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Capercaillie


Country of origin:

Scotland

Type of music generally:

Traditional Celtic folk/pop, world music, some mainstream pop in later work

Status:

Most recent album, At the Heart of It All (2013)

See also:

The Official Capercaillie site

Comparisons:

Clannad. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Early work lively traditional music like Altan and the first Mouth Music album, later work more soft pop traditional, like Clannad. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Own songs and arrangements of traditional Scottish songs.

General comments:

Their early albums are quite traditional, later albums more pop. The lead singer has a powerful voice. I loved early Capercaillie—my favourite album of theirs is Sidewaulk, their second—and I like bits and pieces of the later discs, but they're now concentrating on writing their own songs mostly, and the songs that are their own compositions aren't nearly as strong as the traditional material. Other artists do better at writing interesting pop songs. I miss the old, lively traditional Capercaillie. (Neile)

Capercaillie play Scottish traditional pop, a bit like modern Clannad, but on their later Secret People cd they're too poppy and bland for me. Delirium is still more rooted in traditional music—a nice mixture. Karen Matheson has a lovely voice. (Marion)

Karen Matheson has a voice to die for. (kcd@cray.com)

Frankly I find most of the output from Capercaillie to be too...umm...new-age-y (rhymes with sewagy?) and bland in general. mcurry@io.com)

Karen Matheson, Capercaillie's lead singer, has a stupendous voice. "A throat surely touched by God" is how Sean Connery put it. (billonline@adlerbooks.com)

Comments about live performance:

I've only heard them on samplers and watching the film Rob Roy, but have really enjoyed what I'd heard. Live, they were a very mixed bag. Like seeing Wolfstone at the festival a few years ago, I found that the progressive, plugged-in performers seemed derivative and weak after an afternoon of virtuoso traditional performances. They were having some sort of trouble with the fiddle, which may explain why it sounded shrill and effects-heavy. Whatever the cause, I found the sound thin and annoying, and the reels and jigs unimpressive. However, whenever the lead singer stepped up to the mic, the band soared. She has such an incredible voice! Soaring and beautiful in the classic Irish mode. Her songs in Gaelic, and her one piece of mouth music (interestingly a track on the first Mouth Music disc), were amazing. Her songs in English seemed too close to show tunes for me, and once in a while they whole band meandered into bland Clannad-land. Anything that wasn't purely traditional sounded shlocky. (neal)

Recommended first album:

Delirium. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Sidewaulk (I prefer their more traditional music to their smoother pop sound). (Neile)

Recordings:


Crosswinds

Release info:

1987—Green Linnet Records (U.S. release)—GLCD 1077

Availability:

May be hard to find, can mail order from label. (Neile)

Ecto priority:

Must have for lovers of Celtic folk. (Neile)

Group members:

Karen Matheson—lead vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddle, backing vocals
Marc Duff—recorder & whistles, bouzouki, backing vocals
Donald Shaw—accordion, keyboards, backing vocals
Martin MacLeod—basses, fiddle, backing vocals
Shaun Craig—guitar, bouzouki, backing vocals, percussion

Comments:

All songs are traditional arrangements. This is a wonderful album. Karen Matheson's voice is stunning. The songs are good, too. (Neile)

The Blood is Strong

Music from the Grampian Television/Channel Four series on the Gaelic Scots

Release info:

1988—BMG (UK)—ZD74993

Availability:

Only available in the UK

Ecto priority:

Recommended for those who love Celtic folk (Neile)

Group members:

Donald Show, Anton Kirkpatrick, Karen Matheson, Marc Duff, Charlie McKerron, John Saich

Guest artists:

Rhonda Mackay—harp

Produced by:

Capercaillie and Bernd Schultze

Comments:

This is a lovely soundtrack. Some repeats from other albums. (Neile)

Sidewaulk

Release info:

1989—Green Linnet Records (U.S. release)—GLCD 1094

Availability:

