Winners of the Live Ireland "Group of the Year" 2012, The Outside Track's marriage of Canadian, Scottish and Irish music and song has been rapturously received around the world. Hailing from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and Vancouver, its five members are united by a love of traditional music and a commitment to creating new music on its foundation. Using fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, flute, step-dance and vocals these five virtuosos blend boundless energy with unmistakable joie de vivre.
The line up comprises Norah Rendell (Canadian Traditional Singer of the Year nominee), Mairi Rankin (Beolach), Ailie Robertson (Live Ireland Winner, BBC Young Trad Finalist), Fiona Black (BBC Fame Academy Winner), and Cillian O'Dalaigh.
Each player within The Outside Track is a master of their chosen instrument with the band stacking up an impressive amount of international awards. This amount of talent alone would be enough to recommend the band but in this case the end result is so much greater than the sum of the parts.
The band have enjoyed 5 years of extensive touring in the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA, including appearances at Celtic Connections, Celtic Colours, Goderich, Mission, Memoire et Racines, Sidmouth, and Whitby Festivals.
The Stornoway Gazette wrote, “Her singing left me goose-pimpled all over – a sure sign of a gutsy, emotional delivery laced with meaning and pathos”. Nominated as Traditional Singer of the Year for the Canadian Folk Music Awards 2008, Norah not only sings, but also plays flute and whistle “with a degree of style and sensitivity envied by many” says Tom Carroll of Folkwords.
Norah’s deep interest in traditional and historical music began as a professional recorder player. Through many twists and turns (and pubs), her music took a sharp turn toward folk music in her early twenties when she discovered the rich oral tradition of Ireland, in Vancouver of all places. Soon after, 5-piece Canadian roots band, Cleia and Celtic trio, The Maenads were formed. In 2003, Norah co-founded the all-female a cappella group, the No Shit Shirleys through her involvement in the Universal Gospel Choir. All three groups toured regionally in British Columbia and Alberta including feature performances at the Vancouver Folk Festival, Mission Folk Festival and the Rogue Folk Club.
During this time, Norah also earned a reputation for being skilled in creating rich and unexpected vocal harmonies on the spot and has been hired by many singer-songwriters as a back-up singer live and in the studio including Dale Rasmussen, Tim Readman, Amy Stephens, Dana Irving and Massey 44.
In 2005, Norah was awarded a grant from the Canada Council for Performing Arts to travel to Ireland to study traditional flute and singing. She has an MA in Irish traditional music from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance where she was a lecturer in music theory, ear training, voice and flute. Norah has given guest lectures and workshops at University College Cork in the Irish song tradition.
In addition to her work with The Outside Track, Norah currently performs with Paddy O’Brien’s Doon Ceili Band, the Two Tap Trio, Brian Miller. Norah is also the Education Director at the Center for Irish Music in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Mairi joined the band at the beginning of the Canadian tour in 2009, Mairi is now a fully committed full-time band-member. One of the hugely influential Rankin Family - legends on the Canadian music scene - she plays fiddle, sings and also step-dances up a storm. Born in Mabou, Nova Scotia, Mairi has been influenced by some of the best Cape Breton traditional musicians and instructors on the island.
She has developed her own unique style by being immersed in such a rich musical culture. She has toured nationally and internationally as a solo artist, a sideman and is a member of the Cape Breton Celtic super group Beolach.
She has performed with the Rankin Sisters, Unusual Suspects and Bruce Guthro to name a few. She has appeared on the television broadcasts of DRUM!, the East Coast Music Awards, Rita MacNeil’s Christmas special and MNE’s Togaidh Sinn Fonn in Scotland. Her festival credits internationally include Celtic Connections, Chicago Celtic Festival, Milwaukee Irish Festival, BLAS, Tonder Festival. In Canada she has performed at all the major folk and Celtic festivals including Winnipeg Folk Festival, Calgary Folk Festival, Edmonton Folk Festival, Dawson City Folk Festival and the internationally renowned Celtic Colours Festival.
She has taught her folk arts at Universities, schools, festivals and workshops. Some of these include Newcastle University, England; Augusta Heritage Festival, West Virginia; Scottish Arts School, Ohio; Buddy MacMaster School of Fiddling, Cape Breton; Montpelier Fiddle Camp, Vermont. Mairi has recorded one solo album, two CDs with Beolach and has been featured on numerous compilations and recordings.
Ailie Robertson from Edinburgh is widely regarded as one of Scotland's leading young traditional musicians. She is a musician in the broadest sense: composer, arranger, teacher, improviser and harp virtuoso. Her accomplishment on the clarsach is such that leading Irish flautist Niall Keegan said: "Ailie's synthesis of Irish, Scottish and contemporary harping technique into an individual style represents the realisation of otherwise unimagined possibilities for the Celtic harp."
Ailie grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was immersed in the harp world from an early age. She began playing the clarsach when she was eleven years old and through her piano and clarsach lessons she developed a love for both classical and traditional music. Having gained a first class honours degree at Cambridge University, Ailie took the Traditional Music Performance course at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, graduating with a first class MA in 2006, helped by a scholarship from the ESU in recognition of her 'virtuosic harp playing.
Since then Ailie has gone from strength to strength as a professional musician and adding to some of the most impressive credentials in the Scottish harp world. A five-time National Mod Gold Medalist and a BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2008 finalist, Ailie also won first prize at the inaugural London Harp Competition, was judged best overall musician at the Edinburgh Competition Festival and won the St Albans New Roots award. Her debut solo album 'First things first' was released in 2008 to great critical acclaim, and won a 'Live Ireland' award for 'Best Instrumental Cut of the Year'.
As a soloist for Yehudi Menuhin's Live Music Now! programme, Ailie has given recitals all over Scotland, including performing for HRH the Queen, and giving a private concert for the Lord High Commissioner and his distinguished guests. She has played alongside many top Irish and Scottish musicians, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winner Karine Polwart, and notable festival appearances include Sidmouth, Cornwall, Whitby. In 2009 she was nominated for 'Up and Coming Artist of the Year' in the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. Ailie is in great demand as a teacher around the world, and has published six books of harp music.
From the Highland village of Evanton, Fiona Black developed a love of music and dance from a young age. The feisean movement provided her the opportunity to nurture her passion through learning to play the piano accordion. Fiona went on to attend the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music where she honed her skills as an accordionist and gained valuable experience arranging, performing, composing and recording.
Being a Highland girl who is always up for a challenge and a new adventure, Fiona set off for Limerick in 2005 where she completed a BA with Honours in Irish Music and Dance. During this degree, Fiona further developed her skills as a performer, arranger, teacher and composer while also traveling to Cape Breton during her third year of studies.
Fiona’s accordion style incorporates many different influences, intertwining her native Scottish style with Irish, Swedish and Cape Breton repertoire, always adding her distinctive rhythm and vibrancy.
Born In Hamburg, Germany to a German mother and an Irish father, Cillian O'Dálaigh has been surrounded by Irish music from day one. Cillian's father played with Irish band, Cromlach and Cillian learned from him - and learned well.
The family moved to Ireland when Cillian was 8 years of age and Irish music quickly became a major part of their family life when they formed the family band, Trazz, including all the O'Dálaigh brothers, one sister and their father.
Performing on stage with Trazz since he was fourteen, Cillian has toured extensively in Ireland, Germany, France and the UK as both a guitarist and flute player. Cillian has recently graduated with a BA in Irish Music and Dance from the University of Limerick.
Ailie Robertson - Electric Harp
The Outside Track - The Outside Track, Bedspring records 2007
Curious Things Given Wings - The Outside Track, Lorimer records/Mad River records. 2010
Flash Company - The Outside Track, Lorimer records 2012
Curious Things Given Wings Review
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The Outside Track is out with a new album, recorded in the Scottish borders region. We want to name ...The Outside Track is out with a new album, recorded in the Scottish borders region. We want to name them, this is so good. Norah Rendell, from Vancouver—vocals, flute, whistle, Ailie Robertson—a Top TIR Award winning musician from this paper...r, and a Livies winner on harp from the world’s largest Celtic music site, LiveIreland.com. One of the best new harpists in the world. Mairi Rankin, singing, playing fiddle and step dancing---out of Nova Scotia and, yes, part of THAT Rankin Family. Fiona Black out of the Scottish Highlands on piano accordion. Wow! Cillian O’Dalaigh from Limericj on guitar and flute. Wow again! This is the best new group we have heard in quite a while. Stunning. This album is just the beginning. Wow! (Did we already say that?) -
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The Outside Track - a consummate blend of skill, talent, flair and intensity. (February 10, 2010)....
The Outside Track - a consummate blend of skill, talent, flair and intensity. (February 10, 2010). ‘Blend’ is a much-over-employed word to describe music - often used to explain disparate elements brought together - just. Then occasionally you find a combination of artists, styles, temperaments and music that fit the word perfectly. That is what you find on ‘Curious Things Given Wings’ the new album from The Outside Track - simply a consummate blend of skill, talent, flair and intensity.
