Tuesday, 18 January 2011

'The Burns Unit' Celtic Connections Old Fruitmarket 2011

'The Burns Unit' first debuted at Celtic 2009. I took photos at this gig - and was immediately struck by the diverse colourful nature of the young talents of this Scottish and Canadian eight-piece line-up. From well renowned folk singer songwriter Karine Polwart to Emma Pollock of Delgados fame; to Fife's King Creosote and guitarist AKA pilot to pianist Kim Edgar; to exuberant Canadian Michael Johnston and rapper MC Soom T; and to producer and drummer Mattie Foulds.  I had previously seen Karine perform her emotional acoustic folk songs at several gigs - and to see her pounding those drums ( I assume to initiate her into the rockier rhythms of the band) appeared a big change in direction! 

At first glance it appears a disparate while accomplished group with little in common except their love of music and Celtic roots. However they have brought together a unique blending of influences to produce challenging and interesting songs, and they appear to enjoy their musical collaborationsDuring their set the mood altered from mainly folk/rock to the dancing Caribbean-tinged rhythms of singer MC Soom T very catchy numbers. 
The Old Fruitmarket is full of old-world charms and the perfect venue for this kind of line-up and they appeared more relaxed together. The stand out performances were from singer songwriters Emma Pollock and King Creosote - along with strong vocal harmoniesKarine performed some of her touching and sincere acoustic guitar songs.
This is a band in slow motion! having formed in 2006. All the artists pursue their own individual careers, while they also all have the duties of young parenthood upon them, and so this line-up is very much a part-time collaboration. After writing in pairs, at the end of the songwriting week for the Burnsong in 2006, they were persuaded by Johnston to perform their new songs collectively. And so the new band was born.
Inevitably with only short periods together, some members may feel more comfortable within the band than others. I felt Johnston on keys was bouncing around the stage rather too much, while he did interact well with the audience - and I wasn't entirely sure how comfortable Karine was at times.  However they did perform an enjoyable set with memorable songs - and it will be interesting to follow their future. Their debut CD, Side Show, was released in 2010.