JOHN McCUSKER – The Best Of (Under One Sky UOSR010)

John McCusker - The Best OfOn January 20th Under One Sky Records release John McCusker – The Best Of to mark his 30 years in the music industry.  Alongside the CD a book will be released, John McCusker: The Collection, showcasing 100 of his compositions.

The album is a double CD with space for 30 tracks. There are four new ones and the remainder are taken from different parts of a varied and high-class career as musician, producer and winner of national awards. McCusker describes it thus, “It’s been an incredible three decades making and performing music. I wanted to celebrate this milestone moment by releasing a compilation of the different albums and stages of my career, alongside including recordings from the many fantastic collaborations and wonderful artist I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.

How, in a short space, to give a sense of an album which includes, say: the vivacity of ‘Under One Sky’ (the track playing as I write this); ‘The Wishing Tree’ and ‘Madison Square Set’ as a nod to the on-going collaboration of McGoldrick, McCusker and Doyle; collaborations with Eddi Reader (Baron’s Air’), Kate Rusby (‘Night Visiting Song’/’The Bold Privateer’), Heidi Talbot (‘Sprig of Thyme’), Julie Fowlis (‘ ’s Tusa Thileas’), Billy Connolly (‘Pokarekare Ana’), Roddy Woomble (‘Lavender Hill’);  John Tams (“Hush a Bye’)? Perhaps a mention also for ‘The Shepherd’s Lad’, with Karine Polwart singing, as a reminder of the eleven years McCusker spent with The Battlefield Band – and more, much more. See for yourselves the glory of ‘Calendar Boys’ in the video below.

Amongst other honours, McCusker received The Spirit of Scotland Award for music in 1999 and was recognised as BBC Radio 2 Musician of the Year in 2003. I remember his first album coming out in 1995 and, while I can’t quite see how so much time has passed, this album lets you hear how incredibly well McCusker has spent the intervening time; The Best Of is a recognition of a musical life well lived as writer, player and producer.

From January 22nd to March 22nd McCusker is on tour in the UK – from Glasgow’s Celtic Connections to Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts – taking in various capital city venues and smaller towns, art centres & folk clubs as well as symphony & philharmonic halls.

How to describe this double CD briefly, then, and suggest why you might want to go to one of the gigs? I can only misquote Christopher Marlowe’s line, “Infinite riches in a small album”.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Calendar Boys’ – live: