Recordings

Blackthorn is excited to announce the release of their much anticipated new recording, Open Skies, released September 1st, 2015.

The CD features an impressive assortment of their adaptations of traditional folk songs and original compositions. The arrangements are fresh and inventive and their performances reflect the maturity of their musical skills and creativity.

The title track, Open Skies, was written by Michelle who was inspired by a Blackthorn tour of her home province of Saskatchewan. The song invokes her feelings of being from a small prairie town and moving away. Saskatchewan’s motto “Land of the Living Skies” inspired the album title as well as Rosie’s evocative cover artwork.

As well as her own composition, Michelle also lends her georgeous voice to Country Life, an old English favourite; Jolly Rovin’ Tar, a rollicking sailor song; and the beautiful and timeless, Loch Lomond which also features their good friend, Jim McWilliams, on bagpipes.

Tim demonstrates he is more than just a solid bass player when singing Andy M. Stewart’s Queen of Argyll and skillfully takes on the roll of singer/guitarist on the Irish classic P Stands for Paddy.

Michael’s predominant heritage is represented by the two songs he is featured on. Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie is a Robbie Burns song with a great story and he learned V’là l’bon vent growing up in “historic” Maillardville and still sings regularly as a Voyageur canoe guide.

Rosie rosins up her bow for some fine, fancy fiddlin’ on the Mouth of the Tobique set which contains some French Canadian flavour mixed with a bit of Scottish spice. Michelle worked up an arrangement of Jim McWilliams’ compositions for an impressive pipe set they affectionately refer to as Bonnets Aflame. Michelle and Rosie both composed tributes to their band mate Dianne Foster, who passed away in February 2008, with their instrumentals Song for Dianne and Mad Dog.

For fans that have been anxiously awaiting something new from Blackthorn since their previous release in 2008, Open Skies is well worth the wait. This is definitely a CD that you’ll listen to from start to finish, over and over again.

Sweet Forget-Me-Not - Blackthorn 2008
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  1. Country Life
  2. Rattlin' Roarin' Willie / River Bend / Scartaglen
  3. Queen of Argyll / Paprika
  4. Song for Dianne
  5. Jolly Rovin' Tar / Jolly Jack Jump Up
  6. Mouth of the Tobique / Petronella / Le Violin Accordé Comme Une Viole
  7. Open Skies
  8. Mad Dog  - Captain Jack / Molly
  9. P Stands for Paddy
  10. Bonnets Aflame - The Way Things Might Have Bee /Bonnets Aflame / The Portuguese Ceilidh
  11. V'la l'Bon Vent
  12. Loch Lomond / Dark Island
Song Lyrics

This long-standing Celtic band from Vancouver in Canada, already together for more than 25 years, really impressed me with this album. Look on the sleeve notes and you'll find plenty of well-known songs from UK folk traditions. But boy, Blackthorn’s versions are real stunners. There's a beautiful and uplifting version of "Country life", known through the Watersons, Andy M Stewart's "Queen of Argyll" interpreted to highest quality closely to the original Silly Wizard version; a great version of "P stands for Paddy"; and "Rattling Roaring Willie" in an interpretation reminding somewhat of the Chieftains. Mixed in are a original songs in Celtic style, as well as some tunes of Celtic and French traditions. And just when you thought it could not get much better there's a cracking French Canadian song "V'la l'bon vent”. Superb instrumental skills, great voices with excellent harmony singing, and a perfect choice of well and lesser known material, this is simply a top album.

FolkWorld #59 03/2016


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Sweet Forget-Me-Not (2008) features a wide variety of wonderful Scottish, Irish and Canadian songs and instrumentals, including some great renditions of traditional Robbie Burns songs. The beautiful title track has been in the Newfoundland music tradition for the past 100 years but was actually written in 1877 by Bobby Newcomb of Cincinatti, Ohio. The CD also includes their much-requested version of Wade Hemsworth's The Log Driver's Waltz.

