Celtic Connections review: Sturgill Simpson | Lera Lynn

Sturgill Simpson. Picture: Getty
Sturgill Simpson. Picture: Getty
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Yes, you read your Celtic Connections programme correctly – the Forces’ Sweetheart did not make her festival debut this weekend.

Celtic Connections | Sturgill Simpson/Lera Lynn | ABC, Glasgow | Rating ****

Instead, Nashville singer/songwriter Lera Lynn seduced the crowd with some sultry, smoky material, liberally sprinkled with dusky tremolo guitar from her partner Joshua Grange. Little wonder that she was approached to soundtrack part of modern noir series True Detective. Lynn is of the young old school, but she broke her atmospherically woven spell when she upped the pace suddenly on a rockabilly number.

Headliner Sturgill Simpson is also a throwback to an early, earthier era of country music, much of his set being especially redolent of Dwight Yoakam’s honky tonk revival sound.

This Kentucky troubadour is a quietly charismatic man – hence several swooningly received dedications to “the ladies” and perhaps the most incongruous use yet of the ABC’s giant mirrorball. But he was equally at home firing up some railroad rockabilly with his impressive scratch band, who provided tightly textured bursts of saloon bar piano, double bass twang and western swing guitar detail.

He proved just as potent covering Van Morrison, with whom he shares an aversion to enunciation. He may have swallowed up most of the beautiful lyrics of William Bell’s You Don’t Miss Your Water but he struck the right vulnerable chord, paving the way for a humble rendition of Roy Orbison’s Crying.