Thursday 7 February 2013

Bellowhead Celtic Connections 2013.

Bellowhead were great fun and exhilarating and great for photos. They are a ten-piece English contemporary folk band who did a show at the ABC 02 Glasgow during Celtic Connections 2013. The band includes a four-piece brass section and play many instruments between them. 

I met another photographer there who was shooting for the EFDS, the English Folk Dance and Song, an organization which was set up to promote English folk music. He said that Bellowhead started with the duo of Jon Boden and John Spiers. Speirs plays melodeon and concertina and Boden plays fiddle and guitar while he also stamps the rhythm on a stomp box. They brought in the other musicians to form a full band to help fill the gap in the market for a top quality English folk band. Their line up includes - Benji Kirkpatrick, Rachael McShane, Paul Sartin, Pete Flood, Brendan Kelly, Justin Thurgur, Andy Mellon and Giles Lewin.

They sang vocal harmonies on traditional folk songs as well as playing many jigs and reels of traditional country dance tunes and sea shanties. Their sound draws on a diversity of musical styles and influences – from the old English tunes Greensleeves and ‘Can You Dance the Polka’ and to a sound similar to the popular in the 70s English folk band, Steeleye Span. 
Jon Boden proved a naturally theatrical front man as he waved his arms wide and brought the audience with him. They were polished and energetic on stage and the band have won awards as the Best Live Act. The packed crowd of all ages were clearly up for a good night! I highly recommend the band for a fun night out and it was good to see a band making folk accessible for a younger audience. 
I did wonder why they weren’t playing at the more atmospheric and old world charm of the Old Fruitmarket venue Glasgow, which would have fitted their sound perfectly.  
Bellowhead have gathered several awards and recently the BBC Radio folk award for their 2012 album, Broadside, which made No.16 UK official album charts and number 1 in the UK independent album charts. Their previous album Hedonism went silver (selling over 60,000 copies) and is the highest selling independently released folk album ever.  The band developed a new ale to go along with their album release!  

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Aimee Mann Celtic Connections 2013

American singer songwriter Aimee Mann, who is known for her insightful songs and well received albums, released her eighth studio album Charmer in 2012. She performed at Celtic Connections 2013 at the ABC O2 Glasgow.

She sang relaxing country rock with a honey-toned and expressive voice. She performed songs from her recent 2012 album - Living The Lie, Soon Enough, Charmer, Disappear, Labrador, Slip and Roll. Mann performed her song Save Me which she wrote for the film Magnolia and which was nominated for a Golden Globe.  She also sang some songs from her extensive back catalogue  - Wise Up, 4th of July, I Should Have Known. She also did a cover of Harry Neilson’s song One. For a bit of fun she sang a Thin Lizzy song for her encore.
Her band were very tight and accompanied her songs well.

Her voice and songs drew us in with subtle messages and careful thoughts. Her songs sound subtle and sincere, but underneath lies an under current of uncertainties.  As she said herself, she rocked in melody and rocked in a soft rock kind of a way… 
She is married to songwriter Michael Penn (brother of actors Sean Penn and Chris Penn).

Mann was well supported by Amelia Curran and Ted Leo, who also joined her on stage later and he performed a couple of songs with Mann. Leo is an American punk rock/indie rock songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has played in the bands Citizens Arrest, Chisel, The Sin-Eaters, The Spinanes, and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists.  Amelia Curran is from Newfoundland and has followed her Juno Award-winning Hunter, Hunter album with her 2012 album Spectators.

Danny Kyle OPEN Stage Celtic Connections 2013

I saw Genesee at the Danny Kyle open stage Celtic connections 2013 - lovely voice. I seem to be very lucky hearing the new voices - a few years back I caught Rachel Sermanni open mic and she's gone on to do very well.. Genesee was one of the five winners this year! Congratulations! :))

17th January – 3rd February Celtic Connections runs the Danny Kyle Open Stage 2013 Every year at Celtic Connections the cream of new musical talent perform at Danny Kyle’s Open Stage. A diverse panel of judges – from industry stalwarts to members of the general public – then have the unenviable task of picking just six winners from the seventy three acts who took part. The winners of this year’s Open Stage, which is supported by the Evening Times, will perform in the finale concert this evening (Saturday 2nd February) at Adelaides on Bath Street, before being presented with their awards.The level of talent on show at all concerts, which was also held at Adelaides, was extremely high. The six winners of the Danny Kyle Open Stage 2013 - 
Beldina Odenyo singer songwriter, originally from Kenya now resident in Glasgow goes under the name of Genesse and brings her culture and travels to us in her poems and songs.
Gria - Hailing from Shetland, Orkney, Lewis & Northumberland this recently formed band – have a cultural musical inspiration combining Gaelic and Scots and English traditions/
 Graham Lowand Jack Kirkpatrick - These accomplished young musicians from Orkney wowed everyone on the Open Stage at the Orkney Folk Festival , Graham also takes part in ‘The Gathering’.
Taylor & Leigh – From Edinburgh  - A blend of Nu-Folk-Country Blues play across the UK, their music has also been used to promote Ken Loch’s film ‘Aye Fond Kiss.’