May be hard to find, can mail order from label. (Neile)

Ecto priority:

Absolute must have for lovers of Celtic folk. (Neile)

Group members:

Karen Matheson—lead vocals
Marc Duff—Recorder, whistles, bodhran, wind synthesizer
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
John Saich—bass, guitar, vocals
Donald Shaw—accordion, keyboards

Produced by:

Donal Lunny

Comments:

Own compositions, cover versions and traditional arrangements. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

This is one of the best Celtic folk albums I've ever heard. The first song, "Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda" is especially stunning. I can't praise Karen Matheson's vocals too much—they're amazing. (Neile)


Delirium

Release info:

1991—Survival/BMG (Germany and U.K.)—ZD 75113; 1995—Green Linnet Records (U.S. release)

Availability:

Available in UK. Just released in U.S. by Green Linnet Records in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Recommended only for lovers of softer folk. (Neile)

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocals
Marc Duff—whistles, bodhran, wind synthesizer
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
John Saich—bass, guitar, vocals
Donald Shaw—accordion, keyboards

Produced by:

Donal Lunny

Comments:

Own compositions and traditional arrangements. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Here their Celtic roots loosen a bit and they go more mainstream folk, and for me their music loses its edge. I find some songs on this album too pop for me, actually. (Neile)


Get Out

Release info:

1992—Survival/BMG (Germany) —74321115862

Availability:

Hard to find at present.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

This is only for fans of world pop. (Neile)

Group members:

Karen Matheson
Charlie McKerron
Marc Duff
Donald Shaw
Manus Lunny
John Saich
James Mackintosh

Comments:

Special edition of live tracks and remixes. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

For me this is the least essential of their releases—very pop, very smooth. (Neile)


Secret People

Release info:

1993—Arista BMG (U.K.)74321 16274-2; 1995—Green Linnet Records (U.S.)

Availability:

Can be found in UK and US

Ecto priority:

Recommended for those who love Celtic and world music. (Neile)

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
John Saich—bass, guitar, backing vocals, synthbass
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, backing vocals
Marc Duff—whistles, bodhran, wind synthesizer
Donald Shaw—accordion, keyboards, backing vocals

Guest artists:

James Mackintosh—drums and percussion
Iain Murray—drums, additional percussion
Donal Lunny—bodhran

Produced by:

Donal Lunny and Calum Malcolm

Comments:

This album surprised me—I thought I didn't like Capercaillie's newer work and I kept listening to this expecting not to like it, but I do. Yes, it's a little pop at times, but it's still a good collection. (Neile)

Capercaillie

Release info:

1994—European release—SURCD 018

Comments:

U.K. pressing of rerecordings of songs from their Secret People album, and other songs, co-produced by Will Mowat of Soul II Soul...???! sounds a lot like live Mouth Music—more funky than their usual fare. some of the English-language songs are a bit pop-ish, but the Gaelic ones are great. (bossert@suddensound.com)

Pop-ish, yes, but also quite interesting...I'm always interested in music that mixes genres.... (jbr@casetech.dk)


To the Moon

Release info:

1995—Survival Records Ltd. (Europe)—SURCD 019; 1997—Green Linnet Records (U.S.)—GLCD 3117

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, backing vocals, bodhran
John Saich—bass, guitar, backing vocals
Donald Shaw—keyboards, accordion, backing vocals

Guest artists:

Ray Fean—drums
Wilf Taylor—percussion
Marc Duff—bodhran, whistles
Fred Morrison—highland small pipes, low whistle
Davy Spillane—uillean pipes

Produced by:

Capercaillie

Comments:

I've never been a big fan but this CD is excellent. Same kind of music as usual, i.e. Celtic with sometimes ethereal vocals and at other times more rock. Quite close to Clannad. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

To The Moon is a great listen. (kcd@cray.com)

First of their stuff I've bought, very nice. (sspan)


