Saturday 26 April 2014

Capercaillie, Thirty Years On

Their song A Prince Among Islands was the first Gaelic song to chart. Capercaillie developed the Gaelic song tradition through the creative use of modern production techniques. The band, originally called The Etives, was begun by  Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson in 1982. They are from Taynuilt south of Oban, near Loch Etive, where there was a strong tradition of folk music  - both Donald's parents are musicians and his father is also a accordionist.

Their first two albums were recorded traditionally – Crosswinds (1987) and Sidewaulks (1989). 
In the 80s Capercaillie were greatly influenced by Irish folk music of the 80s, with bands like Clannad and Planxty. Irish music was more advanced then and the Irish band Clannad proved the wider appeal that was possible with their chart success for the theme Hurry’s Song.
So for their albums Delirium (1991) and Secret People (1993) Capercaillie added basslines, drum machines and synthesisers and this fusion sound let to chart success in the 1990s. Shaw said that some may feel they sold out from the folk traditions but he feels they would have sold out by making the same record over and over. The  band preferred to move on and try new things. Their sound became contemporary traditional music. The band toured worldwide and continue to tour today.

Now in the 2000s, Capercaillie have returned to a slightly more traditional arrangements and instruments with a more subtle fusion of modern instruments.

Capercaillie are considered folk royalty. Donald Shaw has been the musical director for Glasgow’s highly successful Celtic Connections since 2007. I cover the festival each year and I am well aware of the diversity, quality and musicianship that Donald pulls together to make this highly successful event for the city of Glasgow.

One aspect that makes the band stand out is the clear beauty of Karen Matheson’s subtle expressive voice. She often sings in Gaelic. There are some wonderful clips of her on YouTube singing with the unmatchable quality of the Transatlantic band  - nothing much beats a perfect vocal, beautiful  melody and the TS band!  In a BBC documentary Karen said as a teenager she was dragged around venues to sing by her dad. It was only when she met Donald and realised his drive and creative enthusiasm for the folk music that she was able to see the purpose of it all.  Donald and Karen married ( ) - I notice at Celtic there are several married couples in folk music! 

On this documentary about the bands thirty years together Shaw said that there was no music industry compared to 30 years ago and that it is all about making music for the live experience now.  Donald Shaw is very much the musical driving force of the band. He is also a successful composer and arranger and recently he composed music for the BBCs 'Hebrides; Islands on the Edge.'

The present day line up of the band consists of - Karen Matheson (vocals), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Michael McGoldrick (flute, whistle, pipes), Manus Lunny (bouzouki, guitar), Donald Shaw (keyboards, accordion), Ewen Vernal (bass), David Robertson (percussion), Che Beresford (drums), James Mackintosh (drums).

Capercaillie are a Scottish folk band, founded in the 1980s by Donald Shaw and fronted by Karen Matheson. They have seen four of their albums placed in the UK Albums Chart, and continue to perform and record to the present day.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Bring It All Home Festival

Martha Rafferty and Rab Noakes

A new festival being held in Paisley to celebrate the life and songs of world renowned Paisley born singer songwriter Gerry Rafferty.

15th - 19th April 2014
On what would have been Rafferty's 67th birthday the highlight concert is the sold out Bring it All Home, Gerry Rafferty concert -  a celebration of the music of one of Paisley’s most famous sons, Gerry Rafferty and featuring his popular  and lesser-known works and also never-before performed pieces, and also with songs especially arranged for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

This concert will differ from the hugely successful 2012 Bring It All Home concert at Celtic Connections. Instead of the full band there will be the RSNO and different songs are being performed. Rather than the full band version Rab Noakes will sing the song 'Baker Street' stripped back with only his guitar.
The show will be hosted by Martha Rafferty and produced by his friend and collaborator Rab Noakes.  Noakes has released over 20 albums and been described as ‘one of Scotland’s finest songsmiths’;
Martha Rafferty
Other artists performing are: Barbara Dickson, a platinum selling Scottish singer, she was awarded an OBE in 2002 for her services to music and drama. She has recently released her 25th studio album, To Each and Everyone; The Songs of Gerry Rafferty. Eddi Reader – another best selling Scottish singer, she began her career as the singer with Fairground Attraction and their chart-topping single Perfect. She has just released her 10th album, Vagabond. Roddy Hart – Glasgow songwriter, who has released a recent album with the band The Lonesome Fire. He curates the acclaimed Roaming Roots Revue at Celtic Connections and hosts a BBC Radio Scotland show. Siobhan Wilson – Scottish singer who spent several years studying music in Edinburgh and Paris and now based in Glasgow. Emma Pollock – a Scottish singer-songwriter known as part of the The Delgados, The Burns Unit and The Fruit Tree Foundation. 

