Monday, April 18, 2011

The Scottish Group Ossian

Ossian are a Scottish traditional music group, formed in 1976. They are a favorite group of mine.

The initial line-up brought together Billy Ross and former members of the group Contraband, Billy Jackson, John Martin, and George Jackson. One of their earliest gigs was at the 1976 Kinross Folk Festival.

Each of the members was a multi-instrumentalist and singer. Their arrangements of songs, slow airs and dance tunes were meticulous, almost a chamber music approach to Scottish Music. They sang in English, Scots, and Gaelic.

Billy Jackson's wire-strung harp, the clarsach, featured in most pieces but he also played Uilleann (Irish) pipes and whistles. John Martin, who played fiddle and cello went on to become a member of The Tannahill Weavers. George Jackson (brother of Billy) played guitar, cittern, mandolin, fiddle, whistle and flute. Billy Ross was the main singer who played guitar, dulcimer and whistle.

Their first two LPs were remarkably popular and influential; Ossian (1977) and St Kilda Wedding (1978). Like Iona, a similar band, their albums sold well in specialist Christian rock shops. Billy Ross left the band and was replaced by Tony Cuffe as lead vocalist also playing guitar and whistle. Iain MacDonald joined playing highland pipes, flute, whistles and Jew's harp. They broke up in 1989, but reformed in 1997.

Ossian - Springthyme Records SPR 1004 (1977)
St Kilda Wedding - Iona Records IR001 (1978)
Seal Song - Iona Records IR002 (1981)
Dove Across the Water - Iona Records IR004 (1982)
Borders - Iona Records IR007 (1984)
Light On a Distant Shore - Iona Records IR009 (1986)
The Carrying Stream - Greentrax CDTRAX 127 (1997)

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