Sweet Forget-Me-Not - Blackthorn 2008
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Click on title links below to listen to sample

  1. A Man's a Man/Dan Sullivan's Shamrock Band
  2. Lock the Door/Con Cassidy's Jig/Hardiman the Fiddler
  3. Sweet Forget-Me-Not/Îles de la Madeleine
  4. Farewell to Whisky/Blue Eyes Polka/I Hardly Knew Her
  5. Home Boys Home/Smash the Windows/Full Rigged Ship
  6. Craigieburn Wood/Gentle Embrace
  7. Joys of Quebec/Hugh McKenna's/Old French
  8. Holy Ground/One Legged Two-Step
  9. Johnny O'Hazelgreen/Twenty Kisses
  10. Cumha A Chuilein/Jimmy's Tune
  11. The Mermaid/Randers Hopsa
  12. The Log Driver's Waltz/The Sawmill Sashay
Song Lyrics

Singing the Travels (2003) features a great selection of raucous songs, haunting ballads, toe-tapping jigs and funky reels.

Singing the Travels CD cover
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  1. Bonnie Dundee/Blue Bonnets Over the Border
  2. Lea Riggers/Farewell to Aberdeen/The 79th Highlander's Farewell to Gibraltar
  3. Joy of My Heart/Ae Fond Kiss
  4. Follow Me Up to Carlow/The Hurlers'  March
  5. The Pullet/The Hard Road*/Billy Wilson's Reel
  6. Do You Love an Apple/Mary Carver's Minuet*
  7. Misty Braes/Paddy Fahey's Jig/Sonny Brogan's Jig
  8. Spanish Lady/Valerie's Quick Step*
  9. Sailor Boy
  10. New York Girls/John Ryan's Polka
  11. Green Cockade/The Pride of Moyvane/Faery Reel
  12. Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore
  13. The Ploughman/Turkey in the Straw
  14. Father Eugene's Welcome/Whelan's Jig/Drowsy Maggie
  15. Rambles of Spring/Singing the Travels

After an association with Vancouver's Blackthorn that goes back many years now, I'm delighted to hear fresh material from their long anticipated sophomore release, 'Singing The Travels'. They obviously spent the time well, crafting a knockout CD of songs and instrumentals. I'm most impressed with the polish on the product. 'Sailor Boy' is one of the most achingly beautiful songs I have heard by any artist. The arrangement is breathtaking and Michelle Carlisle delivers the lyrical melancholy with the voice of an angel.

—Cal Koat, Producer, Celt In A Twist

Singing The Travels is their third CD, and it's their most impressive to date. There are lots of warm-hearted musical rambles on this solid CD from local group Blackthorn. The eye-catching cover painting suggests they are out for an enjoyable afternoon's tour, and finds them in energetic form as they canter through the magical early spring landscape. The sextet has honed their skills over the years and are totally at home with close vocal and instrumental harmonies.

Accordionist Dianne Foster and fiddler Rosie Carver are melodically inspired and provide lively settings for the songs, and a lot of the musical force on leaping sets of tunes. The Pullet/Hard Road/Billy Wilson's Reel in particular should be a favourite with dancers, and the Misty Braes set, a session-like fling, as well as the Lea Riggers set (a salty air, a sassy dance and a high stepping march) should keep listeners hopping to the brisk kinetic tunes. Bassist Tim Renaud gets right down to the bottom line as well, accentuating the rhythms in all the right places.

Both Graham Carver and Michael Viens sing with stirring commitment, and hit the mark particularly well on Bonnie Dundee and Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore. If there's a star turn here though, it's Michelle Carlisle's beautiful vocals, and each of her four numbers is a delight. Joy Of My Heart is lovely, and on Do You Love An Apple she gives a bravura performance. Sailor Boy is a real highlight, her voice shimmers on the atmospheric air, and she lifts off and soars on The Ploughman. Michelle has a grand tone and great feeling in her voice, and is also tremendous all over the album on flute.

