It fairly packs ‘em in – and that’s just the performers, more than a dozen arrayed on stage. Semi-organised if good-humoured chaos at times, yet the moment musical directors fiddler Aly Bain and slide guitarist Jerry Douglas strike up Waiting for the Federals, there is that frisson of happy recognition.
Transatlantic Sessions ****
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
It is possible to over-egg the pudding: one wonders whether you really need a dozen musicians to accompany a singer. Some highlights, therefore, utilised lesser forces, such as North Carolina’s feisty Tift Merritt, seated at piano, accompanied by slide guitar and strings for her plaintive Heartache is an Uphill Climb, or Ireland’s Karen Casey with a sweet, soft lullaby for her late mother. One of accordionist Phil Cunningham’s inimitable slow airs, Irish Beauty, also hit the spot, with Bain’s fiddle singing sweetly.
Elsewhere, multiple-Grammy-winner Jim Lauderdale’s North Carolina drawl chewed over the word “dreich” and brought a lazy holler to Headed for the Hills, while John Paul White, formerly of The Civil Wars, gave powerful voice to the sultry What’s So, and generated limber western swing in Lonesome All the Time. Eddie Reader brought characteristic heart to Willie Nelson’s Back to Earth (although I wasn’t so sure about her power-ballad treatment of Burns’s Winter It Is Past).
There were purposeful reels from fiddler John McCusker, flautist Michael McGoldrick and company, but perhaps most memorable was Louisiana’s Dirk Powell, with his counterblast to Trumpery, the venerable blues Motherless Children, delivered with pace and indignant rage.