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

Tony McManus at the Wynd Centre, Paisley 10/7/16

Virtuoso guitarist Tony McManus made a long awaited return to his home town,  Paisley, after a fourteen year absence to a warm reception from a sold out audience in the Wynd Venue. In what was a very intimate concert McManus enthralled the audience with his exquisite guitar playing. 

Now living in Elora in Ontario, this superb musician entertained from the outset showing some incredible dexterity in his fingers as they plucked note after note, chord after chord on his guitar. We were taken on a world tour of musical tunes from Canada, Brittany, Greece, France, Galicia, Wales and Scotland. During this musical tour the audience were treated to different styles of music including classical, folk, traditional and even jazz,  all played to an incredibly high standard and pace. Tony McManus played tunes which were written for, piano, fiddle, Highland pipes as well as the guitar. All this done without any sheet music or a playlist which showed a confidence and incredible memory from this talented musician. Inviting requests from the audience showed a further willingness to please this receptive crowd.

Should you get an opportunity to  see Tony in concert I would strongly recommend that you do so.  You will not be disappointed. You will be incapulated with the music and have sore ribs from laughing at the tales he regales you with. Without a doubt Tony McManus’s gigs are “Finger Picking Good”

Danny Matheson


Celtic Music Radio



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

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


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


Celtic Music Radio


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