Beautiful Wasteland

Release info:

1998—Survival Records—SURCD021

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, Martin acoustic guitar, backing vocals
John Saich—bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Donald Shaw—keyboards, accordion
Wilf Taylor—drums
Chimp—percussion and berenbow

Guest artists:

Michael McGoldrick—flute, uilleann pipes, whistle
Paloma Loribo and Piruchi Apo ('Sibeba')—vocals on 'Co ni mire rium' and 'Inexile'
James MacKintosh—drums on 'Co ni mire rium'

Produced by:

Capercaillie

Comments:

One of the best Capercaillie albums, especially the collaborations with the Spanish singers are excellent and worth getting the album for. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.uni-osnabrueck.de)

After hearing several Capercaillie songs a few years ago, I decided I didn't like them, then listened to part of this album in a store, liked it, didn't buy it, decided to buy it, couldn't find it, hunted it down for months and finally bought it. After listening to it once, I couldn't understand why I had spent so much effort trying to get it. The second listen told me why. It's WONDERFUL. I love the two songs with Sibeba. This is really good Celtic music, the kind where the songs are individual and don't just blend together. I find myself singing along even to the ones in Gaelic. They have a lot of energy and seem to balance instruments and voice well. I'm looking forward to getting another Capercaillie album soon. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Nádurra

Release info:

2000—Valley

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans only

Group members:

Donald Shaw—sartarelle accordion, Wurlitzer, piano, synth
Michael McGoldrick—wooden flutes, whistle, uillean pipes
Karen Matheson—vocal
Ewen Vernal—acoustic and electric bass
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, bodhran, vocals
James MacKintosh—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Calum Malcolm and Capercaillie

Comments:

I have been less than star-struck by their last two, but hope springs eternal. I just got Nádurra and I'm a bit disappointed. There's not a single outstanding song. It's a good folk-pop album but not a must-have if you own other Capercaillie albums. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.uni-osnabrueck.de)

Pretty but uninspired (and uninspiring) Celtic folk-pop. The few instrumental songs are better than the vocal ones, but Capercaillie has whole albums that are much better than this one. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Choice Language

Release info:

2003—Vertical Records—06076-84629-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddles
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, vocals
Donald Shaw—accordion, piano, Rhodes, synths, samples, programming, background vocals
Michael McGoldrick—whistles, flutes, uilleann pipes, bodhran
Ewen Vernal—basses, background vocals
Che Beresford—drums
David Robertson—percussion

Produced by:

Capercaillie

Comments:

With Choice Language, Capercaillie make a welcome move back to the more traditional sounds of their earlier releases such as Crosswinds and Sidewaulk while retaining some of the modern, even jazzy sensibilities from the later 'pop' albums. Their previous album, Nádurra, seemed a bit tired, as if the band were going through the motions. On Choice Language, the group has reclaimed its energy and has its sense of fun back, even finding inspiration for "Homer's Reel" in that cultural icon, Homer Simpson. The album contains a good mix of some fast paced reels and jigs, a few wonderful traditional 'waulking' or work songs sung in Gaelic, and a couple of English songs with political messages (one lamenting the death of Scottish politician John Smith, the other commenting on children's plight in Jerusalem). The set finishes with a lovely traditional ballad that shows off Karen Matheson's exquisitely beautiful voice. If you are a fan of the more 'world music' or 'pop' Capercaillie seen on To the Moon and Beautiful Wasteland, you may like this album. But those who liked the group's earlier albums, or just want to be exposed to some of the best Celtic music around, should find this album essential. (tpierceint@yahoo.com)

Choice Language is vastly superior to Capercaillie's previous studio effort, Nádurra. The band reemerges renewed, energetic, in short, awake. Fans new and old will enjoy this blend of the traditional and the contemporary flavored with just the right amount of pop sensibility. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Grace and Pride: The Anthology 2004–1984

Release info:

