Reviews: Celtic Connections 2010

Catriona McKay and Angelique Kidjo - Celtic Connections review by The Bluesbunny
Laura Veirs & The Hall of Flames - Celtic Connections review by P.Keightley
Nell Bryden - Heaven and Hell, The Bluesbunny
Texas Songwriters' Night - John Alexander
My Celtic Connections 2010 P.A. Keightley
Kirsty McGee and the hobopop collective - Celtic Connections review by P. Keightley

Photo: blair douglas. Blair Douglas' gig at Oran Mor - Celtic Connections 15th January, 2010

Campbell Cameron

So - we are off! Celtic Connections 2010 are under way - the Torchlight parade and opening concert went like they should with a sparkle and a bang. The weekend boasted a wealth of possibilities with the first of 1500 artistes getting it away to a flying start.

Blair Douglas and his band were playing the old parish church at the top of Byres Road - Oran Mor. So decision made! The "great music" stop it is. Speaking to Blair before the off - he is delighted!

"Aye - half the family are here and friends from all over the highlands have come" he volunteers with a great big smile. Dressed casually but with a well selected iconic black skip cap he comes on stage to big applause - Gaelic music's great best kept secret is out - and the converted undercroft of the church is buzzing.

Blair Douglas is a master craftsman and when he goes on stage he is at home - the man and the accordion. Over the years the man from braes on Skye has crafted some great tunes - many with the island Gael as the influence but after a trip to the states some years ago the Celtic Cajun in him came out and he is just as masterful of that art. Bantering with the audience throughout with craic about the grants the band will get for the Bi -lingual nature of the entertainment we smile and sing. We are not long into the night when he brings on his secret weapon - the beautiful voice of Kathleen MacInnes. The deep and breathy vocals are blended into favourites like 'S Barail Leam (that's what I think!) We are soon jigging along to the Guga Hunter, swaying to Kate Martins waltz and having our heart strings pulled by a Soldiers Lullaby. But all to soon it's time to return to the night air and marvel at how Colin Beattie - the Oran Mor creative force and benefactor, had got a neon blue illuminated Hula Hoop round the spire of the converted Kirk - no it wasn't the dram - but it was magic! Tracking.

Photo: the outside track. The Outside Track are a fine wee band whom you are bound to hear more of as their tunes make the mark across the great musical divide. And divided they are coming together from Ireland, Canada and the heart of Scotland. "Curious things given Wings" is the new album debuted in the shadow of the Blair Douglas gig but it made the evening even more special and is well worth a listen. is the place to find out a wee bit more about this great band.

All the very best
keep smiling!
Campbell Cameron
Making it Happen
making it happen

Blair Douglas image from

Photo: tom russell. Texas Songwriters Night - Celtic Connections

Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:07PM

I managed to scoop up the very last ticket just over a week ago for this night, and I am glad I got it.

They are used to doing things big in Texas but it's a rare opportunity to have an evening with big hitting lyrical songwriters in Glasgow - Tom Russell, Kimmie Rhodes, Slaid Cleaves & Sam Baker

The format for the evening meant they all took it in turn to share their stories and songs with a captivated audience.

Tom Russell kicked things off with his strong stage presence and style which would draw obvious comparisons with Johnny Cash.He featured a few new songs, one being 'Roll The Credits' written for the rolling of the credits in a movie. Next in the running order, Kimmie Rhodes who had Beth Neilson Chapman join her for a few songs, a highlight of which was the Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris hit 'Love and Happiness' ( which Kimmie Rhodes co wrote with Emmylou).

This was my first opportunity to see Slaid Cleaves play live - I've been a fan of his for sometime and by the sounds of the crowd he had a few more in the audience. He performed a fantastic quirky song called 'Horses & divorces', and finished off with belting out 'One Good Year' on his old Gibson guitar.

Sam baker is a frequent visitor to Glasgow and I always like his humour and his stories. He has previously mentioned the story of how he was caught in a bomb blast on a train in South America years ago which he was lucky to survive but resulted in him sustaining severe injuries to his hands. It was only last night that I realised he was a right handed guitarist who had to re learn the guitar left handed because of this, which shows his utter dedication and passion for music. His vocal delivery is very unique and make his lyrics all the more poignant.

The night was topped of by an encore of Townes Van Zandt songs - another great Texas songwriter.

A thoroughly enjoyable night, and a spellbound audience listened to every lyric sang.

A possible regular format for future Celtic Connections shows? I hope so.

myspace Tom Russell myspace Kimmie Rhodes

myspace Slaid Cleaves

myspace Sam Baker

Photo: Fyfe Dangerfield. Fyfe Dangerfield ABC Glasgow Celtic Connections 20th January 2010

Review by P.A. Keightley.

Dangerfield stormed the ABC Glasgow with his latest solo album 'Yellow Moon' as part of the Celtic Connections Festival . This is an album of love songs, that covers all the high euphoria and depths of feeling that the first rush of love can bring.

Fyfe plays guitar and for several songs he also had violin strings with him and played piano. He is a vibrant, energetic and expressive performer, who involved the audience in fun and chat.

0n piano he performed a tear jerker called 'Barricades'. Other stand out songs were the light guitar song 'Livewire'; the very quiet 'Firebird', that sings of 'that bicycle made for two' and the comforting lyrics of 'My Memories Ring Like Telephones'. 'She Needs Me' has a sunshine feel and 'Don't Be Shy' is immediately captivating.

For the rock song 'Faster than the Setting Sun' Fyfe used a foot pedal and managed a truly tight professional sound complete with his powerhouse vocal. There were shades of the Beatles and other musical influences and his music ranges from upbeat rock, poignant piano songs and rhythmic guitar tunes.

With the audience on its feet by now he gave us the Guillemot's 'Made-up Love Song £43' for his encore - and we sang along. Well there is nothing made up about these new feel-good love songs!

Fyfe is also a composer of choral music, and leader of the pop alternative and indie rock band the Guillemots, whose first album, 'Through the Windowpane', was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Prize and for a Brit Award. His new album was recorded straight in only 5 days, and the album has a raw live feel about it. Go out and listen to his music. I recommend it. An intoxicating performance.

Photo: beth neilson chapman. Beth Nielsen Chapman Royal Concert Hall 25th January 2010

Review by P. Keightley

Beth Nielsen Chapman showed us why she has had many hit songs covered by well known American artists as she sang her sweet and moving love songs from her latest album, as well as some of her older hits. Her songs have strong melodies and insightful lyrics. Playing piano and with violin strings accompanying, she takes the mood down on songs like 'How We Love' and 'Peace'. On stage she has a warm and relaxed style. Stand out songs are the emotive 'Sand and Water', 'Peace', 'How We Love' and 'Even As It All Goes By'.

She sang emotionally deep songs with piano and strings, which made me think of other well-known female writers such as Carole King and Sarah McLaughlan. Introducing several songs she talked about her writing collaborations with other respected songwriters. She also took the tempo of the concert up performing foot- tapping county guitar songs, with close harmonies. On her new songs she returns to her previous soul-filled style, and her voice sings with a subtle compassion.

This concert was the first show of her tour to coincide with the release of her latest album, 'Back To Love', which was BBC Radio 2's album of the week on January 18th 2010, and has an expected US release mid-year. Scottish musician Phil Cunningham joined her on stage for several songs. Her song 'Even As It All Goes By' closed out 2009 as BBC Radio 2's 'Record of the Week' and was the only new single added to the 'A List' of BBC Radio 2's playlist at the top of 2010. She has had songs covered by Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Neil Diamond, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris among others. She lives in Nashville. Charlie Dore was the support.

PKIMAGE photography, Glasgow - photographic artist of mainly music, portraits and events. Please visit my website to see my photo work and to get in touch with any questions.

Catriona McKay at the Recital Rooms

Celtic Connections 2010 review by The Bluesbunny

Subliminal or what?

Photo: angelique kidjo. There I was on a Saturday night in the Recital Rooms in Glasgow doing a review of a Celtic Connections gig and all I could think of was Guinness. Catriona McKay was doing her thing with the Scottish harp and she was driving me to drink. She wouldn't be the first woman to drive me to drink, of course, but there was something about that harp that just made me want alcohol.

Even though I'm not a fan of things traditional, Ms McKay proved to be a fine ambassador - is there a feminine form for ambassador? - for such things and with Olov Johansson on the nyckelharpa, the time passed in a pleasing manner. Even more pleasing were the facts that the venue was busy and that the audience was both appreciative and attentive.

The previous night, Angelique Kidjo had set about getting the entire Glasgow audience at the Old Fruitmarket moving with the dedication of a true performer. She even did a Vegas style walkabout amongst the masses to make sure that everyone was feeling the beat. The last person I saw do that in dear old Glasgow was Nancy Sinatra and, given the positive reaction, perhaps more bands should try such an approach?

Anyway, as I strolled home after soaking up the culture, I pondered upon some of the important things of life: barmaids, chicken pakora, blonde lawyers and Guinness. How should a man prioritise such things? Then the harp appeared once more to me. Let's start with the Guinness and the rest will just fall into place. Maybe.

