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
Another tease about Phil's solo album
thisisnottingham reports that John McCusker has worked on 20 tracks with our Phil.