To further our commitment to Celtic culture, USA Kilts is teaming up with musicians to advance the spread of Celtic music across the globe. We've partnered with Albannach to give away 800 CD's and 70 DVDs. While supplies last, USA Kilts orders over $25 will get a free Albannach CD and orders over $100 will get a free Albannach DVD. Promotion begins July 26, 2017.
The first in our Celtic music series of interviews, we sat down with James Johnston from the band Albannach to ask him a few questions.
USAK: When / Where did the band form and what is the origin story?
James Johnston: Albannach started in 2006 although some of the band members had been in another Pipe and Drum band previously. That lit the fire for what you see on stage now, Albannach.
USAK: What age did you start playing music?
James Johnston: I was a late starter into the music scene myself, not starting till about my mid twenties. My life was on a very different course until the drumming came along, so to be honest I didn’t have plans to step into this crazy world of music. It kind‘a all just happened. I guess I have just let the music take me on a journey. It’s scary at times because I am not always at the wheel of this crazy train.
USAK: Who were your musical influences?
James Johnston: I remember my first ever time listening to Pink Floyd and being blown away by the lyrics and the tunes. As a young lad, I felt that I could relate to the words, growing up and rebelling against everything the grown up world was telling me I should be doing. As I got into the music scene myself, I truly believe strange as this sounds that Pink Floyd had an influence on the tunes that we would write as Albannach. Yeah I know, Bagpipes and drums where does Pink Floyd come into that? But it’s there, lurking in the background, trust me. I would also give credit to Lemmy and the band Motorhead for fueling the drive and passion that comes out when we perform "WE ARE ALBANNACH and WE PLAY PIPES AND DRUMS!!”
USAK: What brand / model instruments do you / the band play?
James Johnston: The Drums we play are simply 8 ply maple shell bass drums supplied by a company called Kellar who supply all the raw shells for companies such as Pearl and DW. Custom leather work and hand forged iron tensioners help give us the look we are after: battered War drums!
USAK: What was the funniest thing that happened to you on the road?
James Johnston: There are so many stories from the road that it’s hard to put my finger on just one. I mean 15 years touring with a bunch of nut jobs does give you ammunition for crazy stunts ranging from boozing with the mafia in Russia to playing darts with 7 foot tall ‘ladies of the night’ in South Korea. There are too many crazy times to recount and you couldn’t print most of them. Some things best left to the imagination.
USAK: What is your favorite song to play live?
James Johnston: I think my favorite song to play with the band is a track we call Tweedle Dee. I love the flow of the tune and how the pipes float. It’s also a crowd favorite, so I love the energy we get from the fans while we play it.
USAK: How important is it to have Celtic influence in your music?
James Johnston: To maintain a Celtic influence in our music is vital. Our love of Scotland is what got us started in the first place. Now we spread the history and the culture as we travel on. Yeah we may sometimes drift off the path a little, but we will always stay true in our hearts to Scotland and our Celtic roots.
USAK: Name ONE Other band in the Celtic Music scene who you think are doing an awesome job or are talented and tell us why you feel that way.
James Johnston: Touring all the time we get to share the stage with some braw bands and to be honest some not so braw bands. Haha. One that I am really enjoying working alongside right now is the all girl band from Ireland, The Screaming Orphans. The level of talent is sky high from the harmonies, to their instrument playing, to the stage craft they display. They are also the most down to earth band you'll meet. Sweethearts the lot of them.
The Florida based Celtic rock band Rathkeltair is another band that blow me away each time I hear them. Again, off the charts talented and their song writing skills via lead guitarist Trevor Tanner are pretty amazing. If its Celtic rock you’re after, that would be the horse I’d back.
USAK: What do you do when you’re not performing or on tour?
James Johnston: In between all the US touring We also do our own musical tours to Scotland which we call BRONACH where we team up with old friends from the band Brother and work alongside Bill and Karen Reid from East of the Hebrides entertainment. These are amazing trips that give us a chance to showcase our beautiful homeland, while playing music for some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.
On a personal note, I have also started my own hiking tours of Scotland. These are the moments where I can plug back into mother Scotland and have the honor of guiding folk along with me. Hiking is a passion of mine, so I feel blessed to be able to call this a job!
USAK: What Social Media do you use the most if fans want to connect with the band?
James Johnston: I think when it comes to social media, we are much the same as every other band out there. We knock the hell out of Facebook. It’s a great way for connecting with nearly everyone out there and spreading the news about your gigs and what the band is up to. I like Instagram too. It’s not as detailed as Facebook, but it’s fun posting pictures that you wouldn't put on facebook. More day to day stuff.
USAK: What are the future plans for the band?
James Johnston: Right now our plans are to keep touring and working as hard as we can, while also trying to find time to get the long awaited 4th studio album completed. It’s really all about time and how to fit everything in. We will mange though. It’s what we do. Hammer down!
USAK: Any words of advice for budding musicians?
James Johnston: If any young musicians asked me my advice, I’d say fix a time frame in your mind that you want to be out gigging and playing shows. Be it a 3 year deal or a 5 year deal, but fix that timeline and make it happen. Get your head down and practice, network and be original. Own what you do and don't conform to what the man tells you to be!
For tour dates, visit Albannach's website: http://www.albannachmusic.com/tour/
To get a free copy of Albannach's cd "Evolution" (while supplie last), place an order over $25 through our website. For a free CD & DVD (while supplies last), place an order over $100.
It's time for summer road trips, kilts and and some great Celtic music.
Check out these amazing Celtic bands!
There's a little bit of something here for everyone, from traditional Irish folk, to bagpipes to hard-slammin' Celtic punk rock. We've linked to each band's FB page so you can check out their music and find out if they are touring (most of them are!). Slante!
Dropkick Murphys formed in 1996 in Boston, MA. The band was originally just a bunch of friends looking to play music for fun. We started playing in the basement of a friend’s barbershop and our goal was to blend the musical influences we had grown up with (Punk Rock, Irish Folk, Rock, and Hardcore) into one loud, raucous, chaotic, and often out of tune mix that we could call our own.
To our surprise people seemed to like it and we began to record music and tour constantly. To date we have released numerous singles & EP's, a live album, a DVD and six full length albums and have had the good fortune of being able to play across a large portion of the world. We are truly grateful to the many friends and bands that have helped us out and supported us along the way in the US, Canada, Europe, U.K. Ireland, Scandinavia, and Australia as well as the many countries we look forward to playing in the next century.
The bands’ main goal is to play music that creates an all for one, one for all environment where everyone is encouraged to participate, sing along, and hopefully have a good time. In the true spirit of punk rock we view the band and the audience as one in the same; in other words our stage and our microphone are yours.
In addition to hopefully bringing people together for a good time, we hope to share some of our experiences and beliefs in working class solidarity, friendship, loyalty and self- improvement as a means to bettering society (i.e. You can preach till you’re blue in the face but if you’re lying in the gutter no one’s gonna listen. If you pick yourself up by the bootstraps and live your life to the best of your ability you may set an example that others will follow).The Dropkick Murphys
Award-winning quartet WeBanjo3 from Galway, Ireland combine Irish Music with Old-Time American and Bluegrass influences to reveal the banjo’s rich legacy and roots. When this band of brothers take flight in a wave of virtuosity, verve and joie-de-vivre, feet tap and pulses race.
Enda & Fergal Scahill and Martin & David Howley are among the most celebrated and distinguished young musicians in Ireland today.
Featuring banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, vocals and percussion We Banjo 3 make a bold and extraordinary musical statement. Creativity, sensitivity and passion are present in full measure and Irish music is at the heart of what they play.
Collectively, WeBanjo3 have been at the forefront of Irish banjo and fiddle for 2 decades. Their competitive success is unrivalled, Martin holding 7 All Ireland titles, Enda with 4, while Fergal and David hold All Ireland titles on Banjo, Fiddle, Bodhran and Guitar.
Enda has recorded and toured with the best of the best including The Chieftains, Frankie Gavin, Stockton’s Wing, Grammy-winner Ricky Skaggs and “Instrumental Band of the Decade” The Brock McGuire Band. Fergal has performed with David Munnelly, Martin O’Connor and Kevin Crawford and has toured the world with Ragus and Celtic Legends. Martin was the very first Irish banjo player to perform at the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville and David is fast building a reputation for his deep, muscular singing.
We Banjo 3 play with swing and soul, effortlessly combining the best of Irish and Bluegrass banjo music and song, mining the rich vein of the American Old Time tradition and thoroughly reinventing the banjo band sound. Modern rhythms, traditional melodies, virtuosic technique and innovative arrangements of music and song add up to an incredible feast of banjo and mandolin music – guaranteed to put a smile on your face and get your feet tapping.
We Banjo 3
Since they walked away with the top prize on UK primetime TV talent show, 'When Will I Be Famous' in 2007, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers haven't stopped for a breath, other than to inflate their bagpipes! Taking their signature 'Bagrock' sound to the masses, The Chillis have fast become a global phenomenon, rocking far-flung shores from Melbourne to Milwaukee and everywhere in between.
With three albums already under their belts, the band’s most recent release ‘Music for the Kilted Generation’ took Bagrock up another gear in 2010. With clever covers of ‘Long Way to the Top’ by AC/DC, ‘Baba O’Reily’ by The Who and a great version of ‘Lowrider’ by War- just a few examples of how well rock tunes fit on the bagpipes! Previous live album and DVD ‘BLAST Live!’ (REL Records, 2009) has already gone triple platinum in Scotland plus second album ‘Bagrock To The Masses’ (REL Records, 2008) has just achieved gold status in the UK.
The Chillis have spent much of 2011 perfecting their phenomenal live act with sell out shows across the globe. Kicking things off in April, with an eight week tour of mainland Europe then coming home in August to perform at the world renowned Edinburgh Festival and Glasgow’s ‘Piping Live’-the band barely had time to do their washing before jetting off again!
A six-week jaunt ‘Down Under’ followed with the guys managing to find time in amongst their hectic schedule to support the Scottish rugby team at the World Cup. Their Red Hot performances earned them a new legion of fans from Auckland to Adelaide!
Further trips to the USA, Saudi Arabia and the UAE saw the band cement their reputation as one of the most exciting live acts around!
Red Hot Chili Pipers
Albannach is Scots-Gaelic for "Scottish" or "Scotsman". That's exactly what we are - born and bred in Scotland, our purpose in life is to share our intriguing culture, history and heritage with you by means of our music.
