Music review: Duncan Chisholm: Sandwood

Duncan Chisolm was at the first Celtic Connections and appeared this year with his band The Gathering
Duncan Chisolm was at the first Celtic Connections and appeared this year with his band The Gathering
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SINCE he played at the first Celtic Connections 24 years ago, Duncan Chisholm’s reputation as a Highland fiddler of substance has become particularly associated with his richly toned and unashamedly heart-tugging slow airs, frequently imbued with a powerful sense of place, as in his Strathglass album trilogy of the past few years.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

This concert on the last night of Celtic Connections was drawn largely from his latest album, Sandwood, inspired by the near-fabled mile of isolated beach in Sutherland. He was joined by his extensive band, The Gathering, comprising a string trio of Greg Lawson, Megan Henderson and Su-a lee, Jarlath Henderson on uilleann pipes and whistles, as well as piano, guitars, electric bass and drums.

No doubt like the eponymous beach, the performance had its sublime moments, Chisholm’s fiddle soaring and circling over drifting string harmonies, or floating over Hamish Napier’s spare piano in the beautiful An Ribhinn Donn; while stormier weather saw the band accelerate into a formidable tidal surge, as in the Running Across set or The Erchless Scout.

While Chisholm’s fiddle voice could verge on the ethereal, the powerful a cappella singing of the trio Tanxugueiras, who opened the concert, was rooted firmly in earthy harmonies. Representing a new generation of Galician voices, the three women accompanied themselves on a battery of tambourines before being joined by a Galician piper and an accordionist. Their lyrics may have been incomprehensible, but enthusiastic audience response proved that their energy was utterly infectious.

JIM GILCHRIST