Sunday, 31 January 2010

Shared musical magic amid the merry banter

Transatlantic Sessions, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

As attested by the speed with which both shows routinely sell out, the Transatlantic Sessions are the longstanding jewel in Celtic Connections’ crown. This year, however, was exceptional even by the usual exalted standards.

Whether it was serendipitous chemistry, between the line-up’s mix of old lags and first-timers, or a particularly felicitous choice of songs – or perhaps the full moon – the musical magic conjured by 18 leading folk artists from Scotland, Ireland and America delivered the wow factor in spades.

In keeping with the “sessions” element of the format, most of the musicians remained on stage throughout, clapping, tapping feet and applauding in unison with the audience. Together with plenty of banter and craic – including the seemingly requisite doses of toilet humour from accordionist Phil Cunningham – this lent the proceedings a winning informality and an air of spontaneity, which belied the wealth of A-list musicianship on display.

A pair of early highlights came courtesy of West Virginia’s O’Brien siblings, Grammy-winning singer/multi-instrumentalist Tim and vocalist Mollie, whose name reveals their own Irish lineage. They brought the house down with a tremendous gospel-blues duet on

He Lifts Me, followed by Mollie’s breathtaking rendition of the old Terence Trent D’Arby hit, Cross My Heart.

As this suggests, the material overall ranged freely across traditional and contemporary, Celtic and Americana territory. Other unexpected treats were O’Brien frère’s down ’n’ dirty bluegrass re-shake of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe, with dobro maestro Jerry Douglas and guitarist John Doyle, and Eddi Reader leading a natty rockabilly arrangement of Boo Hewerdine’s Hummingbird.

Two absent friends were commemorated, firstly by Ireland’s honey-voiced Cara Dillon, singing John Martyn’s Spencer The Rover, on the first anniversary of his death. A female vocal line-up that also featured Capercaillie’s Karen

Matheson and ex-Nickel Creek starlet Sara Watkins, later teamed up on a heart-melting Talk To Me Of Mendocino, in tribute to the late Kate McGarrigle.

Dillon was in equally spine-tingling form for her other two contributions, Dougie MacLean’s poignantly homesick Garden Valley and her own stirringly evocative Hill Of Thieves. Watkins showed off her clear, curvaceous, vividly expressive tones in a romp through Jimmie Rodgers’ Any Old Time.

There was no shortage of powerful singing among the men, either, prime examples including a desolately raw-boned cowboy song, Leaving Cheyenne, from Bruce Molsky. Another was Darrell Scott’s Banjo Clark, a reworking of US traditional standard Old Joe Clark, in which his splendidly rugged, weathered voice presided over suitably bare-knuckle backing from most of the dozen or so instrumentalists present.

Talking of presiding, doing so over said instrumentalists was double bass legend Danny Thompson, under­pinning it all with his uniquely muscular yet sensitive handling of rhythm and colour, while Douglas’s magisterial dobro work sonically reflected his role as joint musical director, along with Shetland fiddler Aly Bain.

No parade of Celtic or Americana music would be complete without the utterly tragic, as represented here by the fire-and-brimstone singing of Dan Tyminski (the voice of George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou?) in the murder ballad Wild Bill Jones, and Karen Matheson’s sublimely inconsolable rendering of Crucan Na Bpaiste.

While songs predominated, the instrumental cast also featured such luminaries as Mike McGoldrick on flute, whistles and uilleann pipes, festival director Donald Shaw on piano and accordion, guitarist Russ Barenberg and percussionist James Mackintosh. With the entire line-up heading off next week on its first tour, and the fourth series of the BBC version out on DVD, the Trans atlantic Sessions continue to march from strength to thrilling strength.

No comments:


accordion achill activities Affiliate Program Alan Kelly Alan Shatter Alasdair Roberts Alison Krauss All Ireland Fleadh Altan Andy Irvine antrim archive armagh Arthur McBride Arts Arts and Entertainment Arts Council Arty McGlynn Athlone Baltimore band banjo Bantry Barney McKenna Baroque music Bill Whelan Bluegrass music bodhran Bodhrán bouzouki brendan begley Brendan Dolan brian boru Brian Conway Brian Cunningham Brock McGuire Band bunsatty Caoimhin O Raghallaigh Cape Breton Castlebar Cathy Davey Cavan cd ceili Céilí Band Céilidh celtic Celtic music Celtic rock ceol charlie lennon Chicago chieftains christmas Christmas music Christy Moore ciorras clancy Clancy Brothers classes classical music comhaltas Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Compact Disc Compass Records concert concertina Concerts and Events Connemara Conradh na Gaeilge Cootehill cork Cork County Council Cork University Press Cormac De Barra County Clare County Leitrim Dáithí Sproule Damien Dempsey Dán Dance Dancing at Lughnasa Danny Boy danu Dave Swarbrick De Dannan Declan Sinnott Deezer Derry dervish dkit Dolores Keane Dónal Lunny Donegal Donegal Fiddle Tradition Donnacha Dennehy doolin drisheen Drogheda Drumkeeran drums Drumshanbo dublin Dubliners dun uladh Dundalk early music East Clare Ed Reavy Education Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin Eileen Ivers Eleanor McEvoy Electric Picnic emer mayock ennis European Union Fairytale of New York Feakle feis Feis Ceoil felix dolan festival Festivals fidde fiddle Fiddling Film festival Fleadh Fleadh Cheoil Fleadh Cheoil Competition Céilí Band Jig Comhaltas Fleadh Cheoil fleadh nua flute Folk music Folk music of Ireland folklore france outdoors Francis O'Neill Frank Harte Frankie Gavin frankie kennedy free download Gaeilge gael-linn Gaelic galway Galway Arts Festival galway bay George Bernard Shaw gig glor goodman manuscripts Grammy Award Green Linnet Records group Grouse Lodge Guinness guitar harp hinse history holidays hornpipe Iarla Ó Lionáird iPhone Ireland irish Irish American irish arts centre irish dance irish flute Irish language irish music Irish people Irish Recorded Music Association irish times irish traditional music Irish Traditional Music Archive irish whistle IrishCentral IrishTimes Israel itma Ivan Goff jack coen JAMES JOYCE James Joyce Centre Jig jigs Joanie Madden Joe Derrane John Carty John Doyle John McCusker John McKenna John McSherry john spillane John Wynne Julie Fowlis Junior Crehan Karan Casey Karen Matheson Kathleen MacInnes Kevin Crawford Kilfenora Kilfenora Céilí Band Latin America Le Vent du Nord learn Len Graham Leopold Bloom Lieutenant of Inishmore Literature Liz Carroll London London Irish Centre Lord of the Dance louisburgh lunasa Lúnasa MacTalla Mor Maggie MacInnes Máirtín Ó Direáin mairtin o'connor Máirtín O'Connor Malawi Mandolin Margaret Bennett Martin Carthy martin fay Martin Hayes Martin McDonagh Martin Quinn Mary Bergin Mary Black Maryland Massachusetts Matt Molloy mayo McMahon Merry Sisters of Fate Michael Flatley Michael Rooney Michael Tubridy Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin Micho Russell Mick Moloney mick o'brien milwaukee Monaghan Moya Brennan mp3 Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh music Music festival Music of Ireland Musical composition Natasha McShane Neil Young New York Noel Hill Northern Ireland npu NUIG o'carolan omagh Orkney Paddy Fahey paddy keenan paddy moloney paddy o'brien Padraig Rynne passionfruit theatre Paul Brady penny whistle pennywhistle Peter Horan Philadelphia Philip Duffy piano pipes Planxty podcast Poetry Pogues Quebec radio radisson Raidió Teilifís Éireann recording reel reels riverdance Robert Downey Jr Ronan Browne Ronnie Drew Roscommon rose of tralee rowsome Royal Irish Academy of Music RTÉ Concert Orchestra Ryan Molloy Saint Patrick's Day school scoil acla Scoil Éigse scotland Seachtain na Gaeilge Sean Nós Seán Ó Ríordáin Séan O'Riada séan potts sean tyrell Sean-nós song session Set dancing Shanachie Records shannon shannonside Sharon Shannon shetland show singer Singing Skara Brae Sliabh Luachra sligo solas Sorley MacLean st.patrick stephen ducke Streaming media Stuart MacRae summer school teada teetotallers tg4 the forge theatre Tin whistle Tommy McCarthy Tommy Peoples Tommy Sands Toner Quinn Town Hall Theatre trad trad music traditional Traditional Folk and Celtic Traditional music tradschool trocaire Tulla Tulla Céilí Band tune makers tunepal tutorial tv uilleann pipes Ulysses University of Limerick vallely Van Morrison venue Vermont video Violin W. B. Yeats Waterford westmeath whistle willie Willie Clancy Willie Walsh workshop workshops world fleadh