I attended the Bring It All Home at Celtic 2012 and it was a wonderful night that included The Proclaimers and many other well known Scottish artists.
Here’s what I wrote then - Noakes gave the glue and character to the show with his stories about Gerry, the Humblebums, late night travels and more. He spoke of Rafferty’s intelligence and of his love of harmony; of his spiritual side and of his strong will and self belief. He spoke of the poignancy yet hard core centre of Rafferty’s songs. I'm still singing Rafferty songs two weeks later!
Rafferty’s songs cover the full spectrum of emotions - they express full-on-energy, questioning cynicism and mystical spiritualism. He was from Paisley and his music gave the folk song a new voice. He cared about the craft of the song and not celebrity or its trimmings. He was an artist in the true sense of the word and had a rare clarity of artistic vision. A wonderful celebration of one of Scotland’s greatest ever singer songwriters that did Gerry proud and a highlight of this years Celtic Connections.

The festival also hosts many other events showcasing the breadth and quality of Scottish artists, such as a songwriting night hosted by Hamish Stuart, John Grant and Midge Ure.

Details of events here -  


Thursday 10 April 2014

The Old Bookshop

Up in Callander Scotland there is a lovely old bookshop where they restore and rebind rare and second hand old hardback books.  We like to take a drive here as there are several bars and restaurants that welcome dogs. 

On our last visit I talked with Sally Evans, the owner of The Bookshop.  She is a poet herself and she used to hang about Sandy Bells Bar in Edinburgh when guys like the poet Hamish Henderson and his dog were there. She also hosts a poetry weekend here in September.  

I asked her if she thought books would disappear and she said she thought not and that we would want special hard back copies of the books we loved best - I think she may be right, I hope she is.  I thought of my own book collection for my favourite writers and poets, which are such an important part of my life and who I am. 

As book shops leave the high street and with books being cheaper to purchase online, I miss the time to collect and discover myself in them and vanish from those commercial clothes,  cosmetics and accessories high street merchandisers.

It’s of interest to me also that most of the writers, poets and musicians I meet support a yes vote for Scottish independence.  Perhaps it’s that artists are also dreamers of new visions and new horizons….

Kings Bookshop: Antiquarian and second hand books. Excellent bindings by bookbinder Ian W King; good Scottish, history, natural history and poetry sections, and our own garden behind the shop. Poetry Scotland broadsheet published here by Sally Evans, also diehard poetry and drama books. Annual Callander Poetry Weekend Party every first weekend in September.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Broken Records Queens Hall Edinburgh

Some gigs are simply so much fun! This was the Edinburgh based band Broken Records at the Queens hall Edinburgh, where I had unlimited shooting. The gig took place during the Edinburgh festival 2009.  I like to get to a good position at the side, if that’s possible. The converted church hall was packed so it wasn’t really possible to move about and I much prefer not to interrupt the gig when shooting.  The 3 song limitation is really so restrictive to getting good images.  It depends – you can get the shot but if you want to get something more than that it is not possible.  I remember feeling exhilarated and exhausted after the gig.

Over the years my eye has changed too. I’ve put a lot into my photography over the years and it means a lot to me following my passions for music and the combining two of my best loved arts is simply perfect for me.  Broken Records have a new EP Toska and play King tuts in April.

Broken Records are a six-piece indie folk band from Edinburgh. The band are signed to 4AD and released their debut album, Until the Erath Begins to Part 2009 and Let Me Come Home in 2010.