After last year’s event in Salford, at the BBC’s flash new home in Media City, this year’s edition travelled yet further north to Glasgow and Celtic Connections festival. Co-presenters Julie Fowlis and Mark Radcliffe did a great job keeping things on track, with just one winner (Roy Harper, a Lifetime Achiever) veering off-course slightly, taking the opportunity to make a quick dig at Alex Salmond and the Scottish independence campaign.
As usual at this event, there were some cracking live performances but thankfully none that matched last year’s toe-curling embarrassment of Don McLean’s out-of-tune guitar. Scotland’s Treacherous Orchestra, a motley crew of a dozen musicians who have been called ‘the Scottish Bellowhead’ (pictured left with Cerys Matthews, Copyright © BBC) kicked off the evening with a suitably loud and raucous number. In contrast Karine Polwart performed the beautiful ‘King of Birds,’ which she dedicated to the Occupy Movement. Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham were another live highlight and played a lovely tune that seemed to really captivate the whole concert hall.
Guest presenters (unsurprisingly largely Scottish) included Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue, Altered Images’ Claire Grogan, Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, fiddler John McCusker, Green Gartside from Scritti Politti, and first minister for Scotland, Alex Salmond. There were a couple of firsts for the Folk Awards – a footballer (Pat Nevin), an appearance of shorts onstage (Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis) and an Englishman in a kilt (Steve Knightley). Other guests included Martin Carthy, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Martha Wainwright and our very own columnist Cerys Matthews who gave WOMEX in Cardiff a good plug. The sweetest acceptance speech came from the Young Folk Award winners (Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar) who thanked their school for letting them have two days off.
The evening was rounded off very nicely with the much-admired singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean winning a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to songwriting. He was then joined by a whole army of new and previous award winners for a rendition of Scotland’s unofficial anthem, ‘Caledonia’ – an appropriate ending for this very Scottish Folk Awards.
Folk Singer of the Year: Nic Jones
Best Duo: Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Best Group: Lau (performance video below)
Best Album: Bellowhead for Broadside
Horizon Award: Blair Dunlop
Roots Award: Billy Bragg
Musician of the Year: Kathryn Tickell
Young Folk Award: Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
Best Traditional Track: ‘Lord Douglas’ by Jim Moray
Best Original Song: ‘Hatchlings’ by Emily Portman
Lifetime Achievement Awards: Roy Harper, Aly Bain and Dougie MacLean
You can see performances from the night using the BBC’s Red Button. www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/folk
Following on from yesterday’s blog, here are some more Celtic Connections recommendations for the latter half of the festival.
The Angolan-Portuguese DJ Pedro Coquenão, aka Batida (pictured left, photo by Manuel Lino), released his debut album on the hip Soundway label (a Top of the World in #84) and he’ll be supporting French Gypsy-swingers Caravan Palace (January 24, O2 ABC).
The premiere of a sea-themed collaboration, Dán, by some top-notch Celtic and Breton musicians including band members from Kan and Guidewires and Gaelic singer Alyth McCormack (January 24, Old Fruitmarket).
Burns Night sees a specially-commissioned evening of music, courtesy of Scots Trad Music Award-winners Breabach and Kathleen MacInnes, together with Blazin’ Fiddles and Dougie MacLean (January 25, Concert Hall).
If anyone has mastered the art of cloning, it’ll come in very handy for the night of January 26 when there are no less than 13 artists who I’d go and see without any hesitation. They include: Sarah Jarosz, Baloji, Katy Carr, The Be Good Tanyas, The Halton Quartet, Mike McGoldrick’s band and Duncan Chisholm (whose latest release Affric was one of my favourite albums of 2012) (Various venues).
Last issue’s cover star Bassekou Kouyaté and his band Ngoni ba team up with fellow Malians Sidi Touré and Tamikrest for Sahara Soul (January 27, Concert Hall).
