Thursday, 27 February 2014

Rab Noakes Milngavie Folk club

Long Dark Night (Demos and Rarities 1971 - 2011)
Where Dead Voices Gather
Do That Again
Wrong Joke Again (Red Pump Special)
Brand New Heartache (The Everly Brothers)
I'm Walkin Here (new album 2014)
Your Clear White Light (Lindisfarne).
The Sketcher on the Last Train
Out of Your Sight
More than I can say

The welcoming club was packed out with people standing at the sides - the club is often filled with addicted folkies like myself(!) and with relaxed friendly chat. The last time I saw Rab here the crowd was half this size perhaps as it was the month before Christmas. I usually pick gigs of artists I particularly enjoy.
In 2013 Noakes released a 40th anniversary edition of his Red Pump Special album. He told us that the album was first recorded in Nashville with a cracking squad and somebody in the room had worked with Hank Williams.

Noakes sang 4 excellent cover songs choices  Brand New Heartache (The Everly Brothers?), Your Clear White Light (Alan Hall of Lindisfarne), Guessing Kitchen Porter (Michael Marra) and O The Wind and the Rain (Percy's Song) - Rab likes juxtapositions in songs and this one was a murder ballad sung to a sweet guitar waltz. 

Rab sings songs of different eras with small histories and moods and stories and like fine wine gets better over time... I dont' wish to pick out favourites as every song has something special.  He said the mark of a good song was if it can age with you.

One song was about being able to recognise a window of opportunity when it opens...., and I wondered about his lost times when he left Stealers Wheel with Gerry Rafferty and his slot on the BBCs Old Grey Whistle test.  He told the stories behind his songs and musical journeys and his songs range from harder hitting questions to subtler optimisms.
Rab called his style 21st century skiffle - in the style of Guthrie or Leadbelly before the folk revival and also a wee bit Buddy Holly.  Noakes crosses the generations, as he looks and sounds both of now and of those fifties folk songs. .

I can understand that artists like to perform their newer material while I know also that fans would wish to hear some of his older favourites such as Branch or Clear day - perhaps the audience might sing the backing vocals!

Don't' Act Like your Heart Isn't' hard
Travelling Light
Jackson Greyhound
Guessing Kitchen Porter (Michael Marra)
It happened All the Same
O The Wind and the Rain (Percy's Song)
Time Slipping Away
Don't say Money Doesn't' Matter

Rab Noakes PHOTOS -
Rob Noakes -  with  Where Dead Voices Gather' - still relevant and even better than his younger days.... 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Women Writers

Katharine Quarmby

Recently historical fiction has been selling well with the success of such series as George RR Martin's Game of Thrones which combines fantasy and history for vivid effect and also Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies.   

Many of the writers of historical fiction happen to be women and they have found that in order to achieve sales to men they have to publish under gender non specific names such as - SJ Parris, Al Berridge, MJ Carter, MC Scott. 
As stated in the Sunday Times magazine (P.Nicol Dec 2013) when writer Miranda Scott published her Rome espionage series as Miranda her readership was 80% female/ 20% male, yet when she published as MC Scott her readers shifted to 50/ 50 male/female.  
Philippa Gregory author of the White Queen holds 7 of the top 20 titles and Cornwell is the only male author in the top 15 of best selling historical fiction. . 

It should be noted also (!)  that not ALL women writers of historical fiction are writing romance tales and that some write of bloody war adventures and intrigue. 
Women will read male writers and watch male movies and it helps women to understand the male psyche. A male writer wrote recently that if men want to understand women then they should read the books on women's book shelves and watch the tv and films that women enjoy!  

Cathy Renzenbrink, reviewer The Bookseller, ' While more women read books, there is more attention in book-review pages to books written by men.  Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies, the second in her Thomas Cromwell series, was a best seller in 2013.  She holds the top and third place in the best sellers list and she says,' It is the nature of the World that men and women take men more seriously.'
(Some of my photos of women writers at Edinburgh Book festival)

Elif Şafak

Noo Sara-Wiwa

Brits 2014

Good to see several of those artists I have posted on my blog about over the years nominated at The Brits - legend Nile Rodgers (Le Chic), new artists Lorde, Haim, James Blake and with Emeli Sande presenting the Mastercard album award.

