. Lewis is exposed and weather torn and this is evident in its culture, but it is also beautiful and compelling. In this album I wanted to express these extremes which are also inherent in Gaelic song and Gaelic culture. The songs stand alone, so to work with them I chose a careful approach. Changing musical styles from arrangements but don’t always remain true to the spirit or beauty of the original. I have listened to the stories of these songs, and with these musicians, have interpreted them. The response is honest: the songs remain timeless.”

In 2009, Alyth released her second solo album, People Like Me that included members of the Scottish band Lau.

Discography:

An Iomall – The Edge (Vertical Records, 2000)
People Like Me (Navigator Records, 2009)
Red & Gold, with Triona Marshall ‎(ANE Records, 2011)
Homelands ‎(ANE, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Anna Murray

Anna Murray

Anna Mhoireach (Anna Murray) is from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. She is an exceptionally talented piper and arranger. She plays lively Scottish folk tunes played on the Highland pipes and the beautiful Scottish small pipes, accompanied by modern instruments.

Anna learned from a young age to sing in her native language of Gaelic and started to play the Highland pipes at ten.

The release of her third recording Tri Nithean (Three Things) coincided with her performance at Celtic Connections 2000 in Glasgow.

Discography:

Out Of The Blue (Lochshore, 1994)
Into Indigo ‎(KRL, 1996)
Tri Nithean: Three Things ‎(Lochshore, 1999)

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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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