Few acts typify the cross-pollinated spirit of Celtic Connections more than this culturally diverse trio. The combined talents of alt-folk Fifer James Yorkston, English jazz double bassist Jon Thorne and classical sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan complement each other in strange and wonderful ways.
Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, Drygate Brewery, Glasgow ****
They make folk music in the most universal sense of the term: a melange of discordant drones and incantations and misty dawn lake ballads; a kind of rustic neo-psychedelia. On Wednesday night, they performed songs from new album Navarasa: Nine Emotions, as well as material from their first two records.
Highlights included a fantastically intense composition from Khan which was apparently supposed to invoke the ecstatic joy of visiting Sufi shrines, but sounded more like a man fleeing in terror; a mesmerising cover of Twa Brothers by Nic Jones, sung a cappella by Yorkston with Khan providing striking vocal percussion; a beautiful song by Thorne dedicated to his musical mentor Danny Thompson; and Yorkston’s raw-boned tribute to fallen bandmate Doogie Paul.
Best of all was their ambitious version of Now Westlin Winds by Robert Burns, which embodied the very essence of this unique project. It’s loosely based on the melody from Dick Gaughan’s adaptation, but with the words replaced by a thematically twinned Sufi poem and sung in Hindi by Khan.
“Someday we’re going to be huge stars,” quipped Yorkston, “I’m sure that somewhere there’s a country that likes this stuff.” There is, and it exists in the fecund margins of our collective musical mind. Paul Whitelaw