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Justin Pickford and Dean Usher of Cianan have been recording together since they began performing at age 13. Though their interests diverged for a while, with Usher going into production music songwriting, and Pickford playing in a funk metal group for several years as bass player and vocalist, they continued to stay in touch. Then Justin Pickford switched to playing guitar with his younger brother Matt, on bass. With Matt's high school friend Sergio Patuto on drums, they began playing rock covers as a hobby. Then after a jam they went for beer at a pub, and the Irish band playing there impressed them so much that they switched to playing folk music.

Soon their folk influences became stronger than rock, and they formed a traditional folk band, with help of fiddler Dave Clarke. At that time, they called themselves Raven. The lineup at that time was Justin Pickford on guitar, Dave Clarke on fiddle, Matt Pickford on bass, and Sergio Patuto on bodhran. They began performing in August of 1997. After several months, Clarke left, and for a while fiddlers Eleanor Firth and Xena Coffey stepped in. Then Firth and offey also left, the band took a brief hiatus, resuming performances under their new name of Cianan in mid-1998. That lineup featured Justin Pickford on fiddle, whistles, and mandolin; Sergio Patuto on bodhran and concertina; and att Pickford on guitar. For a fuller sound, they added Joe Dallison as a second guitarist, and this group performed together through late 1999, when Dallison and Patuto both left.

Seeking new members for Cianan, the Pickfords invited Isabella Jennings and Justin's longtime friend Dean Usher to join them, they performed as a four piece through March of 2000. With this lineup, their sound evolved to a combination of modern and traditional Celtic music, and includes original songs written by Justin Pickford. After March 2000, Matt Pickford opted out, and Cianan continued as a three-piece band. The group also released their debut CD, self titled Cianan, in 2000.

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