Lau & The Unthanks


Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

28th January

A-1572667-1293209091.jpeg.jpgThursdays are a good night for music, one thinks, soothing the mood just before the weekend kicks into gear. My sentiments seemed to have been shared by a great many others, for there was a packed house in the Main auditorium of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for two modern folk outfits, Lau & The Unthanks. The latter band came on first, a couple of lovely, young English Roses steeped in their native Northumbrian balladry. Over the past decade they have been gaining respect, having performed on Jools Holland & at many a folk festival across the land.


Becky & Rachel Unthank love coming to Glasow – one of them admitting that in her student days she had been rescued from drowning in a puddle outside the Griffin! Joining them on stage were the rest of their band, a trumpet here, drums there, dramatic piano chords everywhere, & together they created a stunning futuristic account of those miner’s songs & sea-shanties of auld. A fantastic performance, these little bjorkettes will be touring Scotland in May & I really do urge anyone who loves the sheer beauty of song-craft well-sung to swell the numbers of their growing army of fans. For me, the perfect individual pathos of ‘Magpie’ was outstanding, & the full haunting bandscape of ‘The King of Rome’ a sheer pleasure to witness as they pulled into the room like those Celtic drids of old.  And of course, the clog solo was magnificent.




The evening’s second band was Lau, an Anglo-Scottish trio formed a decade ago. It is fronted by Kris Drever, whose rendition of ‘The Ballad of Patrick Spence’ is always on my playlist when I’m soireeing about India, something to pop on whenever I’m missing Scotland. Lau’s music, however, is not traditional – well it has traditional elements, but it is all rather gonzo, dreamy sequences of song-cycles that  are mining the musicals aether for gems & minerals as yet unheard. Joined on stage for the first two numbers by the Unthanks sisters on vocals, they were soon striding through the set, a shimmering collection of uber-grooves that had everyone nodding & tapping along.




This gig was the start of a national tour in which the widely acclaimed album, ‘The Bell That Never Rang’ shall be performed live up & down the land. ‘The best album of the year’ said The Herald, ‘The best live band in the UK,’ said the Guardian…. perhaps, perhaps not, but there is a certain sexual energy that escapes from the throbbing pulse of Lau’s music that really needs to be experienced live. Their hypnotic blend of electronica, accordion, fiddle, & folk guitar is a curious one, but rather wonderful to watch when they hit their full pomp. Heart-tugging in places, soul-surfing in others, the band are in complete unison, from their banter between songs to their complete freedom when relying on each other at the more complicated sections of their craft.

Tonight is what Celtic Connections is all about, the fusion of old & new, looking backwards, looking forwards. The venue was amazing also, & singular praise must be given to the lighting team who rendered the performance with a Doorsian rock-art tapestry, especially the moment when its seemed as if sunbeams glimmered through the leafy overpass of a forest glade – spectacular. For me, I think The Unthanks would have been a better second half, for Lau were a little understated – but that’s just a matter of taste, & the standing ovation Lau received at the finale would say differently.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen



 Stage: 5 Atmosphere: 3 Performance: 5



 Stage: 5 Atmosphere: 3  Performance: 3

The Wainwright sisters and Ethan Johns


City Halls, Glasgow

Jan 25th

 Sound: 5 Atmosphere: 5 Performance: 5

Support act Ethan Johns and co strolled onto stage and with a light hearted one liner went straight into the music. The band effortlessly eased from country to bleak songs with Ethen telling the stories that he has witnessed and experienced in his life in America. The word ease is a great way of suggesting the intention for this Celtic connections gig, the four artist musicians communicating a blend of country, blues, with upbeat rock n’ roll rhythms.

After their 40 minute set Ethan and co left the stage, setting the audience up for the two sisters as they walked across it, with Martha Wainwright announcing that the collaboration was still in its invention due to the two singing and writing together. After Ethen (who has known the sisters for many years) introduced his music for the evening the unity of musical taste had become apparent and the sisters flowed into their rhythmic nuance. Their two voices are musically poetic  having had their many years of engulfing musical influence, and having been brought up within it only adds a potency to the evening unfolding.

