Formed in 1984, the group built a local reputation for their solid musicianship and popular live act, releasing albums in 1984 (Cascade) and 1987 (Crosswinds). In 1988, Capercaillie was commissioned to compose the soundtrack for The Blood Is Strong, a series about the history of Gaelic Scots. The album went platinum in Scotland, and tours of North America and the Middle East spread the word. Sidewaulk, released the following year, is perhaps the sextet's best album. A single from 1991's Delirium even made playlists on London's BBC Radio 1. Capercaillie released the compilation Get Out in 1992. Then, with a flurry of activity in the mid-'90s, the group released three albums within two years. John Bush, All-Music Guide
A fantastic Irish fiddler from Chicago, Liz Carroll has been a member of Cherish The Ladies and of the Green Fields of America. She's also part of one of the greatest Irish trios performing today, along with Billy McComiskey and Daithi Sproule. Her solo work also deserves attention. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide
If the English folk revival of the 1960s had a single "father" and guiding spirit, then Martin Carthy was it. Carthy's influence transcends his abilities, formidable though those are -- apart from being one of the most talented acoustic guitarists, mandolinists, and general multi-instrumentalists working the folk clubs in the 1960s, he was also a powerful singer with no pretentions or affectations, and was an even more prodigious arranger and editor, with an excellent ear for traditional compositions. In particular, he was as much a scholar as a performer, and frequently went back to the notes and notebooks of folksong collectors such as Percy Grainger, scouring them for fragments that could be made whole in performance -- no second hander, he used the earliest known transcriptions and recordings of many of the oldest folksongs known in England as his source, and worked from there.
By 1966, at the time
he was cutting his first two albums, Carthy
was already an influence on Bob
Dylan and Paul
Simon, and by the end of the 1960s was de facto mentor to virtually
every serious aspiring folk musician in England. At least three major
English folk-rock bands, Fairport
Span,, and the
Albion Band, were formed either directly or indirectly with his help
his musical prowess, Carthy didn't initially set out to be a musician.
Upon leaving school, he served as an assistant tage manager for
different theatrical companies, and only gradually drifted into
performing in the coffee houses spiring up around London during the late
'50s and early '60s, as skiffle, with its heavy American influence, was
supplanted by more specifically British material. He joined Redd
Sullivan, Marion Gray, and Pete Maynard in a group called the Thameside
Four, and sang with them for three years, until his reputation had grown
sufficiently, and the demand from the clubs in London was such that he
began making solo appearances. He became the resident singer at a folk
club called the Troubadour in London, and during that time he recorded a
four-song extended-play single for Topic Records that got lost somewhere
between the studio and the pressing plant.
Still, he had an
audience, and among those listening were a pair of Americans who
happened to be in England at the time. One who heard Carthy perform his
arrangement of the traditional song "Scarborough Fair" was
who was trying for a folksinging career in London following the failure
of the very first Simon
and Garfunkel album (Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.) back in America.
Carthy gave Simon his arrangement, chords, and words for the song, and
it became the basis for Simon's
own version when he returned to the United States.
working around London in 1965 was Bob
Dylan, in London appearing in a television play called Madhouse on
Castle Street (wherein a teenager named Duncan
Brown heard his guitar playing and decided to become a musician,
recording one classic '60s album). Dylan
heard Carthy's version of "Lord Franklin" and transformed the
melody into "Bob Dylan's Dream" from the album Freewheelin',
which also mentions Carthy in the liner notes.
Carthy made his
recording debut on the English Decca anthology album Hootenanny, but
neither song was really representative of Carthy's work. "My Baby
Has Gorn Dahn the Plug 'Ole" and "The End of My Old
Cigar" provided what he later referred to as comic relief amid the
earnestness of the rest of the compilation.
His big influences,
in addition to the expected folk-song collectors and arrangers such as A.L.
Lloyd, included Ravi
Shankar (Carthy had attended the latter's first London performance
in 1957) and Davey
Graham, whose version of "She Moved Through the Fair"
encouraged his interest in Indian music. By the mid-'60s, Carthy was a
musical polymath, drawing inspiration from music all over the map,
although his repertory came entirely from the British Isles.
In 1965, Carthy was
signed to Fontana Records and recorded his debut album Martin
Carthy that same year, which contained his arrangement of
"Scarborough Fair," and featured contributions from fiddler Dave
Swarbrick as a performer and co-arranger. From the very first,
Carthy's records became songbooks for thousands of lesser performers and
less ambitious would-be folk musicians -- he literally was the Bob Dylan
of the English folk revival, without the feigned anger or the
affectations, but with all of the skill and depth.
