Capercaillie (band)

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Nuernberg 2005 017.jpg
Capercaillie at Nuremberg, 2005
Background information
Origin Oban, Scotland
Genres Celtic music
Years active 1984–present
Labels Survival Records
Vertical Records
Valley Entertainment
Members Karen Matheson
Charlie McKerron
Michael McGoldrick
Manus Lunny
Donald Shaw
Ewen Vernal
Che Beresford
David Robertson
Past members Joan MacLachlan
Anton Kirkpatrick
Shaun Craig
Martin Macleod
Marc Duff
John Saich
Wilf Taylor
James Mackintosh

Capercaillie are a Scottish folk band, founded in the 1980s by Donald Shaw and fronted by Karen Matheson. Capercaillie perform traditional Gaelic songs and tunes, as well as contemporary English language songs and tunes. The group adapt traditional Gaelic music and traditional lyrics with modern production techniques with instruments such as electric guitar or bass and rarely synthesisers or drum machines. They have seen four of their albums placed in the UK Albums Chart,[1] and continue to perform and record to the present day.


Originating from Argyll, a region of western Scotland, the band is named after the Western capercaillie, sometimes called a wood grouse, a native Scottish bird.[2] Their first album, Cascade, was recorded in 1984.

Musical style[edit]

Capercaillie's repertoire includes both traditional Gaelic songs and tunes, as well as modern English-language songs and tunes, composed by other folk writers and musicians, or by members of the band.

The group often adapt traditional Gaelic songs and music using modern production techniques, and often mix musical forms,[3] combining traditional lyrics and tunes with modern techniques and instruments such as synthesisers, drum machines, electric guitar and bass.

Capercaillie's first two albums, Cascade and Crosswinds featured very few modern instruments and the tunes and songs were played in a more traditional arrangement. However beginning with later albums such as Sidewaulk, and the The Blood Is Strong soundtrack, Capercaillie began to experiment with adding funk bass-lines into certain tracks, as well as synthesisers and electric guitar. This fusion style gained Capercaillie chart success in the 1990s, on albums such as Delirium and Secret People (see Chart Success, below) and reached its peak in the albums To the Moon and Beautiful Wasteland, with the remix albums Get Out and Capercaillie being released during this period.

Since the 2000s, Capercaillie have drawn back slightly from the heavy fusion style featured on their albums the 1990s, and their more recent albums from Nàdurra (2003) up to At the Heart of It All (2013) feature more traditional arrangements and instruments, while still retaining a slight fusion feel, although not to the extremes of their albums of the 1990s.

The opening track from their 2000 album Nàdurra, "Skye Waulking Song", is used in the Edexcel Music GCSE Specification from 2009 onwards as a representation of traditional folk music.

Chart Success[edit]

Their 1992 EP, A Prince Among Islands, was the first Scottish Gaelic-language record to have a single that reached the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart: "Coisich A Ruin" peaked at #39.[4] Another single, "Dark Alan (Ailein duinn)" reached No. 65 in the UK Singles Chart in June 1995.[1]

The album Secret People (1993) reached No. 40, and To the Moon (1995) peaked at No. 41 in the UK Albums Chart.[1]


Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

Soundtrack albums[edit]

Remix albums[edit]

  • Get Out (1992) (a compilation album of B-sides, remixes & unreleased studio and live tracks)
  • Capercaillie (1994) (a compilation album of re-worked and remixed tracks)

Compilation albums[edit]

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

  • Marc Duff – whistle, recorder, wind synthesizer, bodhrán (1984–1995)
  • Fred Morrison – Highland small pipes and low whistle (1995–1997)
  • John Saich – bass, guitar (1988–1998)
  • Shaun Craig – guitar, bouzouki (1984–1988)
  • Anton Kirkpatrick – guitar (1988–1989)
  • Martin MacLeod – bass, fiddle (1984–1988)
  • Joan Maclachlan – fiddle, vocals (1984–1986)



  1. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 92. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ "Capercaille:Roses and Tears: by George Graham". The Graham Weekly Album Review # 1525. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Capercaille". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 3 January 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Eur (2002). International who's who in popular music. Europa Publications Limited. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 

External links[edit]