Tag Archives: Sister John

Celtic Connections Last Night From Glasgow showcase with Sister John, Annie Booth, Nicol & Elliott at The Hug and Pint, 28/1/18

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.

More Photos

Words/Photos: Derek McCutcheon

Tracks of 2017 (40-31)

40. Marble Gods – ‘Washing Machine’

“a song about finding your feet and washing your socks”, it couldn’t have been put any better. Marble Gods are a band that exude joy, and ‘Washing Machine’ is the perfect example of that with its delightful lo-fi indie pop jangle, sugar coated C86 vocal displays and whimsical lyrics.

39. L-space – ‘Aloe’

‘Aloe’ is about someone being turned into a giant metal bird, need we say more. It’s also a dark, sinister yet dreamy piece of pop that stood out as the best work of an exciting band to emerge in 2017. L-space released a couple of promising EPs this year but it was this single released towards the end the calendar that caught our attention the most as it built from atmospheric beginnings to a ominous climax and left us wanting more.

38. Dama Scout – ‘Suzie Wong’ [Father/Daughter]

‘Suzie Wong’ was just one example of the creative and unpredictable charm of Dama Scout in 2017, and the track centred around a recording of a child’s guitar the band found while on holiday in Portugal is a delightful effort. Another modern pop number that takes in warm and classic indie influences while maintaining a truly fascinating sound, while sugar-coated, dreamlike vocals and and buzzing off-kilter melodies make it one that we’ll keep coming back to.

37. Walt Disco – ‘Jackets’

Walt Disco emerged this year with a shimmering, flamboyant talent and their debut single ‘Jackets’ gave us a taster of what to expect in the near future. The young five-piece here have meshed a charismatic lead falsetto with dynamic guitars and synths to great a sound no doubt indebted to a time before these guys were born, while feeling refreshingly current and exciting.

36. The Vegan Leather – ‘Shake It’

Instantaneously the massive, dirty electronics kick ‘Shake It’ into life, with the boy/girl trade-off between vocalists Marie Collins and Gianluca Bernacchi. Around two and a half minutes in, ‘Shake It’ essentially stops before becoming a different beast altogether. An instrumental seemingly custom-made for big dancefloors reverberates before the chanting finale of “SHAKE! SHAKE IT! SHAKE IT OUT!” Despite still being in their relative infancy, The Vegan Leather already now have an absolute banger, which sets them in good stead for fulfilling their definite potential.

35. And Yet It Moves – ‘Second Earth Song’

Free Pass To The Future was such an intense and genre spanning album that selecting a song wasn’t easy, we’ve gone for ‘Second Earth Song’ though, It’s a bit discordant but you can see the lineage to Glasgow bands of the early ’80s though naturally some of the vocals are then fed through a vocoder and things get rather raucous. It may be nuts, it may be yelling, “Fuck you”, all over the place but it has a joyousness about it, a celebration of itself.

34. Sister John – ‘Sweetest Moment’ [Last Night From Glasgow]

Meeting through the Parsonage Choir, Glasgow’s Sister John make beautiful lo-fi pop with a touch of Americana to their lush, warm harmonies. It’s startling just how assured the songwriting feels right off the bat on ‘Sweetest Moment’, from the conversational opening bars to the beautifully simple refrain “I’ll take it, break it and just before it cracks, it’s the sweetest moment,” it’s one of the most charming and effortlessly melodic tracks of the year. Keening fiddle adds a touch of Gillian Welch, while the gentle backing vocals lend a Laurel Canyon lushness to a track that floats past like a hazy evening breeze.

33. CHUMP – ‘At Least We Got A Song Out Of It’ [Gerry Loves]

‘At Least We Got a Song Out of It’ is rhythmically hypnotic and oozes professionalism and poise as well as laid-back resignation; it’s vocally endearing and musically explorative, well engineered and beautifully recorded. The wash of the cymbals is well placed and overlays the other instruments with a sense of distance. CHUMP do a good job of embracing and balancing the sound of its global and local acoustic elements.

32. December ’91 – ‘Starin’ At The Freaks’ [GoldMold]

We’ve been used to dark, misery drenched sometimes beautiful, sometimes frantic lo-fi punk come alt-rock from Stirling resident Craig Ferrie, aka December ’91. With ‘Starin’ At The Freaks’ is noticeably less lo-fi, with a lively optimistic sounding constantly driving backdrop that comes with an addictive vocal line that recalls the likes of Kurt Vile’s drawl delivery. A bright bit of alternative pop that brings in all the sunshine of the boat journey captured in the track’s video and brings a welcome upbeat addition to the ever growing December ’91 catalogue.

31. Emme Woods – ‘I’ve Been Running’ [Last Night From Glasgow]

Emme Woods is an act that has been rather underlooked by us over the past year, so much so that this single completely bypassed us when it came out, ‘I’ve Been Running’ is a dark contemplative track that perfectly shows Woods’ unique and impressive vocal stylings along with her unquestionable songwriting ability.