That first album was
also the first manifestation of what eventually became a more formal
partnership with Swarbrick.
That didn't begin, however, until March of 1966, when the violinist
found himself turned back by Dutch customs officials while traveling to
Denmark -- Carthy offered to team up with Swarbrick
on an upcoming tour with a 50/50 split of the proceeds. Their recording
situation was more complicated, due to the fact that Carthy was signed
to Fontana as a solo artist, and the record company wouldn't modify the
contract -- they were never able to split the revenues of their
recordings during the 1960s, a situation that never hurt their working
relationship. The two ended up recording an six long-players and an
extended-play single between 1966 and 1969 -- at around that time,
Swarbrick went off to join Fairport
Convention, and a little bit after that, Carthy was persuaded to join
the Fairport offshoot (founded by Ashley
Their records, all
carefully programmed and recorded (each new song was a surprise: A solo
number by Carthy might be followed by a work featuring the two of them,
followed by an a cappella number by Carthy...), all sold well among folk
enthusiasts, and put both Carthy and Swarbrick on the map nationally.
Carthy became not only one of the most popular folksingers in England
but, more than that, a musical resource. Unlike most of his rivals,
Carthy respected original -- or at least the earliest known -- versions
of the songs he performed, and where possible he would go back to field
recordings done early in the 20th century. One of Carthy's specialties
was finding and completing fragments of songs that didn't exist in
complete versions -- not only did this add dozens of songs to the
repertory (usually played and heard by people who had no inkling of the
editorial and musical skills that had gone into making the songs
"whole"), but it gave Carthy a starting point very far from
the superficial commercial folk-rock that was typical of the 1960s.
His use of primary
sources allowed him to pick up nuances from the songs that most of his
rivals never guessed were there. Additionally, he was open to recording
original material, if it were the right material under the right
circumstances, and several of his 1960s albums feature songs by his
friend, songwriter Leon
Rosselson. Coupled with his vocal and guitar skills, all of this
made Carthy perhaps the most important folksinger in England, as a
source of inspiration, a conduit for songs, and a model for how to
approach the music.
By 1970, however, a
modern group beckoned Carthy in the form of Steeleye
Span, which had been formed by Ashley
Hart, and Maddy
Prior in the wake of Hutchings'
exit from Fairport
Convention. Unlike Fairport Convention, which freely mixed original
and traditional material, Steeleye Span played traditional folk music,
albeit on a mix of electric and acoustic instruments (they didn't have a
drummer at this time), and Carthy became something of their resident
sage and musicologist -- the group inherited and adopted many songs that
he'd recorded during the 1960s.
By 1972, he was out
of Steeleye Span and recording on his own again. That same year, he
Waterson and became a member of her family's folksinging group the
Watersons, of which he has remained an active member. He also became
a member of the Albion Band, the group formed by Hutchings
in the early 1970s, working with them on the album Battle
of the Field. During the 1970s, Carthy also began doing theater
work, which led to the formation of the group Brass
Monkey in the early '80s.
continues to record in the 1990s for the Green Linnet label. He revived
his partnership with Dave Swarbrick again in the 1980s, and the two have
continued to perform and record together. All of his classic albums for
the Topic and Fontana labels, as well as those from the 1980s, are
available on compact disc. Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide
Cherish The Ladies
This group started with a concert series produced by the Ethnic Folk Arts Center in New York City. The theme was young women in traditional Irish music. Out of that series grew an ensemble of women musicians, fronted by flute player Joanie Madden, that is one of America's great Irish music groups. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide
The original traditional Irish folk band, as far as anyone who came of age in the 1970s or 1980s is concerned, is the Chieftains. Their sound, built largely on Paddy Moloney's pipes, is otherworldly, almost entirely instrumental, and seems as though it comes out of another age of man's history. That they became an international phenomenon in the '70s and '80s is testament to their virtuoso musicianship.
Chieftains were first formed in Dublin during 1963, as a
semi-professional outfit, from the ranks of the top folk musicians in
Ireland. Until that time, and for some years after, the world's (and
even Ireland's) perception of Irish folksongs was rooted in either the
good-natured boisterousness and topicality of acts such as the
Irish Rovers or Tommy
Makem and the
Clancy Brothers, or the sentimentality of Mary
O'Hara. That began to change in Ireland with the advent of Ceoltoiri
Cualann, a group formed from the ranks of the best traditional Irish
musicians by a composer named Sean
O'Riada, who hailed from County Cork. Ceoltoiri
Cualann, which specialized in instrumental music, stripped away the
pop music inflections from Irish music -- the dances were played with a
natural lilt and abandon that came from deep within the music's origins,
and the airs, stripped of their worst modern inflections, came across
with even greater poignancy than anyone had recognized them for in
decades, and perhaps centuries. Tempos were changed in mid-song, from
reel to polka to jig to slow air and back again.
