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.’ 
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!