Music

Capercaillie: Grace and Pride: Anthology 2004-1984

Steve Horowitz

This double disc anthology celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Celtic band from England and contains 38 tracks from each of Capercaillie's 15 albums, plus previously unreleased bonus tracks.


Capercaillie

Grace and Pride: Anthology 2004-1984

Label: Survival
US Release Date: 2005-02-15
UK Release Date: 2004-09-13
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Sometimes there is only a thin line that separates traditional folk from modern New Age. Music rooted in the pre-electric era lends itself to quietude and the emulation of natural sounds like the wind and waves. Some record companies even market their acoustic folk artists as types of New Age musicians (Windham Hill tried to expand their roster with several such acts, such as John Gorka, in the past). Some New Age artists (such as Patrick O'Hearn and Liz Story) have freely borrowed themes and motifs from folk music. The results can be rewarding (think Enya), but more often the result comes off as boring folk or less than inspiring New Age. The Scottish band Capercaillie walks that thin line, and not always successfully. The group's best work results when it decides to play wholly in one style or the other, not when they try to merge the two, and Capercaillie's folk efforts far supersede the band's New Age work.

While Capercaillie has undergone many personnel changes during the past twenty years, co-founders Donald Shaw (accordion/keyboards) and Karen Matheson (vocals) have remained constant. Shaw may be more important for his leadership and his ability to attract talent than his instrumental virtuosity, as the band has included a number of high caliber fiddle, flute, tin whistle, and pipe players over the years. And it's Matheson's distinctive ethereal voice that makes Capercaillie easily identifiable from other Gaelic bands. The actor Sean Connery once described it as "a throat that is surely touched by God", and while those across the pond are prone to overstatement, Connery correctly noted the otherworldliness of Matheson's vocals.

This double-disc anthology goes backwards, starting with selections from the band's most recent disc (Secret Language from 2003) and ending with a song from their first release (Cascade from 1984). The reasons for this are unclear, but this likens the process of listening to a stripping down affair as the instrumentation and material become less modern. The synthesizers and complex structures found in the opening cuts, such as traditional "Mile Marbaisg" and "Mo Chaiin Dileas Donn" make the songs far less interesting and compelling than the more simply arranged tracks, such as "Sidewaulk Reels" and "Oh Mo Dhuthaich" from the Capercaillie of the 1980s.

The most recent tracks are also more likely to be New Age rather than folk oriented, and there is nothing very unique about Capercaillie's New Age efforts. Matheson's voice loses its inimitable features as she becomes a sort of Enya-light clone instead of the matchless Scottish lass with waiflike intonations. The instrumentation becomes cheesier as the distinctive Celtic flavor leans toward generic world music.

However, Capercaillie's transformation does not quite follow the linear progression described. The band still performs traditional folk music in the 21st century, and some of the group's material from twenty years ago has a New Age feel. Capercaillie's output over the years reveals trends not only in their sound, but that of the broader field itself. On one hand, Celtic music has never been more popular in the United States than it is now. On the other, almost everyone acknowledges that the golden age occurred decades ago when bands like DeDannan, The Bothy Band, Clannad, and such emerged from independent record labels and made the world take notice. To survive, a band has to experiment and grow. Grace and Pride shows the risks and challenges Capercaillie has faced. The band's continued existence when so many have fallen to the wayside reveals their tenacity and talent.

5

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image