“January, sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me”, sang Edinburgh’s Pilot in 1975 and even if you’re not quite sure what it means, you get the gist. For me, a year doesn’t get going properly til Celtic Connections begins. A festival which never fails to deliver, and which continues to grow in terms of number of gigs, breadth of music, and international stature – deep, and wide and tall.
This year is the 25th anniversary, which is worth celebrating in itself, but which would mean little if the quality wasn’t maintained. Have no fear as Celtic Connections shows no signs of slowing down.
As always, we’d like to point you in the direction of lesser known gems which can be found at the festival alongside the headliners and more well-kent attendees, which this year include Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer, Kate Rusby, Shawn Colvin, Kathryn Williams, Beth Orton, Joe Henry and The Mavericks!
Every summer needs a great soundtrack, and this year’s starts right here and now. The following review is an eclectic mix which includes the welcome return of the firmest of favourites when it comes to indie-pop, melancholic electronic beauty, harmonies to die for, potential global pop/rock anthems, singer/songwriting at its very finest, and some intriguing spoken word from one of Scotland’s best writers. If you don’t find something for you then you might just be in the wrong place, but trust me…you will.
We are going to start with the welcome return of BMX Bandits with their album Forever. For the last 30 years their music has been, in this ever-changin’ world in which we live in, one of the few things on which you can rely. The BMX Bandits have been responsible for so many great songs and records that some may be in danger of taking them for granted. Let’s not, as this is music which is timeless and to be treasured.
From the opener ‘My Girl Midge’ we are back in Duglas T. Stewart’s world where love is looked at from all angles – on-high, down-low, and everywhere in-between. It’s where hopeless romantics have their hearts mended, broken, and mended once more to a soundtrack with melodies which Bacharach and David would die for, and with Chloe Philip’s vocals and keyboards adding another dimension to make the music even richer. Other highlights are ‘Love Me ‘Til My Heart Stops’, ‘How Not To Care’, a wonderful version of ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story, and the beautiful ‘That Lonely Feeling’ which you can hear right here and now. Out now, BMX Bandits’ Forever is already one of the albums of the year. Don’t miss out:
The early months of a Glasgow year require a lot of moving around the city between festival events. January has Celtic Connections, February means Glasgow Film Festival, and in March the focus moves to Aye Write!. Few other cities in the world can boast that sort of festival action occurring before the clocks change, and a quality soundtrack is required to accompany the necessary toing and froing. Luckily for all concerned a very classy one emerged as some fine, and particularly melodic, new music was released.
We’re going to begin by going back to late February when Glasgow band Quick brought out their EP This I Know. It’s a beautiful collection of songs which stride that line between melancholy and inspiriting. The harmonies in particular are almost tangible as they wrap themselves around you, immediately improving your lot in life.
At times travelling to the more alt side of country, reminiscent of The Cowboy Junkies and Jessie Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, at others dealing in the more traditional, Quick don’t just remind me of some of my favourite bands, on this evidence they are quickly going to join them. Listen for yourself, and for goodness sake if you like what you hear get yourself a copy. That goes for all the music featured in these reviews. Support your local musicians – we’ll all miss them when they’re gone. Here endeth the sermon, from now it’ll be just the music all the way – promise: