Celtic Connections Roaming Roots Revue

NOW in its seventh year, the Celtic Connections mainstay that is the Roaming Roots Revue celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album with a line-up of guest artists, familiar and less so, backed as usual by curator host Roddy Hart and his supremely talented band The Lonesome Fire and, as unusual, by the specially assembled Sun King Orchestra under the baton of conductor and arranger John Logan.

Roddy Hart, Lomond Campbell, Phil Campbell, KT Tunstall, Scott MacKay, Sarah Hayes and Peter Brewis were among the luminaries

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

A pleasant first half of original tunes by the performers served as an amuse-bouche introduction – to Hart’s likeable rootsy Scotpop, the understated acoustic troubadouring of Lomond Campbell, the gritty rock vocals of Phil Campbell, fragrant harmonies of sister act The Staves and, best of all, the off-kilter yet intuitive singer/songwriter spirit of You Tell Me, a new duo formed by Peter Brewis of Field Music and Sarah Hayes of Admiral Fallow.

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The energy levels shot up with the arrival of KT Tunstall, a seasoned entertainer with natural audience rapport, who showcased a couple of her newer songs alongside one of her self-styled “karaoke hits” Suddenly I See before opening the transcendent second half with a bluesy Come Together, embellished with vivid brass licks.

Lomond Campbell offered a light, breathy Something, with guitarists Gordon Turner and John Martin enjoying their George Harrison moment, while Phil Campbell unleashed the full power of his Caledonian rhythm’n’blues pipes on a show-stopping Oh! Darling.

The natural reaction – how do you follow that? – was duly answered by Lonesome Fire drummer Scott MacKay, making his disarming vocal debut on Ringo Starr’s somewhat maligned ditty Octopus’s Garden secure in the knowledge that he, of all the artists on the bill, had a strong chance of actually improving on the original.

Tunstall and Phil Campbell partnered on a sultry I Want You (She’s So Heavy), slow dancing through the instrumental break and on to side two, where Here Comes the Sun was beautifully rendered by Hayes.

The Staves proved the perfect choice for the heavenly harmonies of Because and the entire ensemble took turns on a brilliantly marshalled rendition of the 16-minute, eight-song medley from Hart’s yearning You Never Give Me Your Money to a swoonworthy The End.

There was bonus Beatles in the encore, including a poignant, pitch perfect She’s Leaving Home from You Tell Me, a massed Penny Lane shared between all the vocalists and A Day in the Life, climaxing with the ultimate use of an orchestra in popular music.

FIONA SHEPHERD