By Sue Wilson for The Scotsman
THERE could hardly be a more appropriate place for Celtic Connections’ flagship Transatlantic Sessions show to include in its annual tour than Shetland, positioned at a geographic and cultural transatlantic crossroads.
Fully 5 per cent of the 20,000 population were in attendance at this sold-out gig.
“God’s band,” was Eddi Reader’s succinct summation of the 17-piece line-up, before she thanked Shetland “for making Aly Bain” – the co-musical director of the show, with US dobro maestro Jerry Douglas – then delivered a supremely sexy version of Burns’s Green Grow the Rashes O, and a bittersweet, jazz-tinged cover of Love Is the Way by Ireland’s Declan O’Rourke. He was also on the bill, displaying his compelling vocal range and brilliantly individual songwriting in the calypso-country-pop of Lightning Bird Wind River Man and the meditative Galileo.
Other highlights ranged from Wailin’ Jennys singer Ruth Moody’s limpidly lovely pastoral paean The Garden to Douglas’s mesmerising solo dobro workout; from Mavericks frontman Raul Malo’s spinetingling, Orbison-esque You’re Only Lonely to several uproarious medleys from the stellar “house band”.
What makes the Transatlantic Sessions consistently special, thought, is the performers’ evident, often ear-to-ear delight at taking part; the spontaneity that balances the arrangements’ diligent rehearsal, and the uniquely warm, intimate rapport between stage and audience that ensues.