l 5 Relative values 3 .

An explosive combination of talent is about to be unleashed after a break of six years. Norman Chalmers speaks to the instigators, who have more in common than their music. :

The theory of Relativity was that two pairs of siblings would fuse in one group. releasing more energy than the sum of the parts. The interacting elements were Triona and Micheal O‘ Domhnaill. ex-members of Ireland‘s superb Bothy Band and Johnny and Phil Cunningham. late of Scotland's international barnstormers. Silly Wizard.

The result was a blast of quality. high energy music and a couple ofalbums still being heard on the airwaves. Relativity's last live detonation was six years ago. but the good news for their fans is that they are re-combining for Celtic Connections. and their sole UK concert.

Phil admits it was an exciting surprise when he heard the reunion was to happen. ‘After the second album we played our last tour.‘ he remembers. ‘That was in 1988 . . . well. we did one American tour shortly after that. but then we all became so busy that it hasn‘t happened again till now. Micheal i and Triona live in Portland. Oregon and ; were going to be coming over to visit ' their parents in lreland so Wendy of Green Linnet Records suggested a reunion. Johnny was already over there with them recording an album and it


just fell into place. So that‘s it. they've

got a holiday job!‘

Fiddler Johnny has played in many trail—breaking combinations since last with Relativity. including a long spell Stateside in rock band Moondogs. and a world tour with Dylan for about a year. Currently based in the north-west of America. he is working mainly with Triona and Micheal in their band Nightnoise, which although on the Wyndham l-lill label. is retreating from the further reaches of mist New Age.

Phil. who has his own studio north of

lnverness and is musical director for

many BBC TV programmes. including 'liillu o Blair/v and the Hogmanay Show. admires the latest Nightnoise

Phil Cunningham of Relativity

album. ‘I think Johnny‘s input has moved it along.‘ he says. ‘I like it. It's polished. lyrical. with really well played arrangements of mainly lrish and Scottish music. 'Johnny's not going to get to relax. I‘m going to work him hard while he‘s here. I‘ve got him in my band for the Opening Ceilidh. There‘ll be piano and bass. with Runrig's guitarist Malcolm 5 Jones. C‘apercaillie's Donald Shaw and (.‘harlie .‘ylacKerrin. and Wolfstone's ; Duncan Chisholm. Three tiddles! And ; we‘ll be playing straight. for dancing.‘

: Re/olivirv and ()l([ B/im/ Dogs ploy NW 3 (I/(Is'tunv Royal (.‘onu’ri Hall on Sun 8 Jun.

_ Man witha mission

Alan Stivell is best thought of as a I Biblical character: a prophet or messiah who would lead his followers l to the Promised Land. His dream was

of a Celtic renaissance, re-seeding the ? ancient nations of Brittany, Cornwall, { the Isle of Man, Wales, Ireland, Galicia and Scotland with the old art toms, and the most ancient form of music, the haunting, emotional resonance of the harp.

To a large extent, these things have happened - or at least in comparison with the 505 and early 603 when the young Alan was studying the harp under his father as well as Celtic languages and history at university. Then, the authentic traditional music of his native Brittany and of most other Celtic nations was in serious decflne.

Alan adopted the surname Stivell, which in Breton means a source or

spring. More than two decades ago, he tuned a generation of young people into their own culture with the massively influential and award- winning album ‘Henaissance of the Celtic Harp’. It brought together tunes, airs and ancient composed pieces from various nations, not just on the solo harp, but in arrangements anticipating the future development of Celtic folk rock.

His later, loud, if over indulgent, touring ensembles further defined the

Alan Stivell

style, circling the globe and performing before large audiences. A multi-instrumentalist - although his enthusiastic Highland bagpipe playing leaves a lot to be desired - he is a great, moving singer of Breton traditional song, and recent years have seen him return to his best form. He remains a towering figure in the ever-evolving world of contemporary Celtic music. (Norman Chalmers)

Alan Stivell plays the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Fri 6 Jan.

_ Swimming against the tide


Thrash ceilidh. folk punk. Celtic trance dance. call it what you will. there‘s a lot of it about. But a lot of what? The common denominator is drums. That's what takes these hands out of the folk ghetto and into the clubs and the venues where you can leap about. hang out and avoid being told to keep your voice down.

Wolfstone are out there pulling straight rock with a Scottish head on it; the Tartan Amoebas are light-hearted and Latin. mixing brass and bagpipes; there‘s Shooglenifty. Hugh MacDiarmid‘s Haircut, the Humpff Family and Old Blind Dogs. Later in the Festival. there are Lorelei and 'l‘inderbox. All different. but all energetic. iconoclastic and drum- driven.

Meanwhile. up north something altogether different is happening. Shetland is another country. with an amazing amount of music and a wild diversity of styles. If you've heard of Rock. Salt and Nails, here‘s another Bongshang. The band‘s singer J.J. Jarnieson explains what drives them: ‘There's so much traditional music tip here: everybody's surrounded by it. But we don‘t want to just do a fiddle tune with a funky backing. 1 mean. you can only turbo-charge a trad tune so much. We're not trying to put a rave beat to a banjo. We're playing pieces. not just one melody. Everyone's voice counts.’

Bongshang consists of guitar. bass. drums. J.J.‘s banjo and the sounds of one of Shetland’s finest iiddlers. Leonard Scollay. All in their early twenties. the band members say they ‘try to put a good groove into everything we do. it‘s a lot better than playing thrash reels at l()()mph. We use a lot of delay pedals and effects. building up an atmosphere. But rhythm's the key to it all.‘ (Norman Chalmers)

[Jo/rurliarm play [/10 Glasgow Royal (.‘ont'err Hall on Thurs [2 Jan.

The List 16 December 1994-12 January 1995 23