Scotland & Celtic Connections

Scotland & Celtic Connections

January 30, 2012 – Even the immigration officer at the Edinburgh airport was all bright and aboon, smiling and curious at what magic might spring from my guitar case. There’s just some kind of earth and spark and humor to people in Scotland that immediately lets you know you’re human.

 I arrived on Burns Night, celebrating Scotland’s favorite son Robert Burns, the great poet and lyricist who lived 250 years ago and whose language still speaks the heart of the people here. I got to step right into the Scottish hearth first night here  – my friends Douglas and Jane Ann host a great rootsy music series in their flat in Edinburgh and had a Burns Night celebration at their place. A lovely Scottish lass and singer Jake Cogan and her band filled the evening with Burns song and hearty good humor, while we filled our bellies with haggis and whiskey, and I chimed in with a couple of tunes.

 

Then off to play the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow. Four nights and very modest sleep later, I have to say it is truly one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. Fine musicians from many parts of the world playing at venues all over the center of the city, people gathering from all over Europe to take it in – all hosted with hearty Scottish color and warmth.

As part of the festival, I played a concert with the great Scottish guitarist Tony McManus. Wonderful to share the evening and to play some tunes together as well. He’s a fine musician and human, and it was all pleasure joining in some creative musical communication onstage. An audience member contributed the posted photo from the show. Later, I played another solo set at the Late Night Sessions in one of the lovely venues in the Royal Concert Hall to a warm and generous crowd.

 

The weekend was full of superb music. The musical bar is pretty damn high at Celtic Connections, and the vibe earthy – many sublime musicians, many hearty hangs and friendships made. Just some of the highlights were Nuala Kennedy and her band’s epic & almost theatrical show Friday night, Alistair Fraser and Natalie Haas’ exquisite musical camaraderie, rich in history and musical exploration, and some great 4am “craic” (craic not crack) with some spunky Norwegian compadres. One of the coolest things about the festival is that it seems to get a lot of its juju from having spirited roots in traditional music while also being very into creative approaches and collaborations across cultures. I really relate with that – roots are not separate from branches and the reaching is exhilarating, even evolutionary, as long as it taps the deep humanity root.

 I’ll be in Edinburgh this week, then after Saturday’s show I’m headed northeast to Aberdeenshire for a couple cool shows, one solo and one collaborating with some fine Scottish musicians, Johnnie Hardy and Davy Cattanach. More later –>>