CeltCast Classic – Back of the Moon – Luminosity (2005)
Cliff de Booy
The last months we started a new series of reviews that we call the CeltCast Classics. In this series, we feature older albums that we feel deserve to be in the spotlight one more time either because of their importance, their influence on the scene, or just because they are stunningly beautiful. Now the collective CeltCast record collection will be quite enough to keep us going for a good while, but we felt it would be way more interesting if we would ask well-known people from the scene to nominate a CeltCast classic. The very first we asked to do so was no other then
creative director and one of the masterminds behind
Mark van der Stelt.
His answer came swiftly:” I’ve narrowed it down to 3 options,
Back of the Moon
It’s gonna be Luminosity by Back of the Moon, that’s the album I play the most. The first time I heard this CD I knew I wanted to invite this band on one of our podia. The music comes together perfectly. Delightful timing, and the voice of the singer is brilliant.
Sadly they split up. It would be really something if they would be willing to grace Keltfest for a one-time reunion concert!”
So the research began. Who were Back of the Moon? What did their music sound like? What are the band members up to nowadays? And most importantly, can we still get a hold of their music?
Well, Back of the Moon are a Scottish band that formed in 2000, first under the name Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon. The founding band members were Gillian Frame (fiddle, vocals), Simon McKerrell (border pipes, uillean pipes, whistle, vocals) and Hamish Napier, (piano, vocals). In 2001 Findlay Napier (guitar, vocals) was asked to join the band and with that line-up, the band released their first album Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon on the
Foot Stompin’Records label.
In 2003 their second record Fortune’s Road came out. A lovely Scottish folk album, mixing Scottish instrumental folk songs with traditional sounding vocal songs. At that point, they shortened the band name to Back of the Moon.
Fortune’s Road won the band their first accolades, winning Best Up and Coming Act at the
Scots Trad Music awards
back in 2003 and Best Celtic Group” at
Festival Interceltique de Lorient.
After that Simon McKerrell left the band and was replaced by Ali Hutton (border pipes, whistle, Bodhrán) and in that formation Back of the Moon recorded Luminosity which was also released by Foot Stompin’Records in 2005 and is still available through them as digital album. (for information click
With Luminosity, Back of the Moon won the title of Best Folk Band with the Scots Trad Music awards. A well-deserved reward! Sadly, in November 2007 the curtain was drawn for the last time, as Back of the Moon played their very last gig at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC.
As far as I can see only Luminosity is still officially available with Foot Stompin’, but CD’s are still regularly available second hand through eBay and Amazon, and that is how we got our copy of this brilliant CD, ’cause I can already tell you this really is a gem. So let’s dive into it!
Wow, that opening stands. That’s the first thing I thought as I heard the powerful first piano chords of Lumsden’s Rant. This sounded more like a pop album, a bit like
actually, not like the Celtic folk I was expecting. Not for long though. Soon enough the pipes, violin and whistles join in the fun for a good old Gaelic dance tune, full of energy, full of cool variations in the melody. Still, it’s not in your typical folk style, the piano chords and pop arrangements under it give it some extra dynamics, as if Keane indeed started playing Scottish folk. Back of the Moon has me wide awake after this strong opener.
I actually expected the band to carry on with that same full-on energy but no, they change down gears all the way with the second and third song; Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig. Both are beautiful ballads that wouldn’t look out of place on any good singer-songwriter album.
Glenlogie is – according to the booklet – one of the few traditional Scottish ballads with a happy ending and it features the beautiful voice of Findlay Napier. You can compare it to Belgian singer-songwriter
Findlay has the same pleasant, friendly tone that Milow has. Your mind instantly calms down when he starts singing. Mesmerising. And Back of the Moon had two such those voices! As you can hear on Nine Stone Rig, Gillian Frame is blessed with an equally mesmerising voice, a wee bit like
It’s rare for a band to have two singers of this calibre and luckily Back of the Moon makes full use of them.
Both Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig are lovely calming ballads, played ever so tenderly, weaving a blanket of soothing notes around the vocalists, making them sound even warmer and softer than they already are. The lovely trumpet ‘solo’ in Glenlogie or the flute improvisations in Nine Stone Rig are the icing on the cake. What a wonderful start to this album.
