Wednesday 15 February 2017

Transatlantic Sessions 2017

An electrifying, giddy and enriching concert to warm those cold winter blues!
As the lights flickered on stage we were treated to a concert of welcome variety – of hand-clapping Scottish energy jigs and reels, of flamboyant, country airs; foot-stomping thrills and of quality musicianship.

The TS band was led by musical director and host, expert dobro player Jerry Douglas who loomed large and also by the gifted, unassuming fiddler Aly Bain, who makes it look so easy and who was flanked by composer and long time partner Phil Cunningham.

On the left was the Scottish contingent with the ever popular Uillean pipes, whistle and flute player Michael McGoldrick, fiddler John McCusker, along with festival director Donald Shaw on piano who added to the quality line up with their energetic Scots tunes. On occasions there is spontaneous appreciation from the enthusiastic crowd.

While on the right of the stage, the American banjos with Douglas, Dirk Powell and guitarist Russ Barenburg took up the pace and rhythm. It’s a welcome coming together of those strands of music that travelled from these shores to the Smokey Mountains, the Great Plains and of the many returns and new pathways added. It’s a delight to mix it up – when American country meets Scottish roots and fiddle tunes!
The hall was packed and buzzed with anticipation. Douglas was on grand form, while the backing singers danced. This concert is set up on stage as a casual back porch session with a sofa for the singers, which adds to the warm chemistry.

And then there is those heart-warming melodic songs sung by Jim Lauderdale, Karan Casey, Dirk, Tift Marritt, Eddi,Reader, John Paul White.
From Carolina Tift Merritt’s voice was powerful at the piano with the song ‘Heartache is an Uphill Climb’ and she also sang ‘Easter Lights’. ‘Good Hearted Man’ and ‘Wait for Me’. Americana and bluegrass singer Jim Lauderdale had loads of character with his accomplished ‘Headed for the Hills’, ‘Angel Band,’ I Lost You’ and ‘We’ve Only got so much time’. Irish lass Karan Casey was a delight and she sang - ‘Dol Cashes’, backed by well blended harmonies, the lovely lullaby ‘Lovely Annie’ and and the anti-colonial song ‘The Kings Shilling.‘
Regular top guitarist Russ Barenburg performed his tune ‘Hymn’ - he knows when to hold back, keep it subtle enough but bring emotion too with that simple melody. Dirk Powell, played old-time Appalachian style banjo with his ‘Motherless Child’, ‘High Score King’ and ‘Waterbound,’ when he spoke fondly of his grandfather’s inspirations. While always bouncy Irish guitarist John Doyle sang ‘The Bonny Light Horseman’ and Phil Cunningham played his moving tune ‘Irish Beauty.‘

From Alabama Grammy winning John Paul White (The Civil Wars) mixes country and blues and impressed with a dramatic soulful performance of his songs ‘Make You Cry’, Crazy Arms, ‘What’s So’ and ‘I’ve Been Over this Before.’
The ever popular, charismatic flame-haired Eddi Reader, warmed our hearts with healing songs to lift our spirits in these turbulent days. She sang the Burns song ‘Winter is Past’ and with Willie Nelson’s ‘Back to Earth’ and a rockin ‘Humingbird.’ 
John Paul White
Douglas spoke of the musicians we have sadly lost the past year and all the singers performed a rousing  tribute to country singer Guy Clark, described as the King of Texas Troubadours, with his ‘Desperado’s Waiting for the Train.‘

*It’s clear not only are the band all good friends but great musical partnerships – Jerry and Russ, Aly and Phil, Michael and John. Plus the engine room of the band Danny Thompson (double bass), James MacIntosh (drums) and John Doyle (rhythm guitar). who are tight with their right on rhythms. Performing with such a high quality band certainly raises everyone’s game.
The Americans Tim O’Brien and fiddler haven’t managed TS recently, I hope they might return. This concert is all about what works, tradition, depth, quality players. I hope too we might see a woman musician of equal quality standard join the band some time soon!