Nile talked in Edinburgh of disco being out of favour and good to see his talent recognised again. Rodgers wrote songs with David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross and more. Rodgers performed at the awards ceremony finale along with hip-hop artist Pharrell Williams.  They sang Good Times! And Happy! And Shiny Happy People!

King of style David Bowie won best male, strangely 30 years after his last Brit and with model Kate Moss reading his acceptance speech and even asking that Scotland not to go independent!  The British global success award went to Simon Cowell’s boyband One Direction while Sam Smith won the Critic’s choice award. 

Good to see rock and roll back in favour with the successes of young band Artic Monkeys. I was surprised to enjoy much of the show as there have been times it has all felt stuffy, predictable and with mostly over the top performances.  Yet sometimes I’m not entirely convinced….

Of the younger artists I really like the subtle timbre of Lorde’s voice and the 17-year-old singer-songwriter from New Zealand, won the best international female solo artist.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Celtic Connnections festival 2014

Nicola Benedetti and Phil Cunningham
#ccfest  Each cold January Celtic Connections brightens our dark evenings with warm, enriching ceilidh music, beautiful 
Gaelic song and exhilarating world music. It's a celebration of the folk song and traditions, dynamic collaborations 
of renowned Scottish musicianship alongside famous world artists - and more than that an introduction to new artists. 
Celtic is all about the live interaction with the audience and very much about the live bands. 

I have attended Celtic for many years now and the buzz at this festival is particularly infectious. The hub of Celtic is at the Glasgow Concert Hall which provides a fitting setting for the main concerts. Other venues range from the intimate Oran Mor to the atmospheric Old Fruitmarket in the Merchant city part of town - excellent for ceilidhs.

This year at Celtic 2014, its 21st year, I heard some wonderful musicians here for the first time  -  Lau, RM Hubbert, Mogwai, Imelda May, Nicola B, Del Amitri and from Greece Alkinoos Ioannidis. I also enjoyed artists I'd heard before - Dougie MacLean, Julie Fowlis, erry Douglas, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever, Capercaillie. I enjoyed several top concerts this year at Celtic and it certainly gets me through January!                          

Celtic sells out several big venues on the same night. When Celtic started back twenty one years ago in 1995 people wondered would they draw a crowd out at this quiet time of year in January to see folk concerts? It really is incredible how the festival has grown year on year to become the biggest folk festival gathering worldwide.
Julie Fowlis
Joy Kills Sorrow
Kris Drever
There was crossovers between folk and classical music at the festival with among others - Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain have been working with classical violinist Nicola Benedetti for her new Scottish themed album.  Also award-winning folk band Lau composed with the classical and experimental Elysian Quartet - 'The Bell That Never Rang'  for the New Music Biennial Glasgow 2014.
Julie Fowlis & Nicola Benedetti

Duncan Chisholm
The Big Dish

At Celtic's main event, the Transatlantic Sessions - and who are one of my all time favoruite bands - there are crossovers between Scottish traditional music and American country and bluegrass - it is a powerful combination!  When music making goes in new directions with challenging collaborations, that is often when the best music can develop.  

Capercaillie celebrated their 30 years together at the festival with a concert to mark the release of their album 'At the Heart of It All'.  The band are one of Scotland's most successful contemporary folk bands and are led by festival artistic director Donald Shaw and the beautiful voice of Karen Matheson.
Dougie MacLean Burns International concert Hydro

It is good to see and hear the confidence, creativity, pride and range in Scottish music these days.  It is a huge boost for Glasgow to host this international event each year.
I  particularly enjoyed -  Alkinoos Ioannidis, RM Hubbert, Del Amitri, Lau, and Julie Fowlis.  
There are often several wonderful concerts on the same night. One good thing is there is much encouragement given 
over the festival to new musicians – with the Late Sessions, Open mic and also Showcase Scotland.   
Lau at Glasgow City Halls
Aidan O'Rourke with Lau
Darrell Scott & Tim O'Brien
Jerry Douglas & Aly Bain Transatlantic Sessions
Shaw does a great job of pulling the festival together to offer diversity, breadth and quality. It’s clear he enjoys varied and interesting collaborations.  
The festival encourages playing live, ethnic traditions, vocal harmonies, unaccompanied singing, story telling songs and words with a message, real instruments and diverse collaborations. I look forward to next year's Celtic Connections festival!