The set list was also very special, and charming in its execution.  A simple seamless conquering of stage management and musicianship where only two artist appear on stage to fill a room capable of seating 1200 people (although no more than a third managed to turn up.) The two sisters voices and the style of music was made easier with the comical patter in between the songs with Martha and Lucy admitting the gloomy subject material of hobos and prostitution and ultimate darkness the two portrayed as the songs progressed. The Wainwright family write about this darkness and have done for two decades, but always commit themselves to it with humour and grace.

Many high points happen during this one night only gig, the sequenced organisation in a show like this was unique from so many years of dedicated practice by the two sisters who become very capable for the audience and remained soulful and energetic. But when they sing in unison and in harmony the music travels beyond cleverness covering an un-manipulating atmosphere towards the crowd. Lucy sings with lovely compassion and earnestness like an angelic mother singing to her child, Lullabies being a section of the performance. These lullabies are the same that nursed the sisters to sleep in their childhood that inspired the sisters to collaborate producing their acclaimed album ‘Songs in the dark’.

Lucy leaves the stage for Martha to perform some of her other project songs. All of this comes across as being very delicate with the sisters having a carefree attitude developed from mothers and fathers, the sisters share the same father and are to different mothers, there experimentation includes them seeing how well they will get on and as Martha states how “lazy can we be and how many sandwiches can we make instead of practicing.”

Lucy re-joined her sister Martha on stage and they set about their acoustic guitars and harmonious lyrics. As a member of the audience it was a pleasure to take part in this thoughtful abundance of folk singing sisters reflecting their own youth and translating it into verse that relates to us in a deep emotive way.  We saw Lucy quite lucidly engaging the crowd with wry humour move straight into lyrical statements of tragedy and depravity, maybe she really needs her sense of humour.

Their intimacy is developed through their ability to laugh, and their voices are a mix of powerful and far reaching tones. Two musicians entering into a world with two voices and guitars, a world describing the one we all live in.

Reviewer :  Daniel Donnelly


An Evening with James Yorkston, The Pictish Trail and Withered Hand



Mitchell Library

28th January

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Three chairs from the Mitchell Library offices/canteen and three upright guitars upon a stage where a thick air conditioning fog clouded the room for tonight’s performance by three of Scotland’s most vital singer/songwriters.

James Yorkston, a vital cog in Fife’s Fence Collective which has bestowed the likes of KT Tunstall and the Beta Band among others, was joined by fellow Fence veterans, the sensational Johnny Lynch aka The Pictish Trail, and east-coast troubadour Dan Willson aka Withered Hand. Tonight’s performance involved all three artists sat on stage together chewing the fat between delivering their songs and generally poking fun at one another. It was a camaraderie that warmed the audience quickly to their hosts, especially after being blown in by Storm Gertrude.

Opening, Willson’s “Life Of Doubt” was assisted by Yorkston on harmonica as the sell-out crowd dashed in to take their seats. A gentle beginning to proceedings followed Yorkston’s ‘When The Haar Rolls In’ single “Tortoise Regrets Hare” and the beautiful Lynch track “I Don’t Know Where To Begin” letting the audience get a feel for what lay ahead of them. In signature-bobble hat, the Pictish Trail’s playful manner entirely warps the seriousness of each performer’s songs, and the laughter which accompanies each joke or tale prevents the night from becoming stifled or overly-heavy. While Willson and Yorkston opt for some of their earliest work (“Cornflake” / “Shipwreckers”) at the beginning of the gig, Lynch introduces new song “Believe Me, I Know” which was co-written with Glasgow musician Jo Mango and released only a fortnight ago as a nod to his carbon footprint on the music circuit.

Not to be outdone, Willson’s “California” is a stunning ode to “cough medicine abuse” and at times leans into sounding like the Blue Oyster Cult at their apex. Willson only appear on my radar last summer during a Neu! Reekie! tour which visited a church in Helensburgh and despite a fairly-late start to music (Willson only began playing guitar aged 30), he has flourished to become one of BBC Radio 6’s favourite psych-folk acts. Spending around 90% of the gig perched on the very last few centimetres of his seat, it was clear that Willson hugely enjoyed the repertoire between his fellow performers, and revelled in playing the “straight man” during periods of the gig.