Albannach are not just another Scottish 'Pipes & Drums' band, indeed we bring a new and exciting form of music to your living room. A championship winning piper, an extremely talented main drummer, bass drummers and bodhran musician bring you a brand new approach to percussion and Celtic music. Our style of music is exciting, energetic and enchanting and we promise to leave you begging for more. Albannach
The Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band are 10 time RSPBA World Pipe Band Champions, and the most successful pipe band from Northern Ireland. Led by Pipe Major Richard Parkes MBE and Drum Sergeant Keith Orr, the band practices in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, and draws members from across the country, as well as having welcomed players from Scotland, England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Denmark, and France. The band is one of the world's leading competition pipe bands, and also performs in concerts and events. Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band
The Young Dubliners are quite possibly Celtic rock's hardest working band, playing hundreds of shows to thousands of fans across the US and Europe every year. In recent years they have twice appeared on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, had songs featured in TV shows (Sons Of Anarchy, Human Target) and toured extensively as a headliner and as the opener for such a diverse list of artists as The Flaming Lips, Collective Soul, Jethro Tull, Johnny Lang and many more.
Although the Young Dubliners sound is most commonly called 'Celtic Rock', that label, as labels often can be, is misleading. The Irish influence is there, certainly, but it's not the only influence that rears its head on their albums, or in live shows. After all, several of the band members have no Irish roots of any kind. "That was always the idea", Keith Roberts, lead singer for the band explains. "The sound was always intended to be a hybrid because we all come from different backgrounds. Even though two of us are from Ireland, a lot of the music we listened to growing up wasn't Irish at all, but when we got here, we got homesick and developed a new appreciation for Irish Music. In truth the Celtic riffs can just as easily come from the American band members. Everyone writes now so you never know what you'll end up with when you start on a new album.
The band has just released their brand new studio album, NINE. It contains ten brand new original songs with the usual blend of themes and tempos to keep the listener captivated. This was a unique experience for the band as they released it independently for the first time in their career.
"We had a few offers but decided we were well overdue to take things into our own hands," says Roberts, "After eight albums on various labels it just seemed right to go it alone for once and maintain full creative control."
However 'going it alone' did not mean without financial support and for that they turned to their fans. After only two weeks the band had received over half the necessary funds to complete the recording, manufacturing and marketing plan for the album and work began on February 1st, 2012. The road intervened as is usual for this non-stop touring band and the recording process was put on temporary hold as they commenced a long US summer tour followed by a month long European Fall run.
Now, with the Album finally hitting the streets on March 4th, the Dubs are out on the road again in support.
"Having a whole album of new songs really invigorates the live show for us and makes it exciting all over again" say Roberts. "It's like a shot in the arm every time we go through this process". Young Dubliners
The story of SEVEN NATIONS is that of a truly original and determined band that began in New York City, with members now hailing from California, to Toronto, to Florida. They have for years booked their own tours, have their own PBS and CNN specials, and use bagpipes the way Jimmy Page uses his guitar. Throw away any preconceived notions you may have about kilts and Celtic music; this is a band that has invented its own sound and attracted a prodigious national and international following.
Through its touring schedule and dynamic live performances, SEVEN NATIONS has become one of the fastest growing live acts nationwide. They have logged in more than 300,000 touring miles trying to make its less familiar music universal for old and new fans alike. To the five member band, that means being on tour 85 percent of the year, melding piano, guitar and vocal elements of American pop and rock with Highland bagpipes and fiddle. The result is a high-energy performance that has fans jumping out of their seats, and has sparked interest industry-wide.
Equally at home in front of 40,000 cheering fans at an international festival, with the widely recognized, Grammy award winning, symphony orchestras, or with 300 fans in a small Midwest club, SEVEN NATIONS has created a truly hybrid sound and transient live show. The depth and complexity of SEVEN NATIONS' music is astounding, each listen reveals a deeper layer of intricacy that has been embraced by an ever growing audience. "We are lucky," says McLeod, lead singer/songwriter and founding member of the band, "because we come from two unique cultures. We love American pop and rock and roll, but we also love our Celtic roots. We want to touch everybody with our music," he continues, "and so far, we have been very, very fortunate." 7 Nations
After 10 albums, and nearly 3,000 live shows, Gaelic Storm — the chart-topping, multi-national Celtic band — is dishing up a hearty serving of Full Irish. The greatest-hits album spans the bulk of the band's career from 2004-2014, mixing crowd favorites and concert staples with three previously unreleased recordings.
Gaelic Storm has straddled the line between tradition and innovation for nearly two decades. Led by founding members Patrick Murphy and Steve Twigger, the group infuses traditional Celtic music with modern influences, updating the genre for a new generation of fans raised on rock, country and folk. Along the way, the musicians have topped the Billboard World Chart four times, appeared in the blockbuster film "Titanic" (where they performed "Irish Party in Third Class," an unreleased song made available for the first time on Full Irish) and earned a reputation as a hard-touring, genre-bending band.
"We have earned every single one of our fans, one at a time," Murphy says. "There's no sponsorship. No corporation is pulling strings. Every fan is made by us playing a show and shaking hands and learning names. We've become friends with so many of them. When someone at a show tells me they've never seen Gaelic Storm before, I say, 'Welcome to the family.'"
Full Irish pays tribute to the group's diverse journey. The album features sea shanties and drinking songs, traditional tunes and originals, instrumental workouts and vocal showcases. "Whiskey in the Jar," another brand new recording, even harks back to Gaelic Storm's early days as a pub band in Santa Monica, California, long before the group played the Telluride Festival, the Rock Boat cruise, or high-profile theaters in countries like France and Spain. Together, these 15 songs celebrate the sunny side of life, urging listeners to raise their pint glass and stomp their feet.
"When you go eat pub food in Ireland," explains Steve Twigger, "you can order the 'Full Irish," which is a combination of mushrooms, beans, bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding… It's the works, basically. That idea seemed to represent everything about this album. This is the works. Everything we do is represented."
Regularly playing more than 120 shows a year, Gaelic Storm has built a loyal following as diverse as the band's own music. Fans of traditional Irish music have championed the group for years, but so have fans of harder-edged Celtic rock. On tour, Gaelic Storm is just as likely to play a large rock club as a plush theater. The band makes regular appearances on cruises, too, joining artists like the Barenaked Ladies and Michael Franti.
"Our audience spans the whole spectrum," Twigger says. "We'll play a rock venue one night, then a performing arts center that might've hosted a ballet performance the night before. We've got hardcore fans who love our energy, Jimmy Buffet fans who love our message, folk fans who love our stories. Everyone can appreciate it, and that's been the secret to our longevity."
"Looking back over our past albums is like flipping through a photo album," adds percussionist Ryan Lacey, who joined the band in 2003. "Each record was made during a different time and a completely different phase of our lives. What hasn't changed is the message. We want everybody to have a good time, to enjoy themselves. It's the sort of message that everyone can get behind."
Although Full Irish takes a look backward, Gaelic Storm is still moving ahead at full speed. There's another studio album in the works, as well as plenty of tour dates on the books. Hungry for more rule-breaking Celtic music? Full Irish will satisfy your appetite… even if it's just an appetizer for what's to come. Gaelic Storm
Based in their hometown of Toronto, Ontario Enter the Haggis has been making Celtic Rock/Indie/Roots/Folk music people love since 1996. Band Members include Brian Buchanan: Fiddle, Keys, Guitars, Vocals Craig Downie: Bagpipes, Harmonica, Whistle, Trumpet, Vocals Trevor Lewington: Guitars, Vocals, Mark Abraham: Bass, Vocals, Bruce McCarthy: Drums. Enter the Haggis
FullSet are one of Ireland’s most accomplished and sought-after bands in Irish Traditional Music today. This young and exciting group creates a sound that is full of energy & innovation, whilst all the time remaining true to their traditional roots.
“FullSet was THE breakout band at the Irish Fair of Minnesota 2013.Their energy was infectious and the crowd response was incredible. They were able to connect to all ages, from Mohawked teenagers, to their grandparents. I had heard good things about them, but the musicianship, and stage presence playing live exceeded every expectation I had.”
- Mike Wiley, Vice Chair/Entertainment Director of Irish Fair of Minnesota
FullSet have received much critical acclaim in recent years, even being compared to super groups such as Danú & Altan by respected Irish Music Magazine. Their meteoric rise in the music world was given a massive boost in 2011 when they were honoured by being announced as the winners of the RTÉ/RAAP Breakthrough Annual Music Bursary Award. FullSet subsequently went on to receive the “Best New Group Award” from well-respected Irish American News and were also named “Best Newcomer” in Bill Margeson’s Live Ireland Awards in 2012. Most recently, the group were honoured to be announced as the "Top Traditional Group" of 2014 at the Irish Music Awards.
Following the tremendous success of their debut album “Notes At Liberty”, the group’s profile was further raised with the release of their follow up title, “Notes After Dark” in 2013. Irish Music Magazine described it as having “so many good tracks, so much energy, a band in full control and having such fun yet well able to bring things down to a tearful pause”. “Notes After Dark” was also named Album of the Year in 2013 by US radio programme “Celtic Connections”.
FullSet comprises six of the most talented and versatile young musicians in the traditional Irish music scene today. Michael Harrison, on fiddle, creates a distinctive sound using original and colourful techniques. Martino Vacca is an exceptional uilleann piper and employs his mastery of this instrument in all pieces arranged by FullSet. Talented musician, Janine Redmond, on button accordion maintains a rich traditional style that is becoming ever so rare in traditional music today. Eamonn Moloney on bodhrán and Andy Meaney on guitar, effortlessly blend the music together with a sensitive yet driving accompaniment section. The emotive singing style of Marianne Knight completes the ensemble, which is guaranteed to captivate audiences of every generation.
To date FullSet have been featured on some of Ireland’s most prestigious TV and radio programmes including “The Late Late Show”, RTÉ’s Céilí House and TG4’s hugely popular Irish music series “Geantraí”. They have worked with Disney and have also performed at some of the most prestigious celtic and world music festivals across North America and Europe, some of which include the Copenhagen Irish Festival, Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Germany’s Irish Folk Festival Tour, Guinness Christmas Austria Tour, Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, Dublin Irish Festival, Kansas City Irish Fest and North Texas Irish Festival. They have shared the stage with some of the biggest names in folk and world music including Moya Brennan, Declan O’Rourke, Lúnasa, Carlos Núnez, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Beoga.
