Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Punch Brothers Celtic Connections 2015

The Punch Bothers were received with warm applause by fans at the Glasgow concert hall on Friday night. They are a hip and modern, suit-and-tie old time bluegrass band with pure-toned melodic harmonies, foot-tapping banjo and melody strumming mandolin rhythms. They describe themselves as acoustic folk/progressive bluegrass.
They consist of Chris Thile (mandolin), Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar), and Paul Kowert (bass).They performed tracks from their upcoming release , 27th January 2014 - The Phosphorescent Blues including singles I Blew It Off, Julep,

The band play subtle acoustic song stories, unaccompanied singing, instrumentals, spirituals and sing with strong falsettos and harmony. They kept the tempo up with plenty of variety in tone, dynamics, rhythms, strong harmonies and of style. The celtic crowd clearly enjoyed the boys show and they played a welcome encore. I hope they return soon! Recommend.

The band wrote the song Dark Days for the movie Hunger Games 2012, and also performed on the songs The Last Thing on My Mind (Tom Paxton) and Ewan MacColl's The Shoals of Herring on the Coen Brothers 2013 film Inside LLewyn Davis.
Chris Thile (mandolin) is from California and is known for his work with the acoustic band Nickel Creek, an American Grammy award winning progressive acoustic music trio (2002 Best Contemporary Folk Album)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Braebach at the Old Fruitmarket Celtic Connections 2015


Quality Celtic concert!
 To begin the night New Zealander Horomana Horo arrived in impressive full Maori gear and with his band Waoira started the show with an entertaining set of Moari traditional songs. Horo is a Maori musician with a powerful presence and expressive voice. Waiora's music blends the tradition and modern along with classical guitarist Joshua Rogers.

He played traditional instruments that were subdued and floating for such a big man!  He told of his songs being about the conversation between the elements. He also treated us to a Haki Moari dance. One song expressed admiration for female virtues, another for manly strengths.

Horo is a leading player of his culture's traditional taonga puro instruments. He spoke of the revitalization of Moari music, language and culture. Highly enjoyable set.  http://www.horomonahoro.com/
 
II After which we were treated to the Alan Kelly Band. Kelly is an innovative Irish piano accordionist and he brought an array of top rated folk musicians with him that included  - Alasdair White (Battlefield band) who was impressive and expressive on fiddle, Manus Lunny on double bass (Capercaillie), guitarist Tony Byrne and flutist and vocalist Steph Geremia. Their music combines Irish, Scottish, Breton and Asturian.  

They were joined for one song with Scottish songstress Eddi Reader - who sat near me enjoying their set! Their recent album The Last Bell is well worth checking out. http://alankellygang.com/band/

III Tonight's headliners were Scottish band Braebach who have won several awards and the band mix traditions with their highly individual inventiveness. All multi talented musicians they consist of Calum MacCrimmon (Pipes and Whistles), Megan Henderson ((Fiddle), Ewan Robertson (Guitar,Cajon) and James Duncan Mackenzie (Pipes and Bazouki) and James Lindsay (Double Bass).

Breabach played fine tunes, ranging from jigs and reels, Gaelic songs and Scottish dancing along with uniquely inspired twin pipes. Keeping to their traditional roots the band also brings an inventiveness to their music. This old worldly venue is one of my Glasgow favourites and provides a perfect back drop for

Bagpipes meet taonga puoro when Horo joined the band on stage for their collaborative music together at the successful and ground-breaking 2014 Womad Boomerang Project,  to explore the links between Celtic, Aboriginal and Maori cultures, through language, contemporary music, and dance. http://womad.org/artists/boomerang-project

This concert marked the tenth anniversary since the band won Celtic Connections Danny Kyle stage. The busy Fruitmarket were truly given a high quality concert tonight and showed their enthusiastic appreciation! 

Songline named the band's album, Urlar, as one of the top ten Scottish albums of 2014. http://breabach.com/

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Withered Hand and Brazilian rapper Criolo Celtic Connections 2015


Tonight was an unexpected pairing. Scottish indie rocker Withered hand (aka Dan Wilson) has been gathering top reviews for his albums and The Herald recently listed his album as the top Scottish album of 2014.

The busy ABC crowd were mainly there to see Brazilian rapper and hip hop artist Criolo, but Withered Hand and his six piece band received a warm welcome and they played a strong set with both thoughtful and upbeat songs.

