Celtic Connections: Roaming Roots Revue at The Royal Concert Hall, 18/1/15

Only in it’s third year, Roaming Roots has fast become one of the highlights at Celtic Connections; hosted by songwriter Roddy Hart, backed by his fantastic band The Lonesome Fire, this is an evening of collaborative performances by diverse artists from across the globe.

Each year the evening takes on a different theme and this year it was harmony singers; in total we are treated to 12 different acts performing a mix of their own material with tributes to The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers and Teenage Fanclub.

The first half kicks off with Roddy Hart and The Lonesome Fire and ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ before introducing The Parkington Sisters who launch into ‘Inside My Head’, from their latest offering Me You Us, followed by a lovely rendition of ‘To Love Somebody; this is a combination of piano and guitar, sweet vocals with a couple of violins added in, backed up by the house band.

Next up are The Rails, made up of married couple Kami Thompson and James Walbourne, they serve up ‘Habit’, from their debut album Fair Warning, their traditional rock folk sound topped off with two very soulful voices.

The Australian born Canadian Ruth Moody and her band follow with a couple of numbers, the second is a moving rendition of the fab four’s ‘In My Life’.

There are only a few empty seats in the main auditorium of Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall; the majority of the audience mainly of the 35 plus generation show their appreciation for every act.

I have the feeling that they would have been up for more of a sing-along, but it is one of these concerts where although the music and talent is undeniably brilliant, performers and audience don’t quite join together in the manner I would have anticipated.

Ruth Moody is succeeded on the stage by Irish duo The Lost Brothers with ‘Derridae’, from their latest album New Songs of Dawn and Dust, if you’re not familiar with their music check them out, this one is a right earworm.

Onwards with Californian Grant Lee Phillips performing one of his best-known songs ‘Fuzzy’, Grant is joined on stage by Howe Gelb, also on guitar.

Together we are treated to a cover of Elvis’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’, their harmonies blending seamlessly together.

The only way to follow was for Roddy to be joined on stage by Dawn Landes, and her gentle vocals hang in the air throughout ‘Thirteen’.

The first half was brought to an end when sisters Alisson and Catherine Pierce aka LA based The Pierces entered the fray, performing ‘Kathy’s Song’ before Roddy Heart and The Lonesome Fire join them in a resounding version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’.

The second half of the show kicks off with a couple of numbers from Hart and co. before we are introduced to our own Rachel Sermanni accompanied by Colin MacLeod on guitar.

This is the first time I had heard Sermanni’s distinctive and truly beautiful voice, it certainly won’t be the last; together with MacLeod for ‘Easy Way Out’, their vocals harmonise impeccably.

The line-up for the evening is completed with the introduction of New Zeeland’s Tiny Ruins accompanied by the house band and a very elegant lady on bass.

The evening continues with a selection of performances from all the acts during the second half of the show.

There are some very memorable renditions of some well-known tunes, I particularly enjoy The Lost Brothers version of ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ and Sermanni and MacLeod performing ‘The Boxer’, which has everyone humming along.

The finale sees all the artists on stage together giving it laldy for ‘Mrs Robinson’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’, with folk up on their feet and really getting joined in; now this is more like the concerts I’ve experienced in Glasgow.

As the stage empties to a standing ovation, we are sent on our way with a reprisal of ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, Hart closing the show as it had started.

This is one really enjoyable concert; there can be no doubt the level of talent is truly breath taking.

One thing that comes over strongly over the course of the evening is that every single one of these amazing artists, is loving playing their part in Roaming Roots Review 2015.

As I walk out of the Concert Hall into the freezing night with a two-hour drive ahead and a few thousand photos to review, I don’t really feel the sub-zero temperatures at all.

Words/Photos: Tim J Gray

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