Star rating: *****
Having been the undisputed hit of Celtic Connections in 2015, it was only a matter of time before Greg Lawson’s brilliant orchestral rendering of piper Martyn Bennett’s last album, Grit, returned to Scotland, though getting the Grit gang back together is no mean feat. This mighty supergroup includes key players from the country’s classical, jazz and folk worlds – all casually attired, keenly focused and having a whale of a time – and it was a privilege to be on the receiving end of the jaw-dropping energy they give off.
Lawson’s score is a masterpiece of arrangement which has improved on its source material, creating an epic sound that jumped off the stage and invited the audience to dance. The orchestra’s beefed-up bottom end was particularly in evidence on Chanter but there were also moments of great serenity, peppered with star turns, including Phil Bancroft’s soulful saxophone solo.
And wonderful voices, too – Fiona Hunter’s earthiness contrasting with the ethereal plainsong of the University of Glasgow Chapel Choir, David Hayman’s characterful narration, Innes Watson’s whoops and Rab Noakes’ tender authority as he led his fellow singers, then the orchestra and then the whole audience in his old pal Gerry Rafferty’s sampled valediction on “bonus” track Paisley Spin.