As competent as Willson was strumming his guitar, it was Lynch who bolstered energy levels, often dipping into electronic accompaniments which were prevalent on his side-project Silver Columns back in 2010. Fulfilling his “George Michael dreams”, the Pictish Trail used his full smorgasbord of musical adeptness to deliver “Fargo”, a quite brilliant synth-fuelled, electronic bass-packed punch of a song accompanied by Yorkston running his bow on the nyckelharpa and Willson gently strumming underneath. After such haunting contemporary song, Willson showed off his dry wit on the piercing “Religious Songs” – perhaps the only song you will ever hear which references masturbating on a futon. Another huge highlight followed in the shape of Yorkston’s “Broken Wave (A Blues For Doogie)” which was dedicated to Yorkston’s former bassist Doogie Paul who passed away in 2012.  This was a quite beautiful number which, for all the tomfoolery and drinking on stage, could be seen to be most heartfelt and sincere in lyrics such as:

Withered Hand.JPG“I promise I will remember you

as a man full of life

and not this broken wave”.

As familiarised as fans of Yorkston may be with his dabbling in electronic producers such as Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) on 2004 album ‘Just Beyond The River’ and Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor on 2014’s ‘The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society’, it was still somewhat bewildering to hear his song “The Queen of Spain” being melded in with Lynch’s “Fresh Prince of Kingsbarns” and some robot-dancing by Willson. It was a moment of great fun which again made fun of the intensity of each songwriters’ supposed personalities, and demonstrated the good-natured humour of these three talents.

The penultimate song of the night was provided by Lynch, a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, which was requested by Lynch “not to be sang along to as it puts me off”. The audience obliged by leaving the man from the Isle of Eigg to deliver a wonderful acoustic version on Yorkston’s guitar after accidentally damaging his own minutes earlier.  It was left to Willson to close the evening with lead single “Horseshoe” from his most recent album ‘New Gods’, which includes the poetic line “Please don’t put a shadow on her lung”.

The three friends exited the stage leaving their Glasgow audience to face the storm battering the walls of the library and the numerous cancellations on the rail network home, and if Yorkston got his way, a few woolly hats and t-shirts from the merchandise stall to wrap up in. 

Reviewer : Stephen Watt


SNJO with Eddi Reader and Grainne Holland


Concert Hall, Glasgow

25th January 


A great start to the night was had in the form of Irish singer Grainne Holland who kickstarted 2016’s Burns night, Alba: Songs of Scotland, at The Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. First offering was a song about, ‘the crack..the girls and the drink.’ The moment Grainne burst into song I could see why Celtic Connection’s Artistic Director (and founding member of Celtic supergroup Capercaillie) Donald Shaw invited Holland and her band to our shores. A voice like hers deserves to be heard : it is little wonder she has won rapturous plaudits for her deep vocal range and interesting arrangements. Grainne brings a modern urban angle to traditional Gaelic music which has been described as Gaelic jazz. A perfect pairing then to warm up the audience for the larger than life presence of Eddi Reader. With ballads that warn of marrying a carpenter or a tailor because future nights will be spent cutting wood or cloth and to settle for the piper instead because,‘… you can listen to my wonderful music till the cows come home,’ we are transported back in time to really appreciate that there was meaning and wisdom imparted on the listeners beyond the beauty of the tune itself.

So, we were well warmed by the time The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Eddi Reader arrived to celebrate Rabbie Burns’ 257th birthday. Eddi played a beautifully reflective rendition of late Glaswegian writer Edwin Morgan and Tommy Smith’s Glen of Tranquility. Her performance with the SNJO focused on Burns’ deep lyrical love in famous pieces such as Ae Fond Kiss and John Anderson My Jo, before singing Charlie is My Darlin  and amusingly reminding the older members of the audience that this tune was used to advertise beer, ‘…McEwan’s is the best beer, you’ll remember it.’

Never a dull moment with the captivating Reader who danced her way through the set-raising her skirt at times to dance like your granny – then waltzing and yes air guitaring at one point while ad-libbing her sublime tonal range in time to the saxophones. Glasgow Barrowlands was poignant due to the fact that Eddi heard this song sung, ‘ by a guy fae the pub wi nae teeth.’ in her house when her dad brought back his drinking buddies on  Thursday nights which, ‘ .. always turned into a party.’

