Capercaillie (band)

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Capercaillie at Nuremberg, 2005
Capercaillie at Nuremberg, 2005
Background information
OriginOban, Scotland
GenresScottish folk music, traditional Gaelic music
Years active1984–present
LabelsSurvival, Vertical, Valley Entertainment
MembersKaren Matheson
Charlie McKerron
Michael McGoldrick
Manus Lunny
Donald Shaw
Ewen Vernal
Che Beresford
David Robertson
Past membersJoan McLachlan
Anton Kirkpatrick
Shaun Craig
Martin Macleod
Marc Duff
John Saich
Wilf Taylor
James Mackintosh
Fred Morrison

Capercaillie is a Scottish folk band that was founded in 1984 by Donald Shaw and led by Karen Matheson. Capercaillie performs traditional Gaelic and contemporary English songs.[1] The group adapts traditional Gaelic music and traditional lyrics with modern production techniques and instruments such as electric guitar and bass guitar, though rarely synthesizers or drum machines.

The group's albums have appeared in the UK Albums Chart.[2]


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.[3]


Their first album, Cascade, was recorded in 1984.[1]

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the band gave their last known (free) performance on 17 August 2019 at the Festival des Filets Bleus in Concarneau, Brittany, France[4][5] until they performed for the first time in 2 years on 6 August 2021 at the Wickham Festival in Wickham, Hampshire, England.

Then after 9 months of live inactivity, the band resumed touring:[6]

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,[7] 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 few modern instruments and the tunes and songs were played in a more traditional arrangement.[1] However beginning with later albums such as Sidewaulk, and the soundtrack of The Blood Is Strong, Capercaillie began to experiment with adding funk bass-lines into certain tracks, as well as synthesisers and electric guitar.[1] 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.

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.

The opening track from their 2000 album Nàdurra, "Skye Waulking Song", was used in the Edexcel Music GCSE Specification from 2009 to 2016.[8] The song was in the world music section, and was used as a representation of traditional folk music combined with rock 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 No. 39.[9] Another single, "Dark Alan (Ailein duinn)" reached No. 65 in the UK Singles Chart in June 1995.[2]

The album Secret People (1993) reached No. 40, and To the Moon (1995) peaked at No. 41 in the UK Albums Chart.[2]


Studio albums[edit]

  1. Cascade (1984)
  2. Crosswinds (1987)
  3. Sidewaulk (1989)
  4. Delirium (1991)
  5. Secret People (1993)
  6. To the Moon (1995)
  7. Beautiful Wasteland (1997)
  8. Nàdurra (2000)
  9. Choice Language (2003)
  10. Roses and Tears (2008)
  11. At the Heart of It All (2013)

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]

  • Dusk till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie (1998)
  • Waulk Roots (1998) Tracks from early albums Crosswinds and Sidewaulk
  • Grace and Pride: The Anthology 2004-1984 (2004)

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 d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 221. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 92. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ "Capercaille:Roses and Tears: by George Graham". Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Capercaillie en concert exceptionnel à Concarneau en 2019 !". 11 February 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  5. ^ "Capercaillie Setlist at Festival des Filets Bleus 2019". Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  6. ^ Capercaillie Official website > Upcoming shows (retrieved: 2 April 2022)
  7. ^ "Capercaille". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 3 January 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  8. ^ "Edexcel GCSE in Music (2MU01)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 July 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  9. ^ International who's who in popular music. Europa Publications Limited. 2002. ISBN 9781857431612. Retrieved 9 January 2011.

External links[edit]