Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Celtic Connections 2008

This of course is the big Glasgow folk festival, or pehaps one should say World Music festival, or maybe just music festival. I went to two gigs this year:

Väsen, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 26 January 2008

Väsen are a wonderfully talented instrumental trio from Sweden. No histrionics, no stagecraft: what you see is what you get. What you see is Olov Johansson on the nyckelharpa (and kontrabasharpa), Roger Tallroth on guitar, and Mikael Marin on fiddle. For those of you thinking "nyckel-what?", Mr Joihansson plays one of these - a sort of cross between a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy, and an inescapable part of Swedish folk music.

They played a mixture of traditional material and their own compositions. They recently released an album of Swedish polskas and the like from the era of Carl Linnaeus (famous to us as the man who gave us the method of categorising living things into genera and species, e.g. homo sapiens, fratercula arctica, but also very keen on his homeland's music) . Olov remarked that the Swedes have a love affair with 3/4 time in their traditional music, and he's not wrong: most of the tunes they played were polskas or otherwise in 3/4.

What more to say? All three members were in the original lineup of Nordman, a sort of Swedish Runrig who performed original material heavily influenced by the Swedish tradition (and about whom a Fan Club post will probably happen soon). And I could have listened to them all night long without even beginning to get bored.

The support was Jenna Reid from Shetland, who was very pleasant to listen to but sounded to my ears a bit similar to other Shetland fiddlers such as Catriona Macdonald. One could do worse than that, though, and I'd be perfectly happy to hear her again. (Celtic Connections usually manage to find support acts who repay the time spent on them.)

Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 2 February 2008

My second Rhythm Kings gig, and this one was just as good as the first even if Gary Brooker and Georgie Fame were no longer in the line-up. All the players were first class, from the big names (Bill himself on bass, and Albert Lee on guitar) to the sax players. Special mention for Geraint Watkins on keyboards and Beverley Skeete on vocals, as well as Dennis Locorriere, the former lead singer with Dr Hook.

The Rhythm Kings are basically Bill Wyman and a bunch of invited musicians having fun on a stage. The audience is pretty much incidental, as you always get the impression that they're having such a blast they'd be doing it even in an empty hall. It's the kind of band I always thought would be really cool: where you can play anything you like and know that the other guys will be able to follow you and support you. They do rock and roll. They do cajun. They do rhythm and blues. They do straight blues. They do soul. They do Everly Brothers hits (but then Albert Lee played with the Everlys for years). If there is a better live band playing regularly these days, I want to know what it is.

The support was Jeff Lang from Melbourne, a bluesy singer-songwriter with a good guitar technique and an amazing slide guitar style. I think the last time a slide player pinned my ears so far back was John Fahey. 'Nuff said.

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