While I was working on whale watching tours in the Isle of Mull, the secretary of the tour outfit and I were discussing the kinds of music we liked. When I mentioned that I was quite fond of non-traditional folk, she said, "Oh, then you might like the band that my fiancé he is in then — they're called Capercaillie. She lent me a tape, and it wasn't long before I was singing 'Fear a bhata (Oh my boatman)' at the top of my lungs into the wind when all the tourists were huddling inside the boat. I've been a firm fan ever since, even though the fiancé (John Saich) has since left the band.
Capercaillie were one of the first bands to break into mainstream music with 500 year old songs in Gaelic — not a feat to be sniffed at, I think. They still mostly sing in Gaelic, but have more of a world music feel with African and jazz influences. Karen Matheson (the lead singer) has an absolutely wonderful voice, which is at its best in the Gaelic songs. All the band are excellent musicians, and their music — while lacking some of the raw energy and inventiveness of artists like Martyn Bennett or mouthmusic — is very textured and bears repeated listening.
I have several different versions of the first track on the album, 'Mile marbhaisg air a ghaol (A thousand curses on love)', and this is a particularly nice interpretation. I'm also very keen on 'At dawn of day' which has some interesting arrangements. Overall, it's a very strong album from a talented band.