Billed as Andrew Nicol, the opening act for this Celtic Connections Last Night From Glasgow Showcase is in fact Nicol & Elliott, acoustic folk/Americana duet Andrew Nicol and Rachel Elliott use the event to launch their debut EP, Down In Flames.
A perfect fit for this Celtic Connections event with their unique blend of fiddle, acoustic guitar and perfect harmonies, their set is well received by the packed audience with Andrew expressing that he is overwhelmed by the response.
A fine performance from Nicol and Elliott who are starting their journey as a duo and on this showing have a strong future ahead.
As a Last Night For Glasgow Showcase this was an opportunity for them to roll out two of their heavy hitters: Annie Booth and Sister John with the support of LNFG released two of the top Scottish Albums of 2017.
First up is Annie Booth with her band, Booth always seems to give the impression of vulnerability, but this is clearly not the case when she is onstage performing. Having taken the leap from performing with Mt. Doubt, Booth seems to be in her element with her own material.
We are treated to a selection of songs from the acclaimed album An Unforgiving Light as well as revisiting 2014 with Song From Him.
Booth is backed by some talented musicians and the sound in The Hug and Pint, which (being generous) is an intimate venue, is near perfect.
A feature of Annie Booth’s alt folk sound is the distinctive way she presents her vocals with changes in inflection and intonation ensuring that you could not describe her as a balladeer. All this supported by the ebb and flow of the music switching from alt folk to alt rock rhythms.
Highlights include album tracks ‘Little Lies’, ‘Solitude’, ‘Over My’ and ‘Never Go To Church’ (with Ross Cameron on the slide guitar).
There seems to be an album full of singles, if that is even a thing in this era of downloads.
Sister John, whose album Returned From Sea was another of LNFG’s highlights of 2017, close the show with their brand of alt folk/Americana (with an International feel).
Again four ridiculously talented musicians who seem to have a lot of fun on stage, take another opportunity to showcase their album, however they also take the opportunity to perform a couple of new songs including ‘8 Years’, which takes a departure from the folk/Americana style with its more rock vibe.
As a group they have such a strong connection, be it the banter (and there was plenty during tuning issues, likely caused by the atmosphere in the jam-packed venue!) or the ability to seamlessly move the instruments around with Jonathan (guitar, bass, keyboards, floor tom drum, mouth organ and vocals) and Sophie (drums, percussion, viola and vocals) in particular showing their versatility.
Amanda takes the time to explain that ‘Try To Be Good’ is about her observations on a visit to Syria and her fears for its current predicament.
If ever there was a group of musicians meant to be together this is it, in terms of Celtic Connections there is no better representation of the diversity of modern Celtic sounds given the background and influences of this group of people.
And, as if to prove their diversity they close the show with a rousing bluesy rock version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’.
There are many excellent gigs this year at Celtic Connections, but few will have so many talented musicians in the one room.
Words/Photos: Derek McCutcheon