FullSet’s ability to showcase Irish music, song and dance of the highest quality, in an energetic and fun filled manner has proved immensely successful and they continue to thrill audiences around the world. 2015 is shaping up to be an extremely exciting year for the group as they begin work on their third studio album. Full Set
As they approach their 50th anniversary in 2018, the Tannahill Weavers are one of Scotland's premier traditional bands. Their diverse repertoire spans the centuries with fire-driven instrumentals, topical songs, and original ballads and lullabies. Their music demonstrates to old and young alike the rich and varied musical heritage of the Celtic people. These versatile musicians have received worldwide accolades consistently over the years for their exuberant performances and outstanding recording efforts that seemingly can't get better...yet continue to do just that. The Tannahills have turned their acoustic excitement loose on audiences with an electrifying effect. They have that unique combination of traditional melodies, driving rhythmic accompaniment, and rich vocals that make their performances unforgettable. As the Winnipeg Free Press noted, "The Tannahill Weavers - properly harnessed - could probably power an entire city for a year on the strength of last night's concert alone. The music may be old time Celtic, but the drive and enthusiasm are akin to straight ahead rock and roll."
Born of a session in Paisley, Scotland and named for the town's historic weaving industry and local poet laureate Robert Tannahill, the group has made an international name for its special brand of Scottish music, blending the beauty of traditional melodies with the power of modern rhythms. The Tannahill Weavers began to attract attention when founding members Roy Gullane and Phil Smillie added the full-sized highland bagpipes to the on-stage presentations, the first professional Scottish folk group to successfully do so. The combination of the powerful pipe solos, Roy's driving guitar backing and lead vocals, and Phil's ethereal flute playing breathed new life into Scotland's vast repertoire of traditional melodies and songs.
Three years and a dozen countries later, the Tannahills were the toast of Europe, having won the Scotstar Award for Folk Record of the Year with their third album, The Tannahill Weavers. Canada came the next summer, with thousands at the national festivals in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto screaming an approval that echoed throughout the Canadian media. The Regina Leader-Post wrote, "The Tannahill Weavers personify Celtic music, and if you are given to superlatives, you have to call their talent 'awesome'."
Since their first visit to the United States in 1981, the Tannahills' unique combination of traditional melodies on pipes, flute and fiddle, driving rhythms on guitar and bouzouki, and powerful three and four part vocal harmonies have taken the musical community by storm. As Garrison Keillor, the host of "Prairie Home Companion", remarked, "These guys are a bunch of heroes every time they go on tour in the States".
Over the years the Tannies have been trailblazers for Scottish music, and their tight harmonies and powerful, inventive arrangements have won them fans from beyond the folk and Celtic music scenes. In 2011 the band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, and in 2014 they are joined by innovative piper Lorne MacDougall. Lorne comes with a high pedigree, having arranged and performed pipes for the Disney Pixar movie “Brave”, along with a long list of other accomplishments.
With their impending 50th anniversary in 2018, the Tannahill Weavers are firmly established as one of the premier groups on the concert stage. From reflective ballads to footstomping reels and jigs, the variety and range of the material they perform is matched only by their enthusiasm and lively Celtic spirits.
Burning Bridget Cleary has been performing and recording their distinctive style of Celtic traditional music since 2006.
Band-leader, Rose Baldino, drives this band with an unusual combination of charisma, crackerjack fiddle work, and tightly woven harmonies. The front of the band is shared with some of the best Celtic fiddle talent on the East Coast. Currently featured is Amy Beshara, a multi-talented fiddler/vocalist, from the NYC Scottish music scene. A driving rhythm and bass end is supplied by Lou Baldino on guitar and Peter Trezzi on percussion. Known for their captivating sound and engaging stage presence, Burning Bridget Cleary is currently one of the hottest young acts on the Celtic and folk music circuits.
The foursome has earned a reputation for presenting high-spirited Celtic music at festivals, concerts, and music series all over the U.S., including a 2011 tour to Ireland. While in Ireland, the band had a unique opportunity to visit the rural County Tipperary cottage of their namesake, Bridget Cleary, who is remembered as "the last witch burned in Ireland".
The band broke new ground in 2013 when their fourth CD, “Pressed for Time,” hit #1 on the Roots Music Folk and Roots Charts, and finished the year as one of the Folk DJ’s most played albums. Their second release, “Everything is Alright”, was awarded “2009 Album of the Year” by CelticRadio.net in Boston. Their third album, “Totes for Goats” was formally entered into the Traditional Irish Music Archives in Dublin, Ireland.
BBC’s music is featured on hundreds of radio programs worldwide, including syndicated programs, Thistle and Shamrock, FolkScene, SingOut Radio, and The Midnight Special.
Burning Bridget Cleary was listed in Marc Gunn’s “Top 20” International Celtic bands for 2014. Burning Bridget Cleary
What can you say about Barley Juice that hasn't already been said? In a slur? Kyf appeared in a John Waters movie. Swanny was a member of the Flailin' Shilelaghs. Alice left her beer in the looking glass. John connected his arm freckles with a sharpie, and Eric left his pants in Massachusetts.. Nuff said. Band interests include Drinking, singing about drinking, singing while drinking, drinking while singing. We never drive while drinking, but we do drive while singing drinking songs, which drives others to drink, giving our drinking songs more drive. Barley Juice
Blaggards (no “the”, pronounced BLA’ GUARDS or BLA’ GHERDS, depending on where you’re from) formed July 2004 in Houston, Texas.
We play what we call Stout Irish Rock, traditional Irish music mixed with rock n’ roll, informed by everything from Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley to Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath. We are most frequently compared to bands like Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, and the Pogues.
Blaggards are guitarist/vocalist Patrick Devlin, bassist/vocalist Chad Smalley, drummer Michael McAloon, and fiddler Wes Barlow.
Front man Patrick Devlin grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and moved to Houston in his early 20′s. After working in the local club scene for several years, Patrick saw a demand for Irish rock music that nobody was taking advantage of. In 1996, to this end he formed a band called On The Dole. Although the band did well, opening for legendary Irish touring acts like the Wolfe Tones and the Saw Doctors, eventually Patrick decided it was time to clear the decks and start again.
In 2003, while hosting a weekly open mic at an Irish pub, Patrick met bassist and singer Chad Smalley, a veteran of the Houston music scene who had recently returned from New York and was looking for a new project. The two of them soon began singing and performing together every week, developing a tight vocal harmony style. A year later, Blaggards was born.
Michael, a first generation Scot-American, grew up learning Irish step dancing, winning gold medals all across the United States before picking up the drums at age 13. A veteran of the Houston music scene, Mike has toured the country many times and studied jazz at the University of North Texas. Mike joined Blaggards in January 2009.
Wes Barlow, born in Memphis, Tennessee, and started playing violin when he was ten years old. After relocating to Texas in the 5th grade, he realized that the fiddle was his calling. He started playing in Texas country bands when he was 16, has won several national classical music competitions and performed on multiple albums. Wes joined Blaggards in January 2017.
Blaggards maintain a rigorous schedule, playing constantly throughout Texas and touring nationally several times a year. We've also toured Ireland every year since 2010. Our music has appeared in movies and TV. An original instrumental entitled "Kerfuffleful" appears in the New Line Cinema motion picture How to Be Single, released February 2016. Blaggards
Paul McKenzie claims he had a epiphany when he was subjected to an Andy Stewart record which was playing in one room, and intertwining with the vulgarity of a Sex Pistols album emerging from another. That year was somewhere around 1992, the setting was Vancouver Canada,and McKenzie was looking for something new, since his band TT Racer had recently disbanded. Who would have thought that a great deal of fun could be had pilfering your parents closet of old kilts and high socks to wear on a stage on which you would perform cover songs of various bands, altered slightly, to fit a scottish theme. Example: I Wanna Be Your Scot as opposed to I Wanna Be Your Dog. You get the point. Someone probably joked, If were gonna wear kilts, we might as well have a piper too.
While certainly not a new angle in rock music, the bagpipes were only ever used in a couple of songs at most by various bands, never a mainstay of an entire set. Soon though, it was apparent that this was a distinctive sound that could be finely tuned, with the soaring pipes complimenting the ferocious electric guitars and vise-versa. Of course the first thing that springs to mind is the word gimmick. Sure, I guess thats applicable here. But before you go taking things way to seriously, lets also not forget the concept of show buisness. People annually spend a shitload of money for the sole purpose of being entertained. So why not go out of your way to be entertainment? That was all a moot point with the McKenzies anyway. Because they just wanted to have fun, and you are more than welcome to have fun with them, as hundereds of thousands have. Sure some will read too much meaning into the whole idea, and take it out of its realm of fun, and those people should just shut the fuck up and drink their beer.
14 years later, the Real McKenzies have achieved lengendary status. Their live shows are highly regarded and they have been known to leave large audiences choking on their own dry mouths. They've been influence to more than a few bands, and ironically have been accused of ripping those same bands off, usually by journalistic hacks on the internet. They've toured the world endlessly, and frightened more than a few people at times, but its a small percentage to the numbers of people who leave their shows with ear to ear grins and think about the great time they had for weeks to come. I can imagine it will take death to stop these guys from doing what they do best, and that's kicking your ass in the face at each and every show they play. The Real McKenzies
The Screaming Orphans are four fun sisters with the good fortune to have been raised in the magic of Bundoran in County Donegal Ireland.
There is a great tradition of music to be found in Irish homes especially in the Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking areas which have produced the likes of Clannad, Enya and Mairead, Micheal and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill. Our home was no exception. From we were young, we’ve been singing and playing traditional Irish music but when we hit our teenage years we knew it was time to start our own rock band.
Our first gigs were at local surf festivals at Bundoran and playing covers of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Indigo Girls, and others. We were soon writing our own music and traveling to Dublin to play the Baggot Inn, Slattery’s, Whelans, and Mean Fiddler.
Our next break came with an invitation to play at a St.Brigid’s day concert in Kildare along with truly great Irish artists like Christy Moore, Liam O’Maonlai, and Sinead O’Connor. Sinead asked us to be her back-up singers and open her show so we went on tour across Europe, America and Canada, and appeared on David Letterman and other shows.
The following year was spent touring with world music star, Babba Maal, singing at his homecoming concert in Dakar Senegal, and contributing vocals to his album “Nomad Soul.” We also recorded with Peter Gabriel and were backing vocalists on the Joni Mitchell track ”Magdalene Laundries” for the Chieftains “Tears of Stone” album.
A year later, we signed with Warner UK (WEA) and recorded our debut album in Normandy France with the legendary Mike Hedges, who has been producer for the likes of Siouxie and the Banshees, U2, Manic Street Preachers, Texas, and Travis.
While we can never forget our roots in traditional Irish music, the Orphans draw on a diverse set of influences ranging from Simon & Garfunkel to REM with a strong focus on melody-driven songs with pop and rocks strains. The diversity of the American music scene led us to relocate to New York City and we regularly tour up and down the East Coast.