2004—Survival Records—VLT 15194

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocals (1984–)
Donald Shaw—accordion, keyboards, programming (1984–)
Marc Duff—whistles, bodhran, wind synthesizer (1984–1995)
Joan MacLachlan—fiddle, vocals (1984–1986)
Shaun Craig—guitar, bouzouki (1984–1988)
Martin Macleod—bass, fiddle (1984–1988)
Charlie McKerron—fiddle (1986–)
Anton Kirkpatrick—guitar (1988–1989)
John Saich—bass, guitar, vocals (1988–1998)
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, vocals (1989–)
Wilf Taylor—drums (1994–1998)
Fred Morrison—Highland small pipes, low whistle (1995–1997)
Michael McGoldrick—flute, whistles, pipes (1997–)
Ewen Vernal—acoustic and electric bass (1998–)
David 'Chimp' Robertson—percussion (1997–)
Che Beresford—drums (1998–)

Guest artists:

Ronnie Goodman—percussion and drums on "Delirium"
James Mackintosh—drums and percussion on "Get Out," "Secret People," and "Nadurra"
Iain Murray—drums and percussion on "Secret People" and Capercaillie"
Ray Fean—drums on "To The Moon" and "Glenfinnan"
Davy Spillane—Uillean pipes on "To The Moon"
Paloma Loribo (Sibeba)—vocals on "Beautiful Wasteland"
Piruchi Apo (Sibeba)—vocals on "Beautiful Wasteland"

Produced by:

Capercaillie, Calum Malcolm, Donal Lunny, Bernd Schulze

Comments:

38 songs, 15 albums, 2 discs. Capercaillie's new anthology, flowing backwards seamlessly through their 20-year history, is a wonderful collection for casual fans like me who only own a few albums. Most of their albums are represented by at least 3 songs, and a lot of different material is covered—traditionals, originals, live songs, English and Gaelic lyrics, instrumentals, remixes, even their 1997 collaboration with Sibeba. It's easy to see why Capercaillie is one of the most enduring bands of our times and why Karen Matheson's voice has earned such praise. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Roses and Tears

Release info:

2008—Vertical Records/Compass Records—7 4477 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocal
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, vocals
Ewen Vernal—bass, vocals
David Robertson—percussion
Donald Shaw—piano, Rhodes, accordion
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
Michael McGoldrick—flute, whistles, pipes
Che Beresford—drums

Guest artists:

Signy Jacobsdottir—additional bells, gongs, and darabuka

Produced by:

Donald Shaw and Capercaillie

Comments:

This is their most compelling album since Beautiful Wasteland, the album that made me fall in love with them. (JoAnn Whetsell)

At the Heart of It All

Release info:

2013—Vertical Records—7 4618 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Karen Matheson—vocals
Charlie McKerron—fiddle
Manus Lunny—bouzouki, guitar, vocals
Donald Shaw—piano, accordion
Ewen Vernal—double bass, vocals
Michael McGoldrick—flutes, pipes

Guest artists:

James Mackintosh—percussion
Jarlath Henderson—Uillean pipes (1-3, 6, 7, 10)
David Robertson—additional percussion
Tommy Smith—saxophone (1)
Kathleen MacInnes—vocals (1, 8)
Sineag MacIntyre—vocals (1, 8)
Julie Fowlis—vocals (3, 6)
Kris Drever—vocals (5)
Darren MacLean—vocals (9)
Gerry O'Connor—banjo (4)
Aidan O'Rourke—fiddle (4)
Ryan Quigley—trumpet (6)
Paul Towndrow—saxophone (6)
Michael Owers—trombone (6)

Comments:

Capercaillie celebrated their 30th anniversary by collaborating with other artists for this wonderful and easy-going set of instrumental and vocal songs. An absolutely lovely album. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Thanks to Jens P. Tagore Brage, Dirk Kastens, Art Liestman, sspan, and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.


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