Back of the Moon performing The Brewer lady at
the Philadelphia Folk Festival,
The fourth song, Eggs In The Kitchen, is the second of the six instrumental folksongs you’ll find on Luminosity. This time it starts more traditional, a gentle violin melody opens this song, named after a remark grandpa Napier once made:’There are eggs in the kitchen!.’ Well, it must have been scrambled eggs, cause when the pipes come in the tempo accelerates fast and Eggs In The Kitchen becomes a tasty mix of Celtic folk meets upbeat pop music. I actually love the pop arrangements Back of the Moon added to their instrumental songs. It gives them something extra. A bit of extra punch.
It always sounds so easy, recording a Gaelic jig or reel, but it actually is really hard. First, you need a catchy tune, then the talent to keep the variations interesting and lastly the imagination to give it the arrangement that makes it stand out from all those other dance tunes out there. Back Of the Moon combined all those talents. This includes the cool stereo effects in Eggs In the Kitchen, the lovely melodies and variations in songs like Lumsden’s Rant, Eggs In he Kitchen or Goodfellas, or the lovely pop arrangements and trombone halfway through the latter song. Back of the moon has it all.
With Joey Beauty and Voodoo Chilli, the band even recorded two instrumental ballads! And good ones at that. Joey Beauty, for instance, is a beautiful love song, sung not by vocals, but by Gillian on fiddle and Hamish on flute.
Now that I’ve mentioned them, ballads are the speciality of Back of the Moon. I already mentioned Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig, but there are way more gems like that on Luminosity. Gillian’s beautiful voice (and also Ali’s lovely whistle melodies) shine once more in The Final Trawl.
Brewer Lad is a positive upbeat folk song, sung by Findlay Napier, reminding me a lot of the German band
who we featured in our previous CeltCast Classics. I especially like how Findlay and Gillian’s voices blend together here. A match made in heaven.
I’ve saved the best for last though. A song that is also Mark van de Stelts favourite: Ship In A Bottle. It starts with a stunning violin and flute intro that made me totally tear up the first time I heard it. I still get goosebumps all over when this song starts. Findlay’s voice is absolutely beautiful in this touching ballad of what could have been but never was. One of the best ballads I’ve heard in a long while. Celtic singer-songwriter folk at its very, very best! I fully understand why Mark nominated Luminosity to be a CeltCast Classic. This song alone makes this album worth that title. You may need to search a bit to obtain it, but it will be so worth the effort. Luminosity is a wonderful pop-folk album. I can only hope that Mark manages to make his wish come true and that Back of the Moon will grace the stage one more time. I know that I’ll be standing right there, front row, taking it all in. Guaranteed
-editor: Diane Deroubaix
Special thanks to Mark van der Stelt and Diane Deroubaix for providing me with the music and inspiration.
After the breakup of Back of the Moon, all bandmembers remained extremely active within the Scottish folk scene. Here is a small summary:
– Simon McKerrell
now has a PhD. To quote his biography: ‘Dr Simon McKerrell is a Reader in Music and Society at Newcastle University and has previously worked at the Universities of Sheffield, Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is interested in the social impact of music and the creative industries. His current research focuses on music in the creative economy in rural areas and takes an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach to the relationship between culture and policy. He is the author of Focus: Scottish Traditional Music (Routledge), and the Co-Editor of both Music as Multimodal Discourse: Media, Power and Protest (Bloomsbury) and Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition, Modernity (Routledge).”
He is also still actively playing the pipes.
More info on that can be found on his website: https://simonmckerrell.com/
– Ali Hutton has been extremely busy since 2007 sharing his talent with numerous folk acts and bands, building up a discography that counts well over thirty records! Among them are
with whom he has the
Ross and Ali
project, which at the moment is BIG news in the UK and the band
Old blind dogs.
He is also a founding member of
the Treacherous Orchestra,
which, according to Findlay Napier, is a HUGE band in the British folk scene -and I’ll gladly take his word in it.