Being surrounded by so many different influences has inspired us to explore new and exciting song writing and performance concepts. Our latest CDs reflect our Celtic roots but cross many cultural boundaries, which might explain why we recorded "Circles" in Nashville, Tennessee, "East 12th Street" in New York City and "Belle's Isle," "The Jacket's Green," "Lonely Boy," "Sliabh Liag" and "Toy Theatre" in Ireland.
And if you’re wondering about our name… A friend of Joan’s (Damien Granaghan) came up with it one night at a pub and it meant a lot to us because when we broke out on our own, it meant leaving our Mam who had been our lead singer and our Da who was our manager/road guy/sound engineer and so we became orphans but still surrounded by family and everyone knows that screaming to be heard is what you usually do around close family and dear friends. That and our secondary school used to be an orphanage. There you have it. Screaming Orphans
Playing a positive-natured brand of hardcore-tinged Celtic punk, Flatfoot 56 has been unleashing itself upon America and the rest of the world for over 10 years now. Forming in 2000, the Chicago natives achieved nationwide attention with their first two label-backed records, 2006’s Knuckles Up and 2007’s Jungle of the Midwest Sea. These releases built on a heavy dose of previously established regional notoriety, helping the band gain steam early on.
While each record received its fair share of acclaim, the quintet exploded onto a new level with 2010’s Black Thorn. Landing the band on a total of 9 Billboard Charts, Flatfoot 56 proved it could consistently reach an expanding audience while treading in a genre not often associated with widespread success.
Frontman Tobin Bawinkel (vocals/guitar) is now set to lead Flatfoot 56 on in their furious march forward. Armed with brothers Justin (drums) and Kyle (bass), along with Eric McMahon (bagpipes/guitar) and Brandon Good (mandolin/guitar), Flatfoot 56 is now preparing to enter the studio again to record its fourth label-backed studio album.
Like Black Thorn, Flatfoot 56’s new album will be produced by the Street Dogs’ Johnny Rioux. “We decided that since the last experience with Johnny was so beneficial, we wanted to repeat it,” Bawinkel said. “We have been friends with Johnny for years our mutual respect fosters a good creative environment for putting together a record. He knows how to challenge us and push us the next level, which is what any band hopes for.”
The band will enter Matt Allison’s Chicago-based Atlas Studios in January to record its first release for Paper + Plastick Records. “We have always respected Paper + Plastick’s independent approach to putting out records because they always seem to promote the creative side of the album,” Bawinkel said. “As a band we all really value that creative vision, and Paper + Plastick is the place to be for that.”
While the record is set to be more rootsy and folk-oriented, it promises to pack the same relentless knock-down punch that fans have grown to expect from Flatfoot 56. More than a decade into its career, Flatfoot 56 isn’t slowing down, but maintaining a blistering pace of touring and musical output. “The next record's sound is taking on a much more mature, heartfelt tone,” Bawinkel said. “We’re writing these songs as life gets thrown at us, and as we all get a bit older and start to interpret life in different ways, we want to express ourselves to reflect the victories and defeats that we all go through. We still love whipping the crowd into a frenzy and making everybody dance but we want to write some tunes that people can relate to, and that they can sing along to.”
The band's new album, yet untitled, will be released in 2012 by Paper + Plastick in the United States, Stomp Records in Canada, and People Like You in Europe. Flatfoot56
“Its like growing up with a tear in your eye and a storm brewing in your heart..” muses frontman Frankie McLaughlin on the musical heritage of the group. “We were raised on the Scottish & Irish music in our parents record collection, before colliding head-on with Punk Rock as we grew older & thought we knew everything.”
These two immovable pillars define The Rumjacks above all else, as they continue to cut their own path through the tangled musical landscape before them. Their own brand of Celtic Punk has seen them release two EP’s – ‘Hung, Drawn & Portered’ & ‘Sound as a Pound’ (’09), as well as three powerful full length albums – ‘Gangs of New Holland’ (’10), ‘Sober & Godless’ (’15), & ‘Sleepin’ Rough’ (’16).
Since the bands inception in Sydney, Australia in late 2008 when McLaughlin met Bassist Johnny McKelvey, they have racked up millions of YouTube views, with over 24 million of these alone for their breakthrough track ‘An Irish Pub Song’. Other stunning videos that capture the incredible live energy of the band include ‘Uncle Tommy’, ‘Blows & Unkind Words’ & ’Plenty’, while ‘Crosses for eyes’ and ‘Me Old Ball & Chain’ see them hard at work in the studio.
The videos for ‘Home’, ‘One Summers Day’ weremade while The Rumjacks were on tour, and stand testament to the bands enormous appeal wherever they go.
Their incendiary live performances and seemingly endless touring regime has seen them share the stage with acts as diverse as Dropkick Murphys, The Interrupters, Anti Flag, CJ Ramone, The Real McKenzies, Gogol Bordello, Ruts DC, Guttermouth, GBH, UK Subs and The Aggrolites. “We’re at home on any lineup in front of any crowd, I think there are elements of what we do that must appeal to just about anyone.”
Indeed there are – from their heavy Celtic roots to the driving punk rock or even ska/reggae rhythms, well-oiled sing-alongs & choking ballads. “We draw on so many influences, but still it’s important for us to force the bounds of what we already do, play good solid Punk rock with a fat smear of Celtic folk right through it, Hopefully contributing something fresh & substantial that’ll stick around in people’s hearts long after the party’s over..”
2015 marked a real tipping point for the band, when after wowing home crowds with several appearances at the prestigious Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia, they embarked on a hugely successful tour of Europe playing to over 50,000 people. Absolutely crushing just about any bands ‘must do’ list, they took in the likes of Boomtown Fair (UK), Montelago Celtic Festival (Italy) and Jarocin Festival (Poland), as well as sell-out shows at many iconic club venues like The Garage (London), Wild At Heart (Berlin) and Rock Cafe (Prague).
Barely stopping to cool their jets, the band made a triumphant return to the festivals and concert halls of Europe & The UK in 2016, playing almost a hundred dates over some 24 countries. Inciting hysteria & pushing their own physical barriers as they went, the boys chalked up plumb appearances at some of Europe's hottest festivals, including; Punk Rock Holiday, Lowlands Festival, Exit Festival, Rock marathon, Mighty Sounds, Germany's Taubertal & Open Flair Festivals, and Woodstock Festival in Poland, attended by half a million people. Somehow in the midst of all this they managed to release their third album 'Sleepin' Rough. Along with two dynamic new videos for the singles 'A Fistful o' Roses' and 'Patron Saint o' Theives' (the latter shot in Poland on a rare day off during their EU tour) the album has been met with critical acclaim the world over.
2017 see's The Rumjacks make their long awaited maiden foray into the USA & Canada. Where they will tear their way around from San Diego's tin roof in the gaslamp quarter, through New Orleans, Austin Texas for the SXSW Festival & up along the east coast into Canada. They'll return again in September after some more EU summer shows, to headline California’s Get Shamrocked festival. The Rumjacks
The social and political awareness that drives Flogging Molly’s music is never more prominent than in their upcoming new release LIFE IS GOOD - a strikingly powerful album and it arrives at a strikingly key time. The sixth studio album by the renowned Celtic-punk rockers now in their 20th year is mature, well crafted, equally polished and almost aggressively topical. It is filled with rousing songs that are timeless in their sentiment, but directly related to today’s most pressing concerns: Politics, the economy, unemployment, planned boomtowns gone bust, immigration policies gone awry, and much more.
For singer and lyricist Dave King, it may be the lyrical couplet contained within the surging “Reptiles (We Woke Up”) that points toward the album’s central theme. “We woke up,” sings King, “And we won’t fall back asleep.”
“The thing is, there are things changing,” says King. “That’s why I wrote that line, ‘Like reptiles, we'll all soon be dust someday.’ It’s quite scary, especially for somebody who has children these days--bringing up family in this environment of who’s welcome and who’s not welcome. I'm talking about the cultures in America and the UK--especially American immigration.
Life Is Good thus serves as a wake-up call to those who have simply stood by while far-reaching political decisions were made that had serious impact on them. And, significantly, it also serves as notice that the time for action is now.
And people are indeed taking action, adds King, which is a crucial point.
“I think especially with things like government--I think we all tend to fall asleep a little bit when it comes to other people that are making decisions for you. I think we should be the ones influencing the government to make these decisions. It’s a great thing that we’re now taking to the streets again. And it’s a positive thing.”
Imagery abounds on Life Is Good, and one of the most memorable images might be found in “Adamstown,” the saga of a planned community west of Dublin that came to a halt in mid-construction a decade ago when the Irish economy crashed--and left little more than a ghost town in its place.
“It had a huge negative connotation to it,” King says of the eerie, unfinished settlement. “But now it’s starting to turn again, people are starting to move there, businesses are starting to open, and there is hope.”
Thematically, hope and inspiration are a major part of “The Hand of John L. Sullivan,” a rollicking track about the legendary “Boston Strong Boy” who was the first ever heavyweight champion of gloved boxing from 1882-1892. Sullivan was a hero to many, and his story has a cultural significance that fits squarely within the story Flogging Molly want to tell with Life Is Good.
“He came from an immigrant family to Boston, and they brought their family over to try to make the best possible world for them,” says King. “We live in an environment right now where that doesn’t seem to be what should be allowed to happen, you know?
Recorded in Ireland and produced by multiple Grammy Award winner Joe Chiccarelli (U2, the White Stripes, Beck), Life Is Good is by any measure a formidable return from Flogging Molly, an assessment with which Dave King fully agrees.
“It’s been a tough few years for a lot of us in the band. Dennis (Casey, guitarist) lost his dad, I lost my mother, and there have been certain issues, pertaining to sentiment, in a lot of the songs. But we just try to do the best we can. We’ve always had fun getting together and coming up with the new songs, and it's still that way.
Here we see what’s uniquely distinctive about Life is Good, as the gravity and weight of these themes never overshadow the sheer fun and exuberance felt in each song. For the message is delivered and built on the backs of boisterous and barreling live touring.
“We're known for our live shows,” says Dave King. Writing albums has always been a vehicle for us -- it's been a means to get people onto the dance floor. And that's kind of the way we’ve always approached it, no matter what.”
“The one thing we are is a positive band,” adds Dave King. “When people come and see our shows, it’s a celebration--of life, of the good and of the bad. And we have to take the good and the bad for it to be a life.”
FLOGGING MOLLY IS: Dave King (Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bodhran), Bridget Regan (Violin, Tin Whistle), Dennis Casey (Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar), Bob Schmidt (Banjo, Mandolin), Matt Hensley (Accordion, Piano, Concertina), Nathen Maxwell (Bass Guitar), Mike Alonso (Drums, Percussion). Flogging Molly
Happy Fourth of July!