The finale was another love song, not penned by Burns, but by Reader’s husband The Wild Mountainside which like all Ayrshire lads , ‘can write a poem but canny put a washine machine on.’ You can’t have it all Eddi, but the audience of this emotive night certainly felt they did!

Reviewer: Clare Crines


Hazy Recollections



24 January 2016

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Eleanor Nicolson, The Small Glories, Angus Munro, Michael Cassidy and Have Mercy Las Vegas

 Afternoon gigs can be a dangerous thing when it comes to drawing crowds in from the street and eating into the regular habits of the public’s weekend. So it was with great relish that Hazy Recollections organiser, Scottish folk musician Findlay Napier, was in a position to disclose that the 170 tickets sold for this weekend’s show featuring Eleanor Nicolson, The Small Glories, Angus Munro, Michael Cassidy and Have Mercy Las Vegas, was the highest-selling Hazy Recollections since its inception in 2011.

Opening proceedings, the delicate eggshells which disguise themselves as teenage songbird Eleanor Nicolson’s songs would appear to be best enjoyed lying on a patch of summer festival grass with a midday sun beating down, eyes closed, and a cigarette between lips. Nicolson’s pure, untarnished hymns to heartache from her ‘White Noise’ EP were well received and the young Stornoway girl often displayed fleeting parallelisms with Eva Cassidy in songs such as “It’s Complicated” and “Whispers In The Rain”. The lovesick romanticism of “Sticks and Stones”, co-written by fellow Stornoway musician Colin McLeod, was an especially bewitching song, sang alongside accompanying musician Paul, which won the entire absorption of the ABC2 audience.

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Manitoba-duo The Small Glories were added as a special guest only a day before the gig and instantly won favour with Cara Luft’s claw-hammer technique on the banjo. Dedicating “No Friend Of Mine” to their hometown after a shooting at a local school, Luft and JD Edwards haunting mouth organ continued to impress, and displayed story-telling at its finest during the maritime legend concerning a fisherman who never returned to his waiting wife in the beautiful “Long, Long Moon”. Five songs were enough to make a huge impression before the pair continued their travels to Arisaig, entirely sold out of all copies of their CD.


Findlay Napier introduced London-born but Scottish-raised keyboardist Angus Munro to proceedings. If it wasn’t already difficult enough following the terrific Small Glories, Munro had two audience members stood less than three feet away in front of him as he performed songs from 2013 EP ‘Shooting First’. Displaying an enviable vocal range, Munro’s plaintive “H.M” about Henry Moalison, the man with no memory, also showed off a terrific depth and intelligence in his lyric-writing. Slightly disappointingly, Munro’s warbling often outshone the musicianship to a point where the crowd appeared unsettled during songs such as “The Death Of Me” and “Mirror Man”. It was left to the lugubrious final song “Aftershave” to finish on a positive note, laying aside the doleful wailing for most of what prove to be Munro’s finest piece in his entire set.

Returning the gig to a more folk sound, the first ever winner of the Gerry Rafferty song-writing award Michael Cassidy stepped on to the stage. Used to performing with a full band, Cassidy brought only Connor Smith playing a Telecaster, along with him. This kept the attention focused on Cassidy’s captivating lyricism and personality which shone through songs such as “You’re Gone” and “The Road”. As delightful as Cassidy’s anecdotes were before each song, it was his creations which took centre stage with slow, thoughtful pieces such as “These Hands” and “Forever Is Falling Down” shining in the Paisley man’s set. It was perhaps a pity that there was little in the way of music from debut album ‘My Electric Heart’ but with a tour supporting Elia and the Bear next month, there will be ample opportunity for Cassidy to continue displaying the great range and depth of his song-writing to more people.


The only performance of the evening featuring a drummer was provided by folk-favourites Have Mercy Las Vegas. Whether or not it was the added presence of so many musicians on one stage which caused the energy levels of the listening crowd to increase remains to be decided but early EP track “Tear To My Eye” finally had people on their feet and moving. Despite some early banjo difficulties, new song “St Peter’s Blues” continued to drive the tempo upwards and showcase an increasingly impressive vocal performance by co-lead Eilidh Trotter. The band dynamic works best on up-tempo tracks such as “Pappy” from debut album ‘That’s Life” with fiddle, guitars, bass, banjo and drums conjuring up an intoxicating hysteria that demands the listener’s attention. Permitting one more song to be played due to the marginally early finish, Findlay Napier left HMLV to close the afternoon with the wonderfully bluesy number “Snakes and Horses”.