Catriona McKay myspace

Angelique Kidjo myspace

Photo: laura veirs.Laura Veirs & The Hall of Flames

Oran Mor Glasgow Celtic Connections 17 January 2010.

In a print dress and 6 months pregnant the songstress from Oregon enjoyed some heckles as she sang lyrics influenced by the natural world. Her vocals are clear and the music included unexpected rhythms on guitar alongside strong vocal harmonies. She sang songs from her new album 'July Flame' to an enthusiastic Scottish audience (the title track is a very catchy summer song inspired by a peach) and responded to requests that had the audience clapping and singing along.

Laura's backing band consisted of long time members Kate O'Brien-Clark on fiddle, Eric Anderson and Nelson Kempf (Old Believers) on guitar, vocals, balalaika, bass and drums. Some of her sound reminded me of the feel good vibes of bands like The Shins. Laura is releasing her seventh album, July Flame, under her own label in January 2010. She tours frequently in Europe, North America and Australia.

Pauline Keightley

For any promotional use of images please get in touch with PKImage as the copyright owner:

PKIMAGE photography, Glasgow - photographic artist of mainly music, portraits and events. Please visit my website to see my photo work and to get in touch with any questions.

Photo: kirsty mcgee.the hobopop collective - Live album No 5.

Classic Grand, Celtic Connections 16th January 2010

'banjo-dominated roots and jazz feel, with mellow moods and dynamic basslines'

Kirsty McGee performed at the Classic Grand as part of Glasgow's Celtic Connections. She likes to mix it up and her covered several genres including roots, americana, jazz and blues - and as with her travelling style, it keeps, evolving . Kirsty has a soothing and engrossing vocal that resonates with depth and soul; the hobopop collective performed songs from their new 'Live album No 5' at the Classic Grand.

They were ably supported by accomplished and versatile singer songwriter John Smith ( who has toured with legend John Martyn) and singer Ruth Rotman - for an evening of new folk traditions.

The audience were seated on the floor surrounded by candles for thee intimate sets. Kirsty and Mat Martin, with whom she has performed as a duo for the past four years, have a flowing and engrossing vibe to their hopeful love songs. She has moving soul-filled vocals and Mat, with his string instruements, provides energy, colour and shade. They play a mix of laid back jazz-infused bluegrass acoustic tunes and Kirsty's songs feel light and easy yet full of mystery and meaning.

Her travelling songs take inspiration from a close affinity with nature. Stand out songs were the 'Sandman', a song backed by Matt's fun upbeat banjo jazz rhythms; 'The Last to Understand' when Kirsty sings with her mellow, caressing voice; The sensitive love song 'Bliss;' 'Stonefruit' foot tapping jazz basslines from Nick Blacka alongside a strong vocal melody; 'Dust Devil' - a moody introspective love song which is soft and slow - yes a song about dust! No, more about how, when we love we have those special connections everywhere we look. Kirsty and her hobopop collective finished with 'Faith' - an optimistic song full of quiet hope and honest vocals.

About the hobopop collective

Kirsty McGee and Mat Martin have been performing together as a duo for the past 4 years and are based in Manchester. Their evolving band is the hobopop collective, and for their recent album - 'Live Album No 5' - McGee decided to have it recorded in one live take in a Manchester theatre to capture that special live audience vibe. This album includes songs from her 2008 Kansas Sessions album, as well as older favourites and also new songs.

For the recording they assembled a rich diversity of musicianship with Rob Turner on drums ( jazz band Magic Hat Ensemble), Nick Blacka on double bass (Magic Hat Ensemble), and on guitar James Steel (rock band the Brute chorus) and also Chris Cundy on clarinet ( Fyfe Dangerfield's band the Guillemots and the Gannets). This is a top band who have given McGee's voice a sound and centred backing.

McGee came out of the "acoustic" scene in late-nineties Manchester. She won the North West Songwriting Competition in 2000 and her 2002 debut 'Honeysuckle' album saw her opening for Suzanne Vega. She was nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award as Best Newcomer. This band first caught my attention when they supported Capercaille at the Old Fruitmarket gig in January at the Celtic Connections festival 2008. Mat is a player of stringed instruments and has an exuberant playing style. He is the lively shadow to Kirsty's serene calm, while she also has a questioning edge to her voice.

Pauline Keightley

'For any promotional use of images please get in touch with PKImage as the copyright owner.'

PKIMAGE photography, Glasgow - photographic artist of mainly music, portraits and events. Please visit my website to see my photo work and to get in touch with any questions.

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