Celtic Connections review: Tinderbox Collective & Kathryn Joseph, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Kathryn Joseph and the Tinderbox Orchestra might seem like an unlikely musical pairing, but at this Celtic Connections show they made for a colourful combination, writes Fiona Shepherd

The Tinderbox Collective and Kathryn Joseph at the New Auditorium in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for Celtic Connections PIC: Gaelle Beri
The Tinderbox Collective and Kathryn Joseph at the New Auditorium in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for Celtic Connections PIC: Gaelle Beri

Tinderbox Collective & Kathryn Joseph, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

Pairing Kathryn Joseph’s engaging quaver and haunting epistles with the thrilling din of Edinburgh’s freeform and irrepressible Tinderbox Orchestra might not seem like an obvious Celtic connection, but thank the musical gods for those with the vision to make such an unusual and, in the end, dynamic pairing.

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Their live collaboration has been a long time gestating. A joint EP of three Joseph songs arranged by this unfettered ensemble was recorded back in 2019 and finally released this week. Both parties were itching to come together, but there were individual sets to savour first.

Joseph delivered on her usual stark contrast of irreverent chat and intense expression, with the delicate violence of her musical sentiments rolling off the piano. One of her most evocative pieces, The Bird, was dedicated to Beldina Odenyo Onassis, aka Heir of the Cursed, who bossed her version of the song at the 2021 Scottish Album of the Year Awards mere weeks before her death.

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Where Joseph’s sound is all dark, muted colours, the Tinderbox Orchestra are an explosion of colour. This ensemble of young musicians, drawn from across musical traditions, packed a literally electric punch with a backline of rock musicians choosing their moment to bolster the sassy brass, lively strings and expressive woodwind, and a rapper and soulful chorus of vocalists ramping up the drama.

Various members stepped forward to lead or conduct their own compositions, from the tinkling minimalism of Bells to a prog rock workout, while a Balkan-inspired number and an epic folk odyssey have emerged from previous collaborations.

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The show culminated with the live debut of their latest partnership. The Blood, The Weight, The Weary is named after the three Joseph tracks they have arranged with heroic brass, gushing marimba and incantatory backing vocals, to lift the songs out of their sad place to somewhere more exultant.

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