Richard Thompson Electric Trio Steeleye Span Turin Brakes Show of Hands Budiño Jon Boden and The Remnant Kings Usher’s Island Gretchen Peters Daoirí Farrell Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band Shooglenifty with Dhun Dhora The Mighty Doonans Skerryvore O’Hooley & Tidow Megson Blowzabella Midnight Skyracer Rafiki Jazz Na Leanai Will Pound’s Through the Seasons Blowzabella Snaarmaarwaar ...
What a year 2017 was! Fun, sun, the best music and dance and a fabulous vibe – what more could you want? You can rest assured we will bring you some of most established artists from the UK alongside acts celebrating folk traditions from across the world. They’ll take you on a voyage of discovery, bringing you ever-changing musical colours with their breath-taking performances.
But Shrewsbury Folk Festival is about more than just music. With a warm welcome from our volunteer stewards, we can promise a relaxed atmosphere with time for you to explore our festival site with its four sound stages, dance tent and specialist venues for our children’s and youth festivals. There are shops, caterers, bars, a craft fair, free buses into Shrewsbury town centre and a great campsite.
Most of all, you are never an outsider here – you don’t need a lifetime of folk experience to have a good time and sticking your finger in your ear is optional! Whoever you are, you’ll find SFF a welcoming, happy and inspiring place to spend your festival holiday.
We are delighted to welcome back Richard Thompson, this time with performing as Electric Trio. This is folk – tuned in, turned on and with the volume cranked up to the max!
Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Richard Thompson is also one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. He has received Lifetime Achievement Awards for Songwriting on both sides of the Atlantic – from the Americana Music Association in Nashville to Britain’s BBC Awards as well as the prestigious Ivor Novello.
In 2011, Thompson received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) personally bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. In the USA Thompson has been nominated at the Americanas for both “Artist of the Year” and “Song of the Year”. HIs recently released CD, Still was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy which reached #6 in the UK charts (just ahead of Taylor Swift)!
Having co-founded the groundbreaking group Fairport Convention as a teenager in the 60’s, Richard Thompson and his mates virtually invented British Folk Rock. By the age of 21 he left Fairport to pursue his own career, followed by a decade long musical partnership with his then-wife Linda, to over 30 years as a highly successful solo artist who tours both solo acoustic and with his electric trio.
A wide range of musicians have recorded Thompson’s songs including Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, REM, Del McCoury, Bonnie Raitt, Patty Lovelace, Los Lobos, Tom Jones, David Byrne, Don Henley, Robert Earl Keen and many others.
Thompson’s massive body of work includes over 40 albums, many Grammy nominations, as well as numerous soundtracks, including Werner Hertzog’s Grizzy Man.
As an in-demand live performer, the past two years saw Richard Thompson headlining dates around the world as well as co-headlining shows with Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell as well as the Americanarama Tour with Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket – which culminated with Dylan himself performing RT’s classic song “’1952 Vincent Black Lightning”.
Thompson’s genre defying mastery of both acoustic and electric guitar along with dizzying energy and onstage wit continue to earn Richard Thompson massive new fans and a place as one of the most distinctive virtuosos in Folk Rock history.
Steeleye Span has been one of the most influential names in British roots music. Pioneers of folk-rock, Steeleye Span changed the face of folk music forever, taking it out of small clubs and into the world of gold discs and international tours. Members have come and gone over the years, but Steeleye has always remained at the forefront of the genre they helped to define, and, 38 years later the band has become an institution in British music.
Steeleye Span formed in 1969, with the vision of playing folk music in a contemporary, electric band format. Taking their name from the song Horkstow Grange, their debut album Hark! The Village Wait is a pioneering album that set out the blueprint for folk-rock. However, this early line-up was to prove short-lived, with the Woods departing before the band’s first gig, to be replaced by Martin Carthy, already a fixture on the folk scene, and classically trained fiddle player Peter Knight. Their 1970 album Please To See the King became a classic, while Ten Man Mop made inroads into the rock scene.
