Pilgrimer: A re-imagining of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Hejira’

karine polwart, julie fowlis and annie grace

Pilgrimer: Re-imagining Joni MItchell’s Hejira
“touching souls and surely you touched mine…”
This was a perfect evening of nostalgia for the many fans in the packed audience to hear Joni’s album Hejira – now set to new Scottish words by the author James Robertson.  Joni wrote this album while driving solo from Miami to LA  on both the freedom and loneliness of the road.

kariine polwart, steven polwart and larry carlton

karine polwart, steven polwart and larry carlton

The first set was the Scots Re-imagining of Hejira

Author James Robertson began the night. The night began with author, James Robertson who, after travelling in America, seeing Joni live and buying the album, felt that H’ejira’ was now ‘in his bones’. For him this was an instinctive project an a way to re-imagine her words in the Scots language.  He had already written the first Scots adaptation twenty years ago and was encouraged by Donald Shaw, Celtic Connections Director’s wish to bring more spoken word into the festival.
Scottish folk singer and musician, Karine Polwart and her brother guitarist Steven Polwart, were central to organising this concert.  Karine,  a talented singer song writer, sang  four of the tracks – Tod (Coyote, Hoolet (Black Crow, The Find (Hejira) and Columba(Amelia). She was thrilled to be joined onstage by the renowned Grammy award winning guitarist Larry Carlton, who has worked with many of the greats in music – including on Joni’s ‘Hejira’.  

karine polwart and julie fowlis

karine polwart and julie fowlis

Annie Grace gave a great performance of Pie Jock (Furry Sings), while Rod Paterson delighted the audience with his deep vocals and a humorous rendition of Kippenrait (Strange Boy)and also a smooth Grey in Grez (Blue Motel).  James Robertson gave a moving spoken word tribute with Sang for Joni (Song for Sharon). The final track, Pilgrimer (Refuge of the Road) was sung by Karine, Annie and Rod.
The second set consisted of  some favoured Joni Mitchell songs:

karine polwart, julie fowlis and annie grace

karine polwart, julie fowlis and annie grace

Olivia Chaney, on piano, interpreted well two of Joni’s best loved classics ‘A Case of You’ and  ‘Women of Heart and Mind’.   

Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis sang ‘Cactus Tree’ and ‘River’ in English, accompanied by strings, the vulnerability and poignancy of her voice was well expressed.  
Award-winning singer Kathryn Joseph performed the songs ‘Rainy Night House’ and the classic ‘Both Sides Now’ with delicate timing and her ethereal voice.
Canadian singer Rose Cousins, challenged herself to sing Joni’s haunting ‘Blue’.   
The talented female line up performed the more hopeful songs ‘The Fiddle’ and the Drum’, followed by ‘Free Man In Paris’.  After a standing ovation a lovely encore of  ‘The Circle Game.’ followed.  All five women performers showed their awe, love and respect for the extent to which Mitchell has influenced their own songs and music.   

james robertson

james robertson

This was a night of delightful harmony and memories, joy and the pain. For this album Joni blended her folk, rock and jazz influences.  Well done to the entire cast for such a memorable evening of song!   A special mention to a top house band, which consisted of Calum McIntyre(drums, percussion), Steven Polwart (guitar), Kevin McGuire (double bass), Fraser Fifield (kaval, low whistle, saxophone).  
Joni Mitchell was one of the first artists to write lyrics to her songs in such an intimate way.  She is a great lyricist and paints profound images with lines such as  – ‘ You impress me most when you don’t even try.’  On ‘Blue Motel Room’ she sings: “I’ve got road maps from two dozen states, I’ve got coast to coast just to contemplate …”
James asked us to send a Big Wave of thanks over the ocean to Joni as one of the greatest singer songwriters of all time.  Still as brilliant 40 years later!

Review & Photos Pauline Keightley – http://pkimage.co.uk/


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This section: Celtic Connections 2016, Pauline Keightley, What's On Glasgow West End: cinema, clubs, theatre, music, events, festivals, community and more

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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