Imelda May
Del Amitri
The Hydro

All Photographs are copyright Pauline Keightley and are made with permission of the artists, the festival, and the venues involved. Photos at Celtic Connections since 2008.
Rab Noakes -  with  Where Dead Voices Gather' - still relevant and even better than his younger days.... 

The folk songs

Pete Seeger

The folk music world is more interested in the heritage and building on the past then on fashions or commercial motivations.

Folk songs are often about social commentary of the conditions or situations people found themselves in and in the human condition. Folk musicians write new songs in old folk styles.

American folk singer **Pete Seeger who died recently left a rich heritage of now classic folk songs - such as Turn Turn Turn, Where Have all the Flowers Gone.  His light delivery sometimes masked a clever commentary on the times. The song Little Boxes was his only chart hit (written by Malina Reynolds) and the song commentated on our decline towards cultural shallowness ' Little boxes all made out of ticky, tacky and they all look just the same'

Seeger was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and shunned by radio and tv. Like Woody Guthrie and his song 'this land is our land', Seeger sang about the rights of everyman. He was respected as a cult hero in the folk worlds by musicians such as Dylan or Springsteen and by folk musicians here in the UK. 'He was a folk commentator with a bitingly humanist touch.'  Quote Times.  Seeger was 95 and had lived through 17 presidents.  
Bob Dylan & Pete Seeger
My journey. I had my own journey into folk music in my early twenties when I dated a guitarist folk singer from Ayr. He played folk rhythms along with fiddles and banjos at Sandy Bells bar Edinburgh. It was a new world to me of live gig playing, melodic fiddle, harmony singing and foot tapping and hand clapping reels. It was wonderful.  

Before this I had mostly heard my music via vinyl Beatles LPs (also wonderful in a different way) radio, theatre music with a small orchestra, singing in school choirs, playing piano, my father singing Irish songs and some live gigs such as Jethro Tull and Cream.  My father used to ask me to accompany him on piano while he sang.  

I also developed a love of the classic masters through playing piano. I had lessons over several years from age 7 to 15 and I was very fortunate that my first teacher taught me firstly the joy of playing and to use the correct touch on the piano keys. I eventually studied and played Bach, Beethoven and Mozart Sonatas. At first I thought Mozart’s piano music had too many notes! but after some practice.... I realised he was rather a genius at expressing emotional melodies.   

My folk boyfriend introduced me to traditional music such a Dick Gaughan, who I saw live in Edinburgh, and to his record collection that included other great guitarists - John Martyn, Richard Thompson and more.  We went to folk festivals. I was taken in by the difference in the folk world to the other music worlds.

Folk songs care about the message and the story of the song and music is also considered a shared experience. 
Today there are folk singers here (and elsewhere) who continue this tradition of singing about the human condition – such as in Scotland Karine Polwart, Dick Gaughan, Rab Noakes,

 I don't believe in socialism or hand outs - but I believe in equality.
And the folk traditionalists are right,  the 'equality' raises us all up! - not by dragging us all down but by raising standards! 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Transatlantic Sessions at Celtic Connections 2014

This unique concert is enriching and heart warming.
There was more banter tonight with fun chat between songs and as always superb playing by the strong cast of musicians. It was clear how much fun they all have playing together and Jerry Douglas even said this was his favourite time of the year. I know too how much I enjoy the buzz during Celtic. My son usually comes to Transatlantic with me and he enjoys seeing guys like Douglas and Aly Bain playing – he’s now at Aberdeen University so I missed him tonight.

The stage was set with the Scottish musicians on the left and the American musicians on the right. Musical directors - Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas. Also, Phil Cunningham, Danny Thompson, Russ Barenberg, Bruce Molsky, Mike McGoldrick, John Doyle, John McCusker, James Mackintosh and Donald Shaw.

