Hey everyone, As it’s over a week since it ended, I think it’s finally dawned on me that Celtic Connections is over for another year and whilst the bad weather may have stopped me from getting to as many events as i would have liked, it is fair to say i enjoyed my best gathering since 2012.
One of the main reasons for this was the fact that the Danny’s as the Danny Kyle Open Stage has become known over the years was back at the concert hall where it rightfully belongs and believe me the world was a better place because of it
Don’t get me wrong Adelaide’s were great hosts for the last two years and they provided soup to die for but the event kicked off too early and the location was for many people a wee bit geographically remote. This meant there wasn’t quite the same opportunities for networking that there after a two hour session in the concert hall, but this year when the music called us the ‘family’ home it did so in more ways than one. Well when you can walk up to the bar and the member of staff can have your diet coke ready before you you’ve got the money out of your purse, then a girl really knows there’s no place like home.
As I said the weather played a significant part in what I was able to enjoy but believe me I made the most of every chance I got and when the chances and tickets did come my way I wasn’t slow in snapping them up. Though my first night at the Danny’s didn’t come until day 8 my arrival coincided with what must surely have been one of the best nights of the open stage this year. My festival kicked off with a session by the North Glasgow Skifle Orchestra a group of young musicians from the area in which I was born and raised. I have to say I was extremely impressed not only by their musicianship but also by the fact that they introduced rap in to traditional music and it worked brilliantly . Their first song Dull Dark Days was a very powerful number about growing up in an area which is shall we say not without its challenges this was reflected in these four lines four lines from a piece which will live long in the memory. ‘ if you speak the truth the liars will run words are more powerful than any gun’ This rap was both emotional and brilliant throughout but these lines in particular reaffirm my long held beliefs than words are and always be will far more deadly than any weapons.
I also enjoyed the work of Barnsley born Shetlander Adam Guest and the excellent Martha L Healy. I have to say i really enjoyed Martha’s set and found that her engaging style was a winner with an audience who know a quality singer/songwriter when they hear one. I particularly liked her comic take on the perils of drink which went by the title of Too Many Vodkas In My Cranberry Juice and the more gentle Burtonport, which reflects her visits to her gran’s home in Burtonport in Country Donegal Believe Me this is someone i think we are going to hear a lot more of in the years to come.
The same can be said of Elgin singer/ songwriter Keith Meisner whose Song for Andy Murray had the audience cheering and clapping like the mad Celtic Family we are. Personally though and this is no disrespect to the greatest Scottish tennis player of all time I preferred his song for Ronaldo. This was written not about the gorgeous Christiano Ronaldo of Manchester United fame nor the Brazilian gap toothed goal grabber who was the first Ronaldo to make it big but instead for the Shinty legend Ronald (Ronaldo) Ross who played for Kingussie shinty club and was a Scotland international at his sport. In the introduction to this song Keith Informed us that Kingussie, were the most successful sports club anywhere in the world, so i would therefore appreciate it, if Rangers fans who have always claimed this ‘fact’ would stop their boasting as of now.
The night or at least the Danny’s part of it, were brought to a close by Kern an excellent Irish traditional band from county Louth who got us in the mood to put on our dancing shoes for later on in the evening as you never know where you might be going at Celtic Connections and what tunes you just might find yourselves dancing to. This was certainly true of that particular Saturday evening, as just as I was getting ready to go home I was offered a free ticket to see the Treacherous Orchestra. Naturally I snapped up the offer with both hands as tickets for these guys are the equivalent of festival gold-dust so i couldn’t disguise my delight and it was a very grateful girl who made my way to this highly enjoyable event. The concert officially titled Wired to the World was a night which combined the best of Scottish and Irish Music with best of African song. Though more at home with The Michael McGoldrick Band and of course Treacherous, I did enjoy the African acts who came from Mali and Cameroon and it was a tired and exhausted me who made my way back to my Celtic homeland of Baillieston in the wee small hours of Sunday morning.
Come Sunday evening I was back at the Danny’s for more top quality open stage and I have to say that on this occasion the night got better the longer it went on with 17 year old Rhona McFarlane the stand out act of the evening and Mayo band Flat Out not far behind. I say this mainly due to the fact that I know the quality of Gordon Duncan and the Gordon Duncan Experience matched my expectations but did not exceed them. As for Dawn Chorus I would liked a bit more original material in their act than was the case and i think the reason I rated Rhona as the stand out act of the show was because of the fact that her songs were her own material and that takes real talent.
At the end of the concert I spoke both Rhona and Flat Out and told them that they should considered as potential finalists. Rhona a charming and modest young girl couldn’t quite believe what I was saying but she should do as I meant every word of it At the conclusion of the Danny’s I made my way to the Old Fruitmarket for what was one of the highlights of this year or for that matter any year as i danced the night to the music that is the Orcadian madness of Fara and The Chair I must I really like Fara and not just because I know some of the members including Scotland’s very own Princess of Song and Burns Night birthday girl aka the brilliant Jeana Leslie but I like the way they change of upbeat jigs and reels and singing soft gentle ballads as for Chair believe me the last thing ever you ever need at a Chair is actually a chair, It must be the only gig I can think of where the audience are safer standing up and that’s what makes it all the more enjoyable.
Now I don’t know but yet again, and this has to be said, I got one of the best tickets at the festival for nothing, well not quite nothing as the price as a blog review on the Mumble Music site which by the way I have also posted on here so if you want to read more on the musical mayhem that was this night then go to either Mumble or my post and check it out.
As Monday came I went back to the concert hall for more of the Danny Kyle and it was my opinion that the acts on this night were if i’m honest slightly more mellow than had been the case at the weekend. It’s almost like Liz and the gang knew that the after the excesses some of the regulars may need a bit of recovery and planned the night accordingly. Though all the acts were of the usual high standard there was at least for me one clear stand out on the night and that was Andrew Nicol whose melodic yet quirky style was easy on the ear and a joy to listen to.
And so to Tuesday. This would be my last night of the Danny’s as with further snow on the road i couldn’t make it out again till the Sunday of the final when i would be attending the Calexico concert to review it for the Mumble. On this occasion my favourite act was Antrin a group who combine the best of their Western Isles and Orkney heritage and what a mixture that turned out to be. This is a band i look forward to seeing a lot more of in the future and believe me i think i probably will. I also liked the music of Laurie Cameron who like Rhona McFarlane is someone i believe will go far as her talent which make her known to a far wider audience.
As for the Calexio gig, this was as I said in my review of it a musical extravaganza which was a thoroughly entertaining experience for all who atended it and they certainly have an army of very faithful fans. This army includes one Kris Drever who replaced the original support act BC Camplight at very short notice as he was going to be at the concert anyway and in my opinion stole the show with a brilliant rendition of Harvest Gypsies. This is a powerful and evocative song which serves as a warning against the right wing xenophobic culture so often found amongst British types of demonising others.
So there you have it the story of my Celtic Connections for 2015.
And whilst it may be true to say that the snowy and icy conditions during this cold and challenging winter may have prevented me from seeing quite as much as I would have liked, I think I can say that with songs for Andy Murray and a tale of too many vodka’s we all enjoyed a gathering in the dull dark days in spite of the treacherous weather.
Love And Best Wishes