Posts Tagged ‘shooglenifty’

Angus R Grant Obituary (1967-2016)

Posted on October 11th, 2016 in News by .


Words by Kevin Bourke/Photo by Douglas Robertson

After a short illness, Angus R Grant, the mercurial fiddler and frontman of Shooglenifty, has died peacefully at home at the age of 49, surrounded by family and close friends.

With his rock’n’roll swagger, Grant made fiddle playing cool and helped make the Edinburgh-based band one of Scotland’s most successful. Renowned for their ‘acid croft’ dancefloor filling sounds, the band have built a global following with their crowd-pleasing appearances at festivals and were regulars at major events like Celtic Connections, rounding off their 25th-anniversary tour last December with a special performance at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations.

The son of the renowned left-handed fiddle player, Aonghas Grant, he was given a quarter-sized instrument by his uncle at the age of five and amazed his family by having three tunes on the go after just a few days. Although teenage years saw him enthralled by the do-it-yourself ethos of punk and giving up fiddle for electric guitar, by the time his late-80s outfit Swamptrash started to transmogrify into Shooglenifty, he had returned to his first instrument.

“With their first album Venus in Tweeds, the band took the folk world by the scruff of the neck…and they’ve kept on shaking ever since,” observed manager Jane-Ann Purdy. “Shooglenifty filled most of Angus’ musical life over the past 26 years, leading audiences in a merry dance and influencing a whole generation of musicians. He lived without ties and responsibility, but was devoted to his music, his family and his fellow musicians.”

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Album Review | Top of the World | Shooglenifty – The Untied Knot

Posted on August 6th, 2015 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Billy Rough

Shooglenifty - The Untied Knot CoverWhat’s knot to like?

While some bands fall into repetition after a few albums, others continue to evolve and develop, still finding inspiration and excitement in a variety of different cultures and traditions. This is exactly what Shooglenifty have been doing for 25 years. The Untied Knot is their anniversary album and a remarkably exciting and fresh one it is too.

For their seventh studio album they have enlisted a vocalist for the very first time. The voice of Gaelic singer Kaela Rowan, who brings a new and richly layered aspect to the band’s sound. The rich addition of puirt a beul (Scottish mouth music) is atmospherically felt in the Eastern-inspired ‘The High Road to Jodhpur’. ‘The Scorpion/The Devil’s Breath Hornpipe’ conjures up an almost bluegrass flavour, while ‘Fitzroy’s Crossing’ sees the band inspired by the music and sounds of Australia.

Shooglenifty may almost be part of the establishment now, but there is still enough innovation in the band to last another quarter of a century. Here’s to the next 25 years and beyond.

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Beginner’s Guide to Shooglenifty

Posted on July 6th, 2015 in Features, News, Recent posts by .


The Scottish boundary breakers first hit the scene 25 years ago. As they release their new album, The Untied Knot, Rob Adams examines the group’s distinctive sound and multifarious career to date.

Composed by the prolific Anon, ‘The High Road to Linton’ is a popular session tune with Scottish musicians, said to describe the old drove road over the Pentland Hills, a range that runs south-west from Edinburgh to Biggar. Its melodic contours, however, might sound more familiar to musicians in an altogether different geographical location: Rajasthan.

It was while recently jamming with a troupe of traditional players in this Indian state that Angus R Grant, Shooglenifty’s distinctive, bearded fiddler, found himself playing a local tune that was just a few variations away from ‘The High Road to Linton’, which almost certainly figured in the jam sessions that led to Grant, percussionist James Mackintosh and guitarist Malcolm Crosbie forming Shooglenifty 25 years ago.

The original ingredients that went into the Shooglenifty sound included all sorts of styles, although any Rajasthani influences would have been unintentional. They might well be in there now, as during various different formations Shooglenifty Mk l, Mk ll and Mk lll (Ewan MacPherson replaced mandolinist Luke Plumb in early 2014 and Kaela Rowan sings on their new album The Untied Knot) have assimilated music from everywhere on their extensive global travels. Yet they sound unmistakably like no one else. There’s the bright staccato mandolin, a wild celebratory, singing fiddle, insistent drum beats, buoyant basslines and churning guitar and banjo rhythms, with an air of mystery hanging over the more atmospheric pieces and a party animal cracking the dance tunes into a frenzy.

“It could only have come about in Edinburgh and it was very much a product of the time when we got together,” says Grant, who learned fiddle from his father, the lefthanded Highland treasure Aonghas Grant. But although influenced by his dad’s swinging style, which has the music of the bagpipes and the Gaelic song tradition coursing through it, Angus’ tastes moved onto Captain Beefheart, the Fall, Brian Eno, Talking Heads and Miles Davis by the time he, Mackintosh, Crosbie and banjo player Garry Finlayson convened in Shooglenify’s forerunner, Swamptrash.

