Jan 21, 2017

This sold-out inaugural Celtic Connections 2017 Drygate gig was not short of politics on a monumental day States-side, however, this musical set from Hurray For The Riff Raff was voted a fine one.

The band’s bass player wore a T-shirt with the bold wording “Not My President” on it and free-thinking activist, Alynda Lee Segarra pleaded on behalf of her nation: “stick with us” before ending the show with an emotional and tearful version of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, accompanied lustily by the audience.

The sound mix was, disappointingly, not as sharp as it could have been in patches but the former freight train hopper, Segarra’s presence, in the main, made this irrelevant as her vocals were absorbing, both soulful in a Percy Sledge mould, or huskily rocky in turn.

Opener, Life to Save was outstanding with band in a chunking country groove Segarra immediately into her stride while the fractured, slightly Tex-Mex feel to Rican Beach proved a tasty sampler for the band’s new album, The Navigator, coming out in March.

Another new song, Hungry Ghost was a stormer. It’s all about, as Segarra has explained, “the beauty of safe and queer diy venues and parties, sanctuaries that will become more important in these grave and uncertain times”. It’s got the dark insistent bass undertones reminiscent of The National and Segarra almost growls the lyrics.

Look Out Mama, title the 2012 album, even without the fiddle is a upbeat and joyous, complete with yodeling though the lines, “Sister dear take me by the hand / and lead us all the way to the promised land” were written long before last year’s presidential election cast doubts on her hopes.

She’s not alone in being worried about the future but musically she’s fearless and talented, and her own way forward with her songs looks bright enough.

Pic – Eilís Boland

CHIP TAYLOR, Glasgow Americana Festival, October 7, 2016.

CHIP TAYLOR, Glasgow Americana Festival, October 7, 2016.

Oct 10, 2016



I was lucky enough to be able to do a CMR interview with Chip Taylor before this bewitching Glasgow Americana 10th Anniversary Festival gig. He was charming, funny, hugely interesting and engaging – and he was the same on stage with a brilliant set list that showed just why he enjoys legendary status.

Inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame in the summer, the 76-year-old New Yorker is a genuine star, who wooed his Classic Grand audience with gentle, homespun tales of family life, the music business and his travels through a colourful career. Each story, told quietly and unhurriedly, melted into songs that yielded moments you wanted to scoop up and take home with you to revisit over and over again.

With long-time guitar amigo, the excellent, John Platania, at his side, Chip meandered with obvious pride and pleasure through his back catalogue – Angel of the Morning, Anyway That You Want Me and, of course, the delicious and chuggingly raucous, Wild Thing, included. Classic tracks.

(I Want) The Real Thing from his 1973 gem, Last Chance, was a stirring early offering, before Chip shared tales of growing up in Yonkers, New York, reminiscing about station visits with his Dad and brothers. Charcoal Sky, from Yonkers NY released in 2010, was full of imagery and warmth that made you feel that you were there with him all those years ago.

Out of the haze of the past, his most recent works of art are also powerful songs, combining passion and no shortage of political messages.

Refugee Children from his majestic, The Little Prayers Triology, is a topical, heartbreaker of a song about young displaced people fishing off a bridge somewhere in Scandinavia – we sang along and Chip’s pleasure at our effort was evident. And we all hoped the kids got a catch.

His ode to his wife, St Joan is a stunning example of this man’s appreciation of the people around him: “Everybody needs a St Joan, your very own, your own St Joan,” he sang at talking pace, and again, when he asked his adoring audience to join in, no-one needed much prompting. It was both spontaneous and marvellous.

Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall, now released with Carrie Rodriguez, is fiercely to-the-point in the final weeks of the US presidential election race, but is delivered in a kind of what-the-hell-are-you-thinking-about manner and not a rant, which makes it even more powerful and meaningful. A put-down with simple words that speak volumes. Fuck All the Perfect People does that, too, and gave us another chance to be his lusty chorus.

He started out as a 30-dollar-a-song writer whose material via various artistes – Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, The Troggs, The Hollies to name just a few – is known to all who love great music. Being at this show was a nothing short of a privilege a time spent in musical history.

And, pleasingly, Chip enjoyed it as well as he wrote on his website: “What wonderful, wonderful people to play for (in Glasgow)… One of my favorite all-time shows”. And one of ours as well, Chip.


IMAGE – Paul Kerr



Feb 29, 2016


On the wall stage left, there hung a wooden, tribal-type facemask next to a fire extinguisher.

Used together, I’m certain, they would have had no effect whatsoever trying to contain or quell this spirited and blazingly inspirational gig by Dan Stuart who was, once again on Glasgow soil, in cracking form.

He was brilliant: edgy, funny, down-to-earth, and that was only during his jaunty, MC stints for this glorious evening, where he was well supported by Tom Heyman (who rode guitar side saddle for Dan’s set) and Fernando Viciconti.

Musically, Dan is in as fine form as he’s ever been. The new songs from his latest and garage/rock style album, Marlowe’s Revenge underpin the great works evident on 2012’s, The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings as well as the chunky gems from the days he fronted seminal band, Green On Red while affronting many others in the business or beyond.

Stuart, a compelling figure with a droll, madcap touch about him, was in a devilishly spritely, warm mood throughout. His singing was spot-on even though his guitar tuning niggled him, while a reviewer who had suggested he cloned Lou Reed chords for the new release had annoyed him and was dismissed summarily as he swept into a sinewy and delicious cover of Vicious, for the hell of it.

