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A pan-Celtic approach is taken by the British group House Band; while their sound is rooted in traditional music, their repertoire includes tunes from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Bulgaria and even Africa. In addition to numerous folk songs and instrumentals, the House Band has interpreted songs by contemporary songwriters ranging from Archie Fisher and Richard Thompson to Elvis Costello and jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand).
The House Band was formed as a quartet by Ged Foley (vocals, guitar, Northumbrian pipes), Chris Parkinson (accordion, harmonica, melodeon, keyboards), Iain MacLeod (ten-string mandolin, guitar, vocals) and Jimmy Young (smallpipes, flute, whistle). They were together for just over a year and recorded the band's self-titled debut album.
A native of County Durham, England, Foley had performed on the British folk circuit before joining the Battlefield Band in the early 1980s. The grandson of a piano player, he received his first guitar at the age of 14 or 15. After seeing a musician play Northumbrian pipes, a scaled-down version of the Highland pipes played with bellows, he acquired his own instrument and taught himself to play.
Yorkshire, England-born Parkinson began playing harmonica at the age of three of four and later taught lessons on the instrument. He received his first melodeon as a teenager. At the age of 21, he was introduced to folk music by a sister who was interested in folk dancing. In 1976, he acquired a piano accordion and taught himself to play in a French Canadian or French-influenced style that he dubbed Lancashire Cajun. An active session player in the early 1980s, Parkinson was a member of the tradition-rooted band Yorkshire Relish.
In 1986, MacLeod and Young left the group, and John Skelton (flute, bombarde, whistle, bodhran) joined along with vocalist Brian Brooks after the demise of their London-based group Shegui (she-gwee). Skelton, who grew up in Somerset, England, played tin whistle for dances as a youngster. While attending college near London, he rediscovered Irish music and started traveling to Ireland for several weeks each summer. He acquired a flute after hearing a performance by Mikey Cronin of Bally Desmond, County Kerry. As a member of Shegui, he sharpened his skills by performing in Irish pubs six nights a week and Sunday mornings. In 1973 he bought a bombarde, trading lessons in Irish music for instruction on the instrument.
When Brooks left the House Band after two years, the group temporarily continued as a trio. The band's newest member, Roger Wilson (guitar, fiddle, vocals), joined shortly before the recording of the House Band's seventh album, Rockall, in 1996.
Tracks from the House Band's first two albums, The House Band and Pacific, were released in the United States as Groundwork in 1993.