As a young band breathing vibrant new life into old musical traditions, Deaf Shepherd perfectly embody the buoyant cultural confidence of 21st century Scotland.
Six superbly talented musicians, on fiddles, bagpipes, whistle, bouzouki, guitar, bodhran and vocals, Deaf Shepherd draw their influences and material from the length and breadth of Scotland, combining traditional tunes and songs with hand-picked contemporary compositions, including many of the band's own.
Deaf Shepherd have performed to consistently rapturous acclaim and sellout crowds at many of the world's leading Celtic music gatherings, including the Cambridge, Edinburgh, Shetland and Skagen folk festivals, the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, Brittany's Lorient festival and the Edinburgh Fringe. Their two albums to date, Ae Spark O' Nature's Fire (1996) and Synergy (1997), both won unanimously rave reviews, with Synergy being named by BBC Radio Scotland's Travelling Folk programme as one of the year's top releases, as well as earning a maximum five-star rating as "Album of the Week" in The Scotsman, one of Scotland's two quality daily newspapers.
Based in Edinburgh, currently home to the UK's most dynamic roots music scene, the band first got together in 1993, with most of the current line-up settling into place a couple of years later. Between them, they bring together most of Scotland's major regional traditions, hailing variously from the Highlands, Glasgow, the Hebridean island of Barra and the Lowlands of Ayrshire, with a dash of Irish influence in the shape of percussionist Mark MaGuire. While many of their musical contemporaries have pursued a fusion-based approach, Deaf Shepherd have stuck proudly to their traditional guns, introducing a new generation of fans to their rich native heritage by capturing the timeless spirit and beauty that has kept the venerable tunes and ballads in their repertoire alive down the centuries.
A Deaf Shepherd performance runs the full gamut of moods and emotions, from the hell-for-leather elation of fiery jigs and reels, through the stirring majesty of Highland pipe marches, to the haunting eloquence of slow airs and ballads. Their instrumental arrangements match power with precision, contemporary inventiveness with authentic traditional taste, while lead singer John Morran, with his richly expressive, subtly poignant voice, is widely recognised as his generation's leading exponent of Scots song.
The past few years have seen the band going steadily from strength to strength, honing their sound through an increasingly hectic international touring schedule. Small wonder that the Scotsman's veteran critic Alastair Clark, one of the country's leading authorities on the subject, has pronounced them "quite simply the best folk band Scotland has produced in many a year". After experiencing the magic of Deaf Shepherd's music, few if any would disagree.
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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