Whether they are already known globally or are up-and-comers only now rocketing into the public consciousness, these are the Scottish music makers creating today’s hottest sounds ... and playing near you soon. Here, Paul Trainer and Lorraine Wilson give you the ultimate download of top artists.

This feature was the July edition cover story for Best of Scotland magazine. You can read the full edition here.

HeraldScotland:

Tamzene

Belladrum, July 28-31

SINGER, writer and multi-instumentalist Tamzene says she first found music in the tranquil silence of the landscape around the coastal town of Cromarty while growing up in the Highlands. “My mum and my stepdad would make CDs for us to sleep to or listen to in the car. There would be a lot of trad music around the house,” she says. “I was able to learn violin then piano from an early age and that defined my taste in the early days, as well as singing along to Etta James records with my mum.

“I fell in love with singing and playing at the same time and I think that started me on the road to express myself through music. It was like a switch flipped in my mind and I started to write my own songs,” she explains.

Tamzene recorded a four track EP, Home Tapes, in the summer of 2020, returning to Cromarty for soulful, delicate songs that contrast with the synth pop of previous songs. “I had gone back home and got really immersed in things, I had some intense writing periods.

"There was also the chance to let my mind rest and explore my own emotions for a while. I think I wanted to grow up a little bit in my music and what I was trying to access in my writing. Being in the Highlands, it forced me to go a little deeper into thinking about what I cared about and who I cared about.”

Based in London, she continued to return to Cromarty, accessing inspiration during walks by the harbour for latest EP, Details: “I’ve moved on from chasing what I want to sound like – I’m now looking inward to find what I really want to say in my music.”

Where would be a good place near Cromarty to press play and listen to that record? “I always walk up the Sutor hill. The route is called the 100 Steps but I can tell you it is way more. It gives you a beautiful view of the firth when you get to the top. Chanory Point at Fortrose as well, walking along with the sea on your left then sometimes at the end you get to see the dolphins. That’s pretty inspiring.”

tamzene.com

Elephant Sessions

ButeFest – Ettrick Bay, July 29-31

Headlining this year’s ButeFest, Elephant Sessions combines the simplicity of trad with complex electronica and the gut-thump of a heavy rhythm section, resulting in a live experience like no other.

The recordings, from The Elusive Highland Beauty onwards and live shows have resulted in a scroll of awards but the success is measured by the ticket sales not only in Scotland and the rest of the UK but throughout Europe and beyond.

elephantsessions.com

The Twilight Sad

Connect Festival, August 6–8

Edinburgh’s new music festival Connect will take place at Ingliston Royal Highland Centre. Performances across three stages include up-and-coming artists alongside electronic music, comedy and cabaret.

Kilsyth post-punk band The Twilight Sad bring their loud and attention-grabbing live set to the festival, joining other Caledonian talent on the bill including Joesef, Admiral Fallow, and Mogwai.

thetwilightsad.com

HeraldScotland:

Calvin Harris

Hampden Park, July 2

Calvin Harris has gone from recording bedroom demos at home in Dumfries to the top of the charts. His interest in electronic music led to his first up-tempo album, released in 2007 that would set the scene for future success with the breakout hit Acceptable In The 80s.

His first collaboration with Rihanna led to two singles, Where Have You Been and We Found Love, with the latter becoming an international success, giving Harris his first US number one single.

One of the world’s most in-demand producers and DJs, his triumphant return to Scotland is part of a much-anticipated series of outdoor gigs at the national stadium this summer.

calvinharris.com

HeraldScotland:

Nina Nesbitt

TRNSMT, July 8–10

Growing up in Edinburgh, Nina Nesbitt originally wanted to be an author before eventually starting to set her short stories to the music she wrote on the piano and acoustic guitar. She released her debut album, Peroxide, in 2014, followed by a second album, The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change, in 2019.

Scottish artists are well represented at TRNSMT this year, with Nina making the jump from the King Tut’s stage to the main stage, playing on Sunday, July 10.

“I feel really lucky to be picked and to be recognised in my home country,” she says.

“I had the chance to play T in the Park when I was younger, getting to do the King Tut's tent there, then playing at TRNSMT. This will be the first time for me on the main stage for any Scottish festival so I'm very excited about that. I feel like it's a good chance to pick up new fans, especially with a new album coming out.”

