“The individual members are all cracking musicians in their own right, but combine brilliantly to produce a fresh energetic sound with great innovative arrangements and you can hear the sheer joy in their playing.” The Irish Post
In a world of international music festivals, arts centres and traditional music academies, it shouldn’t be surprising that a new generation of roots musicians have arisen to push the boundaries and explore common ground between old musical traditions.
The Outside Track is just such a group. Formed by five virtuosic artists from Ireland, Scotland, Cape Breton, and Canada, they came together to find the common roots of Celtic music. On their new album, Flash Company, they bring tunes and songs drawn from their respective backgrounds collectively infusing the music with the powerful energy of a group that has cut its teeth playing festivals throughout Europe and North America.
Lead singer, flutist and founding member Norah Rendell explains, “The Outside Track developed out of the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music & Dance, an internationally renowned program for traditional Irish music and dance that draws artists from around the world.” Upon meeting Scottish harpist Ailie, Norah saw a chance to unite four distinctly different traditions that shared historical roots. What she didn’t know at the time was that The Outside Track would go on to create an incredibly unique sound, vibrant and unmistakable.
Norah herself learned Irish music in Vancouver, Canada, of all places, but now lives in Minnesota. Edinburgh-born harpist and composer Ailie Robertson is one of the world’s best players of the Scottish harp or clàrsach. It’s a difficult instrument to play in the midst of a racing Celtic band, but Ailie’s style has helped define a new vocabulary for the instrument. Equally virtuosic on the fiddle, Cape Breton fiddler and step-dancer Mairi Rankin (pronounced ‘Maddy’) hails from the legendary Rankin Family, and is one of the most influential young fiddlers on the island, having played previously with the group Beólach.
Highland accordionist Fiona Black comes from a traditional background, but has wandered far and wide adding new influences to her powerful, rhythmic playing on the piano accordion. Guitarist Cillian O’Dálaigh was born in Germany, but grew up in the folds of his Irish father’s music, dancing and playing in a family band from an early age and touring extensively in Europe.
On the new album, Flash Company, each member brings rare and beautiful tunes and songs, sourced from both traditional musicians and written by band members and friends alike. Their sound is Celtic in origin, but wholly original. The fluidity of Irish flute mixed with the power-punch of Cape Breton fiddling, the drive of Irish guitar blending into the plucked arpeggios of the Scottish harp, and Norah’s crystal-clear vocals soaring over the roiling rhythms of Fiona’s accordion. Without losing sight of their much-loved traditions, The Outside Track has created something that sounds totally new and refreshingly different.
Live Ireland Best Group of the Year 2011
Live Ireland Best Vocalist 2011
All arrangements by The Outside Track
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound Studios
All tracks produced by The Outside Track
Artwork by Sophie Jamieson
Graphic Design by Colleen Cody
Fiona Black - accordion, vocals
Cillian Ó'Dálaigh - guitar, vocals
Mairi Rankin - fiddle, vocals
Norah Rendell - lead vocals, flute, whistles
Ailie Robertson - harp, vocals