November 1st, 2014
Ceol ‘s Craic – ‘music and banter’ – puts on events to highlight contemporary Gaelic culture, and wants to draw a general audence as well as Gaelic speakers. ‘The circle is unbroken!’ (or, ‘Tha an cearcall neo-bhriste!’) featured a mix of generations and performers, and brought together emerging singers and musicians with established artists a good bit longer in the tooth. That worked fine for the most part – the near capacity, though fluid, audience (in and out of seats at times like a local hall) responded well, and was dished up a lively mix. A fairly impromptu session set from Neil McDiarmid (fiddle), Thomas McCabe (box accordion) and Alistair Cassidy (guitar), relaxed and chirpy at the same time, popped on through jigs, reels and polkas and launched the thing off fine.
Then we had singer Alasdair Whyte, who has a debut album Las from Watercolour Music, working with Margaret Macleod – a key figure with ‘trail-blazers’ Na h-Òganaich from the 70’s on. Alasdair’s voice is rich, true and strong (swallowed just briefly in lower register) and Margaret was on very good form, especially on puirt-à-beul and a contribution later on to that sexy classic ‘My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him’. I missed or didn’t catch some Gaelic titles here, but the blend of Mull marching (and rowing) songs, and tributes to a range of dark haired lads and lasses was delivered with confidence and warmth. Alasdair shared a duet wth Lavinia Blackwall (who featured later with Trembling Bells); Alex Neilson, Ross Wilson and Teddy Balfour backed up well, even the main man of the night parachuted in to the Gaelic choruses, and the first half ended in a rattling ensemble with ‘Canan nan Gaidheal‘.
Mike Heron’s ‘world music’ contribution, right from The Incredible String Band’ and his ground-breaking 1971 album ‘Smiling Men with Bad Reputations’, has lasted and lasted. Here he was in puckish, smiling, focussed and energetic nick: getting in a lot of numbers with little fuss but close attention. The musical connection between him and his daughter Georgia Seddon was a pleasure to follow, and the ‘Trembling Bells’ around – adding Michael Hastings, Simon Shaw, John (‘Frog Pocket’) Wilson to those not tagged before – chimed in entirely as required. We got the whole shebang: ‘This Moment’, Feast of Stephen’ (Georgia subbing for John Cale); ‘Spirit Beautiful’; the long-legged (Arlo, the Carters) ‘Black Jack David’; Robin Williamson’s ‘Cold Day in February’; one of the most beautiful ever short lyrics in the anthem ‘Air’: “You kiss my blood/And my blood kiss me”; then “slithering and squelching on” to ‘A Very Cellular Song’ before two welcome encores – ‘Sleepers, Awake!’ and ‘Log Cabin Home in the Sky’. Wished I’d heard a bit more singing from Georgia; but Lavinia Blackwall is already beautifully in orbit. Mike Heron is, of course, out beyond Arcturus. Drive on Ceol ‘s Craic!
Reviewer : Mr Scales