Showing posts with label Alice Marra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alice Marra. Show all posts

Friday 21 April 2017

Alice Marra tribute Chain Up the Swings

Scottish singer Alice Marra has recorded a moving tribute to the great Scottish songwriter – her dad Michael Marra, Chain Up the Swings. She performed the songs at the impressive St Andrews in the Square at Celtic Connections 2017 with the Gaels band.

I first heard Marra’s deep gravelly voice and songs at the small theatre Mugdock music festival which was perfect for his songs and I wrote then – “he paints with words.”
I was struck with the vivid escapism and stories of his songs. Michael liked to journey from American dreams and back home to Dundee in his song lyrics. He finshed with one of the best cover of Burn’s ‘Green Grow the Rashes O’. Possibly the most moving intimate concert I have ever been fortunate to be at. Wonderful.  

Marra’s daughter Alice has put together a thoughtful and tenderly collected recordings of his songs to show his unique diversity, strength and characterful stories - including the Marra favourites, such as Mother Glasgow, Frida Kahlo’s Visit to the Taybridge Bar and also including some new previously unheard songs.

An archive (of sorts) of home demos on cassette has yielded new material including the album’s opening track Soldier Boy.” Alice remembered “playing Kylie Minogue loudly in my bedroom when I was about seven years old. He was horrified. But he did say ‘one day you’ll find Joni Mitchell and everything will be OK’ and he was right.”

Alice was involved in several tribute concerts to Michael, most notably at Celtic Connections 2013. My photos here are from this concert, which was lead by Rab Noakes and was a wonderful and memorable night – and included Dougie MacLean, Eddi Raeder, John Spillane, Kris Drver and more. With the profits going to the charity Optimistic Sound, which was formed to fulfil Michael’s wish to see a Sistema Big Noise Orchestra in Dundee.

In an interview Alice said she was encouraged by Gordon MacLean at An Tobar on Mull when he said ‘you should do an album of your dad’s songs’ that it occurred to me. I didn’t really think of doing anything on my own.”

Alice went back into the songbook and discovered previously unheard material.
She collaborated with the musicians who took part in the original recordings – Michael’s brother guitarist Chris Marra, Derek Thomson and Allan McGlone. “Allan had just built a new studio so we began experimenting. There were some songs that I was sure I wanted to record, but through the suggestions of others I tried others. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to do Mother Glasgow for example, but it worked so well.”

The emotional aspect for those making the album can’t be underestimated. The loss of a father, a brother, a close friend and an attachment to the material that needs to be treated with care, but not reverence. “Some songs stayed faithful to the recordings. Taking The Last Train Home as a 1980’s pop tune.. and we have moved away from the originals elsewhere. A Wee Home From Home is my favourite collection of songs, and my brother Matthew’s. Just genius.” 
FULL interview at the List -

Sunday 15 January 2017

CELTIC Connections Glasgow 2017!

I’m excited as this will be my tenth year anniversary covering Celtic Connections.! Hard to believe. Here are some of my strongest memories and personal favourites over my time at the festival.

One of my most memorable experiences at Celtic Connections festival is hearing the Gaelic songs – sung by the incomparable beauty of the voices of both Julie Fowlis or Karen Matheson. Also newcomer Mischa MacPherson. I don’t understand each word – but I understand the feelings and there is something expressive in Gaelic that comes over in a way that’s not possible in English. I remember taking to press director Hannah about newcomer singer songwriter Rachel Sermanni. She commented how important it was too to have the Gaelic singers as they were so popular.

Another top memory at Celtic is at the Old worldly atmospheric Old Fruitmarket venue, with its coloured fairy lights is the perfect setting for some of Scotland’s top ceillidh bands - Ceilidh Bands this year include – The Unusual Suspects, Manran, Session A9 and Shooglenity.
Celtic provides a platform for hearing quality indie artists and attracts a wide variety of talent and a music lover audience. I heard the top guitarist RM Hubbert and the very loud prog rock band Mogwai at the concert hall.

Naturally the festival hosts some of the best traditional Scottish singers and musicians - Dick Gaughan, Rod Paterson, Karen Matheson, Siobhan Miller. 

Every day at Celtic its enriching to visit the open mic at 5, which attracts top folk musicians world wide. I’ve heard many top musicians here and sometimes those artists who have gone on to win such as Karine Polwart, Rachel Sermanni, Manran, Genesee. 

Tricky one and its hard to choose. I have to mention the stand out GRIT opening concert 2015 of Martin Bennett’s class album with the full orchestra. A highly unforgettable experience! Martha Wainwright, who held the Fruitmarket audience with only her guitar, voice and songs. The Tribute concerts led by Rab Noakes for the great Scottish singer songwriters – Gerry Rafferty and Michael Marra. And of course the outstanding Transatlantic Sessions - for the musicianship of the band and the quality singers.
Karine Polwart
At Celtic Connections 2016, I enjoyed the concerts of The Chieftains, Lucinda Williams, Rachel Sermanni, Siobhan Wilson and especially the fun ceilidh bands of Rura and Blazin Fiddles. As usual the highlight was the classy accomplished musicianship of the Transatlantic band with the wonderful singers Rhiannon Giddens and Cara Dillon. 
Adam Holmes
**At Celtic 2017, they will focus on the half of the population often ignored – the women’s voices with the singers and musicians. The women care about home, children and mother earth. There is a story of a south American tribe where the women said, Stop, stop! – there is enough food and shelter and telling the men to stop hunting and killing. Some of the many outstanding women this year include - Laura Marling, Eddi Reader, Mary Chapman Carpenter, Alice Marra, Karine Polwart, Beth Neilson Chapman, Shirley Collins, Olivia Newton john, Roberta Sa 

This year I look forward the wonderful and often unexpected collaborations; Showcase Scotland; Celtic’s Educational Program. Celtic is one of the leading annual festivals of folk, world, and roots music – 18 days of concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops, free events, late sessions and a host of one-off musical collaborations. To the opening concert with Laura Marling and the RSNO.
Eddi Reader
Martha Wainwright
And not forgetting the men – Rab Noakes, Adam Holmes, King Creoste, Billy Bragg, Jerry Douglas and more.
I look forward to the Buzz of the festival – the gathering of like minded music fans and artists!

The festival will also celebrate the anniversary of the independence of Canada and India.  The festivals partner for this year is Brazil.
**This year also holds several major anniversaries.

Blazin Fiddles
Rab Noakes and Alice Marra