Celtic Connections critiques: Conundrum | Transatlantic Classes

As the first at any time on line Celtic Connections festival reaches its conclusion, Jim Gilchrist enjoys an eventful remaining weekend

a group of people sitting on a stage

© John McCusker, Chris Drever, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Thursday night’s Conundrum (***) piping live performance (named after a well-known march), noticed Finlay MacDonald at Glasgow’s National Piping Centre direct a salutary showcase of rising expertise. Malin Lewis, Ailis Sutherland, Bradley Parker, and Conal McDonagh performed a shifting sequence in which they played in ever-altering duet and solo sets on bellows-blown Border and little pipes (in addition, in McDonagh’s circumstance, Irish uilleann pipes), accompanied by a crisp trio of guitar, bodhran and keyboard and joined latterly by another noteworthy player, Ross Ainslie.

Down the highway at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the piping collective Tryst’s ten-sturdy circle of reed electricity had opened the concert with engagingly unorthodox Highland pipe preparations. That includes numerous noteworthy figures from the folks piping scene, repertoire ranged from the stately piobaireachd Lament for Viscount Dundee, its variations emerging from a matrix of harmonies, to a energetic closing set of tunes by the late Gordon Duncan.

The evening’s non-pipes interlude came from the trio Project Smok, led by the nimble whistle participating in of Ali Levack, along with guitarist Pablo Lafuente and bodhran participant Ewan Baird, tight sets these types of as Mountain Road creating from stealthy guitar through shifting time signatures and Levack’s avian-sounding playing.

A perennial sell-out, Transatlantic Periods (****) assembled a grand household band on the Royal Live performance Hall phase, like regulars these as fiddlers Aly Bain and John McCusker, flautist Michael McGoldrick, singer-guitarist Kris Drever and accordionist Phil Cunningham. Their opening figures integrated the variety of plaintive waltz, Frank McConnell’s A few-Move, that Bain and Cunningham have manufactured their individual.

Singer and whistle participant Julie Fowlis gave a attractive rendition of Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach just before we were being whisked, thanks to internet alchemy, from Gaeldom to Nashville, where banjoist Alison Brown, bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, Irish singer-guitarist John Doyle and singer-mandolinist Tim O’Brien had been collected, with glowing instrumental interplay and songs this kind of as O’Brien’s Storms Are on the Ocean (a nod most likely to the virus, rather than the ocean, that divides us), laced sinuously by Duncan’s western fiddle. Also there was Molly Tuttle, accompanying her music Get the Journey with glittering clawhammer guitar.

Remotely joining the Glasgow band’s jubilant Wishing Tree set came the dobro sigh of US slide guitar maestro Jerry Douglas, normally the show’s co-host with Bain, when Kris Drever’s heartfelt I’ll Normally Depart the Light-weight On sounded a well timed be aware of assure.

In Inverness, the high-run quintet Elephant Sessions (****), enjoying together for the very first time considering the fact that March, certainly created up for shed time. The extremely-tight mandolin and fiddle front line of Alasdair Taylor and Euan Smillie, started on punchy guitar, bass and drums with shadings of electronica, saved up an insistent beat, with just occasional lulls, as in the mellow reverb and synth introduction to Summer season or the marimba-like interjections infiltrating some numbers.

Seldom did they allow up, and 1 could not assist admiring their established efforts, amid flickering places and flares, to whip up an all-way too-absent crowd – undoubtedly a indicator of these bizarre times.

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