You probably already know that there were many Scots and Irish involved in the American Revolution. When people say they are proud to be Scottish or Irish Americans they may not be aware of just how strong their heritage has influenced this nation. By the time of the Revolution, Celts were rooted in most of the colonies. Nineteen of the fifty-six members of the 1776 Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence were from Scotland or Ulster (“Scotch Irish”) or had ancestors from those lands. On the other hand, don’t be surprised to hear that many of your ancestors may have actually opposed the Revolution and even fought as Loyalists. This was largely due to the fact that many Celtic settlers here still had strong ties to commerce and family back home. Many owed loyalty to their Scottish Clan first, so if the clan supported the Crown, so did they. Of course, on the Patriot's side there were many brave warriors. Here are three of the most famous patriots of Celtic heritage.
John Paul Jones
Perhaps the most famous is Commodore John Paul Jones, called by some (though not all) "Father of the American Navy". Both popular and infamous as a determined and dashing naval leader, he was born John Paul on the estate of Arbigland near Kirkbean on the southwest coast of Scotland. John Paul Sr., his father, was a gardener at Arbigland. John began life as a sailor at the age of 13 and over the years had many adventures and misadventures working the West Indies. He added "Jones" to his name later in life to hide from English law after a dispute where he killed a mutineer with a sword.
In 1779, Jones commanded the 42-gun USS Bonhomme Richard in what would become his most famous naval duel. On September 23, Jones’ squadron met a large merchant convoy off the coast of Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, England. The British 50-gun frigate HMS Serapis and a 22-gun ship Countess of Scarborough blocked Jones from attacking the convoy. The resulting Battle of Flamborough Head would see the Bonhomme Richard sunk, but only after a lengthy engagement which severely damaged all ships involved. When asked by the British commander if he would strike his colors (ie. surrender), Jones supposedly shouted "I have not yet begun to fight!"
This actually happened a second time. As Richard was burning and sinking, her standard was hit and broken off by shot. The Brits asked Jones if he was striking his colors once more. His reply was either "I am determined to make you strike!" or "I may sink, but I'll be damned if I strike!" (the latter was the version the newspapers published). In the end, Jones’s hard fighting and use of close quarters tactics, including US Marine sharpshooters in the rigging, allowed his men to board and defeat the Serapis. Richard could not be repaired and had to be scuttled. But Jones took Serapis home to his base in allied France as a prize.
The French awarded him the title of 'Chevalier' and inducted him into "l'Institution du Mérite Militaire." The Continental Congress struck a commemorative medal honoring his "valor and brilliant services." To the English, he was just a vicious pirate. After the war, Jones would go on to serve in the Imperial Russian Navy where he earned the rank of rear admiral.
Henry Knox started out as a clerk in a book store and at one time operated his own book store in his native Boston, Massachusetts. He was of Scotch-Irish heritage; the son of William and Mary (née Campbell). Knox was an eyewitness to Boston massacre. According to his affidavit, Knox tried to defuse the situation by convincing the British soldiers to return to their barracks. Knox was a supporter of the Sons of Liberty. He may or may not have participated in the 1773 Boston Tea Party. We do know that he stood guard before the incident to make sure no tea was unloaded from the British cargo ship Dartmouth.
Knox had a lifelong interest in artillery and would serve the Continental Army as chief artillery officer (one of his first actions was directing rebel cannon fire during the Battle of Bunker Hill). One of his most famous and audacious feats was during the siege of Boston. Knox hit upon the idea of utilizing artillery recently captured at the fall of forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point in upstate New York. He led an expedition in December to retrieve the guns. It would be known as the “noble train of artillery" -- ox-drawn sleds hauled 60 tons of cannon and other armaments approximately 300 miles over ice-caked rivers and the snow-shrouded Berkshire Mountains to the rebel army camped around Boston. What was to be a two-week operation took six weeks of struggle against the elements. Frequently guns and sledges broke through river ice or got stuck in snow. However, not a single piece was lost. When they arrived, the new guns were stationed on heights around Cambridge with a clear view of Boston harbor. The British fleet fled to Halifax. Historian Victor Brooks has called the convoy "one of the most stupendous feats of logistics" of the whole war. Knox went on to accompany Washington on most campaigns, a close friend of the general. Knox also served as the first United States Secretary of War from 1789 to 1794.
Major General William Alexander was actually a hereditary heir to the title of Earl of Stirling through his Scottish lineage and was affectionately known as ‘Lord Stirling’ to his friends and troops. A man of wealth, he outfitted the New Jersey colonial militia at his own expense and served first as their colonel. His first action was leading a group of volunteers in the capture of an armed British naval transport. Stirling was made a brigadier general in the Continental Army in March of 1776.
In that same year, Stirling led the 1st Maryland Regiment (known as the "Maryland Line") at the Battle of Long Island. He executed repeated attacks against a superior British force commanded by Gen. William Howe. However, the battle did not go well for the Continentals. Outnumbered twenty-five to one, Stirling’s brigade was overwhelmed and had to retreat. But even this retreat was ordered and tactical. The general was was taken prisoner, but his strategic sacrifice allowed the main body of George Washington's troops to escape to defensive positions and eventually to Manhattan Island. Stirling was praised by both Washington and the British for his courage and cunning. One newspaper called him "the bravest man in America."
Stirling went on to be involved in most of the major engagements of the war. He passed away on the 15th January 1783, just months before the Treaty of Paris was signed. Sadly, he has not been well remembered as a result.
MODERN AND FORMAL HIGHLAND WEAR
Blending a number of influences dating back 100 to 200 or more years, contemporary kilt jackets, (and highland wear in general) offer more variety now than any other genre of gentlemen’s clothing. Here is a run-down of the origins and details of the standard jacket types you can buy. As we mentioned in Part I, the Victorians set the mold for most modern Highland attire. However, there have been a few innovations and refinements (as well as throw-backs) developed in the 20th century.
When most people think of Argyll jackets, they envision a basic black suit jacket and vest with some fancy buttons. And that is accurate -- the Argyll is the modern go-to if you need a multi-purpose suit option for formal or semi-formal occasions. It is a hybrid of traditional doublets and suit jackets developed by the Victorians. You can think of it as a doublet minus the tashes (tails on the front and back). Argyll jackets once had more variety before splitting off entirely from doublets. Old photographs show quite a variety. Below, we see first a Victorian doublet (left), a transitional Argyll Doublet circa 1912 (center), and a modern Argyll Jacket and Vest (right).
Standard Argyll features:
- ~ Single-button closure "Gauntlet" cuffs
- ~ Scalloped pockets (pocket flaps designed after the braiding and decorative buttons on doublet tashes)
- ~ Epaulettes (flat or braided)
- ~ Metal buttons (silver, pewter or gilt). In time these were standardized to the square "Clann Nar Gael” buttons we see today, though the exact origins of the “loyalty” button are obscure.
- ~ Worn with a matching five-button vest. The vest can be worn by itself for warmer, less formal occasions such as festivals.
- ~ Suitable for black tie affairs such as weddings, formal suppers and dances.
- ~ Also can be worn with a necktie and used like a regular suit, particularly if you are "on display" (for example - judges of competitions are almost always in Argyll jackets).
“Argyll” is sometimes used as a general term for “Scottish suit jacket” or “kilt jacket”. But it is more accurate to use other terms when discussing contemporary designs. Most contemporary jackets emulate ordinary (“Saxon”) suit jackets in their minimalistic detailing and sillouttte, but are cut short in the body to accommodate the kilt. (This is why jacket conversions are a really bad idea, by the way) One of the most popular contemporary kilt jackets is the “Wallace” also known as a Crail kilt jacket. As you can see below, it more or less evolved out of the Victorian sack jackets.
Wallace Crail Jacket Features:
- ~ No ornamentation
- ~ Single-button “Crail” cuffs
- ~ Traditional “Clann Nar Gael” buttons usually in pewter or matt black
- ~ Herringbone barathea wool, usually black
- ~ Matching five-button vest
The “Kilkenny” is a modern variant on the Argyll designed to add Irish flair. It features simialr styling to an Argyll, but with an elegant irish twist. Some of the styling was borrowed from Victorian military fashion.
Kilkenny Jacket and Vest features:
- ~ Usually made in black or bottle green barathea wool
- ~ Pewter or bronze Irish Harp buttons
- ~ Pointed cuff decoration borrowed from Victorian military shell and mess jackets.
- ~ Two-button closure
- ~ Can be worn with a matching five-button vest.
Technically there's really no difference between the standard black Argyll jacket and vest most kilt-wearers have in their closets and a tweed set...except the fabric. But this is a hugely important difference. Tweed Argyll jackets are usually day wear -- suitable for the office, festivals, the pub, Burns Suppers, etc. Although the least formal of all jackets, they are by far the most interesting. There are hundreds of tweeds available including herringbone and windowpane patterns. The fun lies in finding that perfect tweed to match your tartan and personal style.
Since most tweed sets are custom-made, the options you may consider also extend to other features. Do you prefer scalloped pockets and gauntlet cuffs? Flat or braided epaulettes? Lapels on the vest? Or perhaps no ornamentation at all for a more streamlined "crail" look? Antler, leather or pewter buttons? The sky's the limit!
While less common today, tartan suits have been around for as long as tartan itself. Modernly, the easiest way to think of a tartan kilt suit is like a tweed set -- you can customize each element to suit your tastes. Usually, sedate tartans will be more pleasing to the eye, so consider using a hunting tartan, weathered or muted tartan. Ancient colour-palette tartans can work. However most modern colour-palette tartans will look garish to the modern eye. A Tartan Vest can be used with a tartan kilt, a tweed kilt, or with trousers, so it is a great option for occasions where you do not wish to wear a kilt.
Tweed kilt jacket suits are currently fashionable. But nobody should think they are something “new”. John Brown, ghillie to Queen Victoria, had one. Essentially a tweed kilt suit is just using the same cloth for an entire outfit. It can be very sharp looking. One interesting look is to use a tartan necktie with a tweed kilt suit -- thus adding a splash of color and interest while also denoting one’s clan affiliation.
The most recognized formal kilt jacket is a relatively late evolution; the Bonny Prince Charlie jacket, originally named the "Prince Charlie Coatee". The Prince Charlie (or PC) with its accompanying low-cut waistcoat, was developed in the early 20th century. The name "Prince Charlie" was certainly a marketing device of the originating tailors. What it was, in essence, was a Highland option for younger gents who wanted to look stylish and sleek while also traditional. It was presented as a less fusty alternative to the formal doublet worn by Victorians like Grand-dad.