The Outside Track entwines musical heritage and influences from Canada, Scotland and Ireland and Cape Breton to concoct a heady brew. Infusing new with old adds to the melange to create a force that folk music needs to inspire and energise even the most jaded ear. They musicians are each virtuosos of their chosen instruments and it shows through every note and word on this album. For those that don’t know, the Outside Track are Fiona Black (accordion) Alan Jordan (guitar) Cillian O'Dalaigh (guitar, vocals, bodhran) Mairi Rankin (fiddle, stepdance, vocals) Norah Rendell (lead vocal, flute, whistle) and Ailie Robertson (harp).
There’s so much to enjoy on ‘Curious Things Given Wings’ that picking favourites implies there are some that are less than that – not so. This is simply one man’s view on the ‘best of the best’. This is a band that sources enduring elements from the folk tradition and melds their own inspired compositions with its legacy to create an album that is instantly ‘at home’ with ancient or modern. And damn fine music it is too. There are stirring instrumentals that shape traditional tunes with a fusion of accomplished writing from Ailie, Alan and Cillian to create gems such as ‘Swerving for Bunnies’, ‘The Jubilant Goat’, ‘Malcolm’s New Fiddle’ and ‘Panic!’ And then you have the joy of listening to Norah’s beautiful traditional folk voice deliver songs to make you weep and laugh - ‘The Turkish Revery’, ‘Caroline of Edinburgh Town’, ‘Blackbirds and Thrushes’ and ‘Farewell Song’ - every syllable a pure delight. And not forgetting the times when the band comes together in full flight through the joy of ‘Belladrum Outhouse’ or the insistent drive of ‘Madam Madam’.
When I first heard The Outside Track I called them a fine example of how young musicians can take ‘traditional’ folk music, ensure it continues to evolve and yet remain true to its roots. I’m pleased to say I have no cause to revise that view.
The CD booklet has some great photographs, details on each track and it includes the lyrics. (Hurrah!) If you love music and song there’s nothing that completes the package so well as finding the lyrics. This is one of those albums that must be in your collection – miss this and you’ll miss the perfect blend.
Irish Music Magazine
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This quintet has evolved into a powerful focused group. Take the first track here: The Turkish Rever...This quintet has evolved into a powerful focused group. Take the first track here: The Turkish Revery, an uncommon song learnt from Daithí Sproule who got it from Burl Ives, a clear combination of Irish and North American influences. Norah Rendell sings this and the other five songs on this recording in a strong voice which reminds me of Touchstone' s performances, another transatlantic collaboration. Norah is an Irish Canadian who drifted south, and she's joined by the formidable firepower of fiddler Mairi Rankin from Nova Scotia, forming the New World side of The Outside Track. The other three members are from Edinburgh, Easter Ross and Limerick, giving this group their rather broad focus on Irish, Scottish and North American Celtic music.
That focus is stretched slightly for the first of six instrumental tracks, but it's a justified departure: Eric St-Pierre is a box-player from Quebec, and his swirling reel Le Voyage is worth bending a few rules. Norah's flute is joined by the piano box of Fiona Black and the versatile harp of Ailie Robertson, while guitarist Cillian O'Dálaigh strums solidly behind. This track like many others shows the arranging skills of the band, weaving instruments tightly together. The second song Silvy Silvy is a New Brunswick version of a well known ballad, and in traditional Canadian fashion it's paired with a complementary melody on fiddle. The next set brings us back to Europe with three splendid jigs: a lovely inventive version of Frankie Gavin's tune Doberman's Wallet which hasn't had too many outings since he recorded it on A Jacket of Batteries, then the flowing Peter Byrne's Jig, and Ailie's soaring composition Swerving for Bunnies.
And so it continues. A stirring set of Sliabh Luachra polkas shows off those great arranging skills again. Caroline of Edinburgh Town sees the band in sad and gentle mood. The following two medleys are back to the core of Celtic dance music old and new, with melodies by Jerry Holland and James Kelly. The traditional songs Hares on the Mountain and Madam Madam are paired with a fabulous version of The Maids of Galway and Fiona's interpretation of Lauren MacColl's reel The Dealer. Cillian's tune Crusty the Clown starts a distinctly funky pre-final track. The album finishes with the haunting Farewell Song, written by Missouri's Julie Henigan and introduced by a charming fiddle air. Curious Things Given Wings - an intriguing title for an enthralling CD which sets The Outside Track on a very promising course, highly recommended.
2 x 45 minute sets. Half songs, half instrumentals.
shorter festival sets
There are no upcoming dates at this time.