If it’s January it must be Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s roots music festival (15th Jan – 1st Feb) which has become the perfect way to kick out the new year blues, and which features some of the best music from around the world.
In the past it has been said, by me, actually, that the gigs are overpriced, but the price of most gigs these days seems to have caught up, and often surpass, those at Celtic Connections, and if you are canny with your choices, and include some of the showcases available, you can get a lot of music for your money.
Here are just a few suggestions as to what’s on, but you should check out the Celtic Connections website for a full listing. These are a personal selection, but there is something to suit most tastes.
A good example of a night where you’ll definitely get your money’s worth is the Roaming Roots Revue on Sunday 18th. If you like your music with Americana influences and big harmonies then this is for you as it features Howe Gelb, Colin McLeod, The Lost Brothers, Roddy Hart, Rachel Sermanni and Dawn Landes among others. But I would go just to see this man alone; Mr Grant Lee Philips whose band Grant Lee Buffalo made one of my favourite records back in 1994 in the form of Mighty Joe Moon. I need no other excuse than that to play ‘Mockingbirds’ from that record:
Ella The Bird, otherwise known as Siobhan Wilson, is a singer/songwriter who wears her influences of Joni Mitchell, John Martyn and the more melodic end of Americana lightly but with confidence, and who, with the help of an unforgettable voice, has forged a sound which is all her own. She plays at 1pm on February 1st, and here she is covering Joni at last year’s Celtic Connections. This is ‘A Case Of You’:
On Friday 16th, in the Old Fruitmarket, you’ll find Horizons. It is an event which highlights the best music and songwriting from all over the British Isles, and includes the likes of Declan O’Rourke, Karine Polwart, Lewis and Leigh and Damien O’Kane. All of the above are worth your attention, but also on the bill is Kate Rusby, one of my favourite singers, and here’s just one example of why:
Two of the great American bands of the last 20 years are Calexico and Lambchop, both of whom appear at this year’s festival. If you can you should try and see them both as they make the most wonderful, moving and inspirational music. Calexico deal in Americana which touches on surf music, jazz, indie and classic rock ‘n’ roll, they are on at the Old Fruitmarket on the 1st Feb. This is ‘Sunken Waltz’ as a wee taster:
In the early 2000s Lampchop were arguably making better music than anyone else, releasing albums such as Is A Woman, Aw Cmon & No You Cmon, and Damaged, all of which I still listen to regularly, but the best of them all was 2000’s Nixon. They play the Old Fruitmarket on the 31st January, and it is promised that they will perform that album in full at this show. I’ll be the stupidly excited one on the balcony. From Nixon, this is ‘Up With People’:
The Pearlfishers made one of the best albums of the year in Open Up Your Colouring Book, and also featured in Scots Whay Hae!’s Tracks Of My Year, and the chance to see them live is not one to miss. They play The Mitchell Theatre on 16th, and if you have a penchant for classic pop then this is for you as main man Davy Scott has melody running through his body and a pop sensibility that others would die for. This is some classic Pearlfishers, it’s called ‘Sky Meadows’:
Hazy Recollections are events held over three Sunday afternoons (18th, 25th & 1st) at the O2 ABC, and are perhaps the best value for money events of the festival as the tickets are £12 a session and which feature The Hazey Janes, Skinny Dipper (both of whom also feature on the Tracks Of My Year), Martin John Henry, Tommy Reilly, Beerjacket, Three Blind Wolves, and many more. Here’s some Beerjacket to whet your appetite:
On the 20th, at The Glasgow Art Club, Johnny Lynch AKA, The Pictish Trail, is appearing with Stephen Black AKA, Sweet Baboo. Expect folk, psychedelia, indie-pop and electronica as these two are among the more interesting and experimental musicians around today, while never forgetting the importance of a tune. From The Pictish Trail album Secret Soundz Vol. 2 this is ‘Michael Rocket’:
Once of The Waterboys, Karl Wallinger left just as they were about to become huge to form his own band, World Party. He soon proved that it was not only Mike Scott who was able to summon the Big Music as they made classic albums such as Private Revolution, Goodbye Jumbo and Bang! They are playing Oran Mor on the 28th Jan, and this is another gig I can’t wait for. From Goodbye Jumbo, this is ‘Thank You World’:
But, if I had to pick one night only during the festival, it would be Craig Armstrong at the Concert Hall on the 27th. His latest solo album, It’s Nearly Tomorrow, is one of the best things of last year and he intends to play it in full, as well as some of his award-winning soundtrack work. Armstrong is one of Scotland’s great musicians and this, a night which will also feature The Orchestra of Scottish Opera and which holds the promise of special guests, promises to be one of the most memorable of the year. From It’s Nearly Tomorrow, this is ‘Powder’ featuring Jerry Burns and James Grant:
That is only a small selection of what’s on offer, and I haven’t even mentioned Van Morrison, Tweedy, Allison Moorer, Withered Hand, Andy White, Oh Susanna, Le Vent du Nord, Horse, and on, and on. See you down the front…