Capercaillie (band)

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. 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.


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. Their first album, Cascade, was recorded in 1984.

Musical style

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, 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. 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. 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", is used in the Edexcel Music GCSE Specification from 2009 onwards. The song is in the world music section, and is used as a representation of traditional folk music combined with rock music.

Chart success

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. Another single, "Dark Alan (Ailein duinn)" reached No. 65 in the UK Singles Chart in June 1995.

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


Studio albums

  • Cascade (1984)
  • Crosswinds (1987)
  • Sidewaulk (1989)
  • Delirium (1991)
  • Secret People (1993)
  • To the Moon (1995)
  • Beautiful Wasteland (1997)
  • Nàdurra (2000)
  • Choice Language (2003)
  • Roses and Tears (2008)
  • At the Heart of It All (2013)

    Live albums

  • Live in Concert (2002)

    Soundtrack albums

  • The Blood Is Strong (1988)
  • Glenfinnan (Songs of the '45) (1998, recorded in 1995)

    Remix albums

  • 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

  • Dusk till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie (1998)
  • Grace and Pride: The Anthology 2004-1984 (2004)

    Band members

    Current members

  • Karen Matheson – vocals (1984 – present)
  • Charlie McKerron – fiddle (1986 – present)
  • Michael McGoldrick – flute, whistle, uilleann pipes (1997 – present)
  • Manus Lunnybouzouki, guitar (1989 – present)
  • Donald Shaw – keyboards, accordion (1984 – present)
  • Ewen Vernal – bass (1998 – present)
  • David "Chimp" Robertson – percussion (1997 – present)
  • Che Beresford – drums (1998 – present)
  • James Mackintosh – drums (1992 – 1993, 2000, 2013)

    File:Karen Matheson 2007.jpg|Karen Matheson File:FIL 2013 - Capercaillie - 8640.JPG|Donald Shaw File:Charlie McKerron, Madrid, España, 2017 01.jpg|Charlie McKerron File:Manus Lunny, Madrid, España, 2017.jpg|Manus Lunny File:FIL 2013 - Capercaillie - 8694.JPG|Ewen Vernal File:Michael McGoldrick, Madrid, España, 2017 05.jpg|Michael McGoldrick File:David Robertson, Madrid, España, 2017 04.jpg|David Robertson File:Che Beresford, Madrid, España, 2017 03.jpg|Che Beresford

    Former members

  • 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)


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