He sang with his band that consisted of cello, accordion, bass, guitar, drums and backing singer. Songs included - King of Hollywood (dedicated to Chuck Berry), Fall Apart, New Roads, Religious Song. His music is a all about the song stories and catchy hooks that stand above many songs today - he writes songs to get lost in.

Wilson's first studio album, Good News and 2014 album, New Gods have been released in both the UK and US. He performed at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas in 2014, as part of the Scottish Showcase.  http://witheredhand.com
 

Next up was Brazilian rapper, singer songwriter and hip hop artist Criolo who owned the ABC stage as he danced and acted out his songs and with many Glasgow fans there ready to rock also and enjoy the show. He performed with his band, that included keys, bass, guitar and drums, a dynamically energized set. 

Withered Hand joined Criolo on stage with his guitar for one song in the spirit of the festival's dynamic and wide-ranging collaborations. Criolo was highly entertaining and the audience danced and jumped along to his tracks. His music mixes Afrobeats, soul, samba, and reggae. He certainly brought his sunshine rhythms to a cold Glasgow night.
In 2011 “Nó na Orelha” won Best Album at the Brazilian Music Video Awards. http://www.criolo.net/convoqueseubuda/

It was hard to see the Celtic connections here except that the music festival does encourage music voices world wide – from roots, folk, world and indie.  Music at Celtic is not about the mainstream, but rather about quality and challenging new boundaries.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Celtic Connections Opening concert 'Nae Regrets' of Martyn Bennett’s GRIT album


We were treated to an outstanding opening concert!
Highly innovative. Multi-talented, multi-layered orchestra. Put a smile on my face.

Martyn Bennett's 2003 GRIT was given its live premier with a colourful score by composer Greg Lawson and the concert proved one of the best events I've been to at Celtic Connections music festival.

Bennett was a Scottish musician and composer and the concert marked the tenth anniversary of his untimely death at the age of thirty-three - poignantly he wrote the album while he was dying of cancer. The album offers a musical journey - producing pounding bass rhythms, hesitant strings, gradual and also unexpected crescendos, brass epic grandeur, haunting Gaelic voices, thematic stirring pipes and also humour. The Grit album is about pushing the boundaries and limitations.

The orchestra of over 80 musicians on the Glasgow concert hall stage tonight consisted of mostly younger folk, jazz and classical musicians. I expect they enjoyed playing a new piece that felt contemporary yet drawing strongly on past traditions. 

Conductor Greg appeared overcome as he reached the summit tonight, after years in the planning and he commented that he needed a crash helmet as it felt like his head might explode!


I The first half was of songs from the Grit album and performed by a cast of accomplished Scottish singers - Quebec quartet LeVent Du Nord began with strong harmonies; followed by Fiona Hunter who sang Berry fields of Blair and Young Emslie with Mike Vass on guitar; Rab Noakes sang MacPherson's Rant and To Each and Everyone of You. Gaelic singer Isabel Ann Martin sang beautifully accompanied by Donald Shaw on piano.

II For the second half the full orchestra played the entire GRIT album. Even the word Grit produces earthy, real connotations. Lawson commented that folk music draws strongly on solid music roots, but  ike a river needs to play and experiment with those traditions in order not to stay stagnant and to be brought into the modern age.

On Blackbird male choral voices were brought into the modern age with dancing African drumbeats, resonating textures and bass beats. On the track Why there were soothing strings and clarinet along with Karen Matheson haunting voice. The Wedding track was heart breaking with hesitant, sad, subdued strings when a song breaks the stillness with happier times and then with a dynamic sax melody.  
Bennet's music shifted on its axis taking sound into new orbits - ground breaking and energizing. For anyone who thinks folk music is backward looking this concert was highly innovative with jazz, rock elements, classical, Gaelic songs, MORE!  I have never seen an orchestra bobbing up and down and enjoying themselves so much - especially all those eight double bass players!

Only a few concerts put a smile on your face but this one did!

Bennett - ‘Try and find those things that make us Scottish. They are not necessarily tartan, but are no less colorful. They are in the sound of the kick drum, the bass line, the distortion, the punk guitar, the break-beat. Try and see the old ways in new surroundings.‘
'This album was a chance for me to present a truthful picture, yet face my own reflection in the great mirror of all cultures.’
http://www.martynbennett.com

In the studio, he traversed and transcended boundaries, of multiple levels, from that of image – as ‘the dreadlocked piper’ – to those of genre, art-form and audience.

