Tag Archives: Scottish music

Artist Profiles: James Grant

James Grant

James Grant’s career began in the early 1980ss when he formed Friends Again with Chris Thompson (The Bathers). Although short-lived their influence was huge helping to define the emerging sound of the Scottish bands that followed them.

It was in Love and Money that James found more widespread recognition; four albums several hit singles a world-wide following and silver discs in the UK helped seal his reputation as one of the best songwriters in the country.

In 1996 he contributed four songs to the solo album of Capercaillie vocalist Karen Matheson, The Dreaming Sea, including the title track The Dreaming Sea. This in turn led to him working with musician and producer Donald Shaw the result being James’ stunning debut album Sawdust in My Veins followed by the equally acclaimed follow-up My Thrawn Glory.

In October 2004 James released Holy Love on Vertical Records featuring Karen Matheson, Monica Queen and Jerry Douglas.


Artist Profiles: James Graham

When James Graham won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year award in 2004 James was not only the first Gaelic singer to win, he was also the first male winner. James who also plays the pipes grew up in a household where music was an essential part of family life. Although his mother an accordionist is the only other family member who plays an instrument James’s father and sister are good singers and were always singing around the house and at weekends, friends and family members regularly gathered for ceilidhs.

James began singing Gaelic at competition level at the age of ten and quickly became a prize-winner at both local and national Mods the Gaelic music and poetry festivals. By the time James moved on to Ullapool High School he was playing the bagpipes under the tutelage of Norman Gillies. He continued piping as a subsidiary study when he went to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in 1999 with singing as his principal study.

Coached and encouraged by his tutor at the RSAMD the well-known singer and immensely knowledgeable Gaelic scholar Kenna Campbell James became increasingly passionate about singing and he credits Kenna Campbell with giving him the confidence to enter the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition.

While studying at the RSAMD where he gained his BA (Hons) in Scottish Music James researched the songs of his home area Assynt for his dissertation talking to the few remaining native Gaelic speakers and collecting songs from them. He feels emotionally tied to these songs and is dedicated to keeping them alive. He is also passionate about singing pibroch which he learned from the brilliant piper and folklorist Allan MacDonald.



Greisean Greine [Sunny Spells] (2007)


Artist Profiles: Jack Beck

Jack lives in Fife Scotland. He became interested in Scots-dialect songs and ballads during the 196s folk-song revival and helped found The Dunfermline Howff. Throughout the sixties he played with such artists as Archie Fisher, John Watt, The McAlmans, The Corries and The Incredible String Band among others.

Jack co-founded the acclaimed folk band Heritage which made four recordings numerous TV and radio broadcasts and frequent European tours.

Since 1989 he has toured regularly in the United States and presented a monthly radio program broadcast in Scotland and the USA.

In 1990 Jack became an honorary life member of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland and since then he has worked solo with Heritage colleague George Haig and with songwriter John Watt at clubs and festivals.

He is currently helping to develop a new national qualification for Scottish traditional music tutors. His venture is A Stranger in this Country an ‘infotainment’ examining similar Scots and American ballads that he has performed across Scotland and the United States. Jack continues to record and perform both solo and with his wife Wendy Welch providing music for her storytelling performances.


O Lassie Lassie (1989)

Half Ower Half Ower tae Aberdour (Tradition Bearers, 2001)


Artist Profiles: Ishbel MacAskill

Ishbel MacAskill came from the Point area of the Island of Lewis. She was brought up with the rich heritage of century’s old Gaelic music and song which still survives in Point and indeed all over the island of Lewis. Her music and culture were immensely important in her life and for several years she was very much involved in teaching traditional Gaelic singing to children at the numerous Feisean (festivals of music and song) throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

She fervently believed this approach to be a positive contribution to the revival of the language. She was deeply motivated by the rich beauty of her heritage of Gaelic music and poetry. She was especially moved by the intensely emotive quality of the poetry and through her unique delivery manages to convey to her audiences a feeling of involvement in the colorful history and culture of the Gael. Her particular style of unaccompanied traditional singing her numerous radio and television performances and countless world-wide live appearances established her position as one the best known Gaelic singers of generation. Regular appearances in her leading acting role in the Gaelic television drama Machair has also made her familiar to Scottish television viewers.

Her singing took her to venues throughout the U.K. Ireland Europe The Far East and North America. Her recordings were always in demand at home and abroad and significantly sell to people who have never before heard the Gaelic language. Whether her audience was Gaelic speaking or not her English introductions to these centuries’ old songs of love, war, sea and landscape exile and life itself made each one a memorable experience.

She died in 2011.


Essentially Ishbel (2000)



Artist profiles: Ian Melrose

Ian Melrose

Ian Melrose was born in Middlesbrough, England. As a youth he moved back to Ayr in Scotland with his Scottish parents and younger brother Ian’s father was/is a member of the Scottish fiddle orchestra so traditional music was always present. His early influences were the famous figures from the “British school of guitar-playing” i.e. Davey Graham, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, and John Martyn.

