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Review: Music

The Once

The Once

Admiral Bar, Glasgow

Rob Adams

There's been a buzz brewing about the Once since they appeared at Celtic Connections 2013 and it's easy to hear why. The trio from Newfoundland have a natural stage presence that immediately involves - and keeps involved - the audience as they deliver beautiful three-part harmonies with razor sharp dynamics and a big instrumental punch when required.

In truth, they could probably survive the travelling folk band's nightmare of instruments being lost, or damaged, in transit because their voices alone are enough to carry a performance. Their a cappella versions of Leonard Cohen's Coming Back to You and the sad but somehow uplifting, hymn-like By the Glow of the Kerosene Light were gorgeous and in contrasting ways powerful examples of their vocal art.

And yet, Andrew Dale's banjo and mandolin commentaries, Phil Churchill's assertive guitar accompaniments and Geraldine Hollett's bodhran, shaker and foot-pedal-triggered tambourine playing confirm the considerable thought that's gone into song arrangements to produce what is a very fresh, superbly rounded group sound.

Coming from a part of Canada that's so bound up in maritime culture (Hollett's home town is a sixteen-house fishing village, we learned), there's a perhaps inevitable measure of sea shanty influence at play here. Aside from a terrific Jack the Sailor, choruses often sound as if they might have been honed below deck to the ocean's rhythms. But there's much harmonic sophistication involved, too, as their cryptically introduced tribute to Elvis Presley, Can't Help Falling in Love, and a radiant reading of Queen's You're My Best Friend confirmed. With audience participation that's as much part of the fun as their repartee, once with the Once won't be enough.

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