A festival set is a more condensed, focused window of opportunity to grab the attention of an audience. “I'm going to keep things a bit more upbeat,” Nina says. “I’ve a lot of ballads but people are ready to have the summer of their lives this year, so I want to keep the good vibes, maybe throw in a few sad ones in but keep the energy up.”

After the solitary experience of discovering music via TikTok or listening to records at home over the past two years, we return to the Scottish summer pursuit of joining together in a big field for gigs. Having resumed her live career, Nina says there’s a higher level of appreciation from crowds. “I was so apprehensive during the pandemic, wondering if live music is even going to come back. I feel like people are now, more than ever, just desperate to have an experience. I went on tour in America and it really did feel close to normality. It was so nice to see people enjoying live music.”

Social media projects Nina’s music out to different corners of the world. Does she get a kick out of the fact she can arrive in a country for the first time and people in the crowd will already be singing her lyrics? “It’s so crazy. I remember with the last album we were going to New Zealand and people were singing every word back to me. It was something that I couldn't even comprehend. It’s the power of music, I guess, but it’s very surreal,” she says.

Nina thinks Scottish musicians on the festival circuit take encouragement from each other. “I feel like there is definitely a scene of Scottish musicians that do look out for each other and support each other,” she says. “I guess we're all from the same place and we do get behind Scottish musicians which is something any artist would be grateful for.”

She will release a new album, Älaskar, in September. “The title means ‘to love’ in Swedish,” she says. “It's an album about love in all its different forms, whether it be romantic, friendship, family, self love – it's all different.

“Some of the songs on the album are three years old, some of them are two months old. I feel like I’ve a lot about the relationships in my life during the last few years. It was a really interesting process as I had to create some of the music remotely, but we got there in the end and I’m really happy with it.”

ninanesbittmusic.com

Ministry of Sound Classical

Out East – Dalkeith Country Park, August 6 and 7

THIS is the place where the best in dance music meets some of the country’s most talented classical players. This Ministry of Sound orchestral performance involves a full 50-piece orchestra performing the most iconic dance tracks, rearranged for an orchestra to play not alone but alongside DJs. Scottish performers at the festival will include Callum Beattie, Rebecca Vasmant and Shaka Loves You. 

HeraldScotland:

Idlewild

Connect - Royal Highland Centre, August 26–28

Idlewild played the first Connect Festival in 2007 when the album the band is celebrating here was just a baby at five years old. The Remote Part was Idlewild’s third album but it’s been given the “seminal” tag. It’s certainly the album that gave the band a much wider profile with hit singles like American English and You Held the World in Your Arms. In the 20 years since, the original members have headed off on solo projects, with frontman Roddy Woomble most successful, becoming a beloved part of the Scottish folk scene.

Coming back together as Idlewild has seen some line-up changes and new recordings as well as tours and a book by Woomble that celebrates 25 years of the band.

idlewild.co.uk

Brian Kellock and Colin Steele: Satchmo and Duke

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, July 24

There are few musicians who could do justice to The Summit, the only album Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington made together. Pianist Brian Kellock and trumpeter Colin Steele certainly can and with standards such as Mood Indigo and In A Mellow Tone, there’s much to offer the casual jazz fan as well as the aficionado. They’re joined by Roy Percy on bass and Max Popp on drums.

Peat & Diesel

August 9, Summer Nights at Kelvingrove Bandstand

The Hebridean musical juggernaut of Peat & Diesel rolls in to Kelvingrove as part of Summer Nights at Kelvingrove Bandstand.

As the antithesis of everything Saturday night talent shows stand for, Calum “Boydie” MacLeod, Innes Scott and Uilly Macleod came into being rather than formed after a few tunes in their front rooms were given words and became songs.

That was in 2018. They went on to win best live act at the Scottish Trad Awards the following year and by January of 2020 they had sold out
Glasgow’s Barrowland as soon as the tickets went on sale, as part of a debut tour where 7,000 tickets were sold.

With vocals, guitar, drums and accordion, the sound is definitely traditional but takes a threshing machine to the notion of singing shortbread tins. It’s bold, it’s loud, at points it doesn’t take itself too seriously – but it certainly stirs the emotions.

