When tradition-rooted acoustic guitarist Ian Carr met accordion player Karen Tweed at the Shetland Folk Festival in 1990, it was a meeting of kindred spirits. In the decade since, the two instrumentalists have reinterpreted the music of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales as a duo and in two folk bands -- Swåp, featuring Ola Bäckström and Carina Normansson of Sweden, and the Two Duos Quartet, which they share with Andy Cutting and Chris Wood. Prior to their collaboration, Carr & Tweed had been making their mark as musicians for several years. Carr, who began playing harmonica at the age of five and had advanced to the mouth organ and the accordion before settling on the guitar, had played guitar for numerous rock bands, and accordion in a ceilidh band, the Harvesters, in his hometown of Penrith. Moving to Newcastle-on-Tyne, he worked with a folk ensemble, the Old Rope String Band. At the time that he met Tweed, he was a member of Kathryn Trickell's band.
Tweed's earliest musical experiences were the Irish dance lessons she took as a youngster. After trying her hand at the melodica, she was inspired by an older sister to play accordion. In addition to playing with a marching band, she studied classical music with Lawry Eady. Tweed's love of Celtic music was inherited from her parents who encouraged her to become active with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eirann and to study accordion with button accordionist John Whelan. When Whelan emigrated to the United States, Tweed began to play at informal pub sessions and taught herself to adapt the flute and fiddle tradition of Celtic music to her accordion. When she met Carr, she was accompanying Roger Wilson.
Although they jammed together at the Shetland Folk Festival until the wee hours of the morning, Carr & Tweed's first opportunity to work together came when accordionist Lyn Tucker left Kathryn Trickell's band and Carr suggested Tweed as her replacement in September 1991. Both Carr & Tweed balanced their work with Trickell with a variety of outside projects. While Carr performed with Simon Thoumire, Tweed helped to form the all-woman Celtic group, the Poozies, with Patsy Seddon, Mary MacMaster, and Sally Barker, and later played with Sally Barker & the Rhythm. Carr & Tweed launched their duo when Trickell elected to take a year-long hiatus from music. Their debut duo album, Shhh, released in 1995, was followed by Fyace two years later. Tweed has been active as a visual artist, as well. Her paintings have been exhibited throughout the United Kingdom and have been used for the covers of several albums. Carr has become a much-in-demand session player and has been featured on albums by Roy Bailey, John McCusker, and Kate Rusby. He made his debut as a producer when he oversaw the recording of Eilidh Shaw's album, Heepirumbo.