For all info:
– Hamish Napier has been just as active as Ali Hutton, working as a tutor; a composer; a producer and co-arranger a solo artist and a live performer. He does that as part of the duo
with fiddler Adam Sutherland; withDuncan Chrishom’s ‘gathering’;
as well as the
Jarlath Henderson band.
He also works together with Ross Ainslie in his
Next to that, he has received many more accolades over the years. Among them, Best composer and Best tutor of the year with the Scots Trad music awards, AND has his own
out. The lovely albums The River (2016) and The Railroad (2018). Both cd’s I’m sure will find their way to my review table at some point in time.,/br>
-Gillian Frame, just as all other former Back of the Moon members, has been an active contributor to the Scottish folk scene, as a tutor but also a session musician with acts such as
The Unusual Suspects,
Mairearad Green and
Anna and Duncan Lyall’s infinite reflections.
In February 2016 she released a solo album called
a CD of which she herself says:
‘This is a collection of songs and tunes that have cemented themselves into my repertoire over the last 15 or so years. Favourites from both performing and teaching contexts and arranged here with the support of the wonderful Mike Vass, Anna Massie and Euan Burton. ‘
Together with her husband Findlay Napier she has also been active in the
Findlay Napier Trio
and a soon to be launched new project called
More info is found here:
– Last but not least is Findlay Napier, who has also been busy, releasing three solo albums,
VIP: Very Interesting Persons in 2015; the mini CD
very Interesting Extras in 2016 and
Glasgow in October 2017.
Furthermore, he is touring with The Findlay Napier duo, trio, quartet or band, depending on the wishes of the venue. he is about to launch a new project with his wife Gillian Frame called The Ledger; he also became a tutor just like Gillian and Hamish and organises the
Glasgow Songwriting Festival.
More info on Findlay Napier is to be found here: https://www.findlaynapier.com/
Hello music lovers! 🎻💕
Helen van der Jagt
It’s already a week ago… the
Midwinter Fair Archeon
! It was a fantastic weekend with campfires and beautiful music. Through these kinds of events, the CeltCast team gets energised to do what we do as a team! We want to spread this beautiful music! And, as said before, we hope to start the new year with a completely refreshed radio server! 📻
Today I start with two albums that we collected last weekend at Archeon. 🏰
Pastiche – Pastiche exploring Rebetika (2019)
This band was at Archeon as
Lemonaki, their new name. We saw a familiar face too, namely
Emma van Dobben
formerly of the band AmmA! That was a nice surprise! 😄 Lemonaki is a special folk band with cheerful and melancholic songs from Greece, Spain and the Balkans.☀️
Joint String Friends – Down by the Banks of the Ocean (2019)
In that same weekend, I met Sebastian Meijer. He was playing the violin in the band Plunder during the Midwinter Fair. At Castlefest Winter he was also playing with Varend Volk. It turns out that he has made an album with Joint String Friends (Sicko Hoogterp, Nico de Koning and Menno Schilstra). It’s a nice album with a lot of folk traditionals. If you want to know more, have a look on their website. 🌎
Triakel – Thyra (2014)
I love this album with Swedish folk music! This is what CeltCast is in my opinion, beautiful voice and old instruments. And, our balfolk friends will also love this one. I’ve read on their FB page that they made a new album. We really love to play that one too. 😍
– An Ancient Muse (2006)
I don’t have to tell much about this singer, she’s a great and famous artist. The song ‘The Gates of Istanbul’ reminds me of Irfan. The title of the album perfectly sets the mood of this album. Let yourself be taken on a journey to ancient cultures. 🏛
Merrow – A story to tell (2018)
Regularly, we receive albums that do not completely fit the CeltCast format. If an album does not fit at all, then we will not present it. But sometimes we can play one or two songs. In that case we will definitely play them and happily tell about it! This is also the case with Merrow’s album. It actually tends towards country folk, partly due to the voice of the singer. We will, however, add the track ‘Ashokan farewell’ to our lists. 🎻
CORVUS CORAX – Cantus Buranus II (2008)
This album is totally different from Merrow, but we also can play only one song from this album. This work is more reminiscent of opera and theatre. The artwork is beautiful, making the album a true collector’s item. We are going to add the song “De Mundi Statu” to our playlists. 🕍
THE AssAssENaChS – New Traditions (2015)
We’ve been playing this album for some time now. Last Fantasy Fest Rijswijk we saw them performing again and we made a couple of livestreams. The album contains many folk traditionals. It contains no less than 17 songs, half of which we will play on our new server. 🎸
Wardruna – Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga (2009)
Wardruna, Einar Selvik … a big name in our scene! Everything that this special man makes is magical and beautiful. However, for this album you have to sit down, close your eyes and just listen. For that reason, it is difficult for us to dismantle the set of twelve numbers. We are going to play two songs on our stream. I think everyone will understand. Collect the Wardruna/Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik material and let the music enchant you! 🌝
Lúnasa – The Story So Far (2008)
If you want to make me happy … play a Lunasa album! The joy of living radiates from their music. Hop, dance and love life. So, we are going to play every song of this album, as well as the three other albums that we already have processed.
