By NEIL RIDDELL
NEXT Thursday sees the 16th Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow get under way, with the now-customary influx of a whole host of Shetlanders – predominantly familiar names – peppering the line-up.
Fiddlers’ Bid will be appearing at the Showcase Scotland concert at the Old Fruitmarket, along with quintet Bodega who include Shetlander Ross Couper on fiddle among their number, on Thursday 29th January, while others appearing over the two weeks include Catriona MacDonald, Chris Stout, Jenna Reid and Aly Bain.
Fiddlers’ Bid member Andrew Gifford, who will also be involved in a fiddle workshop the following Saturday (31st January), said the band were hoping their short set would be made up of primarily new material as they have been rehearsing a host of fresh tunes which are now ready to be unleashed live ahead of the impending release of their fifth album. It will be their first studio output since 2005’s Naked and Bare and is scheduled to be recorded in the first half of 2009.
Fiddlers’ Bid will also be returning to the Shetland stage for the first time in two years for a show at Clickimin as part of the Fiddle Frenzy festival on 8th August as well as appearing at the Orkney Folk Festival in May, but in the meantime Gifford said they were looking forward to giving their all for the people of Glasgow: “We’re actually flying back our guitarist [Fionán de Barra] from America for one night due to a mix-up with dates – so we’re definitely keen on making it a good gig, not only because it’s Celtic Connections but because it’s costing us a bloody fortune!”
Fiddler and composer Stout will be appearing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Concert Hall on 25th January for an ambitious evening’s music including contributions from Arizona-born composer and percussionist Steve Forman, fiddler Aidan O’Rourke and saxophonist Tommy Smith.
Fair Isle’s Inge Thomson will be gracing the Grand Hall stage as part of talented folk singer Karine Polwart’s band on 31st January as she offers a new set strewn with lesser-known tracks from her excellent debut album Faultlines and 2007’s traditional collection Fairest Floo’er. Thomson will also be playing as part of an expanded seven-piece line-up of Harem Scarem, who open for former Catatonia front woman Cerys Matthews at Sauchiehall Street’s ABC venue on the 25th.
The elder statesman of traditional music in Shetland, Bain will be appearing on the night of Up-Helly-A’ in the Concert Hall as part of a Shetland-Nordic-US collaborative session with multi-instrumentalists Ale Möller and Bruce Molsky. He is also directing the Transatlantic Sessions nights which will serve as the festival finale over the last weekend, this year focusing on the Celtic influences which helped form the bedrock of American roots music.
Other Shetland names contributing to the 17-day musical extravaganza include much-admired fiddler MacDonald as part of Blazin’ Fiddles, Reid who plays with both Deaf Shepherd and accordionist/pianist Kathleen Boyle, and young fiddler Maggie Adamson (who won the open stage award last year) as support for Jerry Holland and Friends. Erin Sandison is the only isles performer so far confirmed for the open stage this time around.
One of the top attractions on this year’s Shetland Folk Festival bill, Cara Dillon, will also be appearing as the support act for Sharon Shannon, who herself played in these parts two years ago, next Friday. Other names on the bill which will be familiar to Shetland’s many musical aficionados include Crooked Still, Breabach and Tim O’Brien, along with Teddy Thompson, Le Vent du Nord and Edwyn Collins, all three of whom performed in the isles over the course of 2008.
Among the other top acts appearing in Scotland’s second city between now and the end of January are folk legend Richard Thompson, acclaimed Senegalese singer and percussionist Youssou N’Dour, Mozambique fado singer Mariza, banjo maestro Béla Fleck and American country-folk royalty Nanci Griffith.
Loudon Wainwright III’s vibrant folk-rockin’ daughter Martha Wainwright will be demonstrating her startilingly versatile vocal chords and audiences will also be able to gorge themselves on the dulcet tones of English trad singer Kate Rusby.
Slightly closer to home, Orcadian guitarist and singer Kris Drever will also be appearing in a variety of guises, with a solo performance, an outing with his folk trio LAU and a stage version of his recent collaboration with Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble – another fairly recent visitor to Shetland – and masterful fiddler John McCusker.
*Any ex-pats or isles residents who fancy making a late dash to the mainland to catch any of the above shows can visit the festival website at www.celticconnections.com for more information or call the ticket hotline on 0141 353 8000.