Celtic Connections review: Isobel Campbell, Mackintosh Church, Glasgow

IT HAS been almost a decade since Isobel Campbell lived or played in her native Glasgow, but her mesmerising musical MO hasn’t changed. With its mix of pretty fragility and eerie intent, set opener Willow’s Song from The Wicker Man still sounded like the quintessential Campbell song even if she didn’t write it.

Isobel Campbell performed a brace of bewitching, bittersweet new songs from comeback album There Is No Other
Isobel Campbell performed a brace of bewitching, bittersweet new songs from comeback album There Is No Other

Isobel Campbell, Mackintosh Church, Glasgow ***

Campbell remains an awkward stage presence and at times this was a haphazard performance, but fortunately it had a brace of bewitching, bittersweet new songs from comeback album There Is No Other, delivered with trademark breathy vocals, gently undulating acoustic guitar, and delicate embellishment from cello and viola.

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Charming though this was, the psychedelic folk tones of The National Bird of India brought a welcome if subtle change of dynamic while a selection of cosmic country tracks originally recorded with her onetime duet partner Mark Lanegan were revisited with bassist Nina’s rich alto deputising for the gruff Lanegan before Campbell reached right back to her Glasgow indie roots to encore with the first song she wrote for her former band Belle & Sebastian. The burnished twang of electric guitar on Is It Wicked Not to Care ended the show with some welcome oomph.

There was complementary support from Mull musicians Hannah Fisher and Sorren MacLean, who tag-teamed on each other’s songs – Fisher’s fragrant indie folk and MacLean’s more country-tinged heartworn melodies, garlanded with the former’s featherlight fiddle and the latter’s economical but expressive guitar – before rounding off with a gossamer rendition of Roddy Hart’s Tree of Darkness and a Caledonian bluegrass take on Townes Van Zandt’s altogether more spirited Loretta.

Fiona Shepherd