Blazin' Fiddles: With Strings Attached



AS THE night progressed, Bruce MacGregor - Blazin’ Fiddles’ founder and the man Justin Currie calls "the Don Corleone of the Celtic Mafia" - developed a running joke about the fact the performers had not been provided with tea and scones in their dressing rooms.

In a spiritual sense, we knew how they felt - for MacGregor and Co’s intention with this show was to break down the image of tea-and-scones tweeness which exists around folk music for a more trend-inspired rock audience.

To this end, MacGregor and his Fiddles put together one of the most attractive bills of the Celtic Connections Festival. Alongside their own quintet of fiddlers, they inducted a horn section, backing musicians, and the co-ordinating influence of musical director Rick Taylor.

Absolutely central to the With Strings Attached project, however, were the contributions of pop-turned-country chanteuse Eddi Reader, Del Amatri front man Justin Currie, and Mull Historical Society fulcrum Colin MacIntyre.

Mixed and matched as appropriate, the experiment was an undoubted success. Some of those conscripted would have been more suited to the idea than others - for example, Reader these days marries her popular vocal style with a heavily folk-tinged influence (her last album was entirely composed of Rabbie Burns interpretations), while MacIntyre’s pop stylings took a whole lot more shoehorning into the programme.

That said, excesses of style were positively encouraged. Reader wasn’t allowed to sing any traditional material, while even MacIntyre’s Final Arrears was attempted, with bizarre but agreeable results. Currie, on the other hand, had previously expressed trepidation at entering a musical realm he knew nothing about, yet his gruff, barnstorming Celtic holler and impressive vocal sensitivity when required was perhaps the highlight of the show.

Certainly, a Reader-backed spin on the fine Nothing Ever Happens was its finest moment.

Despite mixing up MacIntyre eclecticism like Watching Xanadu, Currie’s no-nonsense professionalism, lovely, lilting balladry like Reader’s Galileo and occasional solo bursts from the Fiddles in no particular order, the overall affect was agreeably linear, and a whole load of fun for every audience concerned. Hopefully the experiment will be right for repetition this time next year.