See all the posts in this series here.

The first track of Shooglenifty I heard was Venus in Tweeds, and I was instantly hooked:

I can’t seem to find the original album recording from their 1994 debut album in an embeddable format (see Spotify link above) but this live recording is fairly honest to its energy (the drummers are not on the original track, but it 100% makes sense that Shooglenifty would be excited to collaborate with them)

For me the band’s sound is epitomized by Luke Plumb’s mandolin and Angus R. Grant’s fiddle doubling on the melody, consistently supported by drums and electric guitar and with a banjo riff showing up in most tracks. Angus brought an energy that feels vaguely similar to Eugene Hütz from Gogol Bordello (maybe just the energetic charisma and wild dark facial hair, but I think also a sense of internationalism). I have not heard any of the band’s music since Angus’s death in 2016, though they brought on a new fiddler, Eilidh Shaw, and have continued to make music. I haven’t seen the full documentary yet made recently about the band’s grief and reimagining following their frontman’s death, but here’s the trailor:

Here’s the filmmaker talking about the documentary.

I first heard Shooglenifty on pretty much every compilation album I shared in the first post in this series, and then I got their albums and immersed myself in 1994’s Venus in Tweeds, 1996’s A Whiskey Kiss, 2001’s Solar Shears, 2003’s The Arms Dealer’s Daughter (which was new when I acquired all the above), and later, 2007’s Troots. I also got the two live albums, 1996’s Live At Selwyn Hall and 2005’s Radical Mestizo (I listened to the former a lot and the latter very little).

Shooglenifty, as one review I read earlier put it, “wanders all over the musical map” in their influences, bringing in tunes and influences from all over the world, and often collaborating with musicians from other world music traditions as well. I associated them with internationalism and a perhaps-fictionalized affiliation with the seedy underbelly of European culture. At the center of it all though is “dance music” and traditional Scottish music influences, pepped up with an indomitable rejection of any orthodoxy around keeping things traditional.

Here are some of my favorite tracks, which don’t exist on YouTube as much as some bands, but which I’ve tried to link to in a streamable format for your listening pleasure:

Da Eye Wifey (a colloquial Scots name for an ophthalmologist) is from A Whiskey Kiss and has apparently been a popular part of concert sets. This concert was just a year or so before Angus R. Grant died.

The band’s Bandcamp has all their music since 2003. Check them out!