Here’s an intriguing prospect with two of the most innovative bands from opposite sides of the Atlantic lined up to share a stage. Lau are three time winners of the Best Band accolade at The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and an utterly thrilling prospect live. Kris Drever, Aiden O’Rourke and Martin Green make such a phenomenal noise, Captured on their Live album, that it’s hard to work out how they do it with three acoustic instruments. Individually as well as collectively they’ll be well known to the Celtic Connections crowd. Even Martin from south of the border premiered his Martin Green Machine genre defying project at the festival in 2008. Aiden is a skilled player, composer and arranger who’s versatility has seen him work on over 80 diverse recordings. Kris meanwhile has released a couple of highly acclaimed solo CDs that have made him one of the most instantly recognisable voices in folk circles today. Here’s a promo clip of Winter Moon that I think amply proves the point.
Lau’s collaboration follows on from the EP recorded with Karine Polwart, but this time Crooked Still are the intended pairing and one of the most promising bands to emerge through the Boston scene. Although they come from a bluegrass root and the new album, Some Strange Country, features some of that genre’s star names, including Ricky Skaggs, Sarah Jarosz, producer Gary Paczosa and the legendary Tim O’Brien, they are as much innovators as ambassadors. The presence of Tristan Clarridge’s cello in the mix has always been a defining difference, but this is a band quite prepared to take risks in pursuit of bold new musical frontiers. Try this video of Half Of What We Know for a flavour, it’s excellent. With the promise of a set from each and then a collaboration the results could be incendiary. You can catch the show at the O2 ABC 1 at 7.30pm on Saturday. Check here for tickets.
Taraf de Haïdouks are a troupe of Romani Lăutri, from the town of Clejani in Romania and are the most prominent such group in Romania’s post communist era. Lăutri denotes a professional clan of musicians, the name being derived from the lute and Taraf is a common name for a group. Back home they are known as Taraful Haiducilo, but the familiar name here is derived from the French. They are signed to Belgium’s Crammed Discs, making a succession of vibrant and easily accessible albums. Notable fans include, Kronos Quartet, Yoji Yamamoto, Johnny Depp and the late Yehudi Menuhin. This one come highly recommended as a surprise package of the festival and there’s a new album due around April time something to look forward to. There’s a fantastic film clip here that is essential viewing. Even my wife, quite independently of any prompting from me was most enthusiastic about this lot and rightly so. They play The Old Fruitmarket at 8.30pm on Saturday. Check here for tickets.
There will be few acts playing the festival that will be able to claim a 60 plus year unbroken line back to their first hit and more than 70 years to their origin and formation, but the Blind Boys Of Alabama are the exception. Formed in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, they struggled around the Gospel circuit for almost a decade before haing a hit with I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine on the Veejay label, widely recognized as being influential for many gospel, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll artists. They were of course restricted to the black music circuit for 40 years, but since then they’ve become internationally renowned. Their last album Down In New Orleans was their first recording in the Crescent City, teaming them with Alan Toussaint, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and others. I’m on a roll with these clips as this one is the Blind Boys with Susan Tedeschi, doing People Get Ready, regrettably it’s cut short, but is still stunning. They play the main auditorium of The Royal Glasgow Concert Hall on Saturday at 7.30pm. Check here for tickets.
Accordion wiz Sharon Shannon is one of those restless musical spirits who embraces the possibilities of musical collaboration. Although the scheduled billing with Imelda May has had to be pulled due to the latter’s back problems, the presence of Shane McGowan and Mundy on the same stage should make for an interesting evening regardless. Sharon came to light for many as part of The Waterboys, but came back to prominence when the song she had originally recorded with it composer Steve Earl was used as part of the Magners TV campaign (and it would be rude of me not to give you a video of it.) She is a supremely skilled player and able to command the respect of what promises to be a fairly stellar stage line up for the evenings show. You’ll find her at The Old Fruitmarket on Sunday at 8.00. Check here for tickets.