After doing a degree in Law and German at Keele University he moved to Berlin in 1981 where he started doing solo work. In 1982 he founded Twilight, an acoustic folk-jazz trio which thanks to the unusual arrangements was winner of the 1985 folk group competition at the Edinburgh folk festival. A record deal with the Scottish company LISMOR followed.

As a founder member of the German folk-pop band Be Mine Or Run and as guitarist and arranger with the Celtic project Norland Wind (featuring Thomas Loefke and Kerstin Blodig) he has made a name for himself on the German acoustic scene. He has done extensive tours of Germany Holland and Norway and has done studio jobs for many well-known artists. A tour through Germany in 1996 with Norland Wind brought the contact to Noel & Padraig Duggan of Clannad, who in turn suggested Ian for the job of lead guitarist with Clannad for the May tour of Ireland, Great Britain and Holland. They were obviously pleased with him and offered him the rest of the “World Tour ’96” which included Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

You can hear Ian playing on the Clannad album Landmarks. In his solo concerts Ian plays pieces from his critically acclaimed album Wolves and from his album Between the Sighs. His guitar compositions show a strong leaning towards his “Celtic roots” where elements of Irish & Scottish dance tunes and ballads mix easily with South-American rhythms and jazz harmonies.



Artist profiles: Iain Mackay

Iain Mackay is a popular singer throughout the Scottish Highlands and Islands and beyond and is heard and seen regularly on radio and television.

He won the Gold Medal for traditional singing at the National Mod in Inverness in 1972 and was the winner of the Seann Nos at the Pan-Celtic Festival in Killarney a few years later. Before that he recorded for Gaelfonn and his LP on the Lismor label although now deleted is still carefully hoarded by folksong collectors.


Creag An Fhraoich (Skye Records)
Seoladh (Skye Records)


Artist Profiles: Gordon Duncan

Gordon Duncan

Gordon Duncan began piping at the age of 8. Taught by his father, he was a prolific Junior Winner at various competitions and stopped competing by the age of 17. He was one of Scotland’s most innovative, skillful and exciting pipers. For two years he was a MacCallan winner at the prestigious Celtic festival in Lorient, France.

He was featured as a member of many bands includingCeolbeg Wolfstone Tannahill Weavers, and Dougie Maclean Band. He has also been a member of The Vale of Atholl Pipe Band, Scottish Power Pipe Band, and most recently Drambuie Kirkliston pipe band.

Duncan composed many pipe band tunes, which have been recorded by many folk and pipe bands across the world.

Gordon Duncan died in December of 2005. He was 41.


Just for Seamus (Greentrax, 1994)

Circular Breath (Greentrax, 1997)

The Piping Centre 1996 Recital Series, Vol. 4 (Temple Records, 1998)

Thunderstruck (Greentrax, 2003)


Artist Profiles: Giveway


Formed in 1998, Giveway is made up of four musically skilled sisters: Fiona Johnson, a fiddle player, vocalist, guitarist, pianist and whistle player; Kirsty Johnson, a pianist, accordion player and singer; Amy Johnson, a drummer and accordion player; and Mairi Johnson, a piano and keyboard player, vocalist and bass player.

The musical diversity of the group encompasses Scottish traditional and folk music, with haunting airs and lively jigs, energetic blends of folk-jazz, spine-tingling vocals, exquisite harmonies and bold tunes guaranteed to put a smile on your face and stay in your head long after you leave a Giveway concert or switch your stereo off.

In the years since the sisters formed their own band, Giveway has won awards at the acclaimed Scottish music festival Celtic Connections, in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk awards, performed on numerous radio shows, on television and at a series of high profile venues including the main stage at the Cambridge Folk Festival. They have also supported top musical acts. Their debut albumFull Steam Ahead (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX245) was released in 2003 to widespread, international acclaim.

Their 11-track album, Inspired (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX28), was released late in 2005 and, as the title suggests, it features an inspirational collection of music covering various styles: traditional Irish and Scottish tunes, foot-tapping and jazzy folk songs, rock-inspired jigs, songs written by acclaimed Scottish artists including Phil Cunningham and John McCusker, and songs written by the sisters in memory of loved ones.

The third album, titled Lost In This Song (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX332, 2009) featured guest musicians Ross Hamilton on bass, electric guitars; Phil Cunningham on whistle; and Mairi Campbell, Robert McFall and Sua Lee on strings. The album was produced by Phil Cunningham.


Artist Profiles: Geordie Mclntyre

A Glaswegian of Highland and Irish descent, his lifetime involvement in song, ballad andpoetry is reflected in his singing, collecting and song writing. His early years as a Radio and Television technician and later as a Modern Studies teacher, coupled to his passion for the outdoors has, in diverse ways, fuelled and complemented his central interest in folk music.

Geordie produced and performed on two acclaimed multi-artist albums; ‘The Streets of Glasgow’ (Topic 1973) and ‘Glasgow Horizons’ (Lismor 1990).

Over the years he has performed in clubs and at festivals throughout Britain, Ireland and the USA. In 2005 an excellent collection of Geordie’s songs was published titled “Inveroran”.

He recorded White Wings with fellow Scottish singer Alison McMorland.