PS Renowned traditional Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan decided to withdraw from the concert as it was being filmed by the BBC and due to his feeling strongly that the BBC bias during the referendum was intolerable for him.  He is performing his own concert during Celtic –
 'Scots music has never sounded like this before. No music has ever sounded like this before’ Mojo
GRIT Track listing
1.      'Move' – 4.10 Minutes
2.      'Blackbird' – 6.10 Minutes
3.      'Chanter' – 4.10 Minutes
4.      'Nae Regrets' – 3.50 Minutes
5.      'Liberation' – 4.20 Minutes
6.      'Why' – 4.30 Minutes
7.      'Ale House' – 3.50 Minutes
8.      'Wedding' – 5.45 Minutes
9.      'Rant' – 4.31 Minutes
10.   'Storyteller' – 9.39 Minutes

Filmed by the BBC the concert will be shown 22nd January 9pm - 
Here’s a BBC slip of Chanter  -  http://www.bbc.co.uk/martynbennettegrit
Music journalist Sue Wilson is presently writing Bennett’s autobiography.


Friday, 9 January 2015

Music Crossing Borders


Music and the arts cross boundaries and speak for all of us. 
With new technologies we can listen to music and songs across the centuries and across the world.

At Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow each January they offer many unique collaborations between musicians from many diverse parts of the world.

American record producer John Hammond worked for racial integration in music in the 1930s. He was responsible for the revival of black blues musician Robert Johnson, who was a big influence on a young folk singer from Hibbing Minnesota, Bob Dylan.  Hammond was a civil rights activist, musician and music critic. He developed many now famous jazz musicians such as - Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Count Bassie, Pete Seeger, Aretha Franklin, George Benson - and later also folk and rock musicians such as Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen.
He strived for racial integration, not only in the musical frontier but in general. Hammond believed that music might bring people together.
 
In the late 1950s black singer James Brown took R&B and soul to a new sound with his song 'Cold Sweat' which showed the world that the future would be with funk.  The sound became more intense with less and with the groove more important.

In the 60s in the UK Blues singers and guitarists were bought on records and led to British groups such as the Stones and The Beatles 
In the UK bands such as the Led Zeppelin borrowed funk grooves. Then there was the funkiest UK band, Scottish band The Average White Band, who topped the US charts with their album Picking Up the Pieces. 

In 1986 American singer songwriter Paul Simon collaborated with South African musicians, as he loved their dynamic rhythms, during the racial divisions of apartheid and brought different voices together for his famous Graceland album.

*CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2015!

Transatlantic Sessions
Fred Morrison
Julie Fowlis
CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2015 starts next week on 15th January!

Celtic is one of the music highlights of the Scottish calendar, with many top musicians worldwide and such interesting collaborations. Celtic is the world biggest folk music festival - with over 2000 performers, 300 shows, over 18 days and 20 venues.

Van Morrison is the biggest name this year.
Other highlights include, Fairport Convention, Eddi Reader, King Creosote, Skerryvore, Roaming Roots Revue, Braebach and more.

The main concerts are held at the festival.s centre, The Glasgow Concert Hall, which will host many of the bigger names and concerts;

Glasgow Concert Hall
The Opening concert will feature the music of Scottish composer Martin Bennett's Grit album with the full orchestra.

There is a tribute concert to celebrated songwriter and folk legend Ewan MacColl (1915 - 1989) hosted by his sons Calum and Neill - with Dick Gaughan, Martin Carthy, Karine Polwart, Jarvis Cocker and Eliza Carthy.

A show of the award winning Hollywood composer Craig Armstrong new album it's Nearly Tomorrow with singers Paul Buchanan, and Brett Anderson. His cinema scores include Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and Romeo and Juliet.

Other highlights include - Fairport Convention, Eddi Reader, King Creosote, and world music with the exuberant soul of African singer Angelique Kidjo and the Scottish National Orchetra.
And of course the sold out Transatlantic Sessions with top musicians form Scotland and America joining forces – led by fiddler Aly Bain and dubro player Jerry Douglas. 
Nicola Benedetti
Rab Noakes
The Old Fruitmarket often hosts fun celeidh bands; The City Halls for seated concerts; The O2 ABC Sauchiehall street for some of the younger indie bands. The Oran Mor and St Andrews on the Square will hold smaller concerts – which can also be outstanding events with creative and top artists. You can check the festival’s online brochure for more details. http://www.celticconnections.com/
Angelique Kidjo

It is also well worth checking out the open mics at the Danny Kyle stage for new talent and also the Late Sessions which so many of the performers turn up for.

 Celtic Connections 2015  - 'music that is personal and unique'. Music that holds hundreds of stories like the big old tree.  http://www.celticconnections.com/