Eight Scottish trad bands and musicians you should know

Eight Scottish trad bands and musicians you should know


There's much more to trad music than bagpipes, you know. We round up some our favourite acts.

A country that is renowned the world over for its traditional music, Scotland's trad scene is diverse and full of surprises. From folk music to Celtic fusion, the 21st century has brought forth a whole new wave of musicians and bands that are experimenting with the very idea of what Scottish trad music is and spoiler; it's not all about the bagpipes. While guitar bands and indie groups seem to have become the most popular musical exports in the past few decades, the trad scene is fighting back and thriving in the process as artists continue to push the boundaries of what has come to be expected.

With a number of summer festivals on the way that regularly play host to some of the best trad musicians around, now is as good a time as any to get familiar with the acts that you should be keeping an eye out for.

Rachel Newton

Rachel Newton is a highly skilled multi-instrumentalist whose talents at writing and arranging music have won her many accolades over the years, including Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2017. As well being a singer and harpist, Newton also plays the fiddle and the viola and is a founding member of The Shee and The Furrow Collective. Her third solo album, Here's My Heart Come Take It, was recently chosen for the 2017 SAY Award longlist alongside 19 other albums, making it one of the top releases of the year. It's a beautifully atmospheric record which draws attention to the powerful combination of harp and voice, with ballads in both English and Gaelic.


Niteworks are arguably one of the most interesting bands to come out of the trad music scene in Scotland in recent years, thanks to their combination of electronic music with Gaelic and traditional sounds. Formed on the Isle of Skye, the band, made up of Ruairidh Graham, Allan MacDonald, Christopher Nicolson and Innes Strachan, have quickly made their mark on the scene since the release of their debut EP in 2011, going on to win the Up and Coming Artist of the Year award at the 2012 Scottish Trad Awards. The quartet is known for their exhilarating live performances, where ceilidh and club culture combine to form something great.


James Yorkston has been a mainstay on the Scottish folk music scene for years, having supported John Martyn on his UK and Ireland tour in 2002 and also worked with a number of keys names including Malcolm Middleton and Martin Carthy. His collaboration with double bassist and composer Jon Thorne and Indian sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan doesn't strictly fall into the category of Scottish trad music but the trio are worth a mention for their skilful blend of traditional folk with Indian classicism. Their new album Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars is a collection of originals and traditional ballads from both the UK and India, offering a unique take on a number of different genres.

Top Floor Taivers

Trad music in Scotland is often seen as being dominated by men but there are a growing number of women that are doing their bit to counteract this. Glasgow-based Top Floor Taivers are just one example, with four extremely talented female musicians performing both traditional and contemporary Scottish songs. The collective have gained a reputation for their upbeat arrangements, seamless harmonies and impressive instrumentation; all elements that feature heavily on their promising debut album A Delicate Game.


Trad-rock six-piece Mànran have built up quite the following in their relatively short history. Mixing together their Celtic roots with everything from funk to rock, it's easy to see why the band's lively instrumental tunes and Gaelic/English songs are so well-received by crowds during shows. Their third album An Dà Là which features the band's standard mix of fiddle, accordion, flute, uillean, Highland bagpipes and percussion, succeeds in distilling some of that live energy into 12 excellent tracks.

Songs of Separation

A truly powerful concept, the idea for Songs of Separation came from bassist Jenny Hill, who was joined on the Isle of Eigg by nine other female musicians from Scotland and England in 2015 including Eliza Carthy and Karine Polwart. They had a week to create a record based on the issue of 'separation', using traditional music and song and out of this short period of time came a series of songs that beautifully reflects and responds to the idea of similarity and difference. The ten-piece band, who have been touring and are playing a number of festivals over the summer months, are well-worth catching live if you get the opportunity.


Glasgow band Talisk were winners of the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, going on to pick up a number of other nominations and awards following their big win. Most recently, concertina player Mohsen Amini won the title of 2016 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, following in the footsteps of 2015 winner and singer-songwriter Claire Hastings. The trio, consisting of Amini alongside fiddle player Hayley Keenan and guitarist Craig Irving, play fast-paced, crisp and fiery traditional music that highlights each musician's technical ability and individual expression.


A band that spent much of the past decade touring the globe with their music, Breabach are no strangers to the trad music and folk scene in Scotland and beyond. As former winners of the Folk Band of the Year and Album of the Year categories at the Scots Trad Music Awards, the quintet have been refining and developing their music with each new release and each tour, which has resulted in a sound that is uniquely Scottish but complemented by a range of influences. You can hear this clearly in Astar, the band's 2016 album which includes Australian Aboriginal singer Yirrmal Marika, a Maori haka and guest appearances from musicians from Quebec and Norway.


Blending double bagpipes, whistle, fiddle, song and Scottish stepdance with Celtic flair and frenzy.

Colchester Arts Centre

Mon 18 Feb

£14 (£12) / 01206 500900

  • 19:45

The Greystones, Sheffield

Thu 14 Feb

£13.20 / 0114 266 5599

Hambrook Village Hall, Chidham

Tue 12 Feb


Also at:


Original songs in Gaelic and English with a driving backbeat from Mànran – a Scottish band who aim to take exciting, contemporary, Scottish trad-music worldwide. Since they were established in 2010, Mànran have performed at numerous folk festivals around the world, including a concert for the 2012 London Olympics.

Galashiels Volunteer Hall, Scottish Borders

Fri 31 May


  • 20:00

Sat 1 Jun

£12 (Family £42)

  • 14:00

The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington

Sat 2 Mar

£17.60 / 01805 624624

Settle Victoria Hall

Thu 28 Feb

£13.50 / 01729 825718

Rachel Newton

The singer, harpist, fiddler and founding member of The Shee, the Emily Portman Trio and The Furrow Collective takes time away from collaborations to perform solo folk.

The Barn, Banchory

Thu 23 May

The Barn

£9.09 / 01330 825431

Crail Town Hall

Thu 28 Nov


Rose Theatre, Edinburgh

Tue 7 May

£12.10 (£9.90) / 0131 622 6552


Also at:


Mohsen Amini (concertina), Hayley Keenan (violin) and Craig Irving (guitar) play folk informed by their strong backgrounds in Irish and Scottish music.

Spiegeltent, Dumfries

Sat 2 Feb

£18.50 (Children free)

With Tide Lines. Part of Big Burns Supper.

Top Floor Taivers

Traditional Scottish songs from the Glasgow-based band, with vocals from Claire Hastings, who was the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2015.

Yorkston Thorne Khan

Experimental collaborative group that includes folk singer-songwriter James Yorkston, award winning sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan and Jon Thorne, best known as jazz double bass player with electro outfit Lamb.

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