Further line-up changes ensued after this, with Hutchings leaving to form The Albion Band, followed shortly afterwards by Martin Carthy, Steeleye being joined by Rick Kemp on bass, Bob Johnson on guitar and Nigel Pegrum becoming the band’s first drummer. With a more rock-oriented approach, it was this line-up that enjoyed the biggest commercial success, with the acapella Latin carol Gaudete giving a Christmas chart entry in 1973 and a No 5 hit in 1975 with All Around My Hat produced by Mike Batt.
After this run of mainstream success Bob Johnson and Peter Knight quit the band in 1977 after making a duo album The King of Elfland’s Daughter. With another album and tour in the pipeline, Martin Carthy rejoined bringing with him squeezebox ace John Kirkpatrick, giving the band’s trademark folk-rock sound a distinctly English folk flavour. This tour was to be the last for a while, as the band went their separate ways. But it was only a matter of time before they reconvened, releasing Sails of Silver in 1980 and Back in Line in 1986. The ‘80s were an evolving time, with Tim Hart leaving the band, Tim Harries replacing Rick Kemp on bass, Liam Genockey occupying Pegrum’s place behind the drum kit. But the strength of Steeleye Span has always been the band’s ability to draw on the different musical personalities of the members and remain greater than the sum of its parts.
1995 was a major landmark for the band: the 25th anniversary was celebrated with a one-off reunion of all members past and present for a charity gig at the Forum in London. The live album The Journey, released in 1999, serves as a reminder of Steeleye’s importance in the development of British roots music, with a personnel list reading like who’s who of folk. If The Journey was a celebration of what had gone before, Steeleye’s 1996 album Time showed the band equally able to move towards the future, hailed as their best in years by critics and fans alike. A further development was the return of original member singer Gay Woods, adding another dimension to the band’s sound. Further changes were afoot when Maddy left in 1997 to concentrate on her mounting solo work. 1998’s mainly acoustic album Horkstow Grange saw the band withstand the change with Gay Woods’ voice coming to the fore, and a more Irish element displayed in the band’s music. 2000’s release Bedlam Born saw Steeleye move further on with an album that married true rock energy to their traditional material, while exploring some decidedly more experimental territory.
With Maddy returning to the band in 2002, Steeleye Span reformed with a “classic” lineup, with Maddy being joined by Peter Knight Rick Kemp, Liam Genockey and Bob Johnson. This year saw them release a 2-disc album, Present – The Very Best of Steeleye Span, an album revisiting their greatest moments, as decided by their fans in an online poll. By 2004 Ken Nicol was on board and the band released the album They Called Her Babylon early in the year, extensively touring the UK, Europe and Australia. Their prolific output continued with the release of the Christmas album Winter later the same year, as the band ended a busy year of touring with a gala performance in London’s Palladium theatre.
In 2005 Steeleye Span were awarded the Good Tradition Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, The band carried out a UK tour in April and May 2006, followed by dates in Europe and an appearance at the 2006 Cropredy Festival. A live album Folk Rock Pioneers in Concert and DVD of their 2004 tour were additionally released this year. In November 2006, Steeleye released the studio album Bloody Men Steeleye Span 2009 found Maddy Prior the voice of Steeleye for 32 years back at the helm of a line-up featuring band stalwart and fiddler extraordinaire Peter Knight. Ken Nicol (Albion Band) on guitar and vocals and Liam Genockey on the drum stool, with Pete Zorn taking over from Rick Kemp on bass, due to illness. Following the successful UK tour, the band took to the USA and Australia, returning to UK for yet another tour of England that Autumn to co inside with the release of Steeleye’s studio album, ‘Cogs, Wheels and Lovers’
Even with a career that has brought incredible, twenty-one studio albums, British folk legends Steeleye Span’s history still includes a number of records that stand out as landmarks. 1974’s Now We Are Six was one such moment, an album that saw the band expand both their line up to a six piece and with it their sound to explore even further their own unique blend of rock and folk music. A critical and commercial success, the record would provide a home to a number of band classics down the years, including the famous ‘Thomas The Rhymer’. Ever ones to experiment, Steeleye also offered their version of Phil Spector’s ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ – featuring David Bowie on saxophone.
