Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Transatlantic Sessions 2015

The Transatlantic Sessions is the final weekend for Celtic Connections and the biggest sell out draw. 
The mix of American bluegrass and country music, sits alongside the Scottish fiddles and flutes so well. Mesmerising. This concert is led by two highly skilled musicians - Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and American world class Dobro (resonator guitar and lap steel)  player Jerry Douglas, who has worked with the likes of Allison Krauss, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Dolly Parton and many more.    
Tim O'Brien

Fiddler Aly Bain plays with comfortable and assured playing, he iss a pleasure to hear. Douglas plays melodically and expressively - and he is also a joy to hear! Indeed I agree with the lady behind me at the gig who commented that Douglas's solo after the interval was her favourite part of the concert. Another big favourite is the Scottish tunes, going by the audience response, which was led by Aly Bain and his long time musical collaborator on accordion and piano, Phil Cunningham.
Kathleen MacInnes
Sara Watkins
Jerry Douglas
Rodney Crowell
John Smith
On top of all this the band as usual had invited a quality cast of singers to join them in 2015. It must be wonderful to sing with such a class backing band!  They included this year - Kathleen MacInnes, Sara Watkins, John Smith, Patty Griffith, and Rodney Crowell. Crowell was the star attraction this year and he year and he has won two Grammy awards – for the song After All This Time and for his 2014 album Old Yellow Moon.

The Transatlantic band consists of -  Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas, Phil Cunningham, Danny Thompson, Russ Barenberg, Tom O'Brien, Dirk Powell, Mike McGoldrick, John Doyle, John McCusker, James Mackintosh and Donald Shaw.

After Celtic Connections the Transatlantic band tours to Newcastle and London.
Sara Watkins
Patty Griffith
Tune Waiting for the Federals,
Tim O'Brien - You Were On my mind Today and Cowboys Life.
Sara Watkins - Take Up Your Spade, You and Me.
Dirk Powell  - Down The River I Go.
Kathleen MacInnes snag Reul Alainn.
Tunes - Lochinside/Wedding Reels/ Crarae
John Smith, Freezing Winds of Change
Russ Barenburg, Miles To Go
Patty Griffith - Cold As It Gets, Mom and Daddy Waltz.
Tunes, Whalley Range set.
RodneyCrowell - you know How much, Flyboy and The Kid.

Jerry Douglas - Senia's Lament
Kathleen MacInnes - Oran Na Cloiche
John Smith - Great Lakes fo Love, Salty and Sweet
Sara Watkins - Be There
Dirk - Waterbound.
Tim O'Brien - Before This Time Next Year.
Phil's Air - Patty Griffin, Coming home and Truth.
John Doyle - I'll Never Let you Go,
Tunes, Leaving Friday Harbour.
Rodney Crowell - I'll gain Control Again and Leavin Louisiana

Craig Armstrong's Music

The stage was set out wide over the first few rows to accommodate the full orchestra of the Scottish Opera on the concert hall stage - and I knew we were in for a treat! The concert was one of the sell out shows of Celtic Connections.

Armstrong is an award-winning Scottish film composer who has written music for films such as Romeo and Juliet (1996), The Great Gatsby (2013), Moulin Rouge and many more.

The songs from Armstrong’s latest album, It’s Nearly Tomorrow, were performed by some top class singers - Jerry Burns, James Grant, Clio Gould, Katie O'Halloran, Alison Lawrance, Ryan Joseph Burns, Alastair Ogilvy and Lucia Fontaine.

The Songs included -
Weather Storm, This Love (The Space Between)
O Verona, Balcony Scene (Romeo and Juliet)
One Day I'll Fly Away, Nature Boy (Moulin Rouge)
Infinite hope, Louisville, Lets' Go To Town (The Great Gatsby)
The Love Theme (Far From the Maddening Crowd)
Main Theme (The Quiet American)
Let It Be Love (As If To Nothing) 
Dust, Crash, Powder, Strange Kind of Love, Lontano, Sing, (It's Nearly Tomorrow)

The grand piano for Armstrong to play was however on the other side of the stage on the left of the stage and I wished he might have stood on occasions to introduce his music so those of us on the other side of the concert hall might be able to see him better. Otherwise my seat was great and near the front of the stage and the full rich sound of the Scottish opera orchestra wafted over us, to add to the full on drama.  

