The Burns Unit and Broken Records set for Celtic Connections date
‘Scottish-Canadian Supergroup’ peform at Glasgow's Old Fruitmarket
Kenny Anderson is setting the record straight. ‘Karine Polwart is not a folkie – she wants to try other stuff. And Emma Pollock is not just the indie queen that everyone thinks she is. And I’m not the … whatever.’ (Whatever he is, he is King Creosote).
The first remarkable thing about The Burns Unit is the diversity of its talent: an eight-strong, self-professed ‘Scottish-Canadian Supergroup’ that stars the aforesaid well-loved trio, plus multi-instrumentalist Kim Edgar, Indo-Caledonian pop maverick Sushil Dade, hip hop firebrand MC Soom T, piano ace Michael Johnson and drummer / producer Mattie Foulds.
The second remarkable thing about The Burns Unit is that its members were herded, largely as strangers, for a week-long retreat in in 2006 – and yet they’re still together. There were ominous auspices too. ‘Oh, it was an awful night when we arrived,’ Anderson reminisces of their Burnsong dalliance. ‘There was a storm, there was a power cut, we couldn’t see each other – we didn’t really know each other. Our names were put into a hat, and we were teamed up for songwriting sessions for three hours in the morning; three in the afternoon.’ He shudders slightly.
The third remarkable thing about The Burns Unit is the manner in which they defy conventions – repositioning Pollock as chanteuse, Polwart as popster, Soom T as bluegrass MC – while shifting the troupe seamlessly through indie, folk, pop, rap and protest songs. It offers artists scope for liberation, and perhaps that’s one reason why they’re still together. ‘With these songs I was like, “God, this is amazing, this doesn’t sound like me.” It’s not the sort of thing that I would naturally gravitate towards,’ nods Anderson.
Their debut album, Side Show, was one of last year’s loveliest albums. That’s the fourth remarkable thing about The Burns Unit. There are many more.
Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Sun 16 Jan