INDIE ROCK THE WALKMEN Oran Mor, Glasgow, Wed 19 Jan, part of Celtic Connections
New York quintet The Walkmen conjure a sound that spans the pastoral to the outright raucous. Though they are not one of the most obvious additions to a Celtic Connections bill, their material has been known to incorporate more ‘traditional’ elements – hinted at by the numerous comparisons to the ramshackle folk of The Pogues – alongside the indelible marks left by their home city’s vibrant indie scene. In recent years, the band have gone from strength to strength,
particularly in 2010, with the release of their acclaimed sixth album, Lisbon. Their collective knack for creating emphatic, layered accompaniments to Hamilton Leithauser’s impassioned tales of dejection and desperation hit its stride with this particular effort, an album that critics across the board have been hailing as their greatest achievement to date.
Drawing on a love of robust arrangements and vintage
instrumentation – combined with the raw muscular power any good rock band ought to possess – they have won the adulation of fans worldwide with the sheer effort and contagious energy of their live shows as they have slogged it out over the best part of a decade.
Every year Celtic Connections offers one of the most diverse musical programmes around, boasting a litany of performances and special events in which the traditional meets the comparatively un-traditional. The Walkmen’s show should enrapture anyone with an appreciation for music that is played from the heart. (Ryan Drever) ■ www.thewalkmen.com
FESTIVAL ROUND-UP CELTIC CONNECTIONS HIGHLIGHTS Various venues, Glasgow, Thu 13–Sun 30 Jan
Chicago’s music scene is the first stop in this very international round up, specifically the music of distinguished gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples. In the 60s Staples released a string of hits on the Stax-affiliated Valt label. Last year, aged 71, she teamed up with fellow Chicagoan, and Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy to produce the excellent You Are Not Alone album that showcased her supreme ability in conveying both gospel highs and fragile, soulful lows. She appears in a special collaboration with the US radio show Mountain Stage, meaning her performance (and that of support act Dougie MacLean) will be broadcast worldwide. (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Fri 21 Jan, 7.30pm).
The spirit of good ol’ American songwriting is held up even higher by a special concert celebrating Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. In a similar vein to Way To Blue, last year’s moving celebration of Nick Drake’s work, Forever Young – A 70th Birthday Tribute to Bob Dylan (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Mon 24 Jan, 7.30pm) features a diverse range of US and UK talent lending their instruments and vocals to Dylan’s songs, including Johnny’s progeny Rosanne Cash, New
60 THE LIST 6–20 Jan 2011
York-via-Nashville Americana star Laura Cantrell and revered Scottish folkie Kris Drever of the band LAU.
It’s refreshing when electronic artists are given the chance to muck in with the fiddlers and the bodhrán-bangers, and A Night of Celtronika (Old Fruitmarket, Fri 28 Jan, 9.30pm) delivers sufficient knob twiddling to keep Celtic Connections in the 21st century. Innovative bands including Chemikal Underground-signees FOUND and trance-inducing drum-kit pounders The Hidden Orchestra appear on the bill, plus there’ll be a new composition from Golden Globe-winning Glasgow film composer Craig Armstrong.
Tipped singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall:
Strathclyde Suite, Sun 23 Jan, 1pm) and beautiful, ethereal Glasgow folk group Trembling Bells (Oran Mor, Fri 21 Jan, 7.30pm) are two more ones to watch, while a special recommendation is handed out to former Czars frontman John Grant (pictured, St Andrew’s in the Square, Sun 30 Jan, 7.30pm), whose critically lauded debut solo album Queen of Denmark, charted highly in many music mags’ end-of-year lists. Grant’s combination of quirky yet sad lyrics and richly orchestral backing arrangements (provided on the album by the band Midlake) will easily lift any January fug. (Jonny Ensall)