Behind the orchestra scenes from the movies he has scored were shown, while movie-like coloured spotlights hovered over the orchestra.

I particularly enjoyed Jerry Burns subtle performance of Dust, with her ethereal, haunting voice and The Love Theme from Far From the Maddening Crowd, and the very poignant and gripping finale of the Balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. 

Every year at Celtic I am astonished by the musical talent today in Scotland and beyond. Armstrong who graduated from the London school of music and is from Glasgow, is a wonderful example. He then served his musical apprenticeship at Glasgow's Tron theatre. The concert proved exhilarating, poignant and joyful.  

Armstrong sees no difference in credibility between popular and classical forms of music and he has collaborated with pop bands such as Massive Attack and as well as writing compositions for the SNO (Scottish National Orchestra). Film music has brought the full orchestra back into the mainstream and into peoples lives. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Folk Music Guides UK

-Froots – magazine – folk, roots and word music guide.

-Greentrax  - Scottish folk music label.
Over 370 Scottish, traditional Gaelic, Folk and Celtic Music CD, book and DVD titles available for international delivery.

Folk & Celtic music CD albums, DVDs & books - celebrating over 25 years as Scotland's favourite record company. Eric Bogle, Dick Gaughan, Barbara Dickson
-Celtic Music Radio – Community radio begun in 2003 by Bob McWilliam.
-Main UK Folk festivals

Greenman –
Celtic Connections –

Monday, 2 February 2015

Van Morrison at Celtic Connections 2015

Morrison commanded the concert hall stage on the jazz and soul highway - a truly jazz inspired Celtic soul and all the way from Belfast city!

Morrison grew up with his Dad's record collection, the largest in Northern Ireland, (acquired during his time in Detroit in the 50s), and he learned from the likes of - Ray Charles, Lead Belly and Solomon Burke  -  of whom Morrison said,  "If it weren't for guys like Ray and Solomon, I wouldn't be where I am today. Those guys were the inspiration that got me going. If it wasn't for that kind of music, I couldn't do what I'm doing now."
The records exposed Morrison to many genres – the blues of Muddy Waters; the gospel of Mahalia Jackson; the jazz of Charlie Parker; the folk of Woody Guthrie; and the country music of Hank Williams.

When you have listened to an artist over many years it is quite strange to hear and see them live. There was that high level of eager anticipation in the concert hall air to see and hear one of our musical legends.  

He was in good voice and the sound mixing and band sounded just right. His set included sultry trumpet and sax solos. Morrison orchestrates his band, who framed him, with Strong arm conducting movements. He performed his soul-filled songs Please Don’t Go, Parchman, Don’t Stop, Moondance, Magic Time and a poignant Sometimes We Cry. He also sang a lovely cover of a Ray Charles song, I Can't Stop Loving You.
His band were tight and highly impressive while I did at times wish his guitarist on his right might have turned more to the audience as I enjoy seeing the musicians play too. There was no chat between his songs, then again Morrison's songs speak quite clearly for themselves.  

Van's music is smoking, sexy, smooth toned, sultry and also gravelly – he has a powerhouse voice and uses it to great effect like his saxophone. 
de-de-da-de-da; lonely, lonely, lonely flying, sighing; you know, you know; do-wop, do-wop,
Summer breeze in the garden, within the silence,


His musical narrative on tracks can be lengthy and spontaneous, even rambling, following his different influences - from Celtic tradition, jazz, blues, gospel and country music. 

I was happy he finished his set with his - Into The Mystic and Ballerina - after which he slipped off as he continued to sing to the side of the stage….and once again he was gone gone gone as quietly as he had arrived...... while the powerhouse of his musical voice lingered long after.....

He was well supported by gospel singers the McCrary Sisters. 

Morrison has received six Grammys and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He continues to record and tour, producing albums and live performances that sell well and are generally warmly received. In 2008 he performed Astral Weeks live for the first time since 1968.