Duncan Chisholm

Big Archie

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From the album Affric (Copperfish Records)

Duncan Chisholm's son Archie must be quite a lad, because there's a wonderful joie de vivre about this track, dedicated to him (and Chisholm's own father), and taken from the third and final part of the Strathglass Trilogy (following acclaimed albums Farrar and Canaich). Dad's fiddle tune takes the lead, but there's a sparky swagger to Jarlath Henderson's uillean pipes too.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, January 26, 8pm

2. The Once

Jack The Sailor

From the album Row Upon Row Of The People They Know (Borealis Records)

Hailing from Newfoundland, this trio burst on to the Canadian folk scene in 2009 with the award-winning, self-titled debut album. Here, Geraldine Hollett's voice takes centre stage as she steps into traditional folk ballad territory to recount the tale of a sailor's return home to woo his true love.

St Andrew's in the Square, January 19, 7.30pm

3. Salif Keita


From the album Talé (Universal France)

Like Duncan Chisholm, African singer-songwriter Salif Keita's fatherly love spills over into his songs – notably this one from his latest album, dedicated to his youngest daughter. The laughter of the children of the Malian capital Bamako is heard at the beginning, before their "Je t'aime papa, je t'aime maman" refrain takes over. You can hear the golden glow of affection in the music, from the heartbeat rhythm to Keita's distinctive vocal.

Old Fruitmarket, February 1, 9.30pm

4. JD McPherson

North Side Gal

From the album Signs & Signifiers (Rounder Records)

Jonathan David MacPherson might have been born in 1977, when disco and punk were at their height, but you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd walked straight out of the 1950s, so steeped is his sound in rockabilly and rock'n'roll. There's something of Chubby Checker's The Twist about North Side Gal, but, boy, do those horns rasp and burn, the perfect match for the dance-hall holler of McPherson's voice.

Oran Mor, January 25, 7.30pm

5. Karine Polwart

We're All Leaving

From the album Traces (Hegri Music)

Parents and their children might well be the theme of this Celtic Connections CD. Taken from the No 1 album in the Sunday Herald's Top 50 Scottish Albums of 2012, We're All Leaving wonders how much Charles Darwin's family life might have affected his scientific theories, particularly the death of his daughter Annie at the age of 10. Insightful lyrics, beautiful tune.

City Halls, February 2, 7.30pm

6. Old Crow Medicine Show

We Don't Grow Tobacco From the album Carry Me Back (ATO Records)

The bluegrass sound, built over country fiddle and banjo, has its roots in decades gone by, but the focus of this six-piece's lyrics is often on the here and now. We Don't Grow Tobacco delves further back in time, but only because the past impacts on the present, and there's nothing nostalgic about the song's take on rural unemployment – or the band's delivery, as they grab the attention with a passion learned the hard way from years of busking.

Barrowland, February 1, 7.30pm

7. The Bulgarian State Television Female Choir

Tebe Peem-za Ovchariya (Song for the Shepherd)

From the album Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares: Ritual (WSM)

When "world music" became a fashionable marketing term in the mid-1980s, Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares – a collection of haunting folk songs performed by a Bulgarian female choir – was one of the breakthrough albums. They're still performing and recording some 60 years after their formation and this unaccompanied track, taken from their 1994 album, features polyphonic singing at its purest.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, January 24, 8pm

8. Duncan Lyall

Cold Light

From the album Infinite Reflections (Red Deer Records)

The 20th Celtic Connections is a good time to celebrate the lasting legacy of the festival's New Voices strand. Last year, Duncan Lyall premiered his Infinite Reflections composition and, 12 months on, returns to mark its CD launch. It's a folk piece, to be sure – Innes Watson's fiddle and Ali Hutton's whistles on Cold Light confirm that – but Lyall's acoustic double bass sets up a groove that refuses to be boxed in by genre. Mitchell Theatre, January 20, 1pm

9. The Be Good Tanyas

In My Time Of Dying

From the album A Collection (2000-2012) (Nettwerk Music Group)

Blind Willie Johnson called it Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed and squeezed gospel blues out of his slide guitar. Bob Dylan popularised it through one of the rawest performances on his debut album. Led Zeppelin stretched