Instinkt – Hur (2002)
We conclude with an older, but fan-tas-tic album! This one gives me positive goosebumps. You probably know Trolska Polska… this is the precursor, because this band no longer exists! This band had a famous band member “Martin Seeberg” – our hero from Denmark. This album cannot be forgotten, it’s one of my favourites. I love the song “Brombaerdance”! Jump, jump …. yeahhh!
On Facebook I found a couple of former band members: Søren Korshøj, Malene Daniels Beck and Martin Seeberg of course. I couldn’t find: Louise R Vangscaard and Vivi Di Bap. I wonder what they are up to these days… 🍀🍃
We’re very happy that these beautiful CD’s have been processed: 🎵
Pastiche (new name: Lemonaki) – Pastiche exploring Rebetika (2019)
Joint String Friends – Down by the Banks of the Ocean (2019)
Triakel – Thyra (2014)
Loreena McKennitt – An Ancient Muse (2006)
Merrow – A story to tell (2018)
Corvus Corax – Cantus Buranus II (2008)
Assassenachs – New Traditions (2015)
Wardruna – Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga (2009)
Lunasa – The Story So Far (2008)
Instinkt – Hur (2002)
Today I present you: six albums of the CeltCast Fantasy Award longlist “Best Album 2019” and eight older (or digital) ones. Music from a lot of different countries and with a broad range of styles!
— M’ANAM (2019) — Ireland and Iceland
On Saturday, February 16, 2019, we were asked to make a live stream during the M’ANAM concert in Rotterdam. That was a very special evening and… it was an honor to be there! (You can see these livestreams on our webpage or Facebook page.) The men of
, “M’ANAM” have also released this album and it is beautiful! 👨👨👦👦
Nadia Birkenstock – Celtic Harp & Song
(2013 and 2019) — Germany
This week we have an older and a new album of Nadia! Of course, the harp is a well-known instrument in the folk scene. Nadia has made another album to dream away with magical harp tunes! 💭
Twigs & Twine
— The Netherlands
On the 12th of September the CeltCast team went to the
(-chapel) in Zaltbommel for the album release party of Imbue (folk, medieval music) and Twigs & Twine (folk pop). Although the bands are certainly not similar, it was a very interesting combination of musical sounds in this beautiful chapel. Both albums are beautiful in their own way! ⛪️
North Sea Gas
— Hearth And Homeland (2019) — England
On our way back home after the
Festival in England
and I travelled to Oxford. In a nice pub we met musicians during their Folk Session. After a couple of weeks, we found this amazing album in our mailbox! It’s their 21st album, so… a new collection of Scottish Folk Music! 🎻
EMIAN • PaganFolk Music
— Egeria (2019) — Italy
Years ago, we’ve met the members of Emian in person at the lovely festival
Celtic Night Geluwe
and… they stole our hearts with their music ánd their personalities. I don’t have to say much about this album, because our
Cliff de Booy
did that already. You can find his review
(November 6th ) (pssst, I LOVE it <3)📜
— Kynda (2018) — England
The band Bruni released their first album last year. Their own words are: “Across borders, across languages and across the ages”. And, that is wat this album you brings. Keep an eye on this young band! Our own CeltCast
(and his girlfriend Alana Bennett) are musicians on this album! 💫
– no physical album yet — Germany
This young lady has just started yet! She has a beautiful voice and we’re curious to what she is going to bring us in the near future. There is no physical album yet, but… we have permission to play a couple of her songs already! You can find Jolin regularly with
— Arpa Celtica (2012) — Spain
Yes, we finally have permission to play this wonderful album on our radio station. Enjoy this magical harp sounds! 🧚♀️
— Rhuys (2007) — France