A true hybrid, the PC is part Jazz-age tuxedo and part "coatee" decorated with elements common to 19th-century doublets. The coatee was originally a military cut-away coat with tails adorned with buttons and braiding; a style with roots in the 18th century and streamlined in the early- to mid-19th. Below, you can see some of the evolution: Napoleonic era Coatee (left), Victorian Officer’s Mess Jacket with low-collar waistcoat (center), modern Prince Charlie (right)
Bonny Prince Charlie "Coatee" features:
- ~ Tails with silver “Clann Nar Gael” buttons
- ~ "Braemar" cuffs
- ~ Braided epaulettes
- ~ Silk / satin peak lapels
- ~ Upward-angled bottom hemline (true coatees are straight-cut, like a Montrose jacket)
- ~ Low-cut, shawl-collared three-button waistcoat
- ~ Black as the standard color, though custom colors are available
- ~ Suitable for black-tie and white-tie occasions only (“after six”)
An Irish twist on the Prince Charlie, the Brian Boru is interestingly more similar to the Officer’s Mess Dress jacket which inspired both jackets. I personally prefer it since it looks more Edwardian to my eye. Brian Boru jacket.
Brian Boru features:
- ~ Tails with pewter irish harp buttons
- ~ Chain-button closure on jacket
- ~ Pointed Chevron cuff decorations
- ~ Braided epaulettes
- ~ Silk / satin shawl collar
- ~ Low-cut, shawl-collared three-button waistcoat
- ~ Black as the standard color, though custom colors are available
- ~ Suitable for black-tie and white-tie occasions only (“after six”)
Doublets in various designs have never gone away. They are now reserved strictly for bagpipe bands or formal wear (unless you are a rock star or a really fashion-forawrd person). Modern doublets still bear all the hallmarks of their Victorian predecessors. However, there is a marked difference between the military-esque doublets used by pipers and those for civilian formal dress.
The modern civilian version is known as a "Regulation Doublet" and was first offered around 1900. Like the Prince Charlie, it is a hybrid. It looks, for all intents, like a PC jacket but with tashes instead of the coatee-style tails. It is usually made of black barathea, but bright red is another popular option -- especially for men with a military background.
Then there is the highly romantic Chieftan's Vest. This garment is actually a sleeveless doublet designed to emulate a historical look but with modern penache. It is not really consdiered rormal wear, though it is a very popualr choice for fantasy, rennaisance, or historically themed weddings. it's a fun accessory for festivals and fairs or parties and looks great paired with a highland shirt or even a Great Kilt.
Below: Military-style Pipe Band Doublet (left), Regulation Doublet (center), Chieftan's Vest (right). Quite a difference! And yet each one still retains distinct doublet features such as the tashes - the flaps hanging down from the waistline.
The Sheriffmuir Doublet Jacket
Gaining popularity fast, the Sheriffmuir is a hybrid formal jacket styled after 18th- and 19th-century military doublets. It is similar to other doublets except that it features a standing collar and is not made to close. It is usually worn with a matching high-cut, five or six button vest, but tis optional and varies. The Sheriffmuir may feature Braemar or gauntlet cuffs depending on the maker (the gauntlets are more common). It is often rendered in velvet instead of wool. Black is still the standard color, but it may be made in other colors such as grey, red, green or even purple. Sheriffmuir sets are often worn with a Jabot (a lace ruffled neckerchief) and lace cuffs. USA Kilts can custom order a Sheriffmuir for you. Feel free to contact us.
The Montrose Doublet
The Montrose is a double-breasted variant doublet. However, it's military pedigree comes from the 19th-century Shell Jacket (below, left). This accounts for the double-breasted construction and two rows of five buttons as well as the lack of tashes. The Montrose is typically worn with a belt, a lace jabot and lace cuffs. It can be made of barathea wool or velvet. USA Kilts can custom order a Montrose Doublet for you. Feel free to contact us.
Sheriffmuir and Montrose jackets have an odd reputation. They are seen by some as very romantic and appropriately traditional. By others as too effeminate to the modern eye. They are certainly not ubiquitous the way the Prince Charlie is -- more of an option for someone who wants something different.
The Kenmore Doublet
The Kenmore doublet, also designed around 1900, is a single-breasted version of a Montrose Doublet, but with tashes. It is a middle-ground between the old-fashioned doublet and more modern wear. Another way to think of it is as a stiped down military bagpiper's doublet. The point being, it offers a military look for civilian formal wear. It is typically offered in velvet, but barathea wool is also used. It can be worn with or without a jabot.
Clearly, Highland fashion is the culmination of many elements. And certainly it will continue to evolve as gentlemen re-examine old styles, invent new pieces, and combine elements to create all-together new looks. This just goes to prove that ours is a dynamic tradition full of romance and elegance as well as creativity.
Highland dress, unlike many other forms of national dress and traditional costume, has evolved with the times -- it is a true wardrobe and system of dress. Two factors inform this evolution. First, we are a stubborn and somewhat romantic lot, so we like to hang on to old-time fashions and decoration. This is why Highland dress has a “timeless” feel to it. Second, our fashions have long been intermingled with military clothing. Quite obviously, this is due to the proud Scottish tradition of warriorship and Scotland's long history of military service to the British empire. Our genius lies in taking the best of whatever might be fashionable at the time and blending it with the tartan kilt -- the immortal garment of our kin. Outer upper body garments -- jackets, vests and the like -- have always been the most changeable. We have toyed and tinkered with them constantly and this is why today we have some of the greatest variety and style in menswear. It’s also why it is so damned confusing. This is the first of a two-part article to help break it all down for you.
17th CENTURY BEGINNINGS
First came the "doublet", which is actually an ancient term dating back to the 16th century, at least. Below is a typical 17th-century doublet as worn throughout Europe. At first glance, it may seem far removed from what we think of as a doublet today; usually a pipe band uniform. But the doublets of King James I's time left us certain elements -- the “tashes” (also called tassets or Inverness flaps) and the shoulder decoration, which would evolve into the “shells” or “wings” on military doublets. In non-Highland dress, the doublet would diminish over time and become the waistcoat. Overcoats worn over the doublet would slowly morph into suit coats. In the picture on the right, we see a slashed doublet -- a fashion made popular by Louis XIV. it didn't last too long. Do note the lace on the outfit. Lace cuffs and neck wear (“jabots”) were popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and were retained for formal wear in the 19th. Scotland is the hold-out. Even today we sometimes still wear lace cuffs and the jabot for formal attire (see Montrose jackets in Part II).
18TH CENTURY - PICKING UP SOME KEY ELEMENTS
On the left we see two typical 18th century doublets. Note that the red one on the left has epaulettes - a military convention for wearing the baldrick (sword hanger). In the center, we see a common suit jacket of the 18th century rendered in a Scottish style. Later on, this fashion would become known as a “Highland Jacket”. It was a more "civilian" or gentlemanly look of the period, especially when made from tartan as in this portrait of John Murray, 4th Earl Dunmore (1765). Clearly, the more "military" doublet was a more practical fit when worn with the copious fabric of a Great Kilt, or any kilt for that matter. It's easy to see why shorter jackets have been generally preferred while longer designs have fallen by the wayside.
The 18th-century military "coatee" shown below would later be the inspiration for the civilian Prince Charlie Coatee (See Part II). To the right you see good old Ben Franklin. Why? To reinforce a point about gauntlet cuffs. Gauntlet cuffs, as we see on our modern doublets and “Argyll” jackets, began as an 18th-century suit jacket fashion found all over Europe. Like many other aspects of Highland ornamentation, it is arguable that if these had not been retained by the British military, beyond their civilian popularity, they would not have been retained by the Scots.
19TH CENTURY - THE VICTORIAN TIDALWAVE
As with so many other aspects of Scottish dress, the 19th century saw the greatest level of development in jackets thanks to the Victorian passion for all things Scottish and the steady growth of Scottish national pride. Highland dress took on more modern stylings and was rounded out as a system for Victorian gentlemen. Various "new" renditions of layered garments evolved for different situations; day wear, hunting and sporting, formal evening dress. A wide variety of elements were incorporated from past centuries and military dress. And yet the main goal was, as is is the case now, to adapt contemporary garment types to work well with the timeless kilt. Many of these fashions have since become conventional; more or less set in stone as "bog standard" wear.
One obvious example of a hold-over from the 18th century was the so-called "Highland Jacket" which was cut long, single-breasted with no lapels and a row of six or more buttons. It did not remain popular into the 20th century, however. And in fact the gentleman pictured here is not even Scottish but Frederick III of Germany.
Victorian civilians wore both doublets and ordinary "sack jackets" with their kilts. Sack jackets, as seen below, were a less formal suit jacket type universal to the period ( as opposed to the long frock coat used by professional classes like lawyers). Our modern business suit jackets evolved out of it. Sack jackets were particularly common for sporting activities held at one's "Country place" like hunting or hiking. The simplicity, coverage, and comfort made them an easy option and to the upper classes who had to wear more formal gear in the city, tweed sack jackets felt less stuffy. Their length varied, but generally became shorter over the years.
Very quickly, a hybrid of the sack jacket and the traditional doublet developed and became a standard. This is the origin of both the tweed and barathea-wool jackets we commonly refer to as "Argyll style" today. They could be made for use as day wear or evening wear. True doublets of various sorts were still worn, but were increasingly thought of only as formal evening wear.
Simultaneously, uniform doublets of the Scottish units of the British army continued to evolve. Below: Trumpeter John Rennie, 72nd Highlanders (1856), Highland regiment rifleman (1860s or 70s) , piper of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (1899).
Clearly the roots of Scottish highland dress run very deep indeed. And perhaps we can thank the Victorians most for providing us with a wide variety of options for every occasion. In the next segment, we will cover the evolution of 20th century formal dress and go over contemporary fashion options.
The Centerpiece of Any Wedding Festivities Is the Cake, Naturally.
It’s worth noting though that the modern American wedding cake is a far cry from the traditional Irish and Scottish wedding cakes of the past. However, the traditional form does live on and you can make it a part of your own special Celtic wedding. The most traditional celtic wedding cake is...wait for it….fruit cake. Yup. Fruit cake. Or at least a very nicely refined two- to three-tier version of it. We aren't talking about the candied fruit and citron disasters that appear in grocery stores around the holidays. No, this is a truly rich, aromatic and flavorful confection containing nutmeg, ginger, currants, candied cherries, almonds, citrus peel, molasses and more.
Fruit cakes have a long history as celebratory food in the British Isles. And enjoying one at a wedding was common throughout celtic and even non- celtic parts of the UK from the 18th century well up into the modern day. As usual, the Victorians were the ones who really took the concept over the top, but more on that in a moment.
