blending traditional Celtic instrumental and
vocal themes with contemporary arrangements

Review and HTML © Russell W Elliot 2000
all images © Survival Music 2000
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Last updated: 27 August 2000
Image © 2000 Survival Records Ltd
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While enthusiasts have enjoyed a flurry of individual releases over the last three years since the band's last studio album, Capercaillie's latest release Nādurra (Naturally) (Survival (UK) SURCD 025, 2000) is the result of their return to the studio as well as to their traditional roots. There have also been a number of lineup changes. Capercaillie's prior studio album, Beautiful Wasteland (Survival (UK) SURCD 021, 1997) blended Celtic with Spanish themes. The music worked quite well in concert, delighting fans in a series sell-out shows during the tour to promote the album (review). Capercaillie has sold over 500,000 albums in the UK including a gold and two silver albums and today are established as Britain's leading Celtic band.

In late 1998, the band released an album sold via mail and internet channels exclusively entitled Glenfinnan (Songs of the '45) (Survival (UK) CAP 6, 1998) that included themes they created for a Scottish television show (review). A reissue of their live and rare tracks album Get Out (Survival (UK) SURCD 016, 1999) delighted fans during 1999 along with the original plus three remix EP of "Breisleach" (Survival (UK) CAP 2, 1996) and the "Dusk Till Dawn" EP (Survival (UK) CAP 5, 1999) that were sold via mail order and internet channels. Fans contributed to the selection of tracks for the band's definitive 'best of' album entitled Dusk Till Dawn (Survival (UK) SURCD 023, 1999) (review).

In early 2000, Charlie McKerron and John Saich teamed up with vocalist Laura McKerron and other guests (including Mark Duff and Michael McGoldrick) in a Capercaillie spin-off project called Big Sky and recorded an album entitled Volume 1: The Source (Survival (UK) SURCD 024, 2000) (review). Big Sky's sound blends progressive Celtic themes and stunning vocals with popular accessibility and might best be characterised as Capercaillie meets The Corrs (reviews Croyden, Portsmouth).

Capercaillie's first DVD—The Capercaillie Collection 1990-1996 (Survival (UK) SURDVD 01, 2000)—is a stunning compilation of their promotional videos and their 1992 video release Two Nights Of Delirium. Although European and other territories have enjoyed the DVD (70-minute compilation also available in VHS/PAL format) since the early summer, the American Region 1 DVD is available from 15 August 2000 (review).

Capercaillie's latest album Nādurra is available from 4 September 2000 in the United Kingdom and EEC and from 26 September 2000. Fronted by "the finest Gaelic singer alive," Karen Matheson, Capercaillie is currently comprised of Donald Shaw (sartarelle accordian, wurlitzer, piano, synth), Michael McGoldrick (wooden flutes, whistle, uillean pipes), Ewen Vernal (acoustic and electric bass), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Manus Lunny (bouzouki, guitar, bodhran, vocals), James MacKintosh (drums, percussion). The album was co-produced by the band and Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile, Prefab Sound). With stunning artwork again by Ryan Design, the album's twelve tracks are perfectly complimented by Survival's CD packaging.

The album's tracks cover a range of different styles ranging from the most traditional to quite contemporary. "Chuir M'Athair" and "Tighinn Air A'Mhuir" are traditional Gaelic folk ballads sung sensitively with a thoughtful blend of traditional and modern instrumentation. The prevalent uillean pipe in the former works extremely well with Karen's vocals which dominate the latter. Karen's vocals are most evocative in the progressive ballad "Truth Calling" where light accompanyment achieves a lovely almost lounge style texture. Crystalline vocals in the chorus and strings during the instrumental bridge are spellbinding.

The band's traditional instrumental prowess is illustrated in their interpretation of Scottish dance music in "Michael's Matches" and a four slip-jig set that includes "Inspector Hector," "Failte Gu Whalley Range," "Argyll Lassies," and "The Bass Rock." "The Hollybush" and "Granny Hold The Candle While I Shave The Chicken's Lip" form a rousing traditionally-oriented rocking dance track that demonstrates the overall accessibility this kind of music can actually achieve. The album concludes with a further medley of original traditionally-oriented instrumentals including "The Eurythmic," "Bulgarian Red" and "The Cockerel In The Creel." Individual instrumental parts are seamlessly woven together and demonstrate the artist's individual and combined virtuosity blending traditional music with contemporary production.

"Hope Springs Eternal" and "Hoireann O" are upbeat, foot-tapping, Celtic contemporary crossover tracks that blend modern electronic with traditional instrumentation. Sweetly sung vocals and keyboards and whistle are especially notable. "Mo Chailin Dileas Donn" continues in a similar vein; a song of unrequited love is sung evocatively and is most reminiscent of Capercaillie's earlier work. "Gaol Troimh Aimsirean" (Love Through The Seasons) is a sensitively and sweetly sung ballad supported by light keyboard and moody uillean pipe accompanyment. "Rapture" is a highly accessible rocking number with lovely lead and harmony vocals that blends traditional with modern instrumentation to great effect. We loved the whistle part.

Further information on the band along with additional photographs, soundbites (of Big Sky as well) and ordering information are available at their website. You can read further reviews and order Nādurra at here. Topped off with Karen Matheson's stunning vocal performance, the band's latest album is a tremendous blend of traditional and contemporary Celtic music certain to please their loyal following. Stunning production quality, great songwriting and top performances make the album worth a cross-country journey; it is a must listen!

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