Albums of 2017 (20-11)

Albums 30-21 – 20-11 – 10-1 EPs 30-2120-1110-1

20. And Yet It Moves – Free Pass To The Future

With And Yet It Moves you never knew what to expect, from jaw dropping experimental jam-like frenzies to full on aural assaults they are the ever encapsulating live band led by a frontman in Dale Barclay that you just can’t take your eyes off. On record that don’t quite carry that same presence, but is Free Pass To The Future they channel their all encompassing live show as best to can on record, giving touches of every genre you can imagine with a raw energy that explodes him intense bursts of power.

19. MC Almond Milk – Full Day, Cool Times

The postman from sunny Govan returned with the excellent Full Day, Cool Times, that through a number of ups and downs, show a real insight into the mind of this exciting MC. MC Almond Milk mixes wittily crafted lyrics, cheekily Scottish references with at times dreamy at others full on party beats. Lyrically Full Day, Cool Times sees the Glasgow MC take a sardonic look at youth culture, go on a nostalgic journey through his past, as we see him try to make sense of culture and himself. It’s a joyous listen from a very funny yet also very socially aware individual and is well worth delving into.

18. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun [Rock Action]

Whether crashing tides of art-rock drums over scintillating melodies on ‘Brain Sweeties’, or returning to the familiar slow build of a classic Mogwai anthem on ‘Coolverine’, this record solidifies a leanness of sound that sometimes bursts into reflective expanse. The nebulous haze of intense guitars recedes in gentler clefts of quiet chorale (‘1000 Foot Face’), while tracks like ‘Don’t Believe the Fife’ pound through the sublime intensity that Mogwai do best.

17. The Cosmic Dead – Psych Is Dead [Riot Season]

The Cosmic Dead’s sixth slab of music in recent years opens with a meditative trance, a wash of modulating drone pushed alone with a jarring sparse bass groove bringing to mind the brittle dry tones of Slint’s Spiderland. This is on top of waves and gargles of synth mixed with the effected guitars, the tropical watery arpeggios bring the refreshment to the scene created. This pleasance this comes to an end as the temperature rises to that of a burning comet heading straight for the listener’s temples. Links to their live set can be heard in the closer ‘#FW’, where after the howl of what sounds like “fuck Westminster” the headbanger material comes out; the riff gather a playful side as a bit crushed hooks is typed out as the record draws to a close.

16. The Great Albatross – Asleep In The Kaatskills [LP]

Recorded over four years in various bedrooms in Scotland and California Asleep in the Kaatskills by The Great Albatross is a tremendously coherent and enjoyable album, worth more than the sum of its parts, failing at no point to impress, falling at no point into a pigeonhole and feeling at all times extremely professional. Despite embracing a number of popular sounds and dimensions, the album has a lot of originality, it is experimental without sacrificing its cohesiveness or purpose. Neither too light nor too dark, not too happy or sad, neither too serious nor too jovial, too simple or too complex, the catchy parts aren’t too sickly and the record has popular appeal without sacrificing an ounce of integrity; it is highly emotional but not sappy; combined, the balance of these aspects makes an exceptional debut, incorporating a wide variety of instruments in sensational harmony.

15. Catholic Action – In Memory Of [Modern Sky]

Catholic Action built a stellar reputation over a few years and their debut LP demonstrates their knack for killer choruses, it’s a remarkably well put together collection, with crisp, bright production and a multitude of hooks ringing out like church bells. At their best Catholic Action channel both the humour and the classic power pop songwriting of bands like Cheap Trick or The Cars and it’s when Catholic Action compress themselves into these compact forms that the best moments on In Memory Of arise. It might not be the most coherent album you’ll hear but it full of such joy enthused tracks that it has to be considered one of Scotland’s best in 2017.

14. Annie Booth – An Unforgiving Light [Scottish Fiction/Last Night From Glasgow]

Edinburgh based artist Annie Booth has received critical acclaim and continued to impress in her new release An Unforgiving Light. Booth is on point with not only her song writing, but her capacity to communicate many deep sentiments through her work. An Unforgiving Light will at points send shivers down your spine with beautifully concocted mellow numbers, but Booth shows mastery in her capacity for crossing many plains of musical forms using punchy lyrics, calypso like guitar at points to keep the piece both catchy and addictively pleasing to the ear, all the while Booth’s voice is showcased in her ability to move seamlessly across octaves while maintaining accuracy in pitch and harmony. An Unforgiving Light is the perfect combination of musicianship, meaningful lyrics and originality while still being comforting.

