James Grant At Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 31/1/16

Scottish rock star James Grant had not one but two sell out gigs in this Celtic Connections Festival. It was a case of rock music meets orchestral music with the introduction of the Hallelujah String Ensemble. An inspired combination.

Seasoned campaigner James Grant was on top form as he delivered a top notch performance ably accompanied by his own band and the string ensemble. This Glasgow singer songwriter gave a whole new dimension to his hits including I Can’t Stop Bleeding, Jacquelines Shoes and Lips Like Ether when accompanied by the ensemble. One major highlight of the show however was when all the instruments were put to one side as James Grant gave a purely orchestral backing version of Nature Bay which was both evocative and emotional. The deep resonant voice of Grant was at its very best.

Getting the audience on his side at an early stage in the proceedings by saying that he was missing out on one of his idols performing in Glasgow, Robert Plant, just so he could sing for them and hoped they were enjoying the  concert. The massive round of applause soon told him what he wanted to hear. That warm applause stayed with him all the way through the night and got louder as the pace increased.  I was left thinking I was in a past food takeaway when factions in the crowd kept shouting for Cheeseburger however it was of course one of Grant’s early hits. They weren’t overly disappointed as the good tunes kept coming.  By the time he came back onto the stage for his encore the crowd were on their feet and ready to dance which they duly did as soon as the band struck up the opening notes to Hallelujah Man. James Grant brought this concert to an end with a fitting tribute to the late David Bowie with an outstanding version of Bowie’s Starman.

A wonderful end to a fantastic night of music delivered by a consummate professional.

Danny & Ruth Matheson

Presenters

Celtic Music Radio

Taylor & Leigh At Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 31/1/16

This wonderful brother and sister duo made a very welcome return to Glasgow on what was possibly their biggest audience to date. Playing to a capacity crowd in this brand new RSNO auditorium they made many new admirers with a stunning performance.

Just a few days before this concert Heather Leigh was in her sick bed suffering from a bad chest and throat infection but you would never have guessed this with the strength of her voice. Having been described before of having a voice of an angel delivered like a whirlwind she sang her way through songs both old and new. Recently the UK has been battered by storms Gertrude and Henry, Heather’s voice is more powerful than those two put together! Heard from a lady in the crowd, ” Hey that lassie can fair hit the notes”.  The other half of this band is older brother Alex Leigh who plays the guitar quite sublimely as well as joining in with the vocals in some songs.

Considering Taylor & Leigh only got notification of this gig a few days before it they still put together a fantastic set including some of their older material such as Two Steps From The Hangman, House Of Cards, Cut To The Bone to new material like Different Kinds Of Lonesome. Throw in a couple of cover songs like The Cure’s Just Like Heaven and Whisky and You all impeccably performed and you have a truly wondrous gig that will stay with people for many a long night. It is only a matter of time before Taylor & Leigh take to a stage like this one as the headline act. They are more than ready for it.

 

Danny & Ruth Matheson

Presenters

Celtic Music Radio

 

Transatlantic Sessions At Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 31/1/16

The traditional finale of the wonderful Celtic Connections Festival is the all star Transatlantic Session. A capacity audience were enthralled with over two and a half hours of music that ranged from spine chilling to heart thumping. This was a quite outstanding array of musical talent rarely seen on a stage at the same time.

From the opening track  led by musical directors Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas until the final notes of the band during the encore it was wall to wall entertainment. There was so many wonderful musicians on the stage it’s not possible to list them all instead I shall concentrate on some of the highlights, of which there were many. A newcomer to the Transatlantic sessions was Joe Newberry from West Virginia who took to the stage resplendent in Stetson hat and banjo giving a splendid version of Waiting On the Federals. Karen Matheson was next to take centre stage giving a rendition of a traditional gaelic song followed by a beautiful version of the Burns classic Ca’ The Yowes.

As usual the banter between Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain had the audience in fits of laughter as they introduced the next set of tunes which included Hector the Hero and three different reels. To hear these tunes played in the traditional manner accompanied with Jerry Douglas’s dobro was breathtaking. Soon after the rapturous applause had died down you could hear a  pin drop in he auditorium as Cara Dillon gave a spine chilling version of The Winding River Roe. Rhiannan Giddens brought the curtain down on a pulsating first half with a very powerful voice and promised even better in the second half. She was not wrong in that comment as the second half was better still.

Karen Matheson got the crowd going again with some fantastic ‘mouth music’ before The Milk Carton Kids took to the stage for a couple of songs. If the music ever dries up for this American duo they could quite easily take to the stage as stand up comedians.  With superb harmonies akin to The Everley Brothers this duo create a wonderful sound and are absolutely hilarious in their banter in between tracks. Joe Newberry gave a rendition of The Cherry River Line before handing over once more to the extremely talented Rhiannan Giddens. Among the songs she sang was a song that as she said did not need any introduction She’s Got You which was sublime.

