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Scotland’s foremost fiddle player John McCusker Celebrates 30 Years with Best Of Album

Jan 24, 2023

Acclaimed Scottish fiddle player, John McCusker, celebrated three decades in the music industry by releasing John McCusker – The Best Of album last Friday 20th January 2023

The celebratory record includes four new tracks and is released alongside a book entitled John McCusker: The Collection, which will showcase 100 of his compositions. It is being released at Celtic Connections featuring many musical friends to launch the album.

John McCusker – The Best Of is a double album featuring 30 standout tracks from the last 30 years, including four new tracks. It is a celebration not only of John’s solo work but also of the many notable collaborations he has been part of throughout his illustrious career. 

A range of world-class and accomplished names feature on the Best Of record, including the legendary comedian and musician Billy Connolly on vocals and autoharp.

Fellow Mark Knopfler bandmate and folk musician Michael McGoldrick can be heard showcasing his incomparable talent on flute and pipes, Capercaillie’s Ewen Vernal plays double bass alongside three-time Folk Musician of the Year winner Andy Cutting on melodeon. The album also includes performances from world-famous accordion player Phil Cunningham, one of Scotland’s greatest drummers James MacKintosh, the legendary guitarists Kris Drever, John Doyle and Ian Carr, alongside the inimitable American dobro player Jerry Douglas and acclaimed songwriter and musician Boo Hewerdine on guitar.

Blur’s Graham Coxon and Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake also feature on guitar and vocals, as well as accordionist Alan Kelly. Fellow fiddle extraordinaire Duncan Chisholm can also be heard with Simon Thoumire on concertina and Andy Seward on double bass.

Other featured artists include Helen McCabe and Emma Reid on fiddle, traditional piper and flautist Iain Macdonald on flute, Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw on piano, Breabach’s James Lindsay on double bass, Alice Allen on cello, one of the most talented saxophonists in the UK Graeme Blevins and the wonderful Tom Walsh on trumpet.

It doesn’t just stop at instrumentalists, vocalists who appear on the album alongside the legendary Billy Connolly include one of the UK’s best-known folk singers Kate Rusby, multi-award-winning Gaelic singer and musician Julie Fowlis, one of Scotland’s all-time greatest female voices and performers Eddi Reader, seven-time winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Karine Polwart, one of the ultimate British songwriters John Tams, award-winning Irish folk singer Heidi Talbot, and Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble.

Calendar Boys 30, a re-recorded single featuring a choir, includes guest vocals from Monaghan singer and musician Helen McCabe, one of Ireland’s best-known performers Lisa Lambe, award-winning singer Kris Drever, Birmingham-based folk artist Katherine Priddy, Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott, grammy-award winning Jerry Douglas, Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson, Ireland’s Heidi Talbot, and acclaimed singer-songwriter Adam Holmes.

John McCusker said: “It’s been an incredible three decades making and performing music. I wanted to celebrate this milestone moment by releasing a compilation of the different albums and stages of my career, alongside including recordings from the many fantastic collaborations and wonderful artists I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. Each record is really special to me in its own way, so being able to celebrate the highlights from each stage of my career has been a very enjoyable experience”.

An integral part of Mark Knopfler’s band and dubbed as a “musician’s musician” by trad music legend Phil Cunningham, John has won numerous awards – including the coveted BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year in 2003, and The Spirit of Scotland Award for music in 1999 and again in 2009. 2016 saw John receive the Good Tradition Award and perform with his band at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at The Royal Albert Hall. John won the Music Category at the Scottish Culture Awards in 2019.

Born in Bellshill, near Glasgow, John began playing fiddle and whistle at a young age, under the influence of his Irish mother and her record collection and spent 11 years with Scottish folk institution the Battlefield Band from the age of 17. 

Hello Goodbye (2016) was his fourth solo record. Collaborations have included, Before the Ruin, with Roddy Woomble and Kris Drever (2008), Under One Sky (2009), and the enduring trio with John Doyle and Mike McGoldrick, producing two studio albums The Wishing Tree (2018) and The Reed That Bends in the Storm (2020), and three live albums. John is also a longstanding member of the annual Transatlantic Sessions house band. 

Talking about his work as a producer, John says: “I’m particularly proud of having produced several artists who have become especially influential”. His production portfolio includes debut albums by Kris Drever and Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble and work with Eddi Reader Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy, Helen McCabe, Heidi Talbot and Linda Thompson. Film and TV soundtracks include Heartlands (2002) and 16 Years of Alcohol (2003), Billy Connolly’s World Tour of New Zealand (2004), Jennifer Saunders BBC sitcom Jam and Jerusalem (2008) and Starlings sitcom for Sky TV (2012). 

The next stage of his musical career will include recording a duo record with Helen McCabe and more live dates with John Doyle and Mike McGoldrick. The new compilation album was recorded in a variety of studios across the world, as well as in John’s own studio in the heart of the Scottish Borders.

John McCusker – The Best Of will be available now on Double CD and Double vinyl,  you can also stream and download it on all major digital platforms.

For more information on John McCusker please go to: www.johnmccusker.co.uk / Facebook @johnmccuskerofficial / Twitter @johnmccusker / YouTube @JohnMcCusker 

📷Featured image Elly Lucas

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