007’s ‘throat touched by God’ is in Grand shape

Capercaillie:  Karen Matheson
Capercaillie: Karen Matheson
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Folk’s influence is suddenly everywhere, and singer Karen Matheson, 50-year-old leader of Capercaillie, could not be more content.

“It is amazing the way folk has hit the mainstream in the last few years, it is a really healthy scene right now,” said the vocalist ahead of the band’s first appearance at Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre next week.

“I’d like to think it won’t just become a fashion statement to wear on your sleeve, but there are some who are jumping on the bandwagon.

“That’ll always be the case but I’d really like to think it’s here to stay this time.

“I know music is cyclical but the fact it has been embraced by such an array of brilliant musicians from all genres is heartening.

“Many of them have taken folk music to their hearts and seen it as credible.”

Throughout their career, Capercaillie have drawn on two great strengths to inspire them, the musical dexterity of their fiddle, whistle, flute and Uilleann pipe sounds, led by the accordion and keyboards of the band’s founding father Donald Shaw.

The other is Karen’s enchanting voice, described by one of the band’s most famous fans, Sean Connery, as a ‘throat that is surely touched by God’.

Another high-profile fan is Prince Charles.

The heir to the throne commissioned them to write the music for his TV programme, A Prince Among Islands.

“We never set out on any mission,” added Karen.

“We were just doing the stuff we loved doing and the music we grew up with when we first got together as teenagers in Oban.”

There have been numerous milestones for a band who have sold over a million albums worldwide, with their blend of Celtic rock and Gaelic often making the charts, promoting folk around the world.

However, Capercaille have forged their reputation doing more than that, fusing traditional folk songs with modern arrangements.

“There was a time when we wrote more of our own songs, but it you’re working in the field of folk music, you quickly become aware how hard it is to compete with the quality,” said accordionist Shaw.

“It is inconceivable to imagine the scene today when we started out 30 years ago.

“The main thing that keeps us together is that we’re all really good mates, and when we get together we have a great time musically.

“There’s still a great audience there for our music, and I still think it matters to do what we do as well as we can.”

Capercaille, Clitheroe Grand Theatre, December 6. 01200 421599. £24.

Tony Dewhurst