This one is a good listen, and helps prove how well the music travels from across the Atlantic, and what good hands it's in locally with the musicians inspired to keep it going.

—David Ingram – Rogue Folk Review – Vol. 17 No. 4


Blackthorn released their second album, Market Town, in the fall of 1996. The album continues to receive rave reviews from fans and critics alike.

Market Town - Blackthorn 1996
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  1. Market Town/Mug of Brown Ale/My Darling Asleep (jigs) 3:53
  2. Wayward Daughter* 3:29
  3. Down Sides Up the Middle/Dennis Murphy's Polka/Tralee Gaol/Untitled 3:47
  4. British Man-O'War/Jack Robinson's March 3:19
  5. Air of Carlisle** 3:01
  6. Buy-a-Broom/Michael Turner's Jig 3:38
  7. Wild Mountain Thyme/Border Waltz 4:49
  8. Cooley's/Arkloch Mountain/Russell Daly's (reels) 4:22
  9. Hills of Connemara/Mrs. Foster's Hornpipe 3:06
  10. Dusty Window Sill/The Butterfly/Snug in a Blanket (jig/slip jig/jig) 4:22
  11. T'was Pretty to be in Ballinderry/ Bosun's Lament* 4:07
  12. Paddy Fahey's/Miss Monaghan's/Untitled 3:46
  13. Friar in the Well/The Floo'er O' Taft March 4:02
All songs traditional except:
*- © 1996 Graham Carver
**- © 1994 Michelle Carlisle

Finally, a second album from the Vancouver folk group Blackthorn with songs from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales on Market Town. While new to the music scene, these six have put together a sound that leaves one wondering whether they have been playing together as long as the Chieftains. The blend of music and tunes is first class and the instrumentals, with a range of instruments from harmonium to penny whistle, is in the finest tradition. ...when the group gets going on a high-stepping tune you can imagine yourself in a pub on the west coast of Ireland singing along.

—Patrick Murphy, Times Colonist

Blackthorn: Market Town - Just about the time I thought I'd had enough Celtic along come these splendid stalwarts with this new package and away I get blown: by the tunes, the playing, the fun and fire of the whole thing; saying nothing of the excellent production (a lot of big labels don't sound this good). It's fresh and crisp and full of charm and energy; rousing dances and lovely lilts

—Jurgen Gothe, DiscDrive, CBC Stereo

[Market Town] is a completely self-produced album. All the artwork and all the creative efforts in it are their own... and we'll be hearing more of that in coming weeks, I can guarantee you.

— Steve Edge, What the Folk, CFRO FM 102.7

What a treat! I like the sound of Blackthorn very much. Many thanks for the CDs [Dark Island & Market Town]... They will go into our music library and I'll notify the other producers who use music in their programs...

— Margaret Isaacs, Weekender, CBC Stereo

I've just listened to the entire performance and it's great! It will be a pleasure to share my enjoyment of Blackthorn's music with the network audience.

—Max Ferguson, CBC Stereo


The Dark Island, is Blackthorn's first major release (1992).

Dark Island - Blackthorn 1992
Out of print
  1. Miss Thompson's Hornpipe/Alexander's Hornpipe 3:29
  2. Some Rival 2:38
  3. Star of the County Down 2:56
  4. Miss Rowan Davies 2:59
  5. Paddy's Lamentation 5:01
  6. Coleraine's Jig/The Mist Covered Mountain/Thornton's Jig 3:46
  7. Squire Wood's Lamentation on the Refusal of his Halfpence 2:46
  8. The Rights of Man/The Pride of Petravore 2:46
  9. I Once Loved a Lass 2:48
  10. The Lowlands of Holland 3:57 Slieve Russell/The Peacock 3:07
  11. To Pad the Road with Me/Are You Willing? 4:10
  12. Loch Lomond/The Dark Island 5:30

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