Bands don’t come much better than this one and it is always a joy to hear them play!  I always enjoy John Doyle and Danny Thompson on their dynamic rhythm section. One of the reasons for the success of the TS is the way they have the stage set as an informal jam session, with those not performing sitting on a couch at the side of the stage with their customary onstage ‘green room.’
Kris Drever

We were treated to some excellent singers at this concert – Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis sang a beautiful version of McCartney’s Blackbird, while Kris Drever, who’s had a brilliant year, sang the songs - You are The Call, Isle of France and Shining Star.  Kris and Julie joined in also with the band and clearly enjoyed every minute.
Tim O'Brien & Darrell Scott

There was also the top quality from American singers were – Shawn Colvin and Sarah Jarosz. Shawn Colvin had success in the 80s.
Plus two very talented American regulars at Transatlantic, who are from West Virginia and Kentucky respectively - Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott who recently released a duo album, entitled Memories & Moments.  Brilliant guitarist Russ Barenberg played one of his lovely guitar melodies. There was the emotion of Aly’s fiddle and the highly individual drama of Jerry Douglas's resonator guitar - a highlight of the night is his solo performance at the start of the second half. (Douglas is an award winning American Dobro master)
Jerry Douglas

Transatlantic is the big event for the last weekend and now tours the UK after its two sold out shows at Celtic Connections.
I also attended a couple of Late Sessions at the Piping centre and saw some quality artists there too. I am now sad the fun weeks of the festival are over for another year.
Phil Cunningham, Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas

**SET LIST :  Band - Waitin for the federal; Kris Drever – You are the call, Isle of France; Sarah Jarosz – Runaway, Ring Them balls;  Band - The Hull; Julie Fowlis – Blackbird, 
Bruce Molsky - Blackest Crow; Band - Wee Michael; Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott - One more Drink; Darrell Scott – Come into the room;  Shawn Colvin  - All Fall Down, Don’t worry me now.

Second half. Band - Irish Beauty Air; Sarah, Julie, John D, Jerry, Danny, Donald, John, Mike -
Build me up from bones;  Shady Grove - Sarah Jarosz, Tim O’Brien – Brother Wind; Russ Barenberg – Out Time; Julie Fowlis – Roghain air and The Choice;  Kris Drever – Shining Star: Shawn Colvin – These Four Walls, Diamond in the Rough.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Lau Glasgow City Halls Celtic Connections 2014

The stage at the City Halls was set with a line of glowing lights and the sign on Martin Green's keyboards, which was set on it's side, proclaimed 'I Love The NHS'. Lau of course is an Orcadian word that means 'natural light.' 

Lau are an award-winning folk band who have been gaining attention last year for their music of traditional folk voices and traditional folk song themes mixed with contemporary influences. They played on the BBCs Jools Holland show in 2012. The band are - respected singer songwriter and guitarist Kris Drever, acclaimed fiddler Aidan O’Rourke and an innovative accordionist Martin Green.  

They played mostly instrumental tunes and also some songs. Kris sang with his warm voice the songs Ghost and Midnight Feast.  Martin said their Ghost EP was about social migration and documented how we are stronger through our diversity.  

During the concert tonight Lau played one of the first performances for the UK's first New Music Biennial as part of Glasgow 2014 Events - 'The Bell That Never Rang.' 
The piece was commissioned by Celtic Connections and PRSF and composed and performed along with the contemporary experimental strings of the Elysian Quartet.  The music was carried through with Drever’s subtle guitar, while the layering textures and challenge of Lau’s traditional folk sound worked perfectly with the classical musicians.

Kris often leans forward on his guitar and they pull their energies together. Aidan is a powerful fiddler who moves a lot as he plays. While Martin experiments with varied soundscapes, and on one tune he played the soothing sounds of the sea

Lau are an experimental outfit and also work on Lau-land mini festivals and on other collaborations and they are taking folk in new directions and crossing boundaries with their music.
Quote Aidan O'Rourke on Lau's website - the band's music makes excursions into jazz, world, Gaelic and classical music and fiddling to the fore of another magnificent supergroup, Kan. “We’re folk musicians but firstly we’re musicians with a love of different styles and we don’t think we’re cheating on anybody by drawing on that. We all love and play a wide range of music but what we have in common is a deep love of hardcore traditional music.”
They were well supported by Canadian Annabelle Chvostek, who was previously with the Wailin Jennys. She had a silky soft-toned voice and played country folk tunes with echoing violin and electric bass.    

