Celtic Connections review: Lunasa, Glasgow

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Geograph.org.uk [CC]

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Geograph.org.uk [CC]

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LUNASA’S resident comedian Kevin Crawford wasted no time issuing band apologies, among other self-deprecating banter, for being out of shape after Christmas.

Lunasa/Session A9

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

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In fact, the Irish quintet were in fine shape, delivering a gentle set of “jiggy jigs”, Breton dances and bluegrass numbers made for easy listening, plus soulful slower airs such as piper Cillian Vallely’s The Raven’s Rock, written for a harmonising trio of pipes and whistles. A brief but sonorous double-bass solo from sometime Waterboy Trevor Hutchinson stood out in a set that was otherwise wholly traditional.

Session A9’s more audacious instrumental mix was evident from the outset, as they teamed jazzy piano and percussion with full-throttle fiddles. Marc Clements’ sincere rendition of Jackson Browne’s These Days and Gordon Gunn’s The Birds Are Calling, though not as imaginatively arranged, dropped the pace and touched a chord.

However, in contrast to Lunasa, they stood out most emphatically when attacking a set with massed vigour, especially the fiddling trio of Gunn, Charlie McKerron and Adam Sutherland.

The six-piece made such a fully realised sound there was little space for opening act Maru Tarang to make a mark when they joined them on stage. These Celtic Connections debutantes are a collaboration between Australian slide guitarist Jeff Lang and tabla player Bobby Singh and Rajasthani musicians Asin Langa, playing the distinctly keening sarangi, and Bhungar Manganivar making balletic use of the khartal. The sarangi is said to be the closest instrumental sound to the human voice but not so here on a handful of improvisatory pieces rooted in Indian folk tradition.

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