Hazy Recollections – O2 ABC2, Glasgow, Sun 22 Jan
Electro-folk and French lullabies bring both weepie and comedy moments
Celtic Connections’ Hazy Recollections sessions are great for two main reasons. Firstly, they provide a gathering place for the legion of those with beards and plaid shirts. Secondly, you get to see just how far the festival’s remit of ‘folk, roots and world music’ stretches.
The first two acts – Young Trad Musician of 2009 finalist Adam Holmes and Parisian-Glaswegian singer Siobhan Wilson – are worlds apart in tone, style and delivery. Holmes, backed by a group of musicians who seem much more excited to be there than he is, delivers straight country tunes with an impassive distance that makes him an intriguing character to watch, if not absolutely riveting. Soloist Wilson, on the other hand, pours so much of herself into her songs – be they French language lullabies or late-night jazz scat-singing numbers – you’re afraid she might break down on stage if the crowd aren’t appreciative enough. Thankfully, they are – each song is listened to with hushed reverence, then enthusiastically applauded after. Closing with a cover of classic weepie ‘Smile’ underlines her delicate, Judy Garland-like vulnerability.
The final two acts are similarly different – headliners Washington Irving (unfortunately missed by this reviewer) work mainly from a folk-rock template with occasional proggy flourishes, while The Dirty Beggars specialise in good, honest, old-time, old No. 7 brand bluegrass. This particular set leans a little too heavily towards the maudlin ballad end of the Beggars’ repertoire, but there’s still a good few foot-thumpers to get the crowd going, including album stand-out ‘Hey Hey’.
The highlight of the afternoon (and probably the most wildly divergent from the Celtic Connections photofit) is Jonnie Common. Making good on the promises made by last year’s album Master of None (and subsequent remix album Hair of the Dog), he charmed the audience with a mixture of sample-enhanced electro-folk-pop and disarmingly honest stage banter. ‘This last song’s about putting your band to sleep so you can go off and be a solo musician … and it’s for these two reprobates standing at the front, who were in that band,’ he says, gesturing to the couple of ex-Down the Tiny Steppers at the barrier. These and other blunt asides raise hearty laughs from the crowd (including the two former bandmates, thank goodness), while the likes of ‘Hand-Hand’ and ‘All Over Reed’ display Common’s knack for coining a witty-yet-heartfelt lyric – ‘I can’t skateboard to save my life, but I like to imagine what kind of bizarre scenario might involve me having to do so’ and ‘Did I ever tell you about the time Oliver Reed died in my arms?’ being cases in point.