In 2011 having established the longest serving line-up of their career, the departure of guitarist Ken Nicol necessitated another change of personnel and, with the addition of Julian Littman, Pete Zorn and Rick Kemp back on Bass, there could have been no better time then to go back to the iconic record “ Now We Are Six”. Releasing a double live album and tacking it on an extensive UK tour, performing it in its entirety. With the new members joining Steeleye lynchpins Maddy Prior, Peter Knight, Liam Genockey and Rick Kemp, the shows brought a new twist to familiar material – adding experience gained over an illustrious career.
The band released their new album Wintersmith in collaboration with Sir Terry Pratchett at the end of 2013. A record based on Pratchett’s Wintersmith novel, the subject matter was completely appropriate for Steeleye, a tale of ancient rituals and secret folk dances that perfectly complemented their previous work whilst taking it in new directions. 2014 sees Steeleye Span emerging on another new exciting chapter. With the departure of fiddle player and long standing member Peter Knight the Ireland tour will see the band introduce Jessie May Smart. A departure to what we have come accustomed to with Steeleye Span, Jessie is a young, vibrant talent who trained with Richard Ireland at Trinity College of Music before going onto The University of Nottingham and who’s CV includes working on The X Factor and with Katie Melua.
With their fiftieth anniversary fast approaching and a work rate to put many younger artists to shame, the band’s eighth album in twelve years – 2016’s Dodgy Bastards – saw them return to the folk tales and characters that have always been at the heart of the Steeleye sound with a record that saw the folk rock pioneers continue to drawing stories of murder, religion, incest, skulls, honour killings and tormented spirits to once more create an inspired and dark take on the music of the British Isles. They follow it with a UK tour that sees them introduce a new seven piece line up, with Roger Carey joining on bass and Benji Kirkpatrick – whose father John enjoyed two successful stints in the band and played on many of their classic albums – adding bouzouki, acoustic guitar and vocals. With the future of this famous band in such capable hands, the shows will see them breathe life into a selection of famous songs, revisit hidden gems from their long career and perform tracks from the new album.
Jon Boden and The Remnant Kings
Jon Boden has become the ‘stand out performer of his generation’ (The Guardian) of traditional folk artists, but one whose repertoire extends far beyond the boundaries of the genre.
He is best known as the lead singer and main arranger of the progressive folk juggernaut Bellowhead. After twelve years, a quarter of a million album sales, seven singles on the Radio 2 playlist and selling out hundreds of venues throughout the land and beyond, including notably the Royal Albert Hall, Jon announced in 2015 that he wanted to move on. The rest of the band decided not to continue without him. Bellowhead played their final gig on May 1st 2016.
In 2009, Jon founded his band The Remnant Kings. The band were originally formed to perform the album ’Songs from the Floodplain’. The idea of the Remnant Kings performances was to combine the post apocalyptic concept of the album, with other songs that might survive the apocalypse. In this genre busting mix, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings performed concerts where folk songs, Bach, pop and jazz all rubbed shoulders with Jon’s own songs. This was all augmented by the use on stage of two wax cylinder players, which played specially recorded material.
As time moved on the band evolved to encompass Jon’s ‘A Folk Song A Day’ project – adding Paul Sartin to the line up and hosting after show singing sessions with the audiences.
The band went into hibernation for several years whilst Bellowhead hit top gear, but were reunited to record Afterglow in 2017, Jon’s first new album after leaving Bellowhead. The band features the talents of former Bellowhead band-mates Sam Sweeney and Paul Sartin, plus Leveret’s Rob Harbron and Ben Nicholls and Richard Warren (King of The South Seas). The band are also joined by an exceptional string and brass section including players from the award winning Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band.
Show of Hands
Show of Hands are undeniably one of the strongest current forces in acoustic music – England’s finest and most popular roots partnership and something of a “people’s band”, regularly voicing the hopes, fears and life stories of scores of people in song. Joined by Miranda Sykes on double bass they are widely recognised for their resonating original songs, stunning musicianship and remarkable audience rapport
Their latest album ‘Long Way Home’ received rave reviews across the board, and was nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Album’ category.
An exclusive UK performance by Galician piper Budiño will close the Bellstone stage on Monday.
Budiño, as this formidable musical legend and his band is known, is coming to Shrewsbury! His history of innovative work, collaborations and great music fits perfectly with our desire to bring the very best in new world music to our audience.