The encore was a very different version of David Bowie’s hit It Aint Easy which was a very fitting tribute to one wonderful musician from so many other fantastic musicians. There are too many people to mention but special thanks must go Donald Shaw and John McCusker who wrote a lot of the material for this show.

This show is a wonderful mix of Scottish, Irish and American music and as their tour continues a must see concert if it comes anywhere near you.

Danny Matheson

Presenter

Celtic Music Radio

Blazin’ Fiddles At O2 ABC 30/1/16

Having seen Blazin Fiddles a few times before I never thought they could surpass previous performances – I was wrong!! Bruce MacGregor on announcing the band said “Blazin Fiddles play music fast, then they play faster and anything else is monumental – He was not wrong!!

This gig was quite extraordinary. If you came to this concert expecting a nice sedate evening you were in the wrong venue as this was far from sedate. Having reviewed their gigs a few times before I thought I had used all the superlatives possible to describe their performances however this time this wonderful group exceeded everything that had gone before. The energy they exuded was quite phenomenal as they belted out hits such as Shetland Night, Arran Ceilidh, Gamekeepers Cottage and The Lads Like Beer. On this night the Lads and Lasses loved what they were hearing. Normally in a seated auditorium where they were restrained in showing their enjoyment, this capacity standing audience were not shy in showing their appreciation and urged the band onto an even greater performance.

From heart rendering slow airs to pulsating sets like The Cambridge Caravan Catastrophe each was played with impeccable musicianship with each band member showing incredible respect for each other. There are no prima donnas in this band, they are all superb musicians and work together as a team. Who else can use a broken fiddle string to their advantage? Some people would stall at that point but not the “Blazers”. When Rua MacMillan broke a string on his fiddle he calmly put it down and picked up another fiddle whilst Anna Massie used the opportunity to whip the audience into an even bigger frenzy. They didn’t even let the noise of people at the rear of the venue talking away during quieter sets put them off their stride. This was professionalism of the very highest level.

You knew you were in for a pulsating final fifteen minutes or so when Bruce removed his trademark waistcoat. It was more than pulsating it was breathtaking!

The current line-up of Bruce MacGregor, Jenna Reid, Kristan Harvey and Rua MacMillan all on fiddles, Anna Massie on guitar and fiddle and Angus Lyon on piano released their first album together, North, a couple of months ago. Many of the tracks on the album were played at this gig and I would not be surprised if the sales of the album have rocketed since then.

This was quite simply a memorable night which will take a lot to better.

 

Danny Matheson

Presenter

Celtic Music Radio

The Elephant Sessions At O2 ABC 30/1/16

The relatively unknown highlanders came to town and left with their reputation enhanced and many more admirers. Rarely before have a support act rocked a venue as much as The Elephant Sessions did on this evening. They were immense!

Like many other people my entry into this gig was needlessly delayed by poor stewarding which left many ticket holders queuing for a very lengthy time before gaining access. They missed out on a sensational gig. Drawing from different genres of music this quintet were winners of the MG Alba Up and Coming Act of the year in 2014 and fully justified their place at Celtic Connections. With pulsating drum beats, electric guitar, bass guitar, mandolin and fiddle they produced a sound that was quite unique. Powering through sets such as Misty Badger, Bulgaria and I Used To Be A Nice Boy they had the crowd in raptures.

From what I saw of this band I was hugely impressed. They had a tremendous stage presence, a great awareness of what would keep the crowd jumping and wonderful musicality. They released their debut album, The Elusive Highland Beauty, last summer which must now be a must buy album after this performance.

 

Danny Matheson

Presenter

Celtic Music Radio

 

Rachel Hair Trio At The Art Club (Glasgow) 29/1/16

Fresh from gigging in Norway and just before flying out again on another Scandinavian tour via Denmark and Sweden the Rachel Hair Trio Showed why they are in such demand. A marvellous Celtic Connections concert in this bands home city to a sell out audience.

The intricacies of Rachel Hair’s Celtic Harp and the subtlety of the double bass played by Cameron Maxwell combined with the vocals and guitar playing of Jenn Butterworth is an inspired and wondrous combination. This was a night of pure magic. Rachel totally immerses herself in her harp playing and her playing style is quite unique and is ably accompanied by the musicianship of Jenn and Cameron.

This band recently released their third album “Tri” with many tracks from the album showcased in this concert including Jigs For Mann, Starry Eyed Lads, Tune For Esme, Duke Of Fife’s Welcome To Deeside and My Darling Fair One. Rachel explained that she likes to delve into the musical archives for long forgotten tunes which she gives a modern twist to and she did not disappoint by coming up with another fine old tune.

Each tune played and every song sung was delivered with  passion and panache, slipping seamlessly between fast jigs and slow airs. A truly wonderful night of music coupled with humourous tales on how the tunes came about made for a very enjoyable evening.

 

Danny Matheson

Presenter

Celtic Music Radio


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