Ossian emerged on the folk scene in Scotland in the 1970's and fast became a popular focus for a whole generation of up and coming traditional musicians.
Mae McKenna (sister of Hugh McKenna of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) was introduced to a band formed by Billy Jackson, George Jackson and John Martin who at that time called themselves Contraband
The band recorded one album on the Transatlantic label in 1974 but when Mae left shortly after to start a solo career Contraband disbanded in the Spring of 1975.
Within a couple of years, Billy, George and John had joined forces with guitarist/singer Billy Ross to become Ossian.
Their debut album Ossian was released in 1977 on the local imprint Springthyme Records, but subsequent recordings on their own Iona label featured fewer Gaelic songs than previously.
More changes occurred when Billy Ross left for a solo career. He was replaced by ex-Alba member Tony Cuffe (d. 18 December 2001, Boston, USA; vocals, guitar, whistle, tiple), and the following year Iain MacDonald (highland pipes, flute, whistle) expanded the line-up.
The various members continued with other commitments outside of the group, including Billy Jackson teaming up with former member Billy Ross to record Misty Mountain, and George Jackson and Maggie MacInnes recording Cairistiona. In 1985 Billy also took up a commission to create, record and perform ‘The Wellpark Suite’ – a critically acclaimed work featuring a giant cast of Scottish folk musicians. By 1991 both Billy and George Jackson were also touring with the Tag Theatre Company.
Ossian went on to record some very fine albums and achieve wide international acclaim. To celebrate 20 years since the group was formed, a memorable Ossian reunion took place at Celtic Connections in 1996 and featured the line-up Billy Jackson, George Jackson, Billy Ross, John Martin, Tony Cuffe and Iain MacDonald.
George Jackson died in July 1998.
In 1997, Billy Jackson and Ross teamed up with Iain MacInnes (pipes, whistle) and Stuart Morison (cittern, fiddle, mandolin, vocals) to record a new Ossian album, The Carrying Stream.
Billy Jackson continues a hugely successful solo career both as a composer and performer. John Martin went on to join Easy Club and latterly is enjoying international acclaim with the Tannahill Weavers.
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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