Stars lend their voices to band’s debut

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When they record their new band’s first single most musicians ask their friends for some help.

So when Angus piper Craig Weir decided to start his new band Craig Weir & The Cabalistic Cavalry he did too.

Except the friends who helped him - by each reading a line from a poem he co-wrote to start and end the track - are an impressive list of music and TV stars from Brian May of Queen and Les McKeown of The Bay City Rollers to Kyle Falconer of The View, Peter Doherty, Lorraine Kelly and Alan Cumming!

‘The Highland Road’, released tomorrow (Sunday, March 26), is the first track from the band, which Craig (23) has started as a side project from his celtic rock band Gleadhraich. It begins and ends with a poem written by him and Canadian friend Chris Brown inspired by a road trip they took along the road of the same name in Canada last year.

“The poem inspired me to start this project. It’s based on a highway in Maxville, Ontario called Highland Road,” Craig explains. “Driving along it blew my mind and gave me this vision of Scotland being the centre of the creative universe. That led to my decision to get a variety of musicians I’ve performed with around the world to contribute their voices to the track to express their love for Scotland.”

The list of 21 guest voices on the anthemic track is full of major stars because Craig has become a renowned bagpiper since taking up the instrument at the age of eight and has played with Queen, Bay City Rollers, The Libertines, performed for VIPs from The Dalai Lama to Arnold Schwarzenegger and been involved in major events from New York Tartan Week to the MOBO Awards.

The single opens with Craig’s voice before going on to the guests reading a line each including Brian May of Queen, Les McKeown of Bay City Rollers, Kyle Falconer from The View, Lorraine Kelly, Alan Cumming, comedian Fred MacAulay, Mark Evans (AC/DC), 2011Britain’s Got Talent winner Jai McDowall and 2013 X Factor semi-finalist Nicky McDonald. Peter Doherty of Libertines and Babyshambles is the final reader at the end of the track.

Talking about his part in the single, Brian May said: “I was happy to pour a little of my Scottish blood into this epic.”

Lorraine Kelly said: “I was delighted to take part in this project and hearing it all together gave me goose bumps. It’s very atmospheric and embodies the spirit of Scotland.”

Alan Cumming added: “It’s beautiful - really moving and I love all the different voices.”

The line-up for the new band, which has more of a folk sound than the rock of Gleadhraich, is broadly similar to that of the latter – with Craig on bagpipes, guitar and vocals, his brother Paul on percussion, Ross White on lead guitar and vocals but with occasional Gleadhraich sax player Josh Landsburgh on bass, guitar, fiddle, keyboards and vocals.

Speaking about the band and the move to a more folk-based sound, Craig said: “It felt like the right time to launch a new project as some of the music I’ve written recently lends itself to it. I found myself writing more songs which don’t fit so neatly into Gleadhraich because I’m mainly playing the pipes in that.”

Explaining the band’s name, he said: “The ‘Cabal’ is to represent the mysteriousness of the project made of people with a common goal, while ’Cavalry’ reflects the fact that there will be an army of people involved in the project overall because it’s basically centred on me but includes a backing band of whichever musicians I feel meet the needs and purpose of the track.”

‘Highland Road’, is available from tomorrow on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. The band will launch their live shows playing with The Libertines’ John Hassall (who is one of the readers on the track) and his own new band, John Hassall & The April Rainers, at their upcoming shows in May - at The Green Room, Perth (May 12) and The Record Factory, Glasgow (May 13). Headline shows are also being booked for September.

For more info about Craig Weir & The Cabalistic Cavalry, go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CabalisticCavalry/