Elliot Morris - The 23 year-old singer-songwriter from Lincolnshire began playing electric guitar when he was 11, but launched his solo set at 17, just a year after starting to explore the possibilities of the acoustic instrument.

Friday 1 February 2013

All Will Be Well Review : The Life and Songs of Michael Marra’ concert at Celtic Connections festival Glasgow 2013

Alice Marra
A diverse and colourful cast of musicians and singers took to the stage for a memorable night to celebrate Michael’s life and songs. Artists taking part - Alice, Matthew and Chris Marra, Andrew Mitchell (The Hazey Janes), Eddi Reader, Dougie MacLean, The Mackenzie Sisters, Pat and Greg Kane (Hue & Cry), John Spillane, Jimmie MacGregor, Kris Drever and Musical Director and host Rab Noakes. Dundee singer-songwriter Michael Marra died in October 2012. 

The concert opened with the entire cast and The Hazy Janes, Marra’s children, singing his songs When These Shoes Were New and The Midas Touch. Eddi Reader, Rab Noakes and Dougie MacLean next performed Dear Hank Williams, proved an iconic moment to see all three Scottish legends on stage together. We were then treated to the lovely female harmonies from the Mackenzie sisters who sang Happed in Mist and The Lonesome death of Francis Clarke.
Rab Noakes, Alice Marra and Andrew Marra

This was a concert of many voices. Dougie MacLean gave a moving interpretation of a song he said Marra had once sung at the Blair Gowrie folk club, a song that Marra never recorded called Goodnight To Lovely You. Hue & Cry sang Mother Glasgow and Like Another Rolling Stone - Pat Kane spoke affectionately about Marra and he said that quality would always shine through. 

Sylvia Rae sang one of Marra’s jazzier songs Under the Ullapool Moon with a captivating slow husky voice. Noakes put his melodic guitar spin on Marra’s song General Grant. Eddi Reader gave a rousing performance of Here Comes the Weak. Marra enjoyed his 'footba' and often wrote songs about the sport. Rod Paterson stood out with the Marra songs Hamish and The Bawbee Birlin and his deep gravelly voice sounded as if Marra was actually there with us. There was a top class band on stage with a saxophone player and more.

Eddi Reader, Rab Noakes, Dougie MacLean
Hue & Cry
Near the close Alice Marra gave a haunting rendition of Michael’s favourite song Monkey Hair. There were tears on All Will Be Well when we could feel the warmth both on stage and in the audience. Scots Maker read a poem about taking flight. I am sure Marra would have been proud as the night ended with a poignant rendition of Hermless.  

Noakes proved an informed host and he drew from his many years in music. He said Michael was able to sing in different dialects and that he could switch easily from the mid-Atlantic pop music accent that they grew up listening to and a broad Scots Dundonian accent. Marra’s music drew from many influences – and there are many references in his songs from pop, Dylan, musicals, and more. Marra liked to think sideways. He mixed celebrities with the ordinary man in his songs and he looked at the small details. The music Labels wanted him to change his song titles and to smooth and soften the edges but Marra refused to compromise his music. He said that Marra wanted to have his name in brackets not in lights.
Rab Noakes & Jimmie MacGregor
Dougie MacLean
Mackenzie sisters
He was a wee man with a quizzical look, a big heart and a gift for expressing the absurd. To me Marra painted with words and I’ve never seen an audience so engrossed at a gig as at Marra’s Mugdock theatre one. He kindly signed a print for me there and said how much he enjoyed playing at small intimate venue gigs like this – where the theatre had a grand piano in the corner and tiered seating. I remember at his Milngavie folk club gig he oddly set his keyboard on an ironing board. He was a humble and keen observer of our human foibles and contradictions and the humorous side of life. Thanks Michael.  

SET - ALL: When These Shoes Were New/ Hazey Janes; The Midas Touch/ Hazey Janes; Dear Hank Williams/ Rab Noakes, Eddi Reader, Dougie MacLean: Niel Gow/ Tom Mitchell: Frida Kahlo/ Mackenzie sisters & Kris Drever: Happed in Mist/ Hue & Cry: Mother Glasgow/ Riley Briggs: Alter Boys/ Dougie MacLean; Goodnight To Lovely You/ Eddi Reader; Machushia/ Rod Paterson: The Bawbee Birlin/ John Spillane: The homeless do not seem to drink here

II Hazey Janes: Golden Slippers/ Mrs Gorrie/ Rab Noakes: General Grant/ John Spillane: Chain up the swings/ Sylvia Rae: Under the Ullapool Moon/ Dougie MacLean: Peddie Street/ Hue & Cry: Like another Rolling Stone/ Mackenzie sisters: The Lonesome death of Francis Clarke/ Kris Drever: Scenectady calling/ Eddi Reader: Here come the weak/ Rod Paterson: Hamish/ Alice Marra and Andrew Marra: Monkey Hair/ ALL: All Will Be Well/ Hermless
‘He can’t catch a rose between his teeth. I can’t lay my head on an olive branch.