Donald Shaw’s Harvest kicks off the festvities
You’re hungover and skint: it must be time for CELTIC CONNECTIONS. Glasgow’s world-famous festival extends the winter excesses right through to February with some innovations to brighten up the regular format.
Words: Norman Chalmers
ike Edinburgh‘s Hogmanay borrowing of the
ancient Shetland tradition. Celtic Connections
this year opens with a ritual torchlit procession from George Square. There's a new Art Trail in venues galleries around the city and the literary/musical conjunctions of Ian Rankin with Jackie Leven. Stephen Rae with Colin Reid. and Liz Lochhead with Michael Marra are sure to put some new bums on seats.
For the rest it‘s business as usual in a programme packed with old favourites. new combinations and some names making their first connection to the legendary musicfest. famously enjoyed by performers just as much as punters. This is in no small part down to the Festival Club at the Quality Central Hotel. where the music and craic carries on to breakfast and beyond. Get tickets well in advance for any weekend at the Club; it will definitely sell out. Of the new names. Portugal‘s Mariza brings her emotionally drenching fado. Like tango to the Argentine. flamenco to southern Spain. or the blues to the Mississippi Delta. her fado defines the bittersweet heart of Portugal‘s song tradition in contemporary terms.
Breton harper and folk guru Alan Stivell celebrates his 60th birthday in Glasgow with a major concert and workshops. and Aly Bain (now with a third honorary degree. from St Andrews) reprises his ground— breaking Transatlantic Sessions and brings the heavenly vocal harmonics of the McGarrigle Sisters to a generation that hasn't heard them. The young talent and enthusiasm now exploding out of Scotland really excites Capercaillie‘s Donald Shaw. whose festival opener ‘Harvest‘ takes the pick of those
young instrumentalists. seeds them with the cream of
European virtuoso instrumentalists and singers from
42 THE LIST 8—22 Jan 2004
‘ON THE CONTINENT THEY'RE NOT SO PAROCHIAL ABOUT MUSIC; THEY DON'T HAVE A FOLK GHETTO'
Asturias. Galicia. Brittany. Spain and Scotland. and sets them loose on his score.
‘I‘ve written about 70% myself and then let the leading musicians from abroad set some of their favourite tunes. traditional or otherwise.‘ he says. ‘lt’s really a celebration of the Celtic Regions and Youth.’ But this is no end-of-term school concert. ‘lt was a revelation to discover how good these young players are. and they’re from all over: the Highland Feisean movement. Plockton School centre. the RSAMD and Strathclyde. Give them anything written out and they play it. they’re not restricted by their musical ability. They’re not like so many trained musicians who can't play without the dots or classical players who play all the notes of a reel without its flavour.’
Shaw sees himself as a co-ordinator. helping bring the young players in contact with all that‘s been going on over the last decades in Europe. ‘After years in Capercaillie. and being warmly welcomed over there to play. we're bringing their fantastic singers and players (like flute player Jean Michel Veillon. piper Xose Manuel Budino. singer Denez Prigent. guitarist Soig Siberil) to Scotland. On the continent. for various reasons. they‘re not so parochial about music. They don’t have a folk ghetto. That's why groups like Gwerz and Kornog were so inspirational to my generation.‘
Shaw is keen to emphasise the fun and educational aspects to the music. ‘The tunes can be shared. and there are new rhythms. a new musical vocabulary. It‘s actually the same music. but with a different accent. So we’re returning their hospitality.‘
Celtic Connections runs from Wed 14 Jan-Sun 1 Feb. See listings for more details.
Sounds to listen out for this year Doug Johnstone names a few.
Dogs Die In Hot Cars have a crap name but their debut single ‘I Love You ‘Cause I Have To' created a right stushie in 2003 with its frantic XTC riffs and Dexy‘s ranting. Now signed to V2. they’ve got a second single. debut album and umpteen tours in the pipeline (the first this month), so expect it all to kick off.
Franz Ferdinand are similar in style, but more like a disco version of Joy Division, daft though that sounds. A couple of superb singles on Domino and an appearance on Later With Joo/s Holland paved the way last year, and this month they're on the NME tour, with an album and headline tour scheduled for later in the year.
Glasgow duo Sluts of Trust recently signed to the Delgados‘ Chemikal Underground label. their limited edition debut single. ‘Piece 0' You' selling out within a week of release. and a rampaging racket of riffage it was too. Already acclaimed for their Sabbath-meets-White Stripes mayhem. the band should convert that into commercial success in 2004 with their debut album.
Sons and Daughters are slightly less unhinged. but only slightly. With former members of Arab Strap's touring band in their line-up. the foursome create a wonky, leftfield. countrified rockabilly sound, like Smog on uppers. A debut album. Love the Cup has been released in the States already. and it's only a matter of time before someone over here picks it up.
And last but not least. watch out for The Fence Collective. Based around Kenny Anderson's Fence Records in Fife, the collective is a ragtag bag of dozens of musicians, all pitching in on a folky tip to create lo-ti magic wherever they tread. An album is due in March. and a rolling program of gigs should see them pitch up in a town near you soon. Don't miss it.