The Radio 2 Folk Awards will be broadcast live from Glasgow for the first time, hosted by Julie Fowlis and Mark Radcliffe, plus performances by some of the winners (January 30, Concert Hall).
Songlines faves Anda Union are bound to go down a treat in Glasgow. They’re on the same billing as the equally impressive Frigg who have a Top of the World review in the next issue, #90 (January 30, Old Fruitmarket).
The highly-acclaimed Scottish singer Karine Polwart and US stars Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer (also with a Top of the World in #90) (February 2, City Halls).
The final day sees singer-songwriter and guitarist Sorren Maclean from Mull take part in the New Voices initiative that showcases new talent (February 3, Mitchell Theatre).
On top of all that, there are workshops galore, an open stage and a late-night festival club – so many reasons why I wouldn’t want to be heading anywhere else this month. Now, how quickly can I get myself up to Glasgow…
Got a dose of the January blues? Well, my suggestion would be to make your way to Glasgow for a much-needed, life-affirming shot of fabulous music courtesy of Celtic Connections – the annual folk, roots and world music extravaganza, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
First of all, a couple of mind-boggling stats to get your head round: there will be over 2,100 artists from across the world descending on Glasgow, playing at over 20 venues over the duration of 18 nights. So, with that in mind, you’ll hopefully appreciate that it’s been quite a job trying to choose my highlights and with so many to choose from, look out for another blog tomorrow with my choices for the second half of the festival.
The 20th anniversary opening concert tonight looks set to be a rousing affair with a stellar line-up including a ‘Who’s Who’ of Celtic talent: performers include Eddi Reader, Julie Fowlis, Flook, Cara Dillon, Capercaillie, Chris Stout and Phil Cunningham plus a host of others (January 17, Concert Hall).
English folk often gets overlooked with such an abundance of local talent, but no fear of that happening this year, with Spotlight England being one of the partners of this year’s Showcase Scotland. Artists performing include Sam Carter (January 31, Tron Theatre), Spiro (January 31, St Andrew’s in the Square), Bellowhead (February 1, O2 ABC), Lucy Ward (pictured left) (February 1, St Andrew’s in the Square), Bella Hardy (February 2, Tron Theatre) and the Tom McConville Band (February 3, Mitchell Theatre).
Galician piper and firm favourite at Celtic Connections is Carlos Núñez who is performing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (January 19, Concert Hall).
Irish faves Kíla team up with the young, much talked about young Gaelic band Mànran for what promises to be a night to test out your Gaelic dance moves (January 19, O2 ABC).
Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke will be bringing his cool vibes sound and his extraordinary band to the wonderful Old Fruitmarket (January 20, Old Fruitmarket).
Irish trio Fidil who were lauded with a recent Top of the World review in #83 for their latest album The Old Wheel of Fortune (January 22, National Piping Centre).
The ever-inventive Martin Green (accordionist in Lau, pictured right) brings his latest project called Crows’ Bones to one of the festival’s most beautiful venues, St Andrew’s in the Square. Spooky music and ghost tales are guaranteed with Becky Unthank and Inge Thompson, plus nyckelharpist Niklas Roswall (January 23, St Andrew’s in the Square).
More recommendations tomorrow….
If you can’t make it to Glasgow, then fret not, you’ll be able to sample some of the music by tuning into Mary-Ann Kennedy on Radio 3’s World on 3 programme. She’ll be broadcasting live from the Royal Concert Hall on January 18, 25 and February 1.
Julie Fowlis, Duncan Chisholm & co.
Amongst the winners were Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes [pictured] who won Album of the Year for Cille Bhrìde (reviewed in the current issue, #89) and Duncan Chisholm who won Instrumentalist of the Year (his latest album Affric is a Top of the World and Best Album of 2012 in the current issue). Live Act of the Year winners were Session A9, with Breabach winning Scottish Folk Band of the Year. Julie Fowlis also won an award for Trad Music in the Media for her contribution to the Pixar animated film Brave.
The full list of all the winners can be found at: www.scottishcultureonline.com