Blue Rose Code Caledonia Soul @Celtic Connections, The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, 30th January 2020

Celtic Connections is well known for its set pieces – curated concerts gathering a wealth of musicians together. Transatlantic Sessions began as a television programme but its live incarnation was premiered at Celtic Connections almost two decades ago while Roddy Hart’s Rambling Roots has grown in stature over the years as it has celebrated various artists, events, albums and places, this year’s celebrant being Bruce Springsteen. By comparison, Caledonia Soul is a mere whippersnapper, the brainchild of Ross Wilson and first performed in 2018. It’s a much more nebulous affair than Roaming Roots, the basic premise being that Wilson’s band, Blue Rose Code, are the equivalent of The MG’s back in Stax touring days. It allows the guest artists to “curate the evening and perform re-worked versions of our own favourite songs along the Celtic theme, but with a soul band,” as he explained in an interview last year. Continue reading “Blue Rose Code Caledonia Soul @Celtic Connections, The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, 30th January 2020”

Robyn Hitchcock + Annie Booth @Celtic Connections, The Drygate, Glasgow, 26th January 2020

There are precious few things better than spending an evening in the company of Robyn Hitchcock and when that evening is being held in a brewery, than, all the better for that. However, this wasn’t a raucous event, with a seated audience mainly drinking in Hitchcock’s songs and his usual, unusual song introductions. Two songs in he did sing us ‘I Pray When I’m Drunk’ (scoring the first fish mention of the night with mackerel) but any hedonism was confined to his recollections of a legendary Soft Boys’ gig back in 1980 in Paisley’s Bungalow Bar -several of the audience tonight proclaiming their attendance also. Continue reading “Robyn Hitchcock + Annie Booth @Celtic Connections, The Drygate, Glasgow, 26th January 2020”

The Felice Brothers +The Rails+ Carson McHone @Celtic Connections, St Luke’s, Glasgow, 24th January 2020

On a recent Friday night in Glasgow’s East End, at St Luke’s, around the corner from Barrowlands, Ian and James Felice glance up at the room that they could have sold-out many times and smile to themselves. It’s their first visit since 2016 to one of their cities. They built their tour around this Celtic Connections date and with bassist Jesske Hume and drummer Will Lawrence adding to the vocal make-up, the band appear to have discarded their chaotic label but still combine musicality with spontaneity and wry wit. Continue reading “The Felice Brothers +The Rails+ Carson McHone @Celtic Connections, St Luke’s, Glasgow, 24th January 2020”

Elaine Lennon + James Edwyn @Celtic Connections, The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 24 January 2020

Had the Cheshire Cat appeared on stage tonight, its infamous grin would have been eclipsed by that of Elaine Lennon’s as she surveyed the sold out crowd populating The Glad Cafe for her album release show. Lennon’s been something of a local phenomenon having made her debut live appearance just one year ago, an appearance under the aegis of Celtic Connections when she appeared at, and eventually was a winner at the Danny Kyle open stage event, an annual talent show which attracts acts from all over the UK and abroad. The winners are awarded, aside from the accolades, a gig at the following year’s festival and thus here we were. Continue reading “Elaine Lennon + James Edwyn @Celtic Connections, The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 24 January 2020”

Peter Bruntnell + Mally Smith @Celtic Connections, The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 23rd January 2020

It’s traditional now to note that Peter Bruntnell is a true “cult hero” (courtesy The Guardian) and is commonly regarded as one of the UK’s best singer-songwriters and performers by those “in the know.” So it was great to find him popping up at this year’s Celtic Connections playing with his, by now, well-seasoned trio line up featuring Iain Sloan on guitar and pedal steel, and Danny Williams on double bass. Since this line up’s debut back in 2017 they’ve had time to hone their chops and tonight’s show was certainly the best this reporter has experienced in their company so far. Continue reading “Peter Bruntnell + Mally Smith @Celtic Connections, The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 23rd January 2020”

Frazey Ford @Celtic Connections, Saint Luke’s, Glasgow, 23rd January 2020

Touring before a new album is released can be risky. There’s a desire from the artist to showcase their new material but these are songs that the audience doesn’t yet know. The sense of audience expectation is based on much loved tracks from previous albums and snap judgements can made on unfamiliar new songs. Frazey Ford notes that tonight’s Celtic Connections’ gig is essentially the first that she’s playing to tour her new album ‘U Kin Be The Sun’. It’s a risk she recognises as she observes that she’s “Here to play some old songs, to play some new songs and to try not to f**k things up.” Continue reading “Frazey Ford @Celtic Connections, Saint Luke’s, Glasgow, 23rd January 2020”

Tyler Childers + The Local Honeys @Celtic Connections, St. Lukes, Glasgow, 19th January 2020

Last time Tyler Childers played Celtic Connections he was hunched behind his acoustic guitar, every inch the talkative Kentucky hillbilly, regaling the audience with tales of “snipe hunts” and the story behind his song ‘Purgatory’. Two years on and he’s an AMA award winner (although he’s not a fan of the term Americana) and, with his buddy, Sturgill Simpson, selling out stadiums in the States. No surprise then that this was one of the hottest tickets at Celtic Connections, sold out with a queue of folk outside this east end church looking for spare tickets. Continue reading “Tyler Childers + The Local Honeys @Celtic Connections, St. Lukes, Glasgow, 19th January 2020”

Cam Penner + Midnight Skyracer @Celtic Connections, Royal Concert Hall New Auditorium, Glasgow, 18th January 2020

AUK’s first jaunt at 2020’s Celtic Connections took us to the grand concert hall in the city centre to see a one off show by Canadian Cam Penner and his erstwhile sidekick Jon Wood. It’s a measure of both the international reputation of Celtic Connections and Penner’s growing career that they conspired to fly the pair from the dominion to Glasgow for one show before they flew back the following day. Perhaps not the best way to play a show in these times of climate concern but, heck, the ‘plane was going to fly here and back, Penner or no Penner and he’s the kind of guy you just know is going to plant a tree or two once he gets home. Continue reading “Cam Penner + Midnight Skyracer @Celtic Connections, Royal Concert Hall New Auditorium, Glasgow, 18th January 2020”

Interview: Cam Penner – “We want to make a real joyful noise”

Glasgow’s international celebration of roots music, Celtic Connections, kicks off this week and for this writer, one of the highlights will be the return of Cam Penner’s unique music. Accompanied as usual by his musical partner Jon Wood, a sonic wizard and master musician, their stage show has been described as, “Mystery and menace, love and humility, savage blues and tender romances, sounds one can imagine primitive man heard, allied with tribal ritual and chain gang hollers, delta moans and sylvan murmurs. All summoned up by these two Canadians armed with guitars, a drum kit and tape loops.” Continue reading “Interview: Cam Penner – “We want to make a real joyful noise””

Birds Of Chicago + Salthouse @Celtic Connections, Drygate, Glasgow, 31st January 2018

Long time AUK favourites Birds Of Chicago flew into Glasgow as Celtic Connections was nearing the end of its run. With core members, Allison Russell and JT Nero accompanied by the acclaimed producer and wizard guitar player Steve Dawson, the trio’s show was heart-warming and uplifting. Russell and Nero are a delight to see and hear. Their chalk and cheese voices (hers sweet and melodious, his, a sandpapered drawl) combine wonderfully with a definite sense of soul in its essence while the songs flow wonderfully with elements of bluegrass, folk, Celtic and Gospel all entwined. Continue reading “Birds Of Chicago + Salthouse @Celtic Connections, Drygate, Glasgow, 31st January 2018”