A Symbol of Long Life and Happiness - and a Long-term Culinary Investment
The wedding cake would actually often be baked just after the couple’s engagement. Such cakes were costly and difficult to make since the fruit and spices used were only available in limited supply and seasonally. But the making of this magical treat was a great way to kick off the long-term preparations for the wedding as well as the intended marriage. This is why properly made fruit cakes are soaked lovingly in rum, brandy or some other liquor -- it adds flavor and moistness and also preserves the cake. On personal note, I can tell you it works. I have enjoyed traditional fruit cake made by my wife some three or four years after she made it and it was still delicious, though a bit on the crumbly side. (goes well with Earl Grey or a smoked tea, BTW)
You may be familiar with the idea of saving some cake for your first anniversary or the christening of your first-born child. Well, nowadays we can do so with any cake thanks to freezing. However back in the day, only a well-made, and alcohol-preserved fruit cake would survive such a long period of time. This was part of the lore of such cakes. Their ability to last for months and years was symbolic of a long and sweet marriage and family.
Preparation and Serving
Fruit wedding cakes will usually have a buttercream frosting (almond is a classic flavor), though fondant is used now for visual effect just like on other wedding cakes. It’s best to leave off the frosting on any portion of the cake you wish to preserve. Since fruitcake needs to cure in its brandy for at least several weeks before being served, plan accordingly with your baker. (See the recipe below!)
If you are not sure if your guests will be ready for an Irish fruit cake wedding cake, one option is to have just the top tier of the cake be a fruit cake. A bite of this can be shared by the bride and groom only, to bring good luck and honor the tradition. Or save the entire tier for the first anniversary or christening. Another option is to make a fruit cake as a Groom’s Cake.
Cutting the Cake and Other Fun
It is highly traditional and romantic to cut the cake using the groom’s dirk or Sgian Dubh. If you are Irish, you may also have fun with cake smashing -- it is traditional for the groom’s mother to break a piece of the wedding cake over the bride's head after the ceremony. This trick ensures that she and the bride will get along well for life.
The Victorian Wedding Cake “Pull”
Now, remember those crazy Victorians I mentioned? Here is their addition to the Celtic wedding cake culture. This wedding tradition is a really fun way to give tokens of the occasion to your wedding party. Small jewelry charms were tied to satin or silk ribbons and hidden under the bottom layer of the wedding cake. The cake was then assembled and arranged so that the ribbons would hang down around the perimeter, often off the edge of the table. At some point prior to cutting the cake, the bridesmaids would be invited to each pull out a charm. Some of the traditional designs used were...
4-Leaf Clover ~ Good luck
Horseshoe ~ Prosperity & luck
Heart Lock ~ Faithful love
Key ~ The key to the heart
Wishbone ~ Wishes will come true
Magic Lamp ~ Dreams will come true
Dollar Tree ~ Financial security
Heart ~ Sincere love
Rocking Chair ~ Longevity
Wedding Bells ~ A joyous declaration
Anchor ~ Stability in life
Cross ~ Peace and tranquility
Chimney Sweep or Ladder and Brush ~ Good luck
Thistle ~ Scottish heritage
Celtic Knot ~ Celtic heritage and love’s enduring promise
The Saltire ~ Scottish heritage
Claddagh ~ Irish heritage, friendship, love, & loyalty
Celtic Cross ~ Protection for the home
These charms were usually Sterling silver, but you could use all manner of items for a modern rendition. Cake Pull Charms are also available for sale online.
Bake Your Own Irish / Scottish Wedding Fruit Cake!
Doing a rustic or home wedding? Or don’t trust a commercial baker to get the cake right? Here’s a basic recipe you can use to make your very own Celtic wedding cake.
Cooking Time: 4 1/2-5 1/2 hours
Currants 1 lb. 12 oz./800g.
Sultanas (Golden Raisins) 1lb./450g.
Raisins 9 oz./25 oz 250 g.
Sliced Almonds 7 oz./200g.
Glace Cherries 70z/200g.
Citrus Peel, cut, mixed 70z/200g.
Flour 1lb 3oz. 525 g.
Salt 1 teaspoon
Mixed Spices or Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend 2 1/2 tsp.
Dark Brown Sugar 1lb. 450g.
Black Strap Molasses 2 tbsp.
Orange and Lemon zest 1 1/2 tsp. each
Eggs 8 large
Vanilla 1 1/2 tsp.
Brandy 4 tbsp.
1. Grease a cake tin and line with three layers of parchment paper. Edges of paper should extend about 2" above the rim of the tin.
2. Tie a thick band of folded newspaper around the outside of the tin to protect cake edges from over-baking.
3. Sort your fruit, remove any stalks or irregular pieces.
4. Mix fruit with halved cherries, peel and a tablespoon or two of flour.
5. Sift flour, salt and spices.
6. Cream butter and sugar.
7. To the butter, add molasses, zests, and essences. Beat well.
8. Add the eggs, one by one with a tablespoon full of flour with each. Beat well. Fold in the fruit and remaining flour plus the brandy. Mix well.
9. Pour mixture into the prepared tin and smooth down with tablespoon making a slight hollow in the center.
10. You may leave the cake over night or till ready to bake.
11. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F., 150 degrees C. Bake cake in center of the oven for 1-1/2 hours.
12. Reduce heat to 275 degrees F, 140 degrees C, for the remaining baking time or until the top of cake feels firm to the touch and toothpick comes out clean and dry.
13. Watch cake as it bakes. If it looks like it might over-brown, cover with parchment paper.
14. Cool cooked cake in tin then remove paper and turn upside down onto a board. Make small holes into the cake with toothpicks or a fork and pour on some extra brandy.
15. When the brandy is absorbed, wrap the cake in double layer of grease-proof paper or cheese cloth (you can lightly soak the cheese cloth with brandy as well), then a layer of foil. Seal and store in airtight container and place in a cool place for at least a month. You should finish the cake about two weeks before the wedding.
16. Cover with butter cream icing, Irish Royal Icing or Fondant.
Happy Father’s Day!
Lord grant that thou may aye inherit
Thy mither's person, grace, an' merit,
An' thy poor, worthless daddy's spirit,
Without his failins,
'Twill please me mair to see thee heir it,
Than stockit mailens.
For if thou be what I wad hae thee,
And tak the counsel I shall gie thee,
I'll never rue my trouble wi' thee,
The cost nor shame o't,
But be a loving father to thee,
And brag the name o't
~ from ‘A Poet's Welcome To His Love Begotten Daughter’, Robert Burns (1785)
What Do You Give The Kilted Dad Who Has Everything?
More kilts! No seriously...If your father is dedicated to Celtic heritage and Highland fashion, there are lots of easy accessories you can get him this year to help round out his wardrobe. And yes, that even includes neckties. The nice thing about highland wear is that it is highly collectible. We all love the look and there are lots of small bits and bobs that go into it. That means lots of us end up being collectors. So you don’t have to worry about getting Dad something he already has.
USA Kilts Offers Celtic Father’s Day Gifts for Every Budget!
Over the years, we have gotten a sense for the most popular options that make Dad happy. Here’s a run-down of what our customers buy the most for the Old Man:
Neckties: A tartan neck tie is a go-to. We all have one in our closets. He may not wear it with his kilt, but let’s face it sometimes you can’t kilt up for every occasion, so at least this way he can show off the family colors. If he does want to wear it with a matching tartan kilt, we recommend wearing a vest or sweater vest as well to break up the pattern. The tie and kilt alone just look a bit off somehow. A solid color wool necktie is also a common accessory -- meant to be worn with the kilt and tone well with the colors of the tartan while not being too busy. if he's not a tie guy, check out our Irish Flat Caps and Tartan Scarves.
Cuff Links: It’s been said that Americans don’t wear cufflinks much, but we beg to differ. We sell a lot of these to go with formal kilted outfits as well as business wear or simply “Celtic Festival Nice”. Maybe all our customers are hipsters...or more likely we Scots are just a classy bunch. Our most popular cuff-link set is the Square Celtic Knot -- goes with everything from a tweed jacket and vest to a Prince Charlie.
Pocket Watch: A classic heirloom quality gift. Our most popular design is the Knot and Thistle, but we also provide the Shamrock, Welsh Dragon, and Trinity Knot - all cast into hefty pewter cases for our mechanical pocket watches. Skeletal face and back so Dad can see the workings move!
Drinkin’ Gear: We have it on good authority that no sporran is complete without a flask inside. In fact, we offer some especially designed to fit! Lots of great regular hip flasks as well, natch. If you’re staying home to celebrate Father’s Day, a bottle of his favorite Scotch whisky served in genuine Glencairn tasting glasses is a fine gift.
Sgian Dubh: Not just for threatening door-to-door solicitors anymore! Our top sellers are the custom Clan Crest Jewel Sgian Dubh and Clan Crest Officer’s Sgian Dubh. Our Damascus blade sgian is also very popular -- drool-worthy if he is a knife guy.
A New Sporran? If he’s been an especially good Dad, sure! This is the creme-de-la-creme of Scottish Father’s Day gifts. Most men have at least two -- one for every day, and one for special occasions. And again, they are something guys love to collect. Popular choices include our Celtic Knot (only $60!), our Simple Pin Sporran and our new Laser Etch Clan Crest Sporran. This last one is sure to be a unique part of his collection and get him lots of attention!
The Gift Card of Freedom!: Dad is a pain in the arse to shop for, you say? Too many choices? The whole family wants to chip in and get him something extra special? USA Kilts Gift Card to the rescue! As a matter of fact, we sell a lot of these and the giftee is always thrilled to go on a personal shopping spree with no guilt attached. Plus, it’s instantly in your e-mail so it’s perfect for last-minute gifting!
Love and Affection: Sappy sentiment is as Scottish as Robert Burns, so whatever you give Dad on this special day, be sure to shower him with love too. That could mean hugs or a strong, fast punch to the bicep. You know how Celts are. Happy Father’s Day!
Nothing else more clearly says "Celtic wedding" than having a genuine bagpiper included in your ceremony. Did you know Bagpipers are actually considered good luck? It’s an old custom to have the piper be the first one to greet the bride, thus ensuring a long and happy marriage. But of course the whole point of hiring a piper is the traditional music. It's a timeless gift to be enjoyed by everyone attending your wedding -- a sure way to make it memorable.
How do you hire a bagpiper for your wedding?
Many professional pipers have websites. Or you can find them by searching facebook profiles. Your wedding planner may have contacts for pipers in your area. Another option is to look up local bagpipe bands -- most pipers who do weddings also play with a pipe band. Once you have a name, check for reviews.
