Celtic Connections reviews by Pauline Keightley

Fyfe Dangerfield ABC Glasgow Celtic Connections 20th January 2010… Dangerfield stormed the ABC Glasgow as part of the Celtic connections festival with his latest solo album ‘Yellow Moon’. He is a vibrant, energetic and expressive performer, who brought the audience with him with fun and interactive chat. This is an album of love songs, that covers all the high euphoria and depths of feeling that the first rush of love can bring. Fyfe plays guitar and also for several songs he had violin strings with him as he played piano. With Fyfe on piano he performed a tear jerker called ‘Barricades’ which moves the heart with stirring emotions. Other stand out songs were the light guitar song ‘Livewire’; the very quiet ‘Firebird’ that sings of ‘that bicycle made for two’; the comforting lyrics of ‘my memories ring like telephones’ in the sunshine feel of ‘She Needs Me’; and the instant feel of ‘Don’t Be shy’ with lyrics such as ‘Ask her to sing for you, adore you.’ For the rock song ‘Faster than the Setting Sun’ Fyfe used a foot pedal and managed a truly tight professional sound. He has a powerhouse vocal. There were shades of the Beatles and other musical influences here – and his music ranges from upbeat rock, poignant piano songs and rhythmic guitar tunes. With the audience on its feet by now for his encore he gave us the Guillemot’s ‘Made-up love Song #43’ – and we sang along. Well there is nothing made up about these new feel-good love songs! Fyfe is also a composer of choral music, and leader of the pop alternative and indie rock band the Guillemots, whose first album, Through the Windowpane, was nominated for the 2006 Mercury prize and for a Brit award. His new album was recorded straight in only 5 days, and the album has that raw live feel about it. Go out and listen to his music. I recommend it. An intoxicating performance.

Beth Nielsen Chapman Royal Concert Hall 25th January 2010… Beth Nielsen Chapman showed us why she has had many hit songs covered by well known American artists as she sang her sweet and moving love songs from her latest album, as well as some of her older hits. Her songs have strong melodies and insightful lyrics. Playing piano and with violin strings accompanying she takes the mood down on songs like ‘How We Love’ and ‘Peace’. On stage she has a warm and relaxed style. Stand out songs are the emotive Sand and Water, Peace, How We Love and Even As It All Goes By. She sang emotionally deep songs with piano and strings, which made me think of other well-known female writers such as Carole King and Sarah McLaughlan. Introducing several songs she talked about her writing collaborations with other respected songwriters. She also took the tempo of the concert up performing foot- tapping county guitar songs, with close harmonies. On her new songs she returns to her previous soul-filled style, and her voice sings with a subtle compassion. This concert was the first show of her tour to coincide with the release of her latest album, Back To Love, which was BBC Radio 2’s album of the week on January 18th 2010, and has an expected US release mid-year. Scottish musician Phil Cunningham joined her on stage for several songs. Her song “Even As It All Goes By” closed out 2009 as BBC Radio 2’s “Record of the Week” and was the only new single added to the “A List” of BBC Radio 2’s playlist at the top of 2010. She has had songs covered by Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Neil Diamond, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris among others. She lives in Nashville. Charlie Dore was the support.

Angelique Kidjo Old Fruitmarket Glasgow 21 January 2010 … Angélique Kidjo had the Old Fruitmarket dancing on Friday night. Kidjo and her band brought rhythmic delights and the vibrancy of Africa’s sun- with songs such as ‘Hush Now Child,’ several rumba’s, and afropop dance tunes. She also sang the song La Petit Fleur with simply bass accompanying her heart-stirring voice. She is known for her wide-ranging musical influences – she mentioned James Brown, Steve Wonder, Santana and Otis Redding. Her musical influences include the Afropop, Caribbean, rumba, jazz, gospel and Latin. Kidjo is a grammy award winning Beninoise singer-songwriter. She studied at a Jazz school in Paris and she has recorded four albums for Island Records and in 2000 she was signed by Columbia Records. She has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. She has also recorded songs for movies, Tv and documentaries. Later during the concert Kidjo danced through the packed audience, and it was surprising to note how tiny she was, as on stage she has a big presence. She then invited around15 audience members up to dance behind her on stage, and along to her drummer’s exciting dance beats. An exhilarating and upbeat gig.

Laura Veirs Oran Mor Glasgow Celtic Connections  17 January 2010… Laura was in a print dress and 6 months pregnant she enjoyed a few heckles. She is songstress from Portland Oregan. She sang her coloured lyrics that often draw their roots from the natural world, and sang with her clear vocals and unexpected rhythms on guitar, alongside strong vocal harmonies with the band. She sang songs from her new album ‘July Flame’ to an enthusiastic Scottish audience. A fun summer song inspired by a peach. She played a few requests and had the audience clapping and singing along for a couple of songs. Her backing band consisted of long time members Kate O’Brien-Clark on fiddle, Eric Anderson and Nelson Kempf (Old Believers) on guitar, vocals, balalaika, bass and drums. She is releasing her seventh album, July Flame, under her own label in January 2010. She tours frequently in Europe, North America and Australia.

The Future Trad Collective, Old Fruitmarket 21st January 2010… The Future Trad Collective is the latest band with flutist Michael McGoldrick, producer and guitarist Ian Fletcher and fiddler Andy Dinan. I was stuck with their energetic and accomplished playing, and by their dynamic, fresh and eclectic mix of sounds at this gig. They play several instruments – pipes, whistles, flute, fiddle and guitar – and performed Jigs and Reels, polkas and Breton gavottes fused with everything from AfroCuban Cross-Rhythms, Tabla-driven Funk, Flamenco, Samba, Afrobeat, HipHop to House, Reggae, Disco, Breakbeat and Jungle. Mike has been a member of the respected Scottish ceildih band Capercaillie for nine years. He has also played with many top musicians including Mark Knopfler, John Cale, and Youssou N’Dour. He won the BBC Musician of the Year Folk Award in 2006. Their guitarist Ian has produced film soundtracks ranging from Ambient to Breakbeat and has been collaborating with many different artists. Andy Dinan, is a master of the fiddle having won the all Ireland fiddle championships twice. He has played with Adrian Edmondson and Troy Donockley and the Punk Folk Group, the Bad Shepherds.

