TWO award-winning bands born on either side of the Irish Sea join forces to bring their style of Celtic music to Scottish audiences.
The Glasgow-based Paul McKenna Band, winners of the Best Up and Coming Artist category in the 2009 MG Alba Scots Trad Awards, and The Outside Track, whose roots lie in Ireland, are embarking on their first joint tour, playing their own sets as well as a couple of specially arranged sets that will bring them together on stage.
"We have known The Outside Track for years. We used to share an agent for North America, so we used to bump into each other fairly often while touring the USA and Canada," Sean Gray, who plays flute in the Paul McKenna Band, explained.
"Both the bands don’t really do that much touring in Scotland itself because we spend a lot of time in North America and Europe. We thought that this would be an opportunity to get both names out in Scotland a bit more.
"When we play in Germany, it’s far easier to get a crowd out and they are much more likely to buy CDs and other merchandise, the same with North America although it’s much more expensive to get to. This is just an opportunity to reach out to more people."
Both bands take a diverse approach to their music, with neither focusing exclusively on one national style.
"We play a lot Scottish stuff, both traditional and written by Scottish people, but we also play a lot of our own material and Irish stuff as well. In recent years we’ve started to play songs by North American artists as well, people like Tim O’Brien and Guy Clark," Gray said.
The Outside Track, winner of Best Group category in the Live Ireland awards, are a more multinational band.
Founded by former students of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, it contains Scottish members harpist Ailie Robertson from Edinburgh and accordionist Fiona Black from Evanton in Easter Ross, but also Ireland’s Cillian O’Dálaigh on guitar and vocals and flute player Teresa Horgan (stepping in for the pregnant Norah Rendell), and fiddle player and step dancer Mairi Rankin from Canada, part of Cape Breton’s famous Rankin Family.
The Paul McKenna Band also have some Canadian representation in Shannon Quinn from Halifax in Nova Scotia who takes over fiddle duties from past incumbents Rua Macmillan and Mike Vass, both originally from Nairn.
"Myself and Ewan Baird (bodhran, cajon and vocals) have always been part of the Glasgow music scene and that’s where we came across Paul (McKenna, singer and frontman) because he grew up in the same area," Gray said.
"Shannon we met along the road. In Halifax she was quite involved with Irish music, but she also plays with a Nova Scotian style."
The Paul McKenna Band are back in Germany in November, this time with a more ambitious venture than their past German tours, Highland Blast.
"We noticed there were lots of Irish tours and we thought we’d do something similar for Scotland," Gray said.
Along with fellow music from the Paul McKenna Band and Steve Byrne, formerly of Malinky, and the duo of Siobhan Miller and Ewan MacPherson, there will be food tasting, dancing and pipers.
"We’re trying to get across a truer picture of Scottish culture than is seen in Germany quite often and we’re trying to do that by making the music high quality traditional music."
• The Paul McKenna Band and The Outside Track appears at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, on Saturday 27th September and The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, on Wednesday 1st October.
The Inverness date includes a special £10 ticket price for Feis Rois members aged under 18. They must phone to book and quote "Feis £10". This deal is not available on the door on the night and must be pre booked.