More than anything, and as big as they get, a Peat & Diesel gig still feels like you’ve been invited around to Boydie’s for some beers and tunes.

peatanddiesel.band

Blue Rose Code

Birnam Arts, July 15; HebCelt (in and around Stornoway, Isle of Lewis), July 13 to 16; Making Waves, Irvine, July 23; Belladrum Tartan Heart July 29; Millport Country Music, August 20

It’s a busy summer for Blue Rose Code. With such a wide range of festivals booking the band, it’s clear their appeal is broader than ever.

The songs of Blue Rose Code are beautifully eclectic musically but in intent they are always tackling the human condition in all is colours.

Ross Wilson is Blue Rose Code and he never shies away from a background that has involved addiction and recovery, loss and joy.

A favourite among fellow musicians who aspire to emulate that eclecticism, Wilson has built a talented musical collective around the Blue Rose Code name.

Next year is 10 years since Blue Rose Code broke ground with the North Ten album, perhaps the closest to what is usually regarded as folk, but since then there has been more jazz-tinged releases and a touch of Caledonian soul.

bluerosecode.com

HeraldScotland:

Skerryvore

Tiree Music Festival, July 8-10

It’s a homecoming celebration for Skerryvore. With their roots on Tiree and members gathered from around Scotland, the band have taken their contemporary traditional sound around the globe. Like many bands taking their inspiration from their heritage, there are elements of traditional music from around the world with some Americana and roots in the mix.

Eighteen years since the band emerged, there have been more than a handful of albums but like many bands playing traditional music, they truly come to life in front of an audience.

skerryvore.com

Hamish Stuart Band

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, July 23

It’s no exaggeration to say that Hamish Stuart is one of Scotland’s true music treasures across more than one genre.

Although he’s now known as a man in demand by the likes of Diana Ross, George Benson, Chaka Khan and Paul McCartney, here he celebrates the songs of the band he’s most closely associated with, The Average White band.

As singer and guitarist with AWB, Stuart’s soul vocals played a large part in making the records timeless classics – and shocking radio stations in the 1970s that this music was coming from a group of Scottish white guys.

Apart from AWB classics the band will be offering up some classic funk and soul.

HeraldScotland:

Deacon Blue

Edinburgh Castle, July 9

Anthems like Wages Day, Real Gone Kid and Dignity will be performed against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Deacon Blue released their debut album, Raintown, 35 years ago and have written their own place in the Scottish song book. Last year, they released their tenth studio album, Riding on the Tide of Love, and continue to blend the old and the new from their back catalogue within their live shows. Later in the summer, singer Ricky Ross will discuss his autobiography, Walking Back Home, as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival at an event on August 18.

deaconblue.com

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Kelvingrove Bandstand, August 12

The songwriting partnership of East Kilbride brothers Jim and William Reid spawned five studio albums for The Jesus and Mary Chain. The combustible duo moved to London with bassist Douglas Hart and drummer Murray Dalglish in 1984, replaced by Bobby Gillespie before he continued his musical career with Primal Scream.

The group’s noisy debut single, Upside Down, blasted them into a chaotic touring schedule, often performing with their backs to the audience, swathed in feedback. The Darklands album revealed a guitar pop core that earned the band more US attention with the release of Honey’s Dead in 1992.

After disbanding in 1999, a reunion to perform at Coachella in 2007 has continued into occasional, more orderly and engaging live gigs.

themarychain.com

HeraldScotland:

Luke La Volpe

TRNSMT, 8–10 July

Going to music festivals was a cherished rite of passage for Luke La Volpe when he was growing up. “Some of the best memories I have are from festivals, being there with my friends. I remember being younger and seeing performers up on the stage. They seemed like superheroes. Now I have the chance to be up there and see TRNSMT from that perspective.”

Luke was forced to cancel his appearance at the festival last year after contracting Covid.

“That was one of the worst days of my life. It’s been a long build-up, I was ready last year but I’ve now got five new songs to add in for the set to bring things up a level,” he says.

Luke’s childhood friend Lewis Capaldi headlines the last night of the festival. After starting out on smaller stages at TRNSMT, Capaldi has worked his way up to top billing, becoming a global success story. Luke says a new generation of Scottish artists can take encouragement.

