Celtic Connections 2020 Hannah Read and Andy Monaghan review by Fionnuala Boyle

hannah read andy monaghan

Celtic Connections made its way to the CCA on Friday 24th January to welcome singer/fiddler Hannah Read and Frightened Rabbit guitarist Andy Monaghan, with support from singer-songwriter Cara Rose. The musicians were a pleasure to be in the company of and to listen to, with the dimly-lit room providing a real Zen ambience for the Connections crowd.

Cara Rose

Cara Rose

Armed with a pint in hand, the audience instantly warmed to Cara Rose as she took to the stage with her song ‘Learn to Speak’. I arrived at the venue a minute or so in to the song, but as I took my place in the crowd, I was transfixed by Cara Rose’s stunning sound. “Your mind’s far too old for your soul”, the young talent sang into the mic, and there was certainly a maturity to her voice that struck me instantaneously. Classic but contemporary, it would have been easy to mistake the performance for a Radio 1 Live Lounge cover of an Adele track performed by an established recording artist. Cara Rose definitely has the voice of one, but without the typical, commercially-driven notions sometimes attached to that. It’s just that, whatever ‘it’ is, it is very clear that Cara Rose has got it. 

Joined on stage by fellow musician Ali Robertson on piano, the singer-songwriter switched it up with an up-tempo, snappy number, ‘No Use’. With finger clicks, hand claps and a whole lot of sass, the song was punchy and soulful, with the lyric “I’ll be coming up fast, believe it” hinting at the bright future ahead of the Glaswegian artist. Indeed every song in Cara Rose’s set accented her incredible vocal range; she was not afraid to go deep in her vocals, but was equally unafraid to practice graceful falsettos when the emotion of the song required it. It was refreshing to see an artist who conveyed character as well as soul.   

‘Urges’ was next, which was sang with conviction and strength in delivery. With a stirring, timeless element to her music, Cara Rose is a seriously talented singer and song writer who is on the cusp of shaking up the Glasgow music scene with the much anticipated release of her first record. She is in the studio and new music will be released soon, she assured the crowd, who evidently wanted to hear more of her, myself included.

Hannah Read and Andy Monaghan

hannah read mark wickens.com

Hannah Read photo by Mark Wickens markwickens.com

A modest crowd became a growing throng as Hannah Read and Andy Monaghan were introduced to the stage. Thanking Cara Rose for a phenomenal set, Andy Monaghan prefaced his and Hannah Read’s own set with a friendly heads up that there would be little chat, just music.

The duo delved into a series of tracks which were at times energetic, at other times grungy but always compelling and completely gratifying. When the band built up a sound together, they produced something really special and the whole room was hooked from start to finish. The fiddle was an excellent accompaniment to Read’s gentle vocals; whenever she picked up the instrument, she transformed the set. With smiles exchanged between her and her band throughout, neither Reid nor Monaghan seemed detached from the audience or lost in their own musical bubble in any way. An emotion felt was an emotion shared through music.

With Brooklyn vibes but Celtic heart, Read certainly brought her transatlantic vibe to the CCA with a Scottish-American sound, making it a unique performance that stood out from what I’ve seen thus far at Celtic Connections. With the muted backdrop of the black stage curtain behind them adding to the minimalist, under-stated feel of their set, Read and Monaghan may have not been much talk, but they were certainly all action. They switched up the dynamic of their set effortlessly with each new song and interpreted sound in a really fascinating way.

Their penultimate song called to mind Liam Clancy’s ‘The Parting Glass’; a lamentation that Read could have been performing atop a bar stool to a room full of punters in a small pub off the west coast of Ireland. Read sang with reverence and serenity and made the melancholy totally joyful, bringing to life even the deepest and most profound of sentiments. The only thing wanting in the duo’s set was for it to continue on into the night.

A class band and a class act, Read thanked the crowd for taking a gamble on coming out to see her. It was certainly a gamble that paid off. 

Fionnuala Boyle, January, 2020.


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