Performing a classic album from start to finish is no new hook but Celtic Connections is joyfully exploring a twist on the successful formula with a couple of concerts dedicated to covering a classic album from start to finish.
Bwani Junction perform Graceland | Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow | Rating ****
James Robertson’s Scots translation of Joni Mitchell’s Hejira as Pilgrimer has already proved a resounding festival highlight. Bwani Junction’s take on Graceland, Paul Simon’s hugely successful collision of western pop and traditional and contemporary African music, was less daring but no less crowd-pleasing, being just the ticket for a Saturday night party.
The Edinburgh-based indie band have performed a version of their favourite album before – but this time they brought along some friends, including the Doppelgang Horns, supplemented by South African saxophonists Morris Goldberg and Barney Rachabane, who both played on the original Graceland, and Celtic Connections director Donald Shaw on accordian, who kicked things off with the gloriously askew squeezebox intro to Boy in the Bubble.
Guitarist Dan Muir, mentored by former Bhundu Boy Rise Kagona, missed some of the chiming detail on the title track, frontman Rory Fairweather kept a handle on Simon’s springy, conversational vocal rhythms and Fergus Robson stayed on top of that tricky slap bass solo in You Can Call Me Al. Though they could not hope to echo the yearning soul of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s contribution to the original Homeless, they brought love, energy and spirit to the entire project, especially the Cajun fiesta of That Was Your Mother and a reprise of You Can Call Me Al topped off with Goldberg’s soaring, supple penny whistle solo.