It was easy to see why today’s line-up had drawn such a healthy audience through its doors, from early school-age children to Celtic veterans, much of which will be available to listen to on Cumbernauld station Revival FM 100.8 FM who are licensed to record all the Hazy Recollections gigs during Celtic Connections.

Reviewer : Stephen Watt




Tron Theatre

20 January


My first outing at this year’s Celtic connections saw me take a seat in the main auditorium at the Tron Theatre for a wonderfully inspiring 3-part concert. It’s centrepiece was Vision Mechanic’s Symon Macintyre’s production of Drift, a song & narrative cycle whipped up by composer, Eddie McGuire, & wordsmith, Judith Adams. Last summer, a ‘dreadful’ one according to Macintyre, the show had toured beaches of northern Scotland, & it was on one of these sandy stretches that Macintyre met Shetland’s prodigal fiddless, Claire White, who opened proceedings.

Claire White

Accompanied by Robert Leask on guitar, Claire seemed like an angel as her white shawl hung softly & wafted gently as she swept her bow across her fiddling strings. She gave us three songs concerning folk-heroes from the northern regions, including a marvelous ballad concerning Jan Baalsrud a Second World war legend who managed to cross occupied Norway with 100 Nazis in pursuit, losing 9 toes in the process. In this self-penned number, the choric lyric, ‘Hands across the hills & hearts across the sea / Thro ice & wind & weather, our spirits they soar free‘ was particularly memorable.

bett.jpgThe main event was Drift, inspired by Betty Mouat, a 61 year old Shetland crofter, who in January 1886 drifted alone at sea for nine days from Shetland to Norway. Combining soundscapes, film, music, words & song this is a multi-media production the Mumble would have been proud of.  Gerda Stevenson gallops through the libretto of Judith Adams with a great confidence & perfect delivery, & really invokes the colloquial loneliness of Betty’s trial. For the nine songs she sings – representing the nine days Betty was at sea – she is accompanied by an excellent band of acoustic musicians, who when not playing remain as still as rocks in a seastorm. Of the story given us, Macintyre hopes we would ‘glimpse the thoughts & emotions of someone whose life is hanging by a thread,’ & I dare say he has achieved his objective, a multi-sensory plunge into the North Sea which instead of freezing us to bones, warms us to the cockles of our hearts. For those wishing to experience Drift, it will be on tour this summer @

25-28 May : Stamsund Theatre Festival 

21-25 June : Arctic Arts Festival, Harstad

28 June – 3 July : Fossekleiva Kultursenter 

21-26 sept :  findhorn bay Festival

a1965937881_16.jpgThe final act of this night’s soul-easing music was Ewan Macintyre, who just so happens to be Symon’s son. An upbringing immersed in Gaelic culture shone quite clearly through his short but celebratory set of all that is best in Celtic music. His easy, honey-dripping vocals were bouyed up by some excellent melodically plodding double bass from virtuosoesque Conrad Mollesson, some neatly sliding Dobro from Gavin Taylor, & the salubrious soundsmithery of Adam Shapiro’s fiddle. Ewan had met Adam in Montreal, & together they recorded an album – You Probably Look Better Naked Anyway – which you can listen to & buy at the link below. On the night, the extended jams were lovely, & his recent return to the ‘mothership’ – ie Edinburgh – like Robert Johnson returned from the crossroads, is a welcome moment in the future of traditional Scottish music.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen


The Re-Act Refugee Fundraiser

Studio 24, Edinburgh

Friday 15th January 


It was a cold, cold day. The first snows of Winter had turned Edinburgh into Narnia and new love was flourishing its delicate optimism. I got the call to perform with Tinky Disco at a fundraiser for this very auspicious and worthwhile cause. The news that our first performance of the year was in 8 hours sure put a smile on my face. My beautiful Lady had just arrived too. The weekends entertainment was looking good

The Re Act Refugee fundraiser is an ongoing live project with the aim of making the lives of Men, Women and Children trapped in dire circumstances through no fault of there own, easier than would have been had innovation like this not have taken place. With a line up of entertaining delight that would ensure a Good Time on Cold January night.

