A Celebration of Scottish Music and Musicians

Kerry Dexter's picture

If you sang Auld Lang Syne at your New year celebrations, you were paying tribute to the talent of Scottish poet Robert Burns. It’s a talent which has touched people across the world for two hundred and fifty years. That’s one of the things the people of Scotland invite the world to celebrate with them during this year of Homecoming Scotland.

 

 

Eddi Reader - Scottish music

Eddi Reader

 

One of the best ways to celebrate is with music, and Scotland is home to many gifted musicians. Here are several you should meet during this homecoming year:

 

*Mary Ann Kennedy and Na Seoid combine the talents of one of Scotland’s most respected producers, singers and harp players with six men who are rising stars of singing in Scots Gaelic. Their first album, self titled, came out barely a year ago, and  showcases the varied talents and regional contributions of musicians, who, individually and collectively, are able to convey their messages across the boundaries of language and background. Though all seven have thriving careers in other musical work, when they do get together for a concert, they generally bring down the house, and much of that connection and energy shows up on record as well.

 

*Duncan Chisholm, from Inverness, plays the fiddle, and he’s been so in demand to do that in support of other artists, it’s taken him a while between solo recordings. It was worth the wait, though, as his recent release, Farrar, comprises a range of covers, original music, and traditional pieces which evoke the idea and spirit of the highlands.

 

*Sarah-Jane Summers does that too, but she turns her musical eye even farther north at times, playing the hardanger fiddle or hardingfele, and drawing out of that haunting music which explores connections between Scotland and the Nordic lands. She’s also got a fine helping of lively highland fiddle music included on her debut album, called Nesta. Summers gets deeper into aspects of the nu Nordic style as part of the trio Fribo, who also have a recording out you should check into.

 

Sarah-Jane Summers

Sarah-Jane Summers

 

 

*Eddi Reader has always had a heart for folk music, even as she took her musical life through work in punk, pop, and country western music. Although when she studied Robert Burns in school (as all Scottish school children do) she thought he wasn’t writing for her. Her work as a songwriter and a musician led her to rethink that opinion, and in 2003 she recorded an album of all Burns songs. Her album Peacetime, which contains the sort of mix of covers, trad, and original material that Burns himself might have released if he were living today, also has Burns songs on it, and she’s releasing and expanded version of her 2003  Burns album this year, with additional Burns music she’s recorded since the first release. Reader is widely considered one of the most gifted singers Scotland has produced, and her take on the songs of Robert Burns is “to do them the way they might have been done in the 1700s, sort of rough and ready, as if you were walking by a pub and heard someone singing them.”

 

 

 

 

*Jim Malcolm is another top Scottish songwriter who decided to follow Burns' music through a whole album. His is called Acquaintance. He offers by turns thoughtful and funny versions of songs such as Westin Winds and The De’ils Awa Wi’ the Exciseman. Malcolm’s wife, Susie, a fine singer in her own right, joins him for several of the songs.

Those are just a few of the fine Scottish musicians on the scene today. If you’d like to hear some of them in concert and in interviews, keep an eye, and an ear, to these sites:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/music/celticconnections/2009/tvradio/

http://www.celticmusicradio.net/

http://www.rte.ie/

and keep an eye here at Wandering Educators, too, as we’ll be introducing you to more musicians from Scotland, Scottish America, Cape Breton, and other parts of the Scottish world as the year of Homecoming Scotland draws on..

Kerry Dexter is the Music Editor for Wandering Educators.

Kerry's credits include VH1, CMT, the folk music magazine Dirty Linen, Strings, and The Encyclopedia of Ireland and the Americas. She also writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road. You may reach her at music [at] wanderingeducators.com.

 

All photos copyright and courtesy of Kerry Dexter.

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