Live Review: The Hackles + Lizzie No @Celtic Connections, Drygate, Glasgow – 22nd January 2023

It’s testament to the pulling power of Celtic Connections, now in its 30th year, that a near-capacity crowd turned up to see The Hackles play their first-ever gig in Scotland even as elsewhere, the festival had several other crowd-pulling events also taking place. The discerning folk who elected for this Astoria, Oregon-based trio were not disappointed as the three superb musicians and singers played a set which was at times almost hypnotic.

The trio (Luke Ydstie on guitar, Kati Claborn, guitar, banjo and clarinet, and Halli Anderson, fiddle and guitar) were both charming and humble in their effusive thanks to the festival and in their song introductions. They hailed the humble haggis which they seem to believe the Scots eat nonstop and a running thread saw them asking the audience for suggestions as to which name they should bestow on the hire car which is taking them across the UK for the next couple of weeks.

Stripped of the band arrangements which made their last album, ‘A Dobritch Did As A Dobritch Should’, such a delight, the trio nevertheless managed to maintain the delicacy and intricacy of the songs tonight, the mainly acoustic setting allowing their very fine three-part harmonies to swell. Indeed, one of the highlights was an acapella rendition of Michael Hurley’s ‘The Werewolf’, a stunning display of their voices and one which left goosebumps on this reviewer.

The opening numbers came from their first album with their folk roots well to the fore on the haunting ‘New Shadow Of The Pines’ while ‘Don’t Let Me Go By’ was quite sublime with Ydstie’s vocals wonderfully supported by Claborn and Anderson’s harmonies. In the main, the set balanced songs from ‘A Dobritch Did As A Dobritch Should’ and their forthcoming release, ‘What A Beautiful Thing We Have Made’, the sounds ranging from Appalachia to Topanga Canyon murmurings – one could hear the spirit of Joni Mitchell in the sublime ‘Seven Lies’. ‘Pictures Of Elvis’, a song from the forthcoming album was a street-savvy and finger-popping number about a forthcoming apocalypse (with Ydstie admitting he probably isn’t cut out for surviving such an event unless he could become a cook for a camp of macho survivors). Adding to the catalogue, Anderson, a new addition to the band, unveiled one of her songs, ‘Steve’, which she introduced with a fine deadpan humour.

Despite Claborn’s folk background and the presence of fiddle and banjo, The Hackles aren’t a bluegrass band and they don’t do hoedowns. Instead, there are spirited renditions of songs about suicidal circus managers (‘The Show Goes On’) while the intricate folk-rock dynamism of ‘Dominoes’, where the trio stretched out a bit, reminded one of the early days of Fairport Convention. The early Convention came to mind again when the trio played the lead single for the new album, ‘Damn The Word’ with Anderson’s jagged fiddle punctuating Claborn’s passionate vocals. The trio are so obviously in tune with each other that each song was a delight making this a gig to savour.

Tonight’s support act was Lizzie No who has been making waves in the indie folk movement of late. She’s an engaging performer who, when not playing guitar, straps a harp to herself. First thing to say about her is that she’s a natural on stage, her introductions and asides were both humorous and pertinent and she seemed to be enjoying herself. The audience connected with her immediately, especially when she decided to crack open her first ever can of Irn Bru (Scotland’s other national drink) on stage – she never really committed to what her thoughts on it were.  Anyhow, No sang a short set of songs which posit her as a kind of loser in life, be it in romance or real estate, coming across a little bit like a millennial version of Suzanne Vega while her gliding rendition of ‘The Mountaineer’ was akin to Alela Diane.

About Paul Kerr 424 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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