First up the lyrical rapping magik of Drew Devine. weaving poignant words and social commentary over electronic beats. Drew warmed up the dancefloor perfectly and this celebrity packed audience hung on to every word.



Next up, Mark McGhee took the mike and delivered his poetic slant informed by our current hypocritical governing forces.again a poignant and relevant force of art making a difference and the voice a generation. Spontaneous and Punk as Fuck.

Mark was joined by Gordy Duncan, incidentally Gordy is one of Divines favorite drummers, its the way he hits them. But for tonight Mr Duncan played guitar. A multi instrumentalist, Gordy has just released his first solo album. Tides. Written produced and performed by this musical maverick and full time drummer with The Girobabies. Another Scottish celebrity in her own right Jo D’Arc came on stage to accompany on Bass and take us on an experimental musical journey. That was thrilling and very entertaining.

The Third of the night’s live acts, Tinky Disco. Fronted by (Mike) MC Mad of Groove Armada fame. Tinky Disco are six lads on a Good Time Mission. With band leader Double DD on Bass and shared vocal duties with Ali; Jon Harley on Drums and Divine on Djembe completing the rhythm section of this Rock n Roll unit, Al ‘Triple AAA’ Roberts on Lead Guitar, gelling the sonic template. Tinky Disco delivered a set of Rock n Roll greatness to an enthusiastic audience taking things to fever pitch.



To finish the night off in fine style. A Local Dj who has more than earned his reputation as one of Edinburgh’s finest DJ’s, spinning to packed dancefloors for over twenty years. Joint founder of the legendary club, Headspin and regular at the phenomenally successful Hullabaloo Club Night. Steve Austin took to the decks and everyone danced till they dropped. Divine would like to thank Louise Hare and the Staff of Studio 24 and the wonderful sound engineer for doing so much to help this noble cause.

And if one good turn deserves another.
And If Music Is the Food of Love.
Play On.

Fantastic Night.
Good time Divine.

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert


Errors & BDY_PRTS



16 January 2016

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In a month when the music world lost The Specials’ John Bradbury, Motorhead’s Lemmy, and the Goblin King himself – David Bowie – the arrival of over 2,000 musicians to Glasgow’s lamented Celtic Connections festival was hugely welcome and a fond reminder of music at its most stripped-back roots, connecting with passionate audiences, across 300 events.

Three of the couple of thousand musicians descending on Glasgow belong to the electronic holy trinity known as Errors. It had been around eight years since I last saw the band perform, inside the line-dancing, country music-surroundings of the Grand Ole Opry. At that time, a halcyon period for electronic music produced a number of exciting UK acts including Union of Knives, Delphic, Metronomy and RBRBR after audiences had grown fatigued (and out of fluorescent material) by the Nu-Rave explosion, and had continued to mature into the sweet-tempered, cordial sound adopted by bands such as Errors.

Whether it was the unabating snow that hit the city or simply the price of an Errors ticket rising in tandem with the band’s ascent, this gig did not sell out and was moved into the more intimate surroundings of the ABC2 next door. Support was provided by the alt-pop band BDY_PRTS (pronunciate ‘Body Parts’) whose neon jumpsuits and glittered countenance immediately harked back to the afore-mentioned Nu-Rave scene. Opening with the quite gorgeous “Idlu”, produced by the equally-talented Glasgow electronic whizz Miaoux Miaoux, it was a warm and bright arrangement to begin proceedings. The band’s penchant for slightly bemusing dance moves which appeared to be practised in the bedroom before the show was a marginal distraction during “Warrior”, while the Kate Bush-inspired “Breathe” was also afforded the same bewildering shapes. However, the BDY_PRTS songs themselves are beautiful crafted slices of pop and should take nothing away from Jill O’Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, who clearly have a knack for writing fascinating, synthesised fairy tales. As confidence appeared to flow through the band, BDY_PRTS brought their set to a close with the cutting “Cold Shoulder” and the sublime line ‘the dust on your favourite records are under the bed’.


