Trembling Bells, Rachel Sermanni and John Grant among Celtic Connections highlights
Mavis Staples and Tribute to Bob Dylan also on diverse programme
Chicago’s music scene is the first stop in this very international round up, specifically the music of distinguished gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples. In the 60s Staples released a string of hits on the Stax-affiliated Valt label. Last year, aged 71, she teamed up with fellow Chicagoan, and Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy to produce the excellent You Are Not Alone album that showcased her supreme ability in conveying both gospel highs and fragile, soulful lows. She appears in a special collaboration with the US radio show Mountain Stage, meaning her performance (and that of support act Dougie MacLean) will be broadcast worldwide. (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Fri 21 Jan, 7.30pm).
The spirit of good ol’ American songwriting is held up even higher by a special concert celebrating Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. In a similar vein to Way To Blue, last year’s moving celebration of Nick Drake’s work, Forever Young – A 70th Birthday Tribute to Bob Dylan (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Mon 24 Jan, 7.30pm) features a diverse range of US and UK talent lending their instruments and vocals to Dylan’s songs, including Johnny’s progeny Rosanne Cash, New York-via-Nashville Americana star Laura Cantrell and revered Scottish folkie Kris Drever of the band LAU.
It’s refreshing when electronic artists are given the chance to muck in with the fiddlers and the bodhrán-bangers, and A Night of Celtronica (Old Fruitmarket, Fri 28 Jan, 9.30pm) delivers sufficient knob twiddling to keep Celtic Connections in the 21st century. Innovative bands including Chemikal Underground-signees FOUND and trance-inducing drum kit pounders The Hidden Orchestra appear on the bill, plus there’ll be a new composition from Golden Globe-winning Glasgow film composer Craig Armstrong.
Tipped singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall: Strathclyde Suite, Sun 23 Jan, 1pm) and beautiful, ethereal Glasgow folk group Trembling Bells (Oran Mor, Fri 21 Jan, 7.30pm) are two more ones to watch, while a special recommendation is handed out to former Czars frontman John Grant (pictured, St Andrew’s in the Square, Sun 30 Jan, 7.30pm), whose critically lauded debut solo album Queen of Denmark, charted highly in many music mags’ end-of-year lists. Grant’s combination of quirky yet sad lyrics and richly orchestral backing arrangements (provided on the album by the band Midlake) will easily lift any January fug.
Various venues, Glasgow, Thu 13-Sun 30 Jan