Under One Sky - A folk "suite"
Friday, November 28, 2008, 07:30
Before Graham Coxon goes back in the studio with the newly re-formed Blur, he'll be joining Idlewild's Roddy Woomble and a host of folk musicians at Nottingham's Albert Hall for Under One Sky. SIMON WILSON spoke to John McCusker about the folk "suite" and his work with Paul Weller, Mark Knopfler and Radiohead...
WHY is Graham Coxon involved in a folk "suite"? Blur and his grittier solo material never showed much of a leaning towards storytelling acoustica.
"Both he and Roddy Woomble have grown up playing rock music but they've both got a great love for folk music," says John McCusker, creator of Under One Sky.
"That's how I know Graham. He came to folk concerts that I was involved in. And we became friends."
McCusker, who has worked with Paul Weller, Mark Knopfler, Ocean Colour and Radiohead's Phil Selway as musician and producer, was commissioned to write an hour-long piece to celebrate two British folk festivals: Cambridge and Celtic Connections.
The idea was also to bring together English and Scottish folk musicians.
McCusker says: "Undeniably there's a divide between Scotland and England but I'm not sure how real it is. People talk about it more than anything.
"Musically it exists as Scottish musicians tend to play traditional Scottish music and likewise with the English.
"I don't think a piece of music like this will bring two nations together but it gave the musicians a better understanding of each other's music.
"Watching them have a laugh and make music together and really buzz of each other's music was fantastic. I know it's a cliche but music is an amazing universal language.
He wrote pieces with all of the musicians, including Gaelic songstress Julie Fowlis, balladeer John Tams and rising star Jim Causley.
The hour-long concert will feature all 12 of them.
"There are seven pieces of music in that hour. But it's not like a set list. It's evolving all the time.
"You never know what's going to happen. Which adds to the excitement.
"It's certainly the highlight of any musical experience I've had."
As well as choosing the musicians, McCusker has been responsible for getting it rehearsed and recorded, even booking flights and coaches for the tour.
"It's quite a lot of work but it's my baby. It'll be worth it in the end."
Other musicians taking part include: Andy Cutting (diatonic accordion), Ian Carr (guitar), Emma Reid (fiddle), Iain MacDonald (bagpipes/whistles/flute), Ewen Vernal (bass) and James Mackintosh (percussion).
McCusker, who has also worked with Patti Smith, Teenage Fanclub, Steve Earle, Roseanne Cash, Linda Thompson, the Waterboys, Jools Holland and Billy Connolly, grew up in Bellshill, near Glasgow.
He joined Scottish folk outfit The Battlefield Band from the age of 17 and toured the world with them for the next decade.
After two solo albums he produced several albums for Kate Rusby, who he married in 2001.
In 2003 he was named Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
This year he's been on tour with Mark Knopfler and Paul Weller.
Next up he'll be playing on the new Teenage Fanclub album and has been working on the debut solo offering from Radiohead drummer Philip Selway.
"It's in limbo just now because he's been so busy with Radiohead but we did 20 tracks at their studios in Oxford for a month."
He adds: "It's 18 years that I've been doing this and I'm still as excited about it as when I started out. There are loads of exciting stuff happening."
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Ed & Philip will join the new Seven Worlds Collide project
Ed and Philip will rejoin Neil Finn in a follow up to the acclaimed Seven Worlds Collide project at the end of the year. Together with members of the original line up and other artists, the ‘supergroup’ will record an album of entirely new material in support of international development organisation Oxfam.
The original Seven Worlds Collide line up was Neil Finn, Ed O’Brien, Phil Selway, guitar supremo Johnny Marr, Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg, songwriter and violinist Lisa Germano, and Liam Finn. Other artists joining the project include Jeff Tweedy, John Stirrat, Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone from Wilco, and New Zealand songwriters Bic Runga and Don McGlashan. Behind the mixing desk will be master recording engineer Jim Scott. More names will be added to the lineup in the coming weeks.
The album will be recorded over the next few months in Auckland and is due for release in 2009. Like its predecessor, the project will also see a series of concerts featuring many of the artists included in the line up. The shows will take place in Auckland early in the New Year. Details will be announced soon.
Neil Finn said “Seven years ago I invited a few friends and fellow musicians to do a special series of concerts in New Zealand under the banner Seven Worlds Collide. The concerts were an amazing experience for all of us and we are delighted to have found an opportunity to gather again, this time to expand the concept and the line up too. What will make these sessions particularly meaningful is that all the proceeds of this recording will go to support the continuing great work of Oxfam International.”
Head to youtube to see Phil in action during Hole in the Ice.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Girl from a small island proud to show off roots
Friday, October 31, 2008
GROWING up on the small Outer Hebridean island of North Uist amid a Gaelic-speaking community, it's tempting to say Julie Fowlis had music in her blood from the start.
But the 29-year-old, who can also count Björk, KT Tunstall, Ricky Gervais, Radiohead's Phil Selway and Mark Radcliffe among her diverse range of famous fans, avoids over-romanticising her Scottish roots.
"I suppose, as any child would be, I was not really aware of what was around me at the time," she says.
"It's only as an adult, looking back, that I see my incredible upbringing differently and realise how instrumental it was in what I ended up doing in my life for a job.
"I was a bilingual child, always hearing the two languages, Gaelic and English, and singing or speaking in them at school and at home. And in our community especially, there is a lot of piping, so I started to play the chanter when I was very, very small before learning to play the full bagpipes.
"I didn't really think anything of it until I was much older and moved away and realised not everybody does that."
Entering national Gaelic singing competitions as a girl and singing at a ceilidh here and an old people's home there, she soon developed her voice, later gaining national recognition with the band Dòchas at the 2004 Scots Trad Music Awards in 2004, where she was also nominated for the Best Gaelic Singer award.
These early successes were only a taster of what was to follow.
In 2005, her first solo album, Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is) soon earned her international acclaim.
Meanwhile the 2007 follow-up, Cuilidh, became a worldwide bestseller in both the traditional and world music charts, earning her a nomination at the 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for Folk Singer of the Year – the title which this year she won.
Among the latest music that can be downloaded from her website today is the newly-released album Dual and her cover of the Beatles's Blackbird, recorded for Mojo Magazine.
With another full-length album in the pipeline and presenting slots on BBC Scotland's Travelling Folk and Global Gathering programmes, Julie has become something of an unwitting ambassador for both the kind of music she sings and the language she sings it in.
"It's very important that the Gaelic tradition is continued," she says.
"I feel quite frustrated that I went through the whole school system knowing very little about the language, where it came from and its history, and I think it's very sad, actually.
"I hope that's something that is going to change, and I think now is a very exciting time for the language.
"We are definitely on an upward curve, albeit still quite far down it.
"So I'm really happy if I can do anything that can further the language.
"It feels like a weight on my shoulders, in a good way, knowing that each time I go to a place and perform there will be people who have never heard it before. With that comes a responsibility to do right by it by presenting it in the right way."
Anyone curious to see who Phil's been praising, check out the singer's 2007 Jools Holland appearance over on youtube.