As BDY_PRTS and their entourage hauled their equipment out to the van behind the venue, Errors had appeared on stage in front of a much-swollen audience and begun driving their 2012 ‘Have Some Faith In Magic’ album gem “Pleasure Palaces”. It was an exhilarating start which never quite matched the rest of the set. Frontman Steve Livingstone joked that the band only got into the primarily folk-driven Celtic Connections festival on account of being Scottish, but Errors dreamy soundscapes and amiable electronica makes them an attractive proposition for a more ripened audience who enjoy their dance music lead by intelligent, percolated chord changes rather than squelching, repetitive bleeps and hooks which fellow Glaswegians Chvrches have used to nose themselves in front of the competition.

Heads bopped along to old and new tracks during the hour-long set, with the celestial chanting during latest album ‘Lease of Life’ title track standing out for it’s pure and uncontaminated brilliance.  Recording sessions on the Isle of Jura appear to have given more weight to Errors’ talents – and beards – which may yet see their name upon more prestigious stages. Additionally, the Foals early math-rock guitars which features on “A Rumour In Africa” was greeted with great affection by long-time supporters of the band mid-way through the set.

The new co-vocals supplied by Cecilia Stamp has also offered Errors more elbow room in battling their way to the top of the electro-pop tree, providing a transcendental outlet which, although always existing in Errors records, appears more polished and enhanced. The welcome on to the stage reserved for ‘random audience member’ Richie on keyboards (suspected close friend of the band) was well deserved during an earlier instrumental track as the tempo increased during one of the more shoulder-swaying tracks of the evening.

If the ticket sales suggested that Errors were not worth coming out for, then hopefully another Celtic Connections gig will draw interest and garner a sizeable audience for another artist at this year’s festival. We’ll blame the slushy streets of Sauchiehall Street on this occasion.

Reviewer : Stephen Watt


The Carrying Stream


Glasgow Concert Hall

Jan 14th

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Where else can you discover that the term ‘red neck’ originally comes from Aberdonian emigree ploughmen living and working in America’s deep south who suffered acute sunburn?  Only from the talented and vibrant M.C. Mark Stein who started off the evenings spectacular performances with an array of beautiful tartan in the form of The National Pipe Band of Scotland – such an incredible talent of young and super young pipers who warmed up the audience and melted our hearts. A tremendous and emotionally charged intro to the 50th year anniversary celebration of Scotland’s Traditional Music and Song Association.


Keeping the ‘spirit of Scotland alive’ and hosting an evening of Scottish (and International) music that, ‘gets under yer cuticles like the red soil of the Mearns,’ we can feel our M.C’s passion and admiration for the performers whose line up included Sheena Wellington singing ‘A Man’s a Man For A’ That’ (Scottish Parliament opening) and the famous Barbara Dickson who poignantly shared her love of the TMSA and how she wouldn’t have had such an incredible career if it wasn’t for their belief in her. Hearing her singing and guitar playing was a special surprise for me having seen her accompany Elaine Page last century.

She sounded so different and hauntingly captivating with no glitz and glamour needed to touch us as deeply as she did.Adding to line up was Thomas McCarthy, an Irish singer from a travelling family who evoked warm nights round a peat fire and Mischa MacPherson , winner of so many awards in 2014 that she can be safely said to have swept the boards with her sharp, melodic gaelic songs.Jimmy Hutchison,Kris Drever, Shepheard, Speirs and Watson and Malinky completed the stellar line up.

Alli Bain, celebrating his 70th year and friend Phil Cunningham , celebrating 40 years of being a professional musician also made a guest appearance that is not listed in the Celtic Connections brochure. The house band comprised of Euan Burton, Anna Massie, Aaron Jones, Tom Gibbs, John Blease and Megan Henderson who it has to be said were exemplary,  accompanying all the class acts effortlessly.

Impeccably directed throughout by young singer/songwriter Siobhan Miller who at one point in the evening sang with her father Brian Miller and Arthur Johnson who thrilled Nelson Mandella on his visit here many years ago. Incidentally, according to our M.C. only Glasgow council could rename the very square that the South African Embassy was housed in to Nelson Mandela Square at the height of apartheid forcing their correspondences to have the great man’s name on it !