Xosé Manuel Budiño started his musical career in the 80’s in the Pipe School of Moaña. He has collaborated with bands such as Altan (Ireland), Capercaille (Scotland), Oskorri (Basque Country), and artists like Kepa Junkera. With multiple award winning albums and a glorious Galician vibe, this is going to be a very special show!
With a fabulous live band, sparkling compositions and a great, great live show, as seen at other UK festivals including Cambridge and Heb Celt, you’re in for a treat!
Usher’s Island sees the coming together of five of the most influential and acclaimed names in traditional Irish music- Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny, both members of Planxty, founding member of The Bothy Band Paddy Glackin, Mike McGoldrick of Lunasa and Capercaillie, and John Doyle, who played with Solas. Each is a talented soloist in their own right but in this new band they offer a blend of old and young and of vocal and instrumental talents that results in exceptional music.
Andy Irvine is one of the great Irish singers, his voice one of a handful of truly remarkable ones that gets to the very soul of Ireland. He has been hailed as “a tradition in himself.” Musician, singer and songwriter, Andy has maintained his highly individual performing skills throughout his 45-year career. From Sweeney’s Men in the mid 60s, to the enormous success of Planxty in the 70s and then from Patrick Street to Andy Irvine & Dónal Lunny’s Mozaik, Andy has been a world music pioneer and an icon for traditional music and musicians.
Dónal Lunny is popularly regarded as having being central to the renaissance of Irish music over the last three decades. Since the seventies Dónal has had involvement with some of the most innovative bands to emerge from Ireland including Planxty, the Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Coolfin, and more recently Mozaik. He has toured across the world, collaborating with musicians of many different cultures.
Dónal co-founded Mulligan Records and produced 17 albums for the label. Since then he has produced tracks for, and collaborated on albums with Kate Bush, Mark Knopfler, Indigo Girls, Clannad, and Baaba Maal among others. He produced the internationally acclaimed album for EMI, ‘Common Ground’, featuring such artists as Bono, Neil and Tim Finn, and Elvis Costello.
As a co-founder of best-selling Irish instrumental outfit Lúnasa and current member of Scottish favorites Capercaillie, flute-player and piper Michael McGoldrick has played a great part in expanding the audience for instrumental music from Ireland and Scotland with his expert technique allied with visionary sensibilities. His genius for wedding traditional styles with contemporary textures has made him a welcomed contributor to albums and performances by such acclaimed contemporary roots artists as Kate Rusby, Sharon Shannon, the Afro-Celt Sound System and Youssou N’Dour. While not gigging with Usher’s Island, Mike currently plays in Mark Knopfler’s touring band.
A founding member of the Bothy Band, fiddler Paddy Glackin left to pursue a solo career shortly before the band launched their first album. Nevertheless, Glackin has continued to explore the fiddling of Ireland as a soloist and in collaboration with uilleann piper Robbie Hannan, multi-instrumentalist Donal Lunny, guitarist Michael O’Domhnaill and fiddler Paddy Keenan. Glackin‘s fiddling can also be heard on recordings by Van Morrison, Kate Bush and John Cage. Born and raised in Dublin Glackin was weaned on the Donegal style of fiddling played by his father, Tom. He was equally influenced by the playing of John Doherty, an itinerant fiddler from Donegal.
John Doyle is one of the most influential and important musicians in Irish music today. He was a founding member of Irish American supergroup Solas in the 1990s and recently served as band leader for the Joan Baez band. As a guitarist, he is unparalleled for his harmonic and rhythmic genius. His instrumental prowess contributed to his 2010 GRAMMY nomination for Best Traditional World Music album for his collaboration with fiddler Liz Carroll on <> Double Play. In recent years Doyle has emerged as an important singer of Irish music as well; his 2010 collaboration, Exiles Return, with Karan Casey won him critical acclaim and solidified his reputation as a world class interpreter of traditional songs.
For two decades, Gretchen Peters has been one of Nashville’s most beloved and respected artists. “If Peters never delivers another tune as achingly beautiful as ‘On A Bus To St. Cloud,'” People Magazine wrote, “she has already earned herself a spot among country’s upper echelon of contemporary composers.”
Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in October 2014 by singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell, who called her “both a songwriter and a poet (who) sings as beautifully as she writes,” and said her song “The Matador”, “moved me so greatly, I cried from the soles of my feet”, Peters has accumulated accolades as a songwriter for artists as diverse as Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, The Neville Brothers, Patty Loveless, George Strait, Bryan Adams and Faith Hill.
Her 2015 album, ‘Blackbirds’, debuted at #1 on the UK Country chart and in the top 40 UK pop chart, and was awarded International Album of the Year and Song of the Year. In 2015, The Telegraph named her one of the greatest 60 female singer-songwriters of all time.
Midnight Skyracer are a brand new all-female 5 piece bluegrass band playing hard driving traditional and modern classics and lesser known songs. Featuring an all-star lineup of some of the UK’s top instrumentalists and singers, the band takes inspiration from the likes of other great female artists such as Rhonda Vincent and Alison Krauss.
Leanne Thorose – Lead/Harmony Vocals and Mandolin Leanne is a powerhouse singer and mandolin player. Some of her musical achievements to date include touring the world as lead fiddler with Essence of Ireland and, in 2011, recording her solo album with top session players in Nashville. More recently, Leanne has performed with London based bands such as the Ben Somers String Band and The Absentees.
Tabitha Agnew – Lead/Harmony Vocals and Banjo At just 18, Tabitha is the youngest member of the band and a bit of a banjo prodigy. Not only is she an incredibly talented banjo player, but she also has a beautiful, delicate singing voice. Tabitha can usually be heard performing with her two brothers in the Northern Ireland based band Cup O’Joe, with whom she has performed all over the world, including being the only UK band to ever perform on the IBMA World of Bluegrass Youth Stage in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Laura Carrivick – Lead/Harmony Vocals, Fiddle and Dobro Laura splits her time in the band between the fiddle and dobro, contributing plenty of hot licks and soulful fills. Laura came second in the RockyGrass, Colorado fiddle contest in 2008 and once played fiddle with Tom Jones! Laura performs with her twin sister Charlotte in The Carrivick Sisters and also in the progressive bluegrass quartet, Cardboard Fox.
Charlotte Carrivick – Lead/Harmony Vocals and Guitar Charlotte is one of the top female flatpickers in the world with an inventive lead style and and solid rhythm playing. Having grown up singing together, Charlotte and Laura’s sibling harmonies are second to none. Like Laura, Charlotte plays with Cardboard Fox and also in an old time duo (playing mandolin and clawhammer banjo as well as guitar) with fiddle Kieran Towers.
Eleanor Wilkie – Harmony Vocals and Double Bass Bluegrass bass players don’t come much better than Eleanor. Not only is she able to hold the band together with a simple, unobtrusive ‘less is more’ bass line, but given the chance she can bow it like a fiddle or take an impressive slap bass solo. Eleanor has played bass and fiddle in many UK bluegrass bands, currently fiddling with The Reckless Abandoners.
Four times nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and double winners of the Spiral Earth Awards Megson, aka Stu & Debbie Hanna, draw heavily on their Teesside heritage to create a truly unique brand of folk music.
The husband & wife duo bring an infectious mix of heavenly vocals, lush harmonies and driving rhythmic guitars. Comprising Debs Hanna (Vocals, Whistle, Piano Accordion) and Stu Hanna (Guitar, Mandola, Banjo) Megson have gained fame on the British folk scene, not only for their arresting & intelligent songwriting, but for their exquisite musicianship and northern humour. As fRoots Magazine puts it ‘if you don’t like the music here then you have a problem’
Summer 2016 saw the release of their much anticipated new studio album GOOD TIMES WILL COME AGAIN gaining them much critical acclaim. “One of the most original political folk sets of the year. Ewan MacColl would have been impressed.” said The Guardian. “Relevant, thought-provoking songs that would make Woody Guthrie proud” said Acoustic Magazine. While folk broadcasting legend Mike Harding described it as “One of the top albums of 2016.”.