Moloney came out of Ceoltoiri Cualann to found the Chieftains
in 1963, seeking to carry this work several steps further. The earliest
recorded incarnation of the group consisted of Moloney (pipes), Sean
Potts (tin whistle), Martin
Fay (fiddle), David
Fallon (bodhran), Mick
Tubridy (flute, concertina), and Sean
O'Riada. They were a success virtually from the beginning, their
music weaving a spell around audiences in Ireland and later in England,
where they quickly became popular as both a performing and recording act
-- the only thing holding them back was the decision by the members to
remain a semi-professional, part-time ensemble until the early '70s.
Their first four albums, spread over a period from 1965 through 1973,
were originally available only from the Claddagh label in Ireland, but
were later picked up by Island Records for release in England and
America in 1976, after the group had achieved international renown.
The 1970s saw the
group break big in America. A new, younger generation of Irish-American
listeners, who enjoyed folk music and whose cultural and musical tastes
weren't limited to songs about "the troubles" (i.e. England),
had already begun discovering the Chieftains'
music in the early/mid-'70s. By that time, the group had elected to go
professional, and to expand its line-up. O'Riada
left after the first album, and Peadar
Mercier (bodhran) and Sean
Keane (fiddle) joined with the second. Following the recording of Chieftains
4, they'd added Ronnie
McShane (percussion) and Derek
Bell (harp, oboe, timpan), a classically-trained musician. Bell's
harp lent the group's sound a final degree of elegance and piquancy.
The group's big
breakthrough in America, however, occurred when they provided the music
for Stanley Kubrick's 1975 movie Barry
Lyndon. The film itself wasn't a hit, but the Chieftains were,
especially one track called "Women of Ireland," which began
getting played heavily on FM progressive rock stations, and even managed
to get onto the playlists of some Top 40 stations. Suddenly, the
Chieftains were hot in America, and a U.S. tour and a series of
performances on television -- especially the network morning
news/feature shows -- brought them into demand.
By that time, Island
Records had contracted to release both the group's latest album, Chieftains
5 and their four previous records in England and America. With their
newfound audience, Chieftains records started coming out every year
instead of every two or three years --Bonaparte's
Retreat in 1976, Chieftains
Live in 1977, and Chieftains
and 9 in 1978, 1979, and 1980, respectively, although for their U.S.
releases, from 1977 through 1980, they abandoned Island Records in favor
of Columbia Records. Ever since the dawn of the CD era, their music has
been available on compact disc from the Shanachie Records, while their
more recent work has shown up on the BMG label, on both compact disc and
home video. The latter have included a Christmas concert and a mixed
ensemble performance interweaving the group with orchestras, American
folk and country musicians, and rock musicians, and an album (Irish
Heartbeat, 1988) recorded with Irish-born R&B shouter Van
Morrison. Additionally, the group has been engaged steadily for film
work into the 1990s.
Since the late '70s,
the group's recordings have settled into an effective but not fully
inspired level of creativity. The band has kept its sound fresh with the
periodic addition of new members, and a search for sounds beyond the
boundaries of Ireland -- as distant as Spanish sources -- as sources for
their music. Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide
The Clancy Brothers
The Clancy Brothers are a family of singing Irish expatriates who have been important figures in re-popularizing their native music in North America and are still among the most internationally renowned Irish folk bands. Some even credit the band as important figures in starting the folk revival of the '50s and '60s.
Pat and Liam
were born in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tiperrary, Ireland to a family of
nine, all of whom were musically inclined. Tom
and Pat emigrated to New York around the early '50s to become actors.
Liam and his friend Tommy
Makem, born in Keady, County Armagh the son of noted balladeer Sarah
Makem, came to the U.S. in 1956. Before Liam emigrated, he had
founded a dramatic society and had put on a play taking over the
direction, producing and set design himself. He had also acted at the
famed Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. Both he and Makem
also hoped to have acting careers in New York. The Clancy Brothers with Tommy
Makem (as they were first billed) came together to sing fund-raising
concerts for the Cherry Lane Theater and at the Guthrie
benefits. Forgoing the stereotypical maudlin Irish ballads in favor of
lusty party songs, traditional American and Irish folk songs and even
protest tunes sung in close harmony and performed most theatrically, the
Clancys soon became popular folk performers around Greenwich
Village. In the mid-'50s, Pat founded Tradition Records so the Clancys
and Makem could begin recording. Early recordings include "The
Rising of the Moon" and "Come Fill Your Glass with Me."