In fine fettle, he was bruising on The Whores Above and Name Hog from Marlowe’s Revenge, and then tenderly refined on The Greatest, his ode to Muhammad Ali from 2012. He was challenging on the bittersweet, Why I Ever Married You and gentle once again on Over My Shoulder, again from Revenge.

Baby Loves Her Gun was delivered as soothingly as a shy choirboy but Rock N Roll Disease was spat out with zest and the cockiness of someone who’s feeling invincible. He tackled everything perfectly, reflecting the scope of a superb, hard-to-better song catalogue. And what about Time Ain’t Nothing, the opening track on the 1992 release on GoR’s Interesting and Dangerous? Here, shed of the customary raucous sing-along treatment, it was almost a lullaby with Stuart nestling into the verses and chorus to give the timeless lyrics room to expand and breathe. It was unexpected yet sensational.

Heyman and Fernando have talent aplenty and provided first-class support sets. Heyman’s Time and Money from his current and well-crafted album, That Cool Blue Feeling is a heartfelt look back while his cover of I Ain’t Marchin’ Any More by Phil Ochs was rousing. Fernando, an Argentinian now based in Oregon, also excelled with a dark and eerie cover of Hank Williams’ Angel of Death plus tracks from his new release, Leave The Radio On.

When the three dudes got together for The Stones’ Dead Flowers, the superb event was brought to a fitting conclusion with smiles all round. For me, we had just savoured live music at its best.


Image: Paul Kerr

Gretchen Peters, Celtic Connections, The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow, January 31, 2016


While her first two albums were released to varying shades of indifference, according to Gretchen Peters, the Grammy nominee has gathered such a loyal and sizeable following in these parts that this was her second consecutive gig at Celtic Connections.

And it was a spirited set throughout with songs spanning the 20 years since the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member first visited Glasgow. Many she sang feature on the double CD, The Essential Gretchen Peters, released to co-incide with this Scottish tour.

There is a warming elegance about her and though her heartfelt songs may tackle tough topics, as you would expect, Peters massages them expertly, managing to make some of them sound almost downright soothing. A finely balanced band that gave her space but edgy support when required takes a lot of the credit for the overall buzz and emotion of a seamlessly, tasteful, carefully-crafted set.

From last year’s hugely praised, Blackbirds, the title song is absorbing while When All You Got Is A Hammer was a raucous and infectious romp that would have graced the sweaty stage of a jam-packed bar let alone the dramatic and refined features of this venue. At the other end of the tempo/volume scale, she movingly selected When You Are Old from her 1996 debut album, The Secret of Life in a dedication to Sir Terry Wogan, as, she told us, he had been a great supporter of her music over the years.

The striking favourites, On A Bus To St Cloud and When You Love Someone, a co-write with Bryan Adams, were performed with intense style, affection and feeling, demonstrating the commitment Peters has to her art and, indeed, her audience. It was an altogether classy affair.


BLUE ROSE CODE, Celtic Connections, The Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow 29/1/16.

BLUE ROSE CODE, Celtic Connections, The Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow 29/1/16.

Jan 30, 2016



Blue Rose Code have cracked it ­– though long-term followers of man-behind-the-music, Ross Wilson, could have shared this news ages ago, and not just in the aftermath of this truly superb Celtic Connections’ headlining performance.

There is an enthralling and charming dignity behind his songs, older ones and those fresh out of the wrapper of his new album, And Lo the Bird Is On the Wing. And even when the band grows to eleven people on stage, the intimacy, warmth and joyous sense of wonder in the songs never, ever dips or wavers. The opposite happens, actually: the intensity deepens, the emotions are increasingly obvious and the enjoyment of what is being created by the ultra cool band genuinely fills the room to lift spirits and move people to get up to offer an ovation.

This was an evening of sparkling songs with a suited and booted, Ross acting as a proud musical host, immersed in his songs and delighted with the reception they all got. Little wonder he smiled as he finished each track on a faultless set list.

Pokesdown Waltz from the new album is just gorgeous with Angus J. Lyon’s delicious piano icy and definite: when Ross sang: “….and I did love you, I did” before the piano echoed the last word, it was unbelievably poignant, a moment of heartbreak and real-life break up.

Edina, from previous release, The Ballads of Peckham Rye – played in what Ross says is his fave gig city – gets better with every offering, a no holds barred look at his youthful days in Scotland’s capital city, daft memories interspersed with the dismal.

He returned to the Dear Green Place again for another new song, Glasgow Rain, which is a sumptuously jazzy four-minute concoction, where the influences of his mate, Danny Thompson and the late great, John Martyn shuffle enticingly in and out. The gig co-incided with the seventh anniversary of Martyn’s death, so we were treated to Ross’ impeccable version of Fine Lines, from 1973’s Inside Out release.

One Day At A Time, from “The Ballads…” has the tone of a romp, but the depthn of the lyrics, “Whenever I tried, I tried my hardest,” makes sure its key message is never overlooked. And as a live performer, Blue Rose Code (Ross) does, indeed, try his hardest to engage, please and downright entertain.

He has an elegance, sincerity with an arresting turn of phrase and melodies that stick in the mind. All of these delights are, surely, pushing him towards a well-merited, brighter, spotlight. And he will always be, as he sings in his own gracious song, grateful.


Image: Kenny McGhee

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