Shirley Collins, The Barbican, London, 18th February 2017

Shirley Collins holds a unique place in the pantheon of English folk music – her 1959 song collecting journey in the USA, assisting Alan Lomax, is legendary enough but she also shook up the folk scene with collaborations with Davey Graham and her recordings with her sister Dolly which brought new arrangements to old songs which were sung in an unaffected English voice.  She was widely lauded as carrying a distinctive folk purity, acting almost as a vessel for the music, through the late sixties and into the seventies.  And then she lost her singing voice. Continue reading “Shirley Collins, The Barbican, London, 18th February 2017”

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 5th February 2017

This gig was the last of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s UK tour, and was also a first weekend highlight for the inaugural City Roots festival running across many venues in Cambridge as a week-long winter spin-off from the annual Cambridge Folk Festival. All the big gigs for this festival are at the centrally situated Corn Exchange which – unlike the Junction (the only other large venue in town) – is well set up for large seated audiences. Continue reading “Mary Chapin Carpenter, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 5th February 2017”

Transatlantic Sessions, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 7th February 2017

Photo: Murdo Macleod

The Transatlantic Sessions have become an eagerly awaited annual event which sees Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham joined by an ever changing array of talents from the folk and Americana scenes on both sides of the Atlantic. Which this year means the likes of Tift Merritt and John Paul White amongst others. The format couldn’t be simpler, it’s “let’s play one of mine – let’s play one of yours – let’s do one we all know” and then repeat for a couple of hours. Continue reading “Transatlantic Sessions, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 7th February 2017”

3hattrio with Lizabett Russo @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 4th February 2017

The last weekend of Celtic Connections and we’re excited to see, at long last, the strange three headed creature born in the Utah desert, the weird aggregation of old time Americana, chamber music and jazz that is 3hattrio. Over the course of three albums this trio (Hal Cannon, Greg Istock and Eli Wrankle) have insinuated their way into late night listening habits here at home, their mingling of old weird America and parched landscapes, played with, at times, an almost avant-garde edge, a perfect balm after a hectic day. Continue reading “3hattrio with Lizabett Russo @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 4th February 2017”

Tift Merritt, The Lexington, London, 31st January 2017

The weather outside was frightful but in the bijou performance space upstairs at The Lexington things were positively steaming and swamp like – to the extent that Tift Merritt offered to share her backstage beers if the crush (and there was a crush) made it impossible to reach the bar at the back. This is the kind of gig that routinely gets the appellation “intimate” – which means that most of the audience were within mere feet of Tift Merritt who was accompanied only by guitar and pedal steel maestro Eric Heywood. Approaching the microphone – which had been left tilted up by the opening artist – emphasized the diminutive stature of Tift Merritt – something which not even boots with heels of at least a couple of inches were doing much to alleviate. Continue reading “Tift Merritt, The Lexington, London, 31st January 2017”

Nathan Bell @Celtic Connections. Oran Mor, Glasgow: 2nd February 2017

Nathan Bell , a troubadour in the tradition of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle, was sandwiched in between two rather noisy acts for this, his Scottish debut. The fans had packed Oran Mor for the headliner James McMurtry and had been warmed up by the opening act, Alice Drinks The Kool Aid. This peculiarly named act turned out to be an old style blues trio (and yes, from Chicago) who turned in a set that reeked of student unions back in the seventies when everyone and their dog covered Cream and Taste. That may be a tad unfair as the sound system wasn’t doing them any favours but it has been a long long time since I heard a bass solo in a 12 bar workout. Their USP was the fact that guitarist and singer Tony Magee runs a brewery, Lagunitas, and he had donated a keg of his IPA to the bar offering all present free beer until the keg ran dry. So more power to his elbow then and in truth the band did offer up some fine ZZ Top styled boogie. Continue reading “Nathan Bell @Celtic Connections. Oran Mor, Glasgow: 2nd February 2017”

John Paul White @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 1st February 2017

It was a sold out show for John Paul White’s first visit to Glasgow since the collapse of the Grammy award winning The Civil Wars, an episode mired in some mystery as he and Joy Williams imploded. Since then he’s kept a low profile, setting up his record label and producing an excellent album by the legendary Donnie Fritts. Back in September of last year however a solo album, Beulah, was released. An album of bittersweet Southern grooves and creamy country rock Beulah was taken by some to be a veiled response to the breakup of the band. Continue reading “John Paul White @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 1st February 2017”