“In Scotland, we’ve always been able to come up with unbelievable artists and I think that has trickled down into the younger generation like myself. It shows what’s possible on the big stage.

“Lewis has shown you can be whatever you want to be.

“It’s also exciting to have my name on the same bill as Paolo Nutini, one of the reasons I started playing music in the first place when I was a young boy.”

“I think Scotland has a good ladder of venues, and festivals are part of it. Where I’m from in Bathgate, it’s a hotbed of music talent in West Lothian.

“You can start off with the small local venues then when you are ready, you go to Glasgow to play a venue and keep going from there. The only gigs I’m playing this summer are festivals as it’s a way to get new fans, reach people who haven’t heard you before.”

Luke’s summer has already started. “We have just had Bathgate Gala Day. The full town has a big party. This year we got to see all our mates in the sunshine. It was a total buzz. Everyone just wants to be with each other this summer.”

lukelavolpe.com

DEL AMITRI

Making Waves Festival, July 23-24

Live music returns to Irvine Beach Park this summer with the launch of Scotland’s new seaside festival Making Waves. Del Amitri leads a line-up that includes Twin Atlantic and Fatherson.  With a stage set against the backdrop of the isle of Arran, the event takes place on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July and will include a food market, harbourside craft stalls, a family fun fair and a chance to try water-based activities like paddle-boarding. Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie said: “I enjoy playing the smaller festivals with an eclectic line-up and an audience who are there for the music.”

delamitri.info

Camera Obscura

Doune the Rabbit Hole, July 17

Nineties Scottish indie pop receives another airing this summer as Camera Obscura travel to Doune the Rabbit Hole with bright, clever retro-styled melodies. Active since reuniting in 2018, the band are vocalist Tracyanne Campbell, guitarist Kenny McKeeve, bassist Gavin Dunbar, and drummer Lee Thomson. Expect a set list that includes songs French Navy, Forests and Sands, New Year’s Resolution, and My Maudlin Career.

camera-obscura.net

Tide Lines

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival – Beauly, July 28–30

Anthemic is how many people describe the music of Tide Lines, who have been a live favourite since they formed in the Highlands in 2016. The rise was fast and they were seen as “the Rising Sound of Scotland” at the Nordoff Robbins Scottish Music Awards, even though one month earlier they had already achieved something most bands only aspire to – selling out Glasgow’s Barrowlands in five minutes.

Following the buzz of massive festival crowds the band is heading out on a towns and villages tour in September. And they can make bagpipes sound cool.

tidelinesband.com

HeraldScotland:  Primal Scream. Picture by Paul Blackley.

Primal Scream

Queen's Park Glasgow July 1–2

Bobby Gillespie leads Primal Scream to homecoming gigs in Glasgow’s southside this summer, performing Screamadelica in full to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the band’s third album. An era-defining collection of songs, Screamadelica was born out of a collaboration with DJ Andrew Weatherall, drawing influences from the acid house scene and pushing the band onto the dancefloor.

Singles including Loaded, Come Together and Movin’ On Up have led Primal Scream’s live performances ever since.

primalscream.net

Teenage Fanclub

Doune the Rabbit Hole, July 17

Teenage Fanclub appear here as they tour their tenth studio album, Endless Arcade. The Bellshill band’s latest record follows on from the release of Here in 2016, which became their first Top 10 album since 1997. The record features uplifting melodies tinged with heartache as guitars chime and distort, keyboards spiral, and harmony-coated choruses burst forth.

In the 1990s, the band crafted classic albums Bandwagonesque and Grand Prix. Their early sound has progressed, reflecting the band’s stage in life and state of mind.

“I think of an endless arcade as a city that you can wander through, with a sense of mystery, an imaginary one that goes on forever,” says Raymond McGinley, one half of the band’s current songwriters alongside Norman Blake.

Recording and performing live has continued as it started. “The process is much the same as it always has been. In 1989, we went into a studio in Glasgow to make our first LP. Francis starts setting up his drums, the rest of us find our spots around him, and off we go.

“Thirty years later Francis is setting up his drums in Clouds Hill Recordings in Hamburg. A few hours later we’re recording the first song. We don’t conceptualise, we don’t talk about it, we just do it. Each of us are thinking our own thoughts, but we don’t do much externalising. We just feel our way into it.”

teenagefanclub.com