During the late 80s and early 90s Edinburgh was, according to Grant, where everyone came out of their ghettoes. Folk musicians were playing with jazz musicians. Jazz musicians were forming folk bands. The young concertina player, now Scottish traditional music’s ideas man, Simon Thoumire was discovering free improvisation. And round the large table at the foot of the stairs in the Tron Bar, all sorts of potent musical cocktails were being mixed, with Martyn Bennett among the mixers.

Grant, Mackintosh and Crosbie found their own table, in Christie’s Bar in West Port, formed themselves into a trio and then went off busking in Spain. When they returned, they had the genesis of the unplugged Shooglenifty sound, which they expanded with Finlayson, bassist Conrad Ivitsky and mandolinist Iain MacLeod. They took up residency in La Belle Angèle, (later destroyed by the Cowgate fire in 2002), and when word got out about the intoxicating spirit they were generating, they had to plug in to project their sound through the mass of people.

Eventually, some five years into their existence, Jim Sutherland, from Edinburgh’s early 80s swing-folk quartet the Easy Club, locked the band in a studio and produced their first album, Venus in Tweeds. It very quickly became ‘the talk o’ the steamie,’ as they say in Shooglenifty’s heartlands. Fellow musicians coveted the tunes and someone came up with the term ‘acid croft’ to describe the music. The audiences who had flocked to La Belle Angèle were replicated at festivals around Scotland and then internationally as the Shoogle groove became a shoo-in for the late-night party slot.

From playing round a pub table, the sextet found themselves playing in rainforests and deserts, collaborating with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq, and even starring at Sydney Opera House. When Ivitsky and MacLeod departed after 12 years, Quee MacArthur, a friend of Mackintosh’s, and Australian Luke Plumb arrived seamlessly on bass and mandolin.

Extracurricular activity – Mackintosh has worked with Capercaillie, Mouth Music and the Michael McGoldrick Band among many others; Grant teaches at fèisean (Gaelic learning festivals) – has only strengthened the Shooglenifty sound, as have the aforementioned collaborations and jamming with musicians from all corners.

“You’re influenced by what you hear,” says Grant. “In the early days we spent a lot of time in Galicia and Asturias and I think a lot of the feel, rather than the sound, of the music from there fed into the band. It’s a cliché to say that our development has been organic and it’s another cliché to say that music is a universal language, but clichés are only clichés because they’re true and we’re still loving playing together. After 25 years, we’ve become like each other’s brothers, only worse: wives!”

Shooglenifty’s Best Albums

Venus in TweedsVenus in Tweeds

(Greentrax, 1994)

The debut that set the steamie talking still sounds fresh. It includes the tracks ‘The Tammienorrie’ and ‘Two Fifty to Vigo’, a tune that’s passed into the tradition.


A Whisky KissA Whisky Kiss

(Greentrax, 1996)

A pastoral opening but the dance floor soon beckons as rave rhythms, Highland melodies and Middle Eastern moods meet in a strengthening sound.


Radical MestizoRadical Mestizo

(Shoogle Records, 2005)

Favourites including ‘She’s in the Attic’ and ‘A Fistful of Euro’ feature in a live recording taken from gigs in Mexico City, Indiana and Glasgow. The album captures the Mark ll line-up in typically effervescent form.



(Shoogle Records, 2007)

Judicious sampling, Inuit throat singing, guitar fills that range from bluesy to psychedelic, downright funky bass and steel pans-esque mandolin in a swirling Shoogle groove.



(Shoogle Records, 2009)

A double album containing radical remixes, a guest appearance from Ensemble Kaboul, the ‘Afghani Chieftains,’ and the pop-rock backing track of ‘The Dancing Goose’ but the band are still emphatically Shoogling.


Shooglenifty’s new album The Untied Knot is out now.

This Beginner’s Guide originally appeared in Songlines issue #106 (March 2015).

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The new March (#106) podcast is now available

Posted on February 6th, 2015 in Recent posts by .


Songhoy Blues, Shooglenifty and Daniel Melingo

This podcast includes highlights from the March 2015 issue (#106), opening with music from the debut album by Songhoy Blues (Transgressive Records). Songlines editor-in-chief, Simon Broughton, plays a track by jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater to tie in with her playlist this issue. There is also a track by Shooglenifty as part of this issue’s Beginner’s Guide.

Features: Andy Morgan on the young Malian group, Songhoy Blues; Simon Broughton with special reports on the Taraf de Haidouks and music from his recent trip to Bangladesh. Nathaniel Handy brings you the latest news with music by Daniel Melingo and more.

To download the podcast on iTunes click here.

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