Music review: The Charlie McKerron Trio, Perth Concert Hall

Charlie McKerron, Ross Ainslie and Marc Clement played with vigour and precision at Perth’s Live and Unlocked festival to help banish the covid blues, writes David Pollock

The Charlie McKerron Trio perform in Perth PIC: Ian Potter

The Charlie McKerron Trio, Perth Concert Hall ****

“It’s good to get a bit of live music, eh?” asked Capercaillie fiddler Charlie McKerron, breathless after an opening sequence which skipped excitedly through a number of tunes, from McKerron’s own Bruichladdich to The Bass Rock, a composition by his sometime bandmate Michael McGoldrick.

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There was no room for a proper ceilidh at this all-seated afternoon session as part of Horsecross Arts’ Live & Unlocked summer festival, held on an outdoor stage in the plaza between Perth’s Concert Hall and Museum, but he and his trio played with emphatic vigour and precision, as though they were trying to work the past year out of our collective system.

For McKerron and whistle player Ross Ainslie, this was their second post-lockdown live show after a session for Eden Court in Inverness, but guitarist Marc Clement was making his first appearance back on stage. “I’ve knocked off all my amp settings, I’m sweating and my glasses are falling off my nose,” he joked, outlining just how nervous he was to be in the saddle. “It's good to be back.” His live banter was as refreshingly in-form as his guitar playing.

But from all three there was no hint of rustiness, as they brought together a set which cycled through evocative emotional tones and international musical influences. In the Celtic tradition they played an upbeat series of jigs which included The Whinny Hills of Leitrim, a Capercaillie regular, and McKerron’s gorgeous, evocative ballad Greylag Geese and Tawny Owls, inspired by the wildlife around Loch Insh, where he lives.

Elsewhere, the set involved an Indian-influenced suite which included a song which McKerron and Ainslie played on as part of a Celtic Connections project with tabla player Zakir Hussain, a series of rustic American folk tunes which made an uplifting feature of McKerron’s dancing fiddle sound, and an encore of songs from Brittany, Galicia and Asturias which poignantly called to mind those very recent days when musical access to Europe was a given.

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