Celtic Connections review: Anais Mitchell’s Campfire, St Luke’s, Glasgow

It was billed as Anaïs Mitchell’s Campfire and, while there were no actual smouldering embers to sit around, there was the feel of an informal singalong as the American singer-songwriter, an award-winner for both her ballad explorations and her Hadestown “folk opera”, by no means hogged the fire, happy to stand back or duet with her Bonny Light Horseman colleagues Eric D Johnson and Josh Kaufman and with a succession of guests.
Anais Mitchell PIC: Jenny Anderson/Getty ImagesAnais Mitchell PIC: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images
Anais Mitchell PIC: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images

Anais Mitchell’s Campfire, St Luke’s, Glasgow ****

Kaufman’s electric guitar (backed by a bassist and drummer) provided a frequently glimmering backdrop to songs, with Johnson’s high and lonesome holler kicking off with Deep in Love and joining Mitchell in the haunting, nursery-rhyme-like Jane Jane.

British singer-songwriter Rozi Plain gave breathy intonation to her Inner Circle as well as a cover of an Ivor Cutler song which worked up the kind of groove that, one suspects, might have bemused its harmonium-loving writer.

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Kris Drever’s Shipwrecked, meanwhile, struck a bittersweet note over his thrumming guitar accompaniment and stayed waterbound with Scapa Flow 1919, his powerful evocation of the scuttling of the German fleet at the end of the First World War.

American folkster Sam Amidon joined Mitchell for “a banjo song about trains”, Walkin’ Boss, that fairly rattled along, further driven by Kaufman’s howling guitar, and a Johnson-Mitchell duet of Love Hurts was replete with aching Everly-style harmonies, before the proceedings were ushered towards a joyful conclusion with the old-time benediction of Joseph Spence’s I Bid You Goodnight. Jim Gilchrist

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