Kenny Anderson aka King Creosote has been known to hold a room with just his exquisitely plaintive voice and guitar, but he has enjoyed great success in recent years fronting the ambitious From Scotland with Love soundtrack. His latest work returns to soulful introspection but retains the scale thanks to the powerful presence of a ten-piece band, including some well kent Celtic Connections players such as Catriona McKay on harp, Mairearad Green on accordion and pipes and Hannah Fisher on fiddle, plus longtime Anderson associate Ziggy Campbell from artrockers FOUND on “f*** all” (otherwise known as diverse dial-twiddling).
King Creosote ****
Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
Roaming Roots Revue ****
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Several of these expert players were involved in developing the material from his gorgeous, hypnotic new album Astronaut Meets Appleman, themed round Anderson’s wariness of an increasing technological world, and what that does to human contact.
So while the band members were kitted out in Nasa t-shirts, gold lamé bomber jackets, pink bobbed wigs and glam Bowie face paint in keeping with the space age references, they were painting on a moodier canvas.
The opening, epic You Just Want featured Anderson at his most beseeching over a steady, simmering backdrop, which played out across a spellbinding set of drone-based folk ragas. Green’s pipes were especially effective in underscoring the melancholy Melin Wynt.
Support act Charlie Cunningham, an Anglo-Saxon among Celts, towered over the band when he guested on the encore, although his own opening solo set could not hope to engage on the elemental level of the headliners.
Roaming Roots Revue is now in its fifth edition, bringing together a diverse group of singers to showcase their own material and delve into a themed songbook, which this year dovetailed with the overall Celtic Connections theme of celebrating the women of song That’s a very wide net to cast and there was an inevitably piecemeal trajectory to proceedings as a conveyor belt of musicians stepped up, some solo, some backed by excellent house band Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire.
The low-key introspection of Benjamin Francis Leftwich contrasted with the demonstrative, crowd-pleasing style of gospel singer Yola Carter. Neither strayed far from their comfort zones, covering Tracy Chapman and Aretha Franklin/Carole King respectively. Sarah Jarosz displayed her natural affinity for the music of her fellow Texan Nanci Griffith, while Brazilian diva Roberta Sá mined the sultriness in Amy Winehouse.
There were few curveball choices as the trailblazers – Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie – were honoured beside newer artists such as Feist and Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But kudos to Emma Pollock for paying tribute to Kirsty MacColl with a joyous They Don’t Know and Ricky Ross for highlighting cult songwriter Laura Nyro.
Welsh singer Bryde and Manchester-based Jesca Hoop had the vocal mettle to tackle Bjork and Kate Bush respectively, with the latter’s dynamic version of Eurythmics’ Love Is a Stranger a palpable hit before a closing roaming roots rabble descended on Blondie’s Call Me.