Mountain Stage with Larry Groce featuring Mavis Staples Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow ****
The West Virginia-based Mountain Stage radio show, broadcasting in a live concert format for nearly 28 years, finally made its first foray out of North America this weekend to record its 735th edition at Celtic Connections.
Joy Kills Sorrow, a hip young bluegrass-inspired combo with a clean, peppy sound, opened the relaxed proceedings. The sleepy, soothing Mountain Stage band contributed a couple of sentimental songs, while their Scottish counterpart Dougie MacLean delivered a brief, couthy singalong set, including the inevitable Caledonia. Mollie O'Brien, accompanied by brother Tim and husband Rich Moore, replied with West Virginia My Home as part of an eclectic set which drew on European chanson as well as American traditions.
But the main attraction was undoubtedly gospel legend Mavis Staples, making her third Mountain Stage appearance – and her first of a 60-year career in Glasgow – backed by the tight, stirring harmonies of her backing vocalists, including sister Yvonne, the magnificent Donny Gerrard (worth hearing in his own right), and her terrific three-piece rock'n'roll band.
Staples exuded husky soul, infectious conviction, benevolent authority and a hint of mischief throughout a set which dipped into selections from her current album You Are Not Alone, including the mellow gold of the title track, and the Staple Singers' uplifting spiritual and civil rights testifying, before the entire Mountain Stage company converged for a loose but joyful finale of You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond.