January is a great month for those who like music in Glasgow. Specifically Diddly Diddly
music, also known as Folk amongst the Hoi Polloi. This is the month of Celtic Connections, a music
festival spread over three weeks which brings together the best music from the entire Celtic
diaspora. Everything from traditional Irish bands to experimental Galician pipers and from prog
folk techno fusions to small Canadian accordionists. This has been going on for over ten years now
and in that time I have seen dozens of acts including Ivor Cutler and Arlo Guthrie amongst the
more unusual and learned to make farting noises down a Didgeridoo.
The first act I saw this year was Dougie MacLean. This is someone I have meant to go and see
for years. He has produced some of my favourite songs, Caledonia could make me cry when I was
living in England. However I was somewhat nervous he would not live up to my expectations. I
needn't have been. His songs were all beautiful and wonderfully lyrical. His between
song banter was funny and friendly. He has one of those lilting voices which make you want to
close your eyes and drift off, which I only just managed to stop myself doing. Still I would
definitely go see him again.
Next up was nothing to do with the festival at all. I was dragged of to a small pub on a
Sunday night which was showcasing some local talent. I often forget how much fun such nights can
be. It is a combination of the beer, the busy hum of the pub and the youthful enthusiasm of the
bands I'm sure, but I really enjoyed myself. And found a couple of names to keep an eye out
for, not least Catherine O'Halloran who can silence a busy pub with the beauty of her
Next up was Capercaillie. Another of the big names of Scottish music they were the first
band ever to get a Gaelic song into the UK Top 40. I have seen them on and off over the last ten
years and never fail to be amazed by the energy of their dance tunes and by the glorious voice
of Karen Matheson. The stand out moments of this concert included my seat being in the
speakers, the introduction of a euphonium to the bands repertoire, an increase in the dance tune
component from my last viewing and a very interesting support band. All in all a great band at
the height of its powers.
One of the great things about Celtic Connections for me are the support acts. Over the years
I have been introduced to a large number of bands this way, some of which have gone on to great
things. One of these was Shooglenifty, who I first saw playing support to Capercaillie. This
years stand out was Susanna Sevana who was both support to Capercaillie and Shooglenifty.
Indeed Ms. Sevana's blend of Spanish Rumba and Galician pipes, with a touch of the rock
guitarist thrown in was so good as support for Shooglenifty that her band played an encore and
I had to race for to buy a CD at half time. We were actually beginning to worry that the main
act would not live up to this. We need not have worried. Shooglenifty have been described as
many things, Hypnofolknadelia being my favourite, but plain brilliant will do. They quite simply
are the best live band I have seen and I danced around at the front all night. I must have
lost half a stone in sweat by the end. Horrendously unfit but I didn't care. Luckily I own all
their CDs, a pale imitation of their live performance, and so did not have to join the fight for
And so to my last choice for the festival, Afro Celt Sound System. A fusion of modern dance,
Celtic diddly diddly and African song they were a bit of a departure for me. That said both their
Gaelic and Ghanian (I think) songs were beautiful to listen to and they can certainly play drums.
Be they Sikh or Irish.
Sadly this was all I had the money for this year. Celtic Connections continues to offer some
truly great nights of music and if folk is your thing you can't do much better than be in Glasgow
Next time - 10% extra ramble in every box.