And during all this time, Stu even managed to be involved with other artists producing & recording award winning music for SHOW OF HANDS, KELLY OLIVER, LUCY WARD, FAUSTUS, THE WILLOWS, SAM KELLY & THE YOUNG’UNS.
BLOWZABELLA celebrate 40 years of their inimitable, drone-based wall-of-sound with a new album ‘Two Score’, a new book of tunes ‘More Scores’ and gigs and festivals in the UK and the EU.
BLOWZABELLA is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based sound played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling. They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional folk music and song.
Andy Cutting – diatonic button accordion; Jo Freya – vocals, saxophone, clarinet; Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones; Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy; David Shepherd – violin; Barn Stradling – bass guitar; Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophone.
All the band members compose and many of their tunes are “standards” in the modern British/European folk repertoire and are played by people all over the world. Bands across Europe who experiment with folk music often cite Blowzabella as a major influence. Much loved and respected, there is no one else quite like them.
‘A stunning, virtuosic, internationalist show’ says BBC Folk Singer of the Year Nancy Kerr.
Rafiki Jazz are nine native and migrant folk remixing roots music and telling modern day stories with a glance back to the ancients. Celebrating unity in diversity with their latest release Har Dam Sahara (Riverboat Records) Rafikian music is ‘a love-letter to this intricate world in all its beauty and complexity‘ and features the compelling vocal quartet of Sufi Sarah Yaseen, Hebrew-Hindi singer-songwriter Avital Raz, Egyptian Coptic master-musician Mina Salama and Senegalese griot Kadialy Kouyate at the heart of a truly cross-continental ‘musical masala’. Enchanting, soulful, exquisite!
Lyrics : Urdu, Hebrew, Punjabi, Mandinka, Hindi, English, Coptic
Onstage: kora, oud, ney, violin, steelpans, bass, berimbau, tabla, guitar, tanpura, derbuka, santoor
The Mighty Doonans
The Mighty Doonans have a deserved reputation for their imaginative and innovative interpretations of traditional and contemporary songs. With brass, drums, keyboards, electric guitars and amazing vocals, they have the ability to blend different genres of music and dance (and the occasional joke) into their act. This leads to thoroughly entertaining performances that delight audiences across the ‘folk world’.
The original ‘Doonan Family Band’ regulars; Mick & Kevin Doonan, Phil Murray & Stu Luckley, are joined by various family members, Rosie & Frances Doonan (Mick’s daughters), Jamie Luckley (Stu’s son) a great old friend Ian (Walter) Fairbairn and occasionally joined by Ben Murray (Phil’s son) which all constitute ‘The Mighty Doonans’.
The original ‘Doonan Family Band ‘ have been part of the British folk scene for over 40 years. John Doonan, father of Mick and Kevin, was the godfather of Irish music, a world champion piccolo player.
The Mighty Doonans continue to deliver their traditions and influences along with powerhouse arrangements and sensitive interpretations of a wide variety of material, while retaining their renowned rapport and relationship with all audiences
Growing up performing songs and tunes learned from their musical parents The Sands Family and from other renowned musicians, it is no wonder this new folk group ‘Na Leanai’ (pronounced Na Lah-nee) are taking the Irish music scene by storm.
Na Leanai grew up as sons and daughters of the famous County Down Folk Group and after spending many of their years growing up singing with the family, they made the decision in 2014 to officially form the band. Band members include: Sorcha Turnbull (Daughter of Anne Sands), Ryanne Sands (Daughter of Ben Sands), Eimear Keane (Daughter of Anne Sands), Fra Sands (Son of Hugh Sands), Moya Sands (Daughter of Tommy Sands).
With fiddles flutes guitars and percussion they play haunting airs that speak to the soul, lively jigs to set the feet tapping and enthral with close vocal harmonies that will give you goose bumps. Na Leanai’s first album; “Kindred Roots” features traditional and contemporary songs, all with original arrangements, and has been warmly received by the music industry.
Shooglenifty was formed in 1990 by musicians from the Scottish Highlands, Orkney and Edinburgh, its bright spark was the idea of fusing traditional and traditional-sounding melodies with the beats and basslines of a mixed bag of more contemporary influences. As happy playing a small highland village hall as they are on a outdoor festival stage playing to tens of thousands, the Shoogles (as they’re known to their fans) have promoted Scottish music all over the world for more than a quarter century.
