Guitarist and fiddler Dougie MacLean played with celebrated Celtic bands the Tannahill Weavers and Silly Wizard in the mid- and late 70s; during his subsequent solo career, which spans 16 albums, he’s earned the sobriquet “the Scottish James Taylor” for his charismatic, sophisticated fusion of folk and pop. In 1992 Frankie Miller took MacLean’s “Caledonia” to number one in Scotland (these days the song is considered an unofficial national anthem), and that same year “The Gael” appeared on the sound track of the Daniel Day-Lewis blockbuster The Last of the Mohicans. MacLean’s most recent disc is a collection of live performances of older material; his newest studio recording, the 2000 release Perthshire Amber (Blix Street), opens with an ambitious four-part suite that melds traditional Celtic sounds and lush neoclassical strings. The suite’s grandiose theatricality could easily have come off like generic Lord of the Dance-style Broadway flash, but MacLean’s unerring ear for nuance keeps things rooted: his no-nonsense acoustic guitar builds from whispery fingerpicking to declamatory flat-picked strumming, interspersed with brief, precise single-string leads. He showcases his fiddle artistry on two of the other tunes on Perthshire Amber, “Mr. & Mrs. MacLean of Snaigow” (originally recorded for his 1984 LP Fiddle) and “The Kaimes” (from 1994’s Sunset Song): with a sound that modulates from a silken purr to a coarse rasp, he negotiates serpentine, immaculately crafted solos, rounding the tightest corners in his grace-note filigrees with the same confidence he brings to his dark-toned, painterly melodic passages. And his piping vocals are as strong as his playing–on tunes like “The Things We Love,” from the last movement of the Amber suite, as well as on earlier material like “The Land” and “It Belongs to Us,” his lyrics alternately praise the simple virtues of country life and decry the sullying of tradition. For this gig MacLean will appear solo. Sunday, October 14, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Richard Wilkins.