Kirsty McGee and the Hobopop Collective Classic Grande  January 16th 2010… Kirsty McGee performed at the Classic Grand as part of Glasgow’s Celtic Connections. She covered several genres including roots, Americana, jazz and blues. Kirsty has a soothing and engrossing vocal that resonates with depth and soul. The Hobopop Collective performed songs from their new ‘Live album No 5’ at the Classic Grand – and they were ably supported by accomplished and versatile singer songwriter John Smith (who has toured with legend John Martyn) and singer Ruth Rotman – for an evening of new folk traditions. The audience were seated on the floor surrounded by candles for thee intimate sets. Kirsty and Mat Martin, with whom she has performed as a duo for the past four years, have a flowing and engrossing vibe to their hopeful love songs. She has moving soul-filled vocals and Mat, with his string instruments, provides energy, colour and shade. They play a mix of laid back jazz-infused bluegrass acoustic tunes and Kirsty’s songs feel light and easy yet full of mystery and meaning. Her travelling songs take inspiration from a close affinity with nature. Stand out songs were the ‘Sandman’, a song backed by Matt’s fun upbeat banjo jazz rhythms; ‘The Last to Understand’ when Kirsty sings with her mellow, caressing voice; The sensitive love song ‘Bliss;’ ‘Stonefruit’ foot tapping jazz basslines from Nick Blacka alongside a strong vocal melody; ‘Dust Devil’ – a moody introspective love song which is soft and slow – yes a song about dust! No, more about how, when we love we have those special connections everywhere we look. Kirsty and her Hobopop Collective finished with ‘Faith’ – an optimistic song full of quiet hope and honest vocals.

The Low Anthem, the Old FruitMarket 28th January 2010… Haunting and even spiritual – they play their music with flexible bass and lots of space. Their lead singer has one of those perfect high tenor voices. They describe their music as Alternative or folk rock. The Low Anthem played their enriching Americana and minimalist rock to an appreciative audience at the Old Fruitmarket Glasgow. The band consists of Ben Knox Miller, a folk musician, Jeff Prystowsky, a jazz bassist and composer Jocie Adams. They played tracks from their third self-released album, 2008’s Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. This album was named Album of the Month by Uncut and was also nominated for the 2009 Uncut Music Award. For me the stand out songs were “Charlie Darwin” ” To Ohio” and “Yellowed by the Sun.” The band also picked the energy of the set up and performed some jazzier and rockier tunes.
They play around 30 instruments between them – including zither, pump organ, Tibetan singing bowl, trumpet, banjo and clarinet – and have influences such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Waits. To give you an idea the Low Anthem is now travelling with – WWI portable pump organ, harmonium, AJ & HH 29″ thunder drum, nipple gong, 3 clarinets, a really big fiddle, E flat marching horn, sizzling set of crotales, electricity aided guitar, rusty saw, accordion, 2 fiddles…and enough harmonicas to summon a swarm of locusts – apparently! They met at Brown university and the band made me think of hippies and various influences from Connor Obrest, the Shins to the Eagles. I enjoyed the ethereal and atmospheric nature of their live performance – low key yet also uplifting. There was very much a student/indie music crowd at this gig. It was worth seeing them live, and I recommend checking them out. They were ably supported by Fraser Anderson a singer-songwriter from Edinburgh who is now living in France, and is due to release his third album, 151, in January 2010.

Danny Thompson and Friends Old Fruitmarket 30th January 2010…  Renowned bass player Thompson introduced an all-star line up that included – Darrell Scott, Luka Bloom, Donald Shaw, Michael McGoldrick, Eddi Reader, Martin Simpson, Mollie O’Brien, and Tim O’Brien. They each recalled memories of Martyn and included several of Martyn’s best loved songs, finishing with his best known , May You Never. This concert was part of the Celtic Connections festival and a tribute to John Martyn who died in January 2009. Thompson came out firstly for a short bass solo centre stage. He is known best as a double bassist, who over his long career has played with among others, respected folk/rock musicians Richard Thompson and John Martyn. Thompson has played with nearly every major artist all over the world, over his fifty five year career. He received a Lifetime achievement award in the 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. One aspect that I enjoy at the Celtic festival is the artists collaborating, and its clear how much fun they were all having working with each other on stage at this gig. Many of the artists at this gig and others, talked about their writing with other artists, and being inspired by them. In this world it is the norm to co-write or cover others songs. This was a quality and stately gig – and uplifting and heartfelt by the performers. Some of Martyn’s songs performed were – Over The Hill, Love Me With Your Head And Heart, May You Never, and The Jelly Roll Blues. Plus other songs that seemed to be chosen to fit with a general theme of optimism in the human spirit. Mollie O’Brien from Tennessee, Tim O’Brien sister, had a very strong jazz-filled voice.

(postscript) Thompson’s initial experience of bass playing was with a skiffle group, with whom he played a tea chest bass (a bass he built himself out of a tea chest, which folded up so he could carry it). In the early 1960s he bought a second-hand double bass from an old man in Battersea who let him have the instrument for £5 (despite the fact that it was worth much more than that), on the basis of his keenness to play it. He christened the instrument “Victoria” and it has remained his instrument of choice ever since. The bass was built by Gand, a French luthier in 1865.


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