In 2015 they played venues in Sarawak and Stornoway, Lorient and London, Adelaide and Aberdeen, Bangalore and Bristol, and released their seventh studio album The Untied Knot. This featured the first ever collection of Shoogle songs and introduced their newest member, puirt à beul vocalist Kaela Rowan. It received a 5* ‘Top of the World’ rating in Songlines, among many other favourable reviews. Songlines also nominated the band for Best Group in early 2016. The Untied Knot was nominated for Best Album at ‘Na Trads 2015’ – the Scottish Traditional Music Awards. The band’s gig calendar for 2016 included festivals in The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, England, and, of course, Scotland. They were nominated for Best Scottish Group at the Sunday Herald Culture Awards in July 2016, manfully losing out to Scottish Opera.
In October 2016, the band lost their fiddler Angus R Grant, and took the end of that year to take a well-earned pause. They were bowled over by the numerous tributes and stories shared about their influential front man, not to mention the outpouring of love for Angus on social media. In January 2017 they channelled that emotion into a tribute gig for Angus at Celtic Connections featuring no less than 62 musicians who were all touched by his music.
2017 was about re-grouping and putting together a documentary, tentatively entitled The High Road to Who Knows Where, about the band and Angus’s influence on Scottish music over the past three decades. In June 2017 the band released a live video from the Celtic Connections concert featuring the talents of six leading Scottish fiddlers: Adam Sutherland, Charlie McKerron, Duncan Chisholm, Eilidh Shaw, Gavin Marwick and Laura Wilkie. You can watch it now on VimeoOnDemand In December 2017, A Night For Angus won Event of the Year at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards (Na Trads).
The Shoogles are currently producing their 8th studio album. Recordings took place at the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur in October 2017 in 40 degree heat! The High Road To Jodhpur (working title) is a joint project between Shooglenifty and Rajasthani supergroup Dhun Dhora, with whom the band have been playing with since 2014. Literally meaning ‘Music of the Dunes’ Dhun Dhora hails from the Thar Desert north west of Jodhpur, close the the Pakistani border. The band’s members are all traditional musicians who have been playing for as long as they remember and their performing lineages go back at least ten generations in each case. Performing in two minority languages – Gaelic and Marwari – Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora know how rich their own traditional cultures are and are at the forefront of keeping them very much alive. They may converse in different tongues but they speak the same language musically. The project is very much a live interplay of equals rather than two bands bolted together for the short term. The Indian musicians, used to a life of patronage and playing to order, were a little reticent in the early days. But they have responded, over the past few years, to the deep respect and friendship offered by the Scots and together they have developed a mischievous improvisational musical kinship that is a delight to witness.
Instrumentation on the album includes Shooglenifty’s regular line up of fiddle (supplied by the amazing Laura Wilkie), mandolin, guitar, banjo, bass, drums and vocals plus Dhun Dhora’s majestic dhol drummers Swaroop, Sattar, Channan and Pyaaru Khan Manganiyar, über vocalist and harmonium player Dayam Khan Manganiyar, morchang and bhapang specialist Latif Khan Manganiyar, master of khartal Ghafoor Khan Manganiyar and sarangi superstar Sardar Khan Langa. The new album will be launched at a number of very special festival appearances in August 2018.
In February 2018, Eilidh Shaw joined the band as permanent fiddle player. Eilidh is a West Highland fiddler with a playful, infectious energy who was taught by Aonghas Grant (our Angus’s father).
Photo Credits: (1) Shrewsbury Folk Festival, (2) Richard Thompson, (3) Snaarmaarwaar, (4) Steeleye Span, (5) Jon Boden, (6) Show of Hands, (7) Xosé Manuel Budiño, (8)-(9) Usher’s Island, (10) Gretchen Peters, (11) Midnight Skyracer, (14) Rafiki Jazz, (16) Na Leanai, (17) Shooglenifty, (18) Eilidh Shaw (unknown/website); (12) Megson, (13) Blowzabella (by The Mollis); (15) The Doonans (by Walkin' Tom).