I saw several other faces from the Scottish music scene at the concert, such as Louis Abbot of Admiral Fallow (Lau supported his band at the Queens Hall Edinburgh last year).
The event was preceded at the City Halls by the press launch for the UK's first New Music Biennial as part of Glasgow 2014 Events. (funded by PRSF for music)

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

New Music Biennial

Lau at the City Hall's premier
New Music Biennial
There was a press launch at the Glasgow City Halls 30th January for the Premiere of 'The Bell That Never Rang' by Lau w/ Elysian Quartet.

The event was funded by PRSF For Music for the UK's first New Music Biennial as part of the Glasgow 2014 program.  It consists of 20 pieces of music from composers and performers across the UK which have been inspired by an international collaboration of idea. 
All the new pieces will be performed at two showcases over one weekend - one at London's Southbank Centre (4-6 July) and Glasgow Concert Halls (1-2 August). These performances will also be available to listen to on BBC Radio 3.  
Aims - To explore the connections between audiences and artist and to take art to new places and new audiences.
The projects are also about how people view Scotland - how people see us, what we value. 

The launch was presented by Vanessa Reid - Executive Director PRS for Music Foundation, who praised Glasgow’s creative spirit and commented that the city never tires of experimenting. 
oundation, who praised Glasgow’s creative spirit and commented that the city never tires of experimenting. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Imelda May Old Fruitmarket Celtic Connections 2014

May rocked the Old Fruitmarket.  
She sparkled on stage and moved and shimmied with a free energy as she bounced her mic, clapped and appeared to enjoy her set of upbeat dance tunes.
May has a fine set of vocal pipes, as well as loads of personality.   
She performed songs from her forthcoming new album due in 2014 and also older favourites - such as the songs Mayhem and Here Comes Johnny.  
For her encore she sang along to only a ukulele, a song Dreams Are Free, and then with full band she sang Breakdown.
There was lots of clapping along to the songs and the packed hall was full of both younger and aging rockers eager to relive fun times! 
Imelda Mary Higham, from Dublin has had amazing success and she clearly fills a niche for rockabilly and rock n roll nostalgia. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

RM Hubbert Concert Hall Celtic Connections 2014

Guitarist and singer songwriter RM Hubbert supported Glasgow band Mogwai at the Glasgow concert hall. I had read that Hubbert's 2013 album had won the SAY (Scottish Album of the Year Award) 2013, so I came with some expectations to this concert. Even so, some artists take you off guard and as I have followed music over many years it can be all too easy to become jaded hearing samey songs.
Hubbert appeared genuine and unassuming musician, whose music was all about his guitar.
He played mostly instrumental tunes. For his second song he played his own very good interpretation of I Once Loved a Lass, a favourite folk song of mine. His next tune had moody beating drums guitar and a husky voice. He showed a clear understanding that music is firstly about what moves us and secondly about techniques and using those skilled to best ability.
He played his tunes with unexpected subtleties, strong strumming, dancing fingers, slow pauses, hesitant steps guitar strings plucking and questioning notes. He also managed to hold the packed concert hall attention throughout with both his informal chat and well crafted tunes.
On one particularly emotional tune, entitle For Joe, he spoke first about his parents death and that he felt able to speak to an audience - and I guess he gets to speak through his music too. This tune had talking guitar and expressed the many complex feelings of grief and loss – from  missing you to happy memories and returned to missing you feelings.


The singer Aiden Moffat joined Hubbert on stage of Car Song which was another highlight.    
I was truly impress and even bought the CD - this doesn't happen a lot! 
Hubbert is a member Scottish post rock band El Hombre Trajeado, and also a member of the Glaswegian DIY music scene since 1991.