Celtic Connections review: Pictish Trail, Saint Luke’s, Glasgow

Johnny Lynch – aka Pictish Trail – has released a number of albums during his time with both Fence Records and his own, Eigg-based Lost Map label. Yet his latest recorded exploits on the national indie imprint Fire Records have raised both his profile and the proficiency of the music made to the next level.

Johnny Lynch (aka Pictish Trail )
Johnny Lynch (aka Pictish Trail )

Following 2016’s excellent Future Echoes, next month sees the release of its follow-up, Thumb World, which was launched amid much anticipation at this Celtic Connections show in Glasgow’s East End. More than 500 people packed out this former church, indicating that Lynch’s popularity is spreading beyond his extremely loyal Lost Map fraternity. 

Wearing matching green and blue tracksuits, he and his band (whose most recent recruit, sometime Super Furry Animals bassist and recent Fife émigré Guto Pryce, is so new his colours didn’t match) played a set which was long on the gentle electrofolk of the new record. 

They cycled through the breezy Pig Nice; the shiny DIY pop of Lead Balloon, like Hall & Oates with Blur’s Graham Coxon on guitar; and the soaring yet angstful Fear Anchor. After a short acoustic segment alongside his keyboard player Suze Bear, and a frankly show-stopping anecdote about nearly dying in a car crash with the comedians Josie Long and James Acaster a decade ago, Lynch donned a suit of flashing glowsticks and the energy of the gig changed abruptly. 

Afterlife, new track Turning Back and Brow Beaten, by Lynch’s former side project Silver Columns, are songs forged in a bed of rich house music beats, while guest singer Romeo Taylor’s Kingdom of Scotland made a Celtic Connection of a different sort, amid the very Scottish sound of frantic happy hardcore. David Pollock