and I were on holiday in Brittany (France), where we bumped into this folk band at our campsite. And, we still like to listen to this album! We hope for new material from this band soon. 🇫🇷
— Unplugged 2018 (2018) — Australia
we met the Australian band Kallidad (a band with Mexican and flamenco influences). Fantastic energetic music to listen to. When we brought home several albums, we already knew that most of it would not fit in the format of our radio station, but … there is one song on this unplugged album that we can play, yes! 💃🕺
— Anaman (2017) — Spain
This band brings us pagan folk music from Spain. This album Anaman made in 2017 takes you to earlier times, that’s for sure. We are eagerly awaiting new material! 🍃
Very happy that these beautiful CDs have been processed: 📀
M’ANAM — M’ANAM (2019) — Iceland and Ireland
Nadia Birkenstock — Whispering Woods (2019) — Germany
Imbue — Ut solis radium (2019) — The Netherlands
Twigs & Twine — Long Story Short (2019) — The Netherlands
North Sea Gas — Hearth And Homeland (2019) — England
Emian Pagan Folk — Egeria (2019) — Italy
Bruni — Kynda (2018) — England
Jolin — From the Woods (2019) — no physical album yet — Germany
Victor Santal — Arpa Celtica (2012) — Spain
Nadia Birkenstock and Steve Hubback — The Glow Within (2013) — Germany
Tevenn — Rhuys (2007) — France
Clannad — Past Present (1989) — Ireland
Kallidad — Unplugged 2018 (2018) — Australia
Cuelebre — Anaman (2017) — Spain
music programmers have a nack of finding new folk talent and giving them a chance on either
. This year’s Castlefest was no exception.
A new band from Spain suddenly appeared on the schedule. A band called
, and they described them as followed:
-“Vael mixes worldly musical traditions with their won roots, Spanish folk music. With acoustic instruments and different singing styles, they deliver a strong message to the audience: -focus on what unites mankind, rather than what separates them.”
Well, that got us, the CeltCast team interested and during the weekend we all went to watch this new band. And we all liked them. Yep, they were a little nervous -who wouldn’t be- but they were lovely people and the music was beautiful. So, of course, we offered to do a review on their debut CD Kairós , and I’m not regretting that offer, not a bit! Kairós is a musical adventure that takes us all over the world. A lovely journey in music.
Eagle eyes will also see a new name in the credits of this review. I’m happy to say that
joined the editing team, so we can get you informed of the newest and nicest folk music as soon as possible.
Thanks for joining our team Sara 🙂
Last year’s edition of
was a celebration of the first ten years. This year
and his team are looking forward into the future, as they take their “New Steps” (this year’s theme) into the next evolution of this amazing festival!
Now, what these steps will mean, one should probably ask the organisation. But during the
Academy Q&A for festival organisers that we hosted, he already gave us a hint that could help us figure out why these steps are green. You see, there he announced that he had requested of all his caterers that they provide at least one organic option each! So following that logic these “New Steps” will lead to a greener future, something that we can obviously only applaud!
And to support that initiative we chose to use that specific element in our festival logo, which also means, you guessed it: our badges for
will also feature this beautiful concept! So when you see us over in Selb, come get them quick, as we only have a hundred to give away, as usual!
The coming days we will share posts focussed on bands whose performance you will be able to enjoy at the festival and we will try to bring to those who really won’t be able to make it over. Come along as we take our next green steps towards Festival-Mediaval XII and we hope to see you there on the 6th, 7th and 8th of September! ?