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John McCusker was born in 1973 near Glasgow, Scotland. His musical talent emerged early — at age five he was playing the whistle and two years later he had picked up the fiddle, which would remain his primary instrument (though he subsequently found time to gain impressive skills on keyboards and cittern as well). While still a child he played in youth orchestras, but as he approached adolescence it became clear that his future lay in traditional music. By age 12 he was playing regularly with a local ceilidh band, and shortly after entering high school he formed a group with several of his similarly inclined classmates. The ensemble was called Parcel O'Rogues, and they recorded an album for the respected Scottish folk label Temple Records.
It was at this point that McCusker's musical life took a fateful turn. He attended a concert by the legendary Scottish group the Battlefield Band, and took the opportunity to pass them a tape of his group's recording. His fiddling made a deep impression on the band, and they maintained contact with him over the next few years as he began studying at Glasgow's Royal Academy. When McCusker was 17, he was invited to join the Battlefield Band, an opportunity he considered too good to miss, and certainly a more promising and exciting one than continued academic study. He occupied the Battlefield Band's fiddle chair for 11 years, during which period he also played on sessions for such celebrated traditional artists as Linda Thompson and Tim O'Brien, as well as the decidedly non-folk performers Teenage Fanclub, the Silencers, and BMX Bandits.
It was during this period that he met Kate Rusby, a Yorkshire folksinger with a rising international reputation. The two eventually married, and he joined her band as well as becoming her producer. He has kept up a steady stream of solo work as well, recording an eponymous debut album in 1995, which he followed up with Yella Hoose in 2000 and Goodnight Ginger in 2003. His solo albums have been met with significant critical acclaim, and in 2000 he was given the Spirit of Scotland Award for Music.