Celtic Connections review: We Banjo 3 with Chessboxer, Glasgow

We Banjo 3. Picture: Contributed

We Banjo 3. Picture: Contributed

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Notwithstanding a little good-natured ribbing about whether various tunes are definitively Irish or American, mutual respect was much in evidence here between these accomplished banjo and fiddle outfits. The mood in the room intensified whenever all six shared the stage and anticipation has to be whetted by a suggestion of future collaborations.

We Banjo 3 with Chessboxer - Mitchell Library, Glasgow

* * * *

The US duo of Ross Holmes and Matt Menefee proved as inventive, eclectic and eccentric as their hybrid sport’s name suggests, delivering an exuberant, galloping tribute to a computer game horse, an unusually graceful rendition of Welsh rugby hymn Calon Lân and a delightful bluegrass interpretation of Britney Spears’s Toxic, with Holmes chopping away on the fiddle with gleeful mischief in his eyes.

Joined for a sprightly hornpipe by We Banjo 3 at the end of their set, the two pairs of Galway brothers repaid the compliment at the climax of theirs, with everybody reconvening for a boisterous jig or two. Their name a misnomer, Enda and Fergal Scahill and Martin and David Howley seamlessly marry Irish and bluegrass traditions, with virtuoso musicianship on the tenor banjo, alongside mandolin, guitar and Fergal as adept on a bodhran as the fiddle. The pop immediacy of Gonna Write Me a Letter foregrounded another strong suit, young Fergal’s emotive vocals, evidenced on a liberated take on Guy Davis’s We All Need More Kindness In This World too. But it was on the instrumentals that the fraternally intuitive quartet really impressed, throughout a beautiful mandolin/banjo encounter on Liz Carroll’s Air Tune especially.

Seen on 25.01.14

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