Grit Orchestra/Celtic Connections review – filmic fusion from an 80-strong band

Greg Lawson’s boisterous ensemble celebrate freedom and the Declaration of Arbroath while US duo Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn add festive moonshine

Glasgow’s annual roots music jamboree Celtic Connections may have only just launched but the breakout star of the 27th edition has already emerged. A 10-meter-high sea goddess made of driftwood stalked the city as part of a mini festival celebrating Scotland’s coastal cultural heritage. The aptly named Storm – guided by puppeteers in fetching yellow sou’westers – strode from the Clyde to the Royal Concert Hall, causing ripples among awed Saturday morning shoppers. With her slo-mo gait, seaweed vestments and startling blue eyes, Storm cut a rather majestic dash.

Making waves … the Celtic Connections festival puppet Storm on walkabout.
 Making waves … the Celtic Connections festival puppet Storm on walkabout. Photograph: Michael McGurk/Rex/Shutterstock

The opening concert was similarly larger than life, featuring the return of the multifarious Grit Orchestra with a new six-part piece commissioned to mark the looming 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. That document was an assertion of Scottish autonomy, but bandleader Greg Lawson introduced the 70-minute suite – composed by six members of the ensemble – as a celebration of the concept of freedom rather than the currently prickly topic of independence. Continue reading

Radcliffe and Maconie – Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite

Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie present a feast of great music and chat for weekend breakfast

Ahead of Burns Night later today, this morning’s Radcliffe and Maconie Show celebrates some of the best music to come out of Scotland.

Today’s guest is Stuart Braithwaite of Glasgow post-rock band Mogwai. He joins Mark and Stuart to talk about the Ivor Cutler tribute show he’s involved in, celebrating the Scottish humorist, poet, philosopher and surrealist’s career and legacy.

Part of this year’s Celtic Connections Festival, the tribute show brings together some of Scotland’s top indie, folk, rock and pop artists including Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, Kris Drever, Karine Polwart and Emma Pollock to play an array of Cutler’s compositions.

Also on today’s show… Clare Crane has the latest music and entertainment stories in ‘This Week In Music’.Plus music from The Blue Nile, Teenage Fanclub, Kathryn Joseph and Camera Obscura.

Listen to the entire BBC program: Radcliffe and Maconie – Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite – BBC Sounds

Album reviews: Return to Y’Hup – The World of Ivor Cutler

Some of Scotland’s finest musicians step up to interpret the work of the late, great Ivor Cutler, and his witty ditties retain an all-ages appeal, writes Fiona Shepherd

Ivor Cutler was a true one-off. The Glasgow-born surrealist, storyteller and sage may have been the epitome of the outsider artist but his witty ditties retain an all-ages appeal.

Which is probably why the quartet of musicians at the core of this tribute album – Citizen Bravo’s Matt Brennan, Raymond MacDonald of Glasgow Improvisers’ Orchestra, guitarist Malcolm Benzie and Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan – had no difficulty in attracting a host of mostly Scottish musicians to the project, from practised storytellers such as Kris Drever to idiosyncratic stylists such as Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch.

The singular spirit of Cutler is evoked throughout Return to Y’Hup, not least in the use of Cutler’s own harmonium and the love and respect accorded to his writing across the board.

Cutler’s partner Phyllis King gives her implicit blessing with a recitation of Latitude and Longitude, while Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos, James Yorkston, BMX Bandits’ frontman Duglas T Stewart and Robert Wyatt apply their distinctive speaking voices to their respective nuggets of wry insight, which never outstay their welcome, only whetting the appetite for more. Continue reading

Celtic Connections review: Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow 

CHARLES Rennie Mackintosh’s Queen’s Cross Church, with its elegant synthesis of art nouveau, Scots baronial and Japanese influences, made an appropriate setting for the magical cross-cultural convergence of Welsh classical harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita.

The complementary timbres – the big, rounded tones of European pedal harp and bright chatter and whirr of west African harp-lute – shifted between urgent cascades, tidal pulses and mesmerising riff-spinning. Their opener, the stately voyaging of Clarach, was inspired by the migration of ospreys from Wales to West Africa (overflying the frightened, upturned faces of migrants in crowded boats, heading the other way) and introduced Keita’s mellifluous Mandinka singing.

In a further entwining of worlds, Bach to Baïsso swirled the familiar aria of the Goldberg Variations into another realm altogether, while an elegy for a drowned Welsh village had Finch intoning in reproachful Welsh over murmuring strings: “Remember Tryweryn”.

The luscious pulses and lively percussive dialogue of 1677 seemed almost inappropriately joyful for its subject, an infamous slaving station, while the encore strains of Keita’s Bamba cast their benignly hyonotic spell right to the end.

Two brief but engaging opening sets also skipped across cultures and genres. The spirited flute, Hardanger fiddle and accordion of the Snowflake Trio morphed a familiar Irish slip jig into a spry Norwegian dance, while solo harpist Rachel Newton drew on Gaelic song and fairy folklore, but finished with her own heartfelt metamorphosis of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. – JIM GILCHRIST

Source: Celtic Connections review: Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow – The Scotsman