Fiddler Aly Bain and accordionist Phil Cunningham are two of the most celebrated musicians on the Scottish traditional scene. By the time they began working together in 1988, they were already renowned for their previous accomplishments. Bain was a founding member of the Boys of the Lough, a group whose repertoire includes both Scottish and Irish influences. Cunningham became a member of the infamous Silly Wizard at the age of sixteen, launching a prolific and diverse musical career. The duo first worked together on a television series in 1988, and embarked on their first tour shortly after. They were so well-received that they have been touring together ever since. Their two previous duo recordings, The Pearl (1996) and The Ruby (1998), have been met with high acclaim.
Phil Cunningham was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1960. His musical career began with accordion lessons at the age of three and violin a few years later. His initial training was in classical music but his deep love of traditional Scottish music developed simultaneously. In 1976, he joined his brother Johnny in the highly acclaimed Scottish band Silly Wizard and was a full-time member until 1983. Cunningham contributed many of his own compositions to their mostly traditional repertoire, adding to the musical heritage of Scotland and keeping the tradition alive.
Cunningham left Silly Wizard in 1983 to pursue a solo career, as he found himself in demand as a composer and performer for television, radio, film and stage. Between 1985 and 1987 he toured and recorded with supergroup Relativity, with his brother Johnny, and Irish brother and sister, Michael and Triona O’Domnaill. During this time he also produced two solo albums, Airs and Graces (Green Linnet, 1984), and Palomino Waltz (1989).
Cunningham has produced albums for many popular traditional artists, including Dolores Keane and Altan. In 1990, he wrote the music for Bill Bryden’s spectacular theater productions The Ship (1990) and The Big Picnic (1994). In recent years, he has worked as music director and composer for various BBC Scotland series, and also wrote The Highlands & Islands Suite, an orchestral work which was performed at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. He has recently toured with Bonnie Raitt and Kepa Junkera, in addition to running CAP recording studios.
Bain hails from Lerwick, a small, enchanting town in the Shetland Islands. He began learning fiddle at the age of eleven. Tom Anderson, his teacher, is acknowledged as one of the true masters of Shetland music. Bain developed a highly dramatic style of playing, matching his great tone and technical ability with genuine emotion. Alert to the musical potential of the dynamic interaction between Irish and Scottish traditions, he helped establish the Boys of the Lough. The group is now recognized as one of the best in the tradition.
Simultaneously, Bain pursued his solo career. Since 1986, he has been working with Pelicula Films on various television series dealing with folk music. The first series, Down Home, traces fiddle music from its roots in Scotland across the Atlantic to the United States and Canada. The second, entitled The Transatlantic Sessions (1995), featured many prominent artists such as Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, Kathy Mattea, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Donal Lunny, Dick Gaughan, and of course, Phil Cunningham.
Bain has released two critically acclaimed solo albums, First Album (1984), and Lonely Bird (1996). He has also recorded numerous albums with the Boys of the Lough, as well as with Hue and Cry, Eddi Reader, Fish, Richard Thompson and Runrig. In 1993, his autobiography Fiddler on the Loose, co-written by journalist and editor Alastair Clark, was published. Bain continues to tour extensively with the Boys of the Lough in addition to his collaborations with Cunningham.