Capercaillie is a popular Scottish folk band rooted in traditional reels, mouth music, waulking songs and performing in Gaelic. Yet, they have achieved a world wide following by performing the traditional songs with modern instruments and performances. They boast the first Scottish Gaelic language single to reach the UK Top 40 as well as writing the music for the Hollywood movie Rob Roy.
Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson founded the band in 1984 when they were still at school in Oban. In their early years they played small venues throughout the west coast of Scotland. On naming the band after the capercaillie bird, a member of the grouse family, Donald Shaw is quoted as saying:
It’s probably the worst mistake we ever made. It’s the only regret I have in my career.
As the band evolved they popularized celtic music eventually selling millions of albums. In 1991, their landmark recording of Coisich, A Rùin (Come On, My Love), a 400 year old gaelic waulking song, reached the Top 40 in the United Kingdom. Its popularity was due to it being heard as a theme for a TV programme "A Prince among islands" that featured Prince Charles. The album featuring the track, Delerium, went gold in the U.K. and its reviews reflect how they adapted the traditional music for a modern audience.
A delightful shimmering collection of traditional and Gaelic music, given a modern twist and funky undercurrent. — The Times
Earthy Celtic funk echoing ancient yet vibrant Gaelic dynamics. In Karen Matheson we have an angel who can stir the emotion of any devil. Their music is cool, modern, slicked back and constantly evolving. — City Life Magazine
In 2005, Karen Matheson was awarded an OBE for her contributions to Celtic music. She accepted the award on behalf of Capercaillie.
[The OBE] recognises our contribution to Celtic music, I'm the figurehead of the band and Celtic music as a whole so they've given it to me. Anything that gives a platform for this kind of music and helps raise its profile is a positive thing.