In November 2005 Karen Matheson released “Downriver”, a simple, mainly acoustic affair... providing the perfect platform for the vocal delights that have stunned audiences around the world and introduced the beautiful Gaelic language to countless thousands of people. The album was produced by Donald Shaw and features Donal Lunny, James Grant, Ewen Vernal, James Mackintosh and the Scottish String Ensemble. 9 of the 11 songs featured are sung in Gaelic, with two penned by long-time collaborator James Grant.
Widely recognised as the haunting vocals of Celtic super-group Capercaillie, Karen was given an OBE in the 2006 New Years Honours list, an astonishing achievement to add to her award of “Best Gaelic singer” from the inaugural Scottish folk awards - just two of many plaudits earned from a career which began with her performing as a child in her local village hall on the West coast of Scotland.
“Downriver” is Karen’s third solo album. Her second - ‘Time to Fall’ - was released in June 2002....a collection of songs that brought her mesmerising vocal beauty to the fore, confirming her status as one of the most respected singers worldwide.
‘Time to Fall’ differed from Capercaillie’s traditional folk repertoire. Much of the album, including the title track, reunited her with the compelling song-writing of James Grant. Also included on ‘Time to Fall’ are a host of superb guest musicians including the BT string ensemble and vocalist Tim O’Brien, with production from Donald Shaw and Paul McGeechan and mixes by Calum Malcolm (the Blue Nile).
With Capercaillie, described as: “the most exciting and vibrant band in the field of Celtic music today” (Billboard), Karen has enjoyed a stellar career. Capercaillie have sold more than a million albums across the world, and performed in over thirty countries, including groundbreaking tours of South America, The Middle-East and Eastern Europe. In 1995 they wrote, recorded and starred in the blockbuster movie 'Rob Roy', with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, in which Karen performed a solo rendition of a Gaelic lament.
As a solo performer, Karen has been involved in various projects of collaboration including the award winning BBC series Transatlantic Sessions, where she recorded tracks with Emmylou Harris, The McGarrigle Sisters, Nanci Griffith, Rufus Wainright and a host of respected musicians.
She also recorded and toured as lead vocalist on Heritage de Celts, a supergroup project in France, produced by Donal Lunny and Dan Ar Bras that sold half a million albums and culminated in a sold out concert at Bercy (17,000 capacity) in Paris. More recently she has been collaborating with James Grant in special concerts and TV appearances (having guested on his solo albums 'Sawdust in my Veins' and ‘My Thrawn Glory’), and recorded songs for Norway’s multi-platinum artists Secret Garden.
Two years running at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Karen has performed sell-out solo shows in the reverential ambience of Glasgow Cathedral with a line up of full band plus 12-piece string section and a guest appearance from Scotland’s finest jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith.