Thursday 9 February 2017

Mary Chapin Carpenter at Celtic Connections 2017

Mary Chapin Carpenter

A positive energy and message in her songs, Carpenter sang resilience songs.
This was a concert in three sets - First up was the beautiful voice of Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis. She sang the Beatle’s ‘Blackbird’ and her set was far too short!  

Julie Fowlis

Next was the fun accomplished folk band the Altan from Donegal, who played energizing reels and jigs. Their lead singer and violinist Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh sang movingly in the Irish Gaelic. The group has collaborated with Dolly Parton, The Chieftains, Bonnie Raitt and others.

The main event was with the Grammy-winning Mary Chapin Carpenter who performed songs from her 2014 ‘The Things That we are Made Of’, such as the well crafted song ‘Something Tame, Something Wild.’ She hoped she might offer some balance to the freak show happening in America, which drew a loud clap!

She spoke of walking in the Blue Ridge mountains near her home and of how she was inspired to write a song ‘Oh Rosetta’, by the spirit of the celebrated gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who was the godmother of rock n roll and played rings around others. She also enjoyed being inside a perfect song with a intimate interpretation of Lucinda William’s ‘Passionate Kisses’.

We had only MCC’s husky, honey-toned voice and guitar for a tender ‘This Shirt’. Then she took the tempo and her voice up several notches with a rocky, blues songs – ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’, ‘I Feel Lucky’ and ‘I Took my Chances’ backed by the full luxurious musicality of her band of grand piano, electric guitar and drums. The words of her songs often reach out and reflect on life’s extremes. MCC is also a talented guitarist.

The theme of Celtic Connections this year is women musicians and tonight certainly celebrated their contributions!  For a grand finale we had Julie, the Altans and a surprise appearance of dubro player Jerry Douglas on stage for ‘He Thinks He’ll Keep Her’. Certainly one of the treats of the festival!

Saturday 4 February 2017

King Creosote Celtic Connections 2017

One of Scotlands highly respected songwriters, King Creosoteaka Kenny Anderson, from Fife and his nine piece band brightened up the Old Fruitmarket stage on Friday. The top quality band, who were made up with sparkly space age gear, included harp, cello, bass, keys, drums, violin, pipes and guitars - with Lomond Campbell (Ziggy) on vocals, Peter Harvey (cello) and Andy Robertson (drums).   

This was to set the mood for the lush cinematic travelling soundscapes of Anderson’s 2016 album, ‘Astronaut Meets Appleman.’  The album explores the challenges between traditional and the new technologies

The gig included the catchy tunes ‘Love Life’ and other memorable songs, from his recent album -  ‘Surface’, ‘Wake Up to This’ and the momentum of ‘You Just Want.’ Kenny mixes colourful subtle soundscapes with his indie folk rock music. At one point Anderson wandered the stage and interacted with all the members of his band and it appeared they were having much fun! They performed hypnotic immersive music and the packed Fruitmarket audience knew they were in for a good night! 

Charlie Cunningham
English singer songwriter, Charlie Cunningham, was the support and played some dynamic guitar and songs. 

In 2014, King Creosote composed songs for a award winning theatre show with archived black and white footage of Scotland, entitle ‘Scotland With Love’. He is also a Mercury prize nominated artist for his collaborative ‘Diamond Mine ‘album recorded with Jon Hopkins.    
He is is a one-man cottage industry based in the Fife fishing town of Anstruther, Kenny “King Creosote” Anderson has released more than 40 albums since the late Nineties, 

Tuesday 31 January 2017

LIV ON with Olivia Newton-John Celtic Connections 2017

A hopeful and life-embracing evening of song, togetherness and support to lift the spirits and also to heal. 
Australian, American and Canadian, singer songwriters Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky shared their grief journey songs on their collaborative LIV On: ‘A New Album to aid & Comfort Those Experiencing Grief & Loss while using the power of music to heal’.
The set moved seamlessly even though this was only their second gig together and was led by Nielsen Chapman as musical director. She sang her well loved songs – ‘Sand and Water’, ‘You Don’t Know what to Say’, ‘This Kiss’ and ‘Christmas Song’.

Canadian Amy Sky played piano on several songs including her moving song ‘Forever Blue. She also performed a dramatic ‘Phenomenal Women’, which had words by the poet Maya Angelou.
Meanwhile Olivia sang some of her best loved songs – ‘Love will See Us Through’, ‘Grace and Gratitude’, ‘I Will Always Love You’. She also performed the signature song ‘LIV ON.’  We all remembered Newton-John from the famous Grease movie. She looked well and had great rapport with the concert hall audience. She also performed her songs perfectly, expressing exactly the right mood and feel for the concert and songs.

Olivia Newton-John
They sang of their love and strength, of redemption songs. They sang with gentle, poignant harmonies and piano of how love will see us through. They also opened up to the audience for their own stories of grief.

This concert was about the journey of grief we must all travel to release the pain, but more than this, it was about the destination of acceptance. For their finale they clapped and smiled and sang the hit song ‘Happy’. Phil Cunningham joined them on stage and they also sang a restoring ‘Do not stand at my Grave.’

While of course Olivia was very much the star!

They were very well supported by the talented fiddler John McCusker and his band with wondrous reels and slower tunes, when they were joined on stage by the singers Heidi Talbot and Adam Holmes.

Review and Photos Pauline Keightley  -
John McCusker band

Thursday 26 January 2017

Robert BURNS speaks to America!

Lincoln carried a book of Robert Burns poems and during the civil war he read Burns aloud. He was a great fan of ‘Scots Wa Hae’ and had one of his sons named William Wallace. There are more statues, fifteen in all, to the great poet Robert Burns in America than to any other writer or musician! In the 19th century he was as big as Elvis. Many of America's greatest poets and writers were greatly influence by Burns - Woodie Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Steinbeck (Of Miss and Men), JD Salinger (Catcher in the Rye). 

Burns was too afraid to publish his poem, A Mans a Man for A That, in his name at this time – the punishment then for speaking up against the union was hanging or deportation to Australia. It was only two years after his death this was acknowledged as his song.

Enjoying Burns is NOT parochial – Burns wrote of everyman and not about local issues. He was the first great romantic poet and influenced others. More than ever his words on equality, protecting nature, our being at one with nature and against greed, oppression and ignorance matter.
The Brig O Doon near Alloway Ayrshire
A few months back I wrote a blog on the statues in Scotland. I was reading Burns Wikipedia page when I realised the statue I passed at the bottom of Leith walk near the River Forth each day on my way to school, was actually the ignored poet (then anyway) Robert Burns. I studied both English (note not Scots) and history to higher level and each subject focused on English history and culture. Any Scottish culture was not only a side show, but ignored. Yet every day I passed the cobble streets of Edinburgh’s royal mile and wondered about all the stories and history here that I was not being told. Why was I being taught about far away kings in far away places and not my own history? There is no statue to Scotland's greatest poet in the centre of Edinburgh, oddly. 

This was of course a deliberate suppression last century of Scottish history ad culture by Anglicised Scots – just as Anglicised Irish tried to do the same in Ireland. 

‘Lay the proud Usurpers low! Tyrants fall in every foe! Liberty ’s in every blow! Let us Do—or Die!!!’

For all this I don’t believe Scotland will ever be only a region and north Britain as some might wish. If we follow this path – we ignore our history at our peril I fear. We will end up as a forgotten and ignored retirement and tourist place on the fringes of Europe. Not a great future for our young people!? 

For all this, the time is not right for Indyref2 - people are tired of these ridiculous referendum displays. I know we have to choose, but its best to wait for the foolish Brexit to fail, as fail it surely must. In fact I have grave doubts about these Referendums at all and how democratic they really are - without a free press or media. In our age of Fake News, Post Truth and online Echo Chambers are we loosing the art of Great Debate and real argument?

Burns grew up on the Ayrshire coast, where he looked out to sea and saw all the ships in the large busy ports of Irvine and Ayr. He used to dream of travelling to distant shores. He never did, but his words and poems did.