Adam McNoughton , responsible for bringing so much traditional Scottish music to our schools sang a Tom Johnson ballad. Tom, also known as  the ‘Calton Barber Poet’ or ‘Figaro’ composed ‘The Soor Milk Cairt’ in 1880 which Mcnoughton thrilled the audience with who joined in the chorus:

Wi’ her cheeks sae red and rosy, and e’en sae bonnie blue

Dancin’ and glancin’ they pierced me through and through

She fairly won ma fancy, and she stole awa’ ma hert

Drivin’ into Glesga in ma soor milk cairt

 Rich voiced Sam Lee gave an inspirational performance of a Stanley Robinson song of whom he was a former pupil. Robinson was Scottish folksinger Jeannie Robertson’s nephew and taught Lee many of his ballads before his death in 2009. Londoner Lee, who originally studied at Chelsea College of Art  has carved a career for himself in folk music winning Best Folk Club night in the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for his folk club night The Magpies Nest.

Invited American singer Rayna Gellert from North Carolina sang us a murder ballad called  ‘The Cruel Mother’ which she thought we would all love because , ‘hey who doesn’t love a good murder song?’  but was advised by Director Siobhan Miller to give us a wee pallet cleanser after which she duly did. Intense but brilliant.

This once in a lifetime event sponsored by Glasgow City Council and Creative Scotland ended fittingly with a song about how we may or may not meet again. If you get the chance to meet any of these show stopping talents I strongly recommend you do.

Reviewer : Clare Crines


New Year in Vienna

Perth Concert Hall
3rd January

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Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Joseph Swenson (dir. and solo violin)
Stephanie Gonley (leader)


Let’s say you wanted to make it to the New Year’s Day gig in Vienna, but couldn’t – where would you go instead? Well, going to Perth on the 3rd might seem on the face of it to be a little like the last of the chocolates you got for Christmas, but a gala concert by a decent orchestra is a gala concert by a decent orchestra, and that’s that!

This concert also promised “your favourite Viennese waltzes and polkas”, so that was encouraging. Just a moment – waltzes and polkas? – what about marches? No ‘Radetzky’? Really? Oh well…

I often say this, but it is worth stating again, that it is a unique experience to sit and listen to an orchestra unmediated by anything electronic, to catch it ‘live’, without anyone twiddling knobs to get the balance right. Live is how it ought to be heard, then you can see how the composers wanted the balance. Edinburgh-based Scottish Chamber Orchestra is a relatively small ensemble, as you would expect, and easier to take in with both eye and ear than a full symphony orchestra. It produces a lean and precise sound which makes it possible for an attentive audience almost to analyse what is happening, hear each section of the orchestra, and then put it all back together as more than the sum of its parts. With a purely acoustic performance such as this, any slight flaw in the balance becomes obvious, and in this case if I have to find fault it is in the three trombones, who sometimes overstated their case. Overall the orchestra, in being precise, sometimes forgot to sparkle; but at other times they recovered, and remembered that this was all supposed to be about having fun. One of the cellists remembered that during the ‘Tritsch-Tratsch Polka’, and spun her instrument round 360 degrees. By the end of the night several of her colleague cellists got in the same groove, and even one of the double basses got a quick spin!

4c77c9e1-c90f-4097-b48e-d32bd40181dc.jpgDirector and solo violinist Joseph Swenson, an American of Norwegian and Japanese heritage, was the orchestra’s principal conductor in the early 2000s. He is himself a composer, and one of the most interesting items on the programme was his arrangement for orchestra and solo violin of Clara Schumann’s ‘Three Romances’. Earlier in the programme his performance of Massenet’s ‘Meditation’ seemed to start with a lack of confidence, but soon recovered; in the ‘Three Romances’, on the other hand, he was all confidence, and it was possible to feel his absolute and direct involvement in the music.

That version of Clara Schumann’s pieces might have been the only presentation that was less than familiar to us in the audience. The rest were crowd-pleasers par excellence, including the “Thunder and Lightning Polka’, the ‘Pizzicato Polka’ (under the direction of leader Stephanie Gonley), and ending with Johan Strauss II’s ‘An der schönen blauen Donau’ (the famous ‘Blue Danube’ waltz). The SCO’s lean sound made the latter stand out as the masterpiece of composition it is.

Yes, all right, the ‘Radetzky March’ did turn up – as the second encore. They were only teasing us. After all, it wouldn’t be a New Year, Viennese style, if they didn’t give us something to clap along to! I’m sure the SCO will be around again next year, so don’t miss them.

Reviewer: Paul Thompson