By recording and
touring often, the Clancys continued to become more and more popular in
Eastern and Midwestern clubs, but it was their debut on the Ed Sullivan
Show in 1961 that brought them national exposure. Originally scheduled
to only play three minutes, they ended up playing for 16 minutes and
became an instant national sensation and soon signed a major contract
with Columbia Records. The Clancys continued recording and performing
together through 1969. That year Makem left to pursue his solo career.
In 1975, Liam departed; he and Makem were replaced by brother Bobby
Clancy and their nephew Robbie
O'Connell. Since then, the original members have occasionally
regrouped for reunion concerts. Tom
Clancy died in 1990 but the band continues on. Sandra Brennan,
One of the original three singing Clancy Brothers, Liam later went off with Tommy Makem as a duo, and then on his own as a solo act. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide
Clannad bridged the gap between traditional celtic music and pop. Usually, their results were an entrancing, enchanting form of pop that managed to fuse the disparate elements together rather seamlessly. Such fusions have earned the band an international cult of fans.
Taking their name
from the Gaelic word for "family," Clannad formed in 1970 when
the Brennan family -- Maire
(vocals, harp), Ciaran
(vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards), Pol
(guitar, percussion, flute, vocals) -- began playing at their father
Leo's tavern with two of their uncles, Padraig
Duggan (guitar, vocals, mandolin) and Noel
Duggan (guitar, vocals). Soon afterward, the group began playing
folk festivals in Ireland. They released their self-titled first album
in 1973, yet the band didn't earn any wide-spread success until they
toured Germany in 1975. Maire's
joined the group in 1979, yet left in 1982, just as the group was
beginning to come into some pop success in the U.K. Clannad recorded the
theme song for the television program "Harry's Game"; the
single hit number five on the charts and won the band an Ivor Novello
Award. The band recorded the soundtrack to the television production
"Robin of Sherwood" in 1984; it won a British Academy Award
for best soundtrack the next year. Clannad's
success continued in 1986, when U2's
was featured on the Top 20 hit "In A Lifetime." The band
continued to release albums into the 1990s, building their pop following
without losing their folk audience. Their latest release, Landmarks, was
issued in early 1998. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide
Michael Coleman (1891-1945) of Killavil, Co. Sligo, is one of the seminal figures in Irish and Irish-American traditional music. He came to the United States in 1914, and became a successful performer of Irish music in Vaudeville and variety theaters across America. He settled in New York City, where Irish music was in great demand by the large Irish population. Between 1921 and1944 he recorded many 78 RPM recordings of fiddle music that even today exert a great influence on players both here and in Ireland. Coleman's recorded material is one of the reasons why the Sligo fiddle style and tune repertoire predominates in much Irish and Irish-American fiddling. Many of Coleman's classic recordings have been re-released on albums. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide
Rita Connolly's concert performances have been rare events, but the warm soprano vocals of the Dublin-born songstress have been featured in stage plays, films and more than 20 albums, including two solo recordings: Rita Connolly in 1991, and Valparaiso in 1993. Her interpretation of the Shaun Davey-composed epic tale of an Irish pirate, "Granuaile," has been performed to sold-out shows throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. The premiere performance in England was filmed and has been shown worldwide.
The fifth of seven children,
Connolly sang at the age of 14 with her sisters in Dublin pubs and clubs. During
her late teens, she supplied harmony vocals for Paul
Moore and Donal
Lunny and sang with Irish bands Midnight
Well, Scullion and Stagalee. Her involvement with Midnight
Well resulted in her meeting Shaun
Davey, a composer and producer of television and radio commercials. Working
together, Connolly and Davey expanded into films and theater productions
including The Pilgrim and The Relief of Derry Symphony.