13. Sister John – Returned From Sea [Last Night From Glasgow]

Sister John has spend the last year meticulously constructing a grown up record that touches on pastoral folk to put together a beautiful record with conscientious craftsmanship. Even when the arrangements are sparse, light and airy, they are impeccably constructed; layered up and mixed together. The promotional material for the record makes the bold claim that this is a record that would sit comfortably alongside such classics as Neil Young’s Harvest, The Band’s Music From Big Pink, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate; the highest compliment you can pay Returned From Sea is that after a few listens this comparison no longer seems so far-fetched.

12. Monoganon – Killmens [Lost Map]

Killmens was another record that maybe hasn’t quite had the chance to settle in before putting this list together, such was the proportions of John B McKenna’s double record opeth that it was huge listen that just gets better on further listens. Monoganon has always been an exciting artist, but with Killmens it appears McKenna has hit real odyssey territory as he breaks down and blows apart basic masculinity and leaves us with an expansive psych pop gem that we won’t stop playing for some time to come.

11. Banana Oil – Banana Oil [Winning Sperm Party]

Banana Oil were an expected yet absolutely intoxicating surprise for 2018, the trio of Joe Howe (Ben Butler & Mousepad), Niall Morris (Sham Gate, LYLO) and Laurie Pitt (Golden Teacher, The Modern Institute) brought about a jazz fuelled post punk explosion, full of entrancing grooves and a raw unpolished edge.

Albums 30-21 – 20-11 – 10-1

Sister John – Returned from Sea [Last Night From Glasgow]

Hot on the heels of their ridiculously gorgeous single ‘Sweetest Moment’ comes the debut album from Glasgow’s Sister John.

Led by Amanda McKeown (vocals, guitar), the quartet have spend the last year meticulously constructing a grown up record that touches on pastoral folk, brushed psychedelia and country-rock storytelling.

Backed by multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Lilley, violin player Heather Phillips and Sophie Pragnell on drums and viola, McKeown has crafted a beautiful record with conscientious craftsmanship.

Even when the arrangements are sparse, light and airy, they are impeccably constructed; layered up and mixed together.

There’s plenty of this light and shade on show on gossamer soft opener ‘Thinner Air’, while ‘Rider on the Hill’ is a stately ramble like Gram Parsons taking a country walk.

A great example of the group’s knack for pen-portrait song writing comes with the dramatic, almost-gothic narrative of ‘Backstreet Swimmers’ that sees the strings build to a needling intensity as McKeown tells her tale.

‘Sweetest Moment’ is still immaculate; warm and welcoming, like walking through the door to the waft of home-cooking, with just a hint of darkness at its heart, while McKeown’s delivery of the “mostly they don’t want us to know” pre-chorus on ‘Try To Be Good’ elevates it to a perfect mix of beauty and drama.

On ‘See You Again’ the group channel the dusty, road-soiled weariness of an old Neil Young record, over quivering slide guitar while ‘Sister John’s Dream’ is a wicked Dylan-referencing sixties pastiche with a brilliant guitar part and an upbeat rhythm that resolves itself into a perfect two and a bit minute pop song.

Stately strings power ‘Swallowed the Moon’ whose description of moonlight as casting a “crescent tattoo” is one of the most arresting images of the year, while ‘Hot Water’ draws its hook from little more than McKeown gracefully intoning the title.

Nonetheless it’s haunting and intoxicating, drawing the listener into the track and soothing them like a warm bath.

The torch ballad ‘Friends’ and the straightforward folk fingerpicking of ‘Gone’ is probably the least distinctive section of the record, but Sister John are soon back to their very best with ‘He Came Down’, which sees McKeown switch effortlessly between fearful and threatening with the tiniest tweak of a vocal inflection.

The promotional material for the record makes the bold claim that this is a record that would sit comfortably alongside such classics as Neil Young’s Harvest, The Band’s Music From Big Pink, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate.

The highest compliment you can pay Returned From Sea is that after a few listens this comparison no longer seems so far-fetched.

Words: Max Sefton

Sister John – ‘Sweetest Moment’ [Last Night From Glasgow]

Meeting through the Parsonage Choir, Glasgow’s Sister John make beautiful lo-fi pop with a touch of Americana to their lush, warm harmonies.

‘Sweetest Moment’ is the second single to be released by Last Night From Glasgow after last year’s debut ‘He Came Down’ and it’s startling just how assured the songwriting feels right off the bat.

From the conversational opening bars to the beautifully simple refrain “I’ll take it, break it and just before it cracks, it’s the sweetest moment,” it’s one of the most charming and effortlessly melodic tracks of the year.

Keening fiddle adds a touch of Gillian Welch, while the gentle backing vocals lend a Laurel Canyon lushness to a track that floats past like a hazy evening breeze.

With a debut album, Returned from Sea, due out in September and launch gigs coming up at The Hug and Pint, Sister John are determined to make the summer last a little longer.

Words: Max Sefton