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Rab Noakes at the Old Fruitmarket Celtic Connections

Rab looked smart in a black and grey stripped suit and with his good looking band, began his show with ‘Let The Show Begin’! This was an evening of song and stories.

Rab introduced his band - Innes Watson (fiddle), Una MacGlone  (double bass), Stuart Brown (drums), Una McImrpov, Christine Hanson (cello), Lisbee Roo IBanjo), and Jill Jackson (vocals), I was impressed as he had four woman musicians in his band along with two men! And they did an accomplished job too.

He sang his landmark songs – ‘Together Forever’ (which was covered by the band Lindisfarme back in 1969), ‘Edens Flow’, and ‘Clear Day’ (a call and response song). These song may not have made pop charts but they were hits with young folk singers. Rab performed on the BBCs Old Grey Whistle Test and record in Nashville.

He performed his quality song ‘Gently Does It’, when he expertly played the melody on guitar and spoke of being inspired by the acclaimed folk singer Alex Campbell and of what a great performer he was the way he built up his set.

He sang the ‘Twa Corbies’, along with the perfect-toned voice of Gaelic singer Kathleen Innes. And a new stand out song, which was 'a Scots song nod to Dylan and a Bob Dylan nod to Scots song' ‘Tramp and Immigrants’ – a mash up of Dylan’s ‘Pity the Poor Immigrant’ and Scots song ‘Tramps and Hawkers’.

***II  For a defiant start of his second set, Rab sang ‘That won’t stop me’ from his Treatment Tapes Cd. This 70/50 concert was a double celebration - Rab will be 70 this year and it was now 50 years of performing his songs.

He sang songs of travelling long gone folk and of things you taught me, with ‘Jackson Greyhound.’ He sang he maturity of experience, lessons learnt and hard fought for acceptance of being that bit older. He spoke of his travels in the deep American south – starting at New Orleans, and on up to Nashville, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana - with the civil rights on one hand/ music on the other. He said it was important to let the song tell the tale when he sang ‘A Voice Over my Shoulder’.

Rab took part in the project ‘Scotland Sings - Hands up for Trad’ when he had re-engaged with the Scots song tradition through working with Kathleen. He wrote his song about the treatment of asylum seekers being lined up for farm work with ‘The Handwash Feein Mairket.’

He thanked his wife Steph for her help during his cancer treatment and sang of love, with ‘Just One Look’ and ‘I Always Will’. He also spoke of writing songs with her – and sang ‘O Me O My (O Fly Away)’

Rab always enjoys looking back and treated us to special songs of the past and along with Kathleen he sang an emotional full stop song for his encore with the 1947 song ‘Tennessee Waltz’, which had the Fruitmarket audience on its feet and it was clear his emotion.

Noakes sings with an American twang he picked up listening to radio back in the days. At the time there were American ships in Glasgow and America was the dream place with music fans here in the thrall of the American blues and rock. Times they are a changing recently…

Noakes is unassuming, genuine, and a keen observer of life. It was clear he had put a great deal of consideration into the song choices for his concert. A memorable night.

Let the Show Begin, By the Day (One More Shave n’ Haircut), Together Forever, Gently Does it, The Twa Corbies, Tramps and Immigrants, Water is my friend, I’m Walkin Here, Clear day,
II  That won’t Stop me, Where Dead Voices Gather, A Voice over my Shoulder, Jackson Greyhound, Eden’s Flow, Handwash feein’ mairket, Just One Look, I Always Will, On me oh my (Fly way oh fly away), Out of Your Sight, Tennessee Waltz. 

Roots and Shoots Celtic Connections 2017

Scotland’s north east boasts a fine musical tradition.

At this Roots and Shoots concert at Celtic Connections 2017, musicians from the north east performed a highly entertaining evening of both traditional and new songs –  Old Blind Dogs, Rick Redbeard, Iona Fyfe, Jenny Sturgeon,

Indie folk starlet Best Girl Athlete, Jonny Hardie, Simon Gall, and hip-hop artists from the granite city of Aberdeen.
Best Girl Athlete    

Jenny Sturgeon
Iona Fyfe