In 1987, Connolly toured the
United Kingdom with the RTE
Concert Orchestra and performed several selections from Granuaile. Her
self-titled debut solo album ranged from sea shantys to Beatles songs and
classic blues. Her second solo effort, Valparaiso, marked her debut as a
band includes guitarist and songwriter Gerry
Street, the Sharon Shannon Band and Andy
Stewart, percussionist Richard O'Donnell of Ireland's National Symphony
Orchestra, and her brother, Peter
Connolly. Craig Harris, All-Music Guide
The fire and passion of traditional Scottish fiddling is reflected in the lightning-fast playing of Johnny Cunningham. A founding member of Silly Wizard, Cunningham was instrumental in spreading interest in modern, tradition-rooted Celtic music. His albums as a soloist and as a member of Relativity and Nightnoise have extended those traditions. Traditional music, however, is only one side of Cunningham's repertoire. The producer of albums for contemporary singer/songwriters including Fred Small, Brooks Williams and Bill Morrissey, Cunningham recorded two albums with the alternative rock band the Raindogs, and has performed in concerts with Hall & Oates. His more recent projects range from a tour and ensuing live album, Celtic Fiddle Festival, with Irish fiddler Kevin Burke and fiddler Christian LeMaitre of Brittany, to composing the soundtrack for an adult-oriented version of J.M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy, performed by the New York-based Mabou Mines Theater Company. In addition, Cunningham recently collaborated with novelist Thomas Moore (Care of the Soul) on a double-CD seasonal recording, The Soul of Christmas.
The oldest of three
children, Cunningham played harmonica at the age of five in the Grand
Lee Old Age Pensioner Harmonica Band. Although he tried his hand at
accordion and piano, he found his natural musical voice when a
grandmother presented him a fiddle shortly before his eighth birthday.
Leaving school and home at the age of 14, he spent several years living
in rundown apartments in Edinburgh. A turning point came when he met Gordon
Jones and Bob
Thomas, musicians who managed the Triangle Folk Club. Moving into
their communal apartment, without bathrooms or heat, Cunningham joined
them in forming a band, Silly
Wizard. After playing several local gigs, the band accepted an
extended engagement in Liverpool, England, writing music and performing
in plays at the Everyman Theater. Returning to Scotland, the group added
Cunningham's younger brother, Phil, on accordion, as well as traditional
singer Madeline Taylor. Although they recorded an album for
Transatlantic Records, the album has never been released.
After releasing a
self-titled album in 1972, Silly
Wizard went through personnel changes, with Taylor being replaced by
Stewart and bassist Martin
Hadden of the recently disbanded group Puddock's Well. Following the
recording of Silly
Wizard's second album, Caledonia's Hardy Sons, Bob
Thomas left the band, and the group continued as a five-piece unit.
Silly Wizard's first tour of the United States included a pivotal
appearance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Cunningham emigrated to
America shortly afterwards in 1980. Although his place in Silly Wizard
was filled temporarily by fiddler Dougie McLean, he played on their last
recording, A Glint of Silver, in 1986, and joined them for their
farewell tour two years later.
to work periodically with his brother; in addition to recording an album
as a duo, Against the Storm, they joined with siblings Triona
NiDomhnaill and Michael
O'Domhnaill of the Bothy Band to form Relativity in the early 1980s.
Cunningham also worked with NiDomhnaill and O'Domhnaill
in the new age Celtic band Relativity.
Craig Harris, All-Music Guide
The younger brother of Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, Phil Cunningham has combined a mastery of Celtic music traditions and a melodically rich style of composition. A member of Silly Wizard from 1976 to 1988, Cunningham, who began accordion lessons at the age of three, helped to spark an interest in the traditional music of his homeland. In addition to recording two memorable solo albums -- Airs & Graces in 1984 and The Palomino Waltz in 1989 -- Cunningham has contributed to a number of influential musical projects. Since the demise of Silly Wizard, Cunningham has periodically worked with his older brother. They recorded a duo album, Against the Storm, in 1980, and together with Irish siblings Triona NiDomhnaill and Michael O'Domhnaill, toured and recorded two albums as Relativity during the mid-'80s. A collaboration with fiddler Aly Bain of the Boys of the Lough for a 1988 television show spawned a partnership that has resulted in annual duo tours of Scotland and an album, The Pearl, in 1994. During the '80s and '90s, Cunningham has focused much of his attention on producing other artists, including Dolores Keane and Altan, and composing and musically directing for the theater. He served as musical director and wrote the instrumental music for Bill Bryden's production The Ship in 1990, and was the associate music director for Bryden's The Big Picnic in 1994. Cunningham was musical director of four series of BBC Scotland's Gaelic/traditional music show, Talla a' Bhaile, and BBC Scotland's Hogmanay Live. In January 1997, Cunningham's orchestral work, The Highlands and Islands Suite was premiered at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Together with his partner, Wendy, Cunningham opened a 24-track digital studio, CAP Recording Studios, outside Inverness in the Scottish Highlands in October 1993. Craig Harris, All-Music Guide
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