Listen to samples of your prospective piper's music.
Most pipers who perform weddings professionally are typically highly trained musicians. Be cautious if a friend suggests someone willing to play for free. Hobbyists may mean well and come cheaply, but the music may not be all that great. Be sure to listen to samples of them playing. Most pipers these days will happily share clips on Youtube.
How will the bagpiper look?
Naturally, he will be kilted. Most professional bagpipers will have a basic Argyll jacket and vest as part of their kit. Some may also be able to dress in different styles to suit your wedding's theme. For example, a tweed set for a more rustic theme, or a highland shirt for a romantic, historical or rennaisance theme. Ask them what they can or are willing to do. But always remember the playing is far more important than the uniform.
When should the bagpiper play during the wedding ceremony?
The clear answer is "whenever you want them to play". But typically a piper will be hired to do one or more of the following:
> As guests arrive.
> Process the bride in.
> To accentuate moments during the ceremony - for example as background while the handfasting cord is tied, or a unity candle lit.
> Process the new couple out.
> As guests leave.
> Introduce the couple at the reception, usually by leading the Grand March.
> Performing the Quaich Ceremony (non-musical)
What traditional Scottish wedding music can you choose from?
If you are not sure what songs you'd like your piper to play, ask them for suggestions. Their repetoire will include many jigs, reels and marches and they will have personal favorites they are especially good at playing. They will also know these popular tunes, which are wedding classics:
Glendaruel Highlanders – a happy, energetic tune ideal for welcoming the groom and bride as they approach the wedding venue.
Bluebells of Scotland -- a beautiful and heart-stirring tune which adds romance to the ceremony.
Highland Wedding – another joyous song often used for the recessional or as a more Celtic alternative to the Bridal March.
Scotland the Brave or Mairi’s Wedding – both great choices for the Grand March - the ceremonial entrance of the wedding party and guests into the reception hall.
Flower of Scotland -- a beloved national song, almost an unofficial national anthem. You can enjoy this almost any time during the ceremony or reception.
A few other traditional favorites for the wedding or reception:
The Green Hills of Tyrol
Wearing of the Green
The Minstrel Boy
Merrily Kissed the Quaker's Wife
How much should I spend on a bagpiper?
Most pipers offer an hourly rate. The current average is between $150.00 and $200.00. One hour's worth is an unofficial minimum and includes at least one song performance, as well as the piper's travel time and costs. If all you need is for them to process you in, you will probably pay for an hour. One hour could also include some background music as the guests arrive at the venue. If you want the piper present throughout the ceremony and at the reception, you will of course pay more.
What will the bagpiper require?
Clear communication is a must. details such as where/when to play, who to escort, etc should all be ironed out well in advance -- part of contracting the piper in the first place. Pipers do not usually attend rehearsals. If you really want them to, expect to pay them for their time. For the big day, make sure your piper knows exactly when to be on site. You should provide them with clear directions to the venue (including any necessary details like what door to use, which hall the recption is in, etc.) and a good parking spot. If at all possible arrange for a quiet, isolated spot where they can tune up. Shade is ideal if the wedding is outdoors. A bottle of water is always appreciated. Most pipers will not expect to be fed or treated as a guest in the reception.
NOTE: It is NOT recommended to have the bagpiper's performance be a surprise. While it may seem like a romantic idea, it makes it very difficult to coordinate the performance. A piper who is asked to hide is being asked to tune quietly or not at all -- not good. They will end up rushing to appear at the appointed moment and the song may come off badly. Or worse, someone who does not know about the sceret plan may get in the way.
Finally, if your piper makes suggestions about the ceremony or performance -- take them seriously. He or she is a professional and has probably seen many successful (as well as unsuccessful) weddings. Their goal is the same as yours -- to make the day run as smoothly as possible and be joyous.
We can't resist ending on a humorous (and sour) note, so here's the final piece of advice...
As a matter of fact, there are many ideas to choose from. Most of these quaint and touching customs were intended to bless the new couple with good fortune, expressing the fond wishes of their loved ones.
To a Long Life
The Best Man, or another friend, should give the couple a clock to represent longevity. This harkens back to when clocks were new and very expensive -- a significant contribution to the newlyweds' new household. You may see timepieces marketed as "wedding clocks" today because of this old custom. Mondernly, a pocketwatch is sometimes given as a more personal gift to the groom. Another symbol of longevity is the infinite (or infinity) knot used as a design on many celtic wedding bands.
Before the big day, the bride should receive a Luckenbooth pin. These brooches, shaped like a heart topped by a crown, were originally symbols of betrothal (a Scottish equivalent of the Irish Claddagh). The curious name comes from the "locked booths" of the jewlers along the Royal Mile in Edinburg from whom the would-be groom would buy the item. Like an engagement ring, it represented an investment and serious commitment. The Luckenbooth may be pinned to the bride during the ceremony. Later, it may also be pinned to the shawl of the couple's baby at its christening.
In old times, a bride would give her groom a shirt, the "wedding sark". This probably harkens back to medieval times when the women of the household made all the clothing for the family. The sark represented her love and commitment and also advertised her domestic skills. (Similarly, this is why you wear new clothes in Easter Sunday -- they indicated that the household was content and that the womenfolk had been secure and productive during the long winter months) In return, the groom would buy the wedding dress. Nowadays, mutual gifts of clothing can be a fun as well as well as meaningful gesture. It could be items to wear during the ceremony, or "for fun" things to change into for the reception or the first day of the honeymoon.
Another token of good fortune and happiness is the inclusion of white heather in the bouquet, boutonnieres and other flower arrangements - it's just an all around great decoration. In Scotland, heather is said to be stained with the blood of clan wars. White is therefore the luckiest for it has grown where no blood has been shed. Scottish warriors often wore a sprig of white heather for protection. Queen Victoria popularized the wearing of white heather by brides. If you prefer the purple variety, don't fret -- all heather is symbolic of strength, resilience and domestic well-being. A genuine, hand-braided heather broom is a classic home blessing gift.
Sharing the Tartan
Tartan is always on proud display at a Celtic wedding: the groom's kilt, binding the bouquet, sashes or rosettes for the bridesmaids, table and altar cloths...it can be everywhere! We already mentioned using a bit of tartan cloth for a Handfasting, but there is more one may do. Often, the groom's ensemble will include a Fly Plaid (the cape-like tartan thrown over the shoulder and secured with a large brooch). During the ceremony, especially during vows or the homily, the groom may drape his fly plaid over the bride's shoulder. Alternately, he may present her with a sash or shawl in his family tartan so that as they leave the altar together, they match. Another variation is for the bride to pin the fly plaid on the groom (especially if it is her family's tartan). Other family members or an officiant may also present tartan to the bride and/or groom. There really is no wrong way to use this beautiful and symbolic cloth.
At the conclusion of the wedding you may want to host a Scramble. It's quite simple; the groom, or sometimes the bride’s father or Best Man, takes coins from his sporran and tosses them about for the childen at the gathering to "scramble" for. This gesture demonstrates generosity, which was heavily linked to good fortune in ancient times. It can be a fun alternative to throwing rice or bird seed at the couple, or done in conjunction.
Stepping out...or in
In a traditional Scottih wedding, the couple are not so much introduced at the reception as paraded in. And everyone takes part. This is known as the "Scottish Grand March" and it really counts as the first dance of the evening. The bagpiper will play a foursome reel (sometimes leading the procession as well).The newly-weds enter the hall first, hand in hand. They are followed by the wedding party, then the parents, and finally the guests. The reel can continue as long as people like. It often wraps up with the guests forming a circle around the room. As the music continues, the bride leads her father or grandfather to the center of the floor for their Father-Daughter Dance. Guests can clap along, or you can transition to more modern music. This ritual really builds excitement and energy and allows everyone to be involved.
The Quaich (pronounced "quake") is the traditional Scottish "cup of welcome."
A small metal, horn or wooden drinking bowl designed for holding whisky, it dates back to at least the 16th century and may have originated in Scandinavia -- a distant descendant of the ritual drinking horn. Quaichs bear two handles or "lugs". One is held by the person offering the cup, the other by the person receiving the drink, which represents hospitality and friendship. It was common to offer a guest a dram of whisky in the quaich when they entered your home, and another upon parting (this should remind you of the line from the song..."And we’ll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne."
No true Gaelic home is complete without one. Historically, the first time the artesenal "loving cup" was given as a wedding token was in 1589 when King James VI of Scotland gave one to Anne of Denmark. It has become a ritual element of celtic weddings ever since, as well as a classic wedding present.
During a wedding ceremony, the bride and groom may fill the quaich together. Whisky tasting glasses are very handy for this as well as elegant. They then offer each other the whisky (or another beverage). This can be worked in at several points in the proceedings. Usually it is done before or after the vows but always before the handfasting (for obvious reasons!). The cup can also be shared with family members to symbolize the union of the two families. It's a bit like lighting a unity candle, but much more authentic for a Scottish or Irish wedding.
During the reception, the Best Man (or the honored friend you have chosen) should use the quaich during their speech. They may be all set with a personalized toast full of stories about the two of you. However, in addition to whatever they would like to say (or if they are nervous about public speaking!), they may enjoy offering up this traditional, light-hearted wedding blessing written by Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns:
May the best you've ever seen
Be the worst you'll you ever see.
May the mouse ne'er leave your pantry
With a teardrop in its e'
May you lum keep blithly reekin'
Til you old enough to dee.
May you always be just as happy
As I wish you now to be.
It is also a great piece for an officiant or piper to deliver.
Another person who traditionally offers a toast to the couple at the reception is the bagpiper. After processing the newly wedded couple into the hall, the piper should be offered payment for his services -- hence the expression "paying the piper". This payment would of course be monetary (though realistically you will actually be paying the piper with a check at another time). However just as importantly, payment included a drink from the quaich. As he is presented with the dram, the piper traditionally toasts the good health of the couple. This is a more rare custom nowadays, but it is about as Scottish as it gets and worth considering, especially if your piper has outdone himself.
The quaich may also be passed around the room allowing each guest to raise a toast. This is another ancient tradition which is also sometimes enjoyed during Ceilidhs (Celtic dance parties) -- with each person holding the quaich having a chance to toast, sing or tell a short story before quaffing their whisky, But be warned, Celtic toasting can sometimes be more like Celtic roasting, especially as more and more guests offer anecdotes about the bride or groom!
After the big day, your wedding quaich can have a proud place in your home. Quaichs are often displayed on the mantle, with wedding photos, or a piece of the family tartan. And naturally you will want to bring it out for any special occasions such as holiday dinners to share with loved ones and rekindle fond memories.