“Cantrip pulls together Breton, Scandic, a touch of the Balkans, and several strands of Scottish music to produce a rich and savoury feast from what is basically three lads having fun.” — Alex Monaghan, Irish Music Magazine


The name Cantrip is an Old Scots word meaning a charm, magic spell or piece of mischief and it aptly describes the unexpected twists and turns in their musical arrangements, likewise the compelling potency of their musicianship. Swirling border pipes, raging fiddle, thunderous guitar and three rich voices blend to create a sound energetic enough to tear the roof off. Echoes can be heard of trad music from the 1960s and 70s, but the years have slowly infested their music with the sounds of funk, metal, bluegrass, swing, and even klezmer. Originally formed as a quartet, Cantrip sprung from a local session in Edinburgh nearly twenty years ago. Their driving music immediately caught the attention of the masses, and they were quickly signed to the Foot Stompin' label. With their first album "Silver" (2001) in hand, Cantrip made its way across the water to the United States, where they were received with roars and shouts (of enjoyment). After years of significant touring, the band parted ways with Foot Stompin' and began producing albums on their own. Two albums later ("Boneshaker" in 2005 and "Piping the Fish" in 2008), Cantrip had cemented itself as a perennial figure. After a period of hiatus in which children were born and continents were left for new ones, Cantrip redefined its sound. Trimming itself to a trio, the band tightened its arrangements while expanding its influence. New inspirations began creeping into the sound, complementing the traditional foundation of the band. This more mature sound debuted on "The Crossing" (2016), to high acclaim. In 2019, the band gathered 50 of its closest friends and fans and returned to its roots, re-recording Silver in a live format (Cantrip Live), re-arranged yet with a more youthful sound than the original. The process inspired a new approach for the band, which they implemented for their upcoming fifth studio album "Undark". In late 2019, they spent a week in their original home of Edinburgh creating and recording new music. All of the tracks on this album were captured live in one take by engineer and longtime friend of the band Reuben Taylor. This seminal album, slated to be released in Fall 2020, shows a new and darker side of the group while preserving the elements that audiences have come to know and love. After 20 years of touring, Cantrip has found a character like no other. Dan Houghton, Jon Bews and Eric McDonald stir the elements in a witches' cauldron, slowly coalescing into chaotic order.



Dan Houghton (bagpipes, flute, whistles, guitar, bouzouki, vocals)


Dan was born in Ghana, but was transported to Scotland shortly thereafter, where he grew up surrounded by traditional music and dance. He began his career with the whistle at age seven and has been fingering the pipes and flute since the early nineties. Since then, he has has toured and taught throughout Britain, Ireland, The Continent, The Americas, Asia and the Antipodes. In 2010, with the help of many friends, Dan released his first solo recording entitled "The Long March Home". In addition to Edinburgh Dan has lived in Dunedin New Zealand, Toulouse France, Halifax Novia Scotia and Southwestern Vermont in the United States where he currently resides. Exposure to the traditional music communities in all of these places has honed Dan's skills, and introduced him to a plethora of musicians. As a result, he has, at various times, performed with or been a member of groups such as Salsa Celtica, Doolin, Prydein and a Parcel of Rogues, to name just a few. He is a multiple winner of the Scottish Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society Open Borderpipes and New Composition events and the Mâitre de Cornemuse at St. Chartier. Over the years he increased his versatility as a multi-instrumentalist, becoming an accomplished player on the flute, bouzouki and DADGAD guitar, which can be showcased in his brand new solo album, "Border Pipe Personality Disorder". He is an instructor at the Vermont Institute of Celtic Arts, and can be seen often playing Scottish Country dances and Scottish Highland Dances, sometimes as a soloist though primarily with A Parcel of Rogues. Outside of music Dan holds a BSc Hons I degree in Applied Mathematics and Geophysics from the University of Otago and an MLitt degree in Gaelic Literature and Language from the University of Edinburgh. When not on the road, in the air or under water Dan spends his time at home with his two children Cian and Freya, perusing the woods surrounding his property, creating independent videos and crafting artisan woodworks. This might be the only picture of Dan smiling we have in our possesion. He doesn't know it is being used yet. We'll see how long that lasts.

Jon Bews (fiddles, vocals)


A veteran of the fiddle, having started at age four, Jon came to Scots music from a classical education by way of Goth rock. But it didn't take long for him to entrench himself and carve out a name as a fiddler. A prizewinning graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 1994, he spent seven years with the renowned band Malinky, during which time they released two albums. In 2008, Jon parted ways with the band but continued to maintain a very active schedule, and he has become one of Edinburgh's most in demand. A selection of the diverse artists he has performed and recorded with are James Yorkston, Mikel Urdangarin, Ranarim, Deaf Mutes and Samling. In 2019 Jon performed a run of gigs with the legendary group Shooglenifty and his playing appears on their latest single "East West". In addition to Cantrip, Jon is currently active with two other Edinburgh based bands, Storm the Palace and OBT (Oakes/Bews/Thorpe), both of which have recently released albums to great acclaim. The latter was hailed by The Scotsman as being "A journey from strathspey to space and back". Jon is also widely recognised as a composer and arranger. His string arrangements have been sought out by artists including Ewan MacPherson and Fribo and his tunes have won high acclaim across the board. Jon moved to the Scottish Borders in 2003 where he spent two years as Traditional and World Music Development Worker for Scottish Borders Council. He stayed there because the view is nice and only moved back to Edinburgh because the shops are open later. He spends his free time reading, gaming and parenting his three children Sophie, Patrick and Daniel. His wife Willa is also an accomplished piper and bassist. Her playing appears on Cantrip's latest album, and she is also a member of Storm the Palace.

Eric McDonald (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, vocals)


Born and raised in a musical family in Boston Massachusetts, Eric McDonald didn't find his musical touch until he was sixteen and began playing the mandolin. Despite growing up surrounded by the sounds of modern compositions on the piano, the lively tones of klezmer music and the songs of the american folk revival, it was formative experiences with organiztions such as The Revels and Club Passim that set him on his musical path. Eventually he would study at the Berklee College of Music under world renowned musicians John McGann and Eugene Friesen. During the summers, he found his way to fiddle camps in New England, where he discovered a love for DADGAD guitar. A decade after studying, he is now established as one of the USA's premier accompanists in many styles. Eric cut his teeth playing for contra dances, and can still often be seen from the dance floor. Nowadays he is an active session player, regularly recording and traveling with musicians of many stripes. Touring credits include award winning singer/songwriter Connor Garvey, The Outside Track, Chris Norman Ensemble, Pesky J. Nixon, Rhizome, The Dave Rowe Trio, Daymark, and as an accompanist with fiddlers Andrea Beaton, Wendy MacIsaac, Brendan Carey Block and Katie McNally. In addition to Cantrip, he can currently be seen touring with two trios, the traditional roots music powerhouse Kalos and eclectic folk trio Bellwether. In addition to guitar accompaniment, Eric's debut solo album "Rove" features his unique style and approach to tunes on the mandolin, as well as carefully crafted deliveries of traditional ballads on voice and guitar. Eric is also an experienced teacher, having taught for three years at the Passim School of Music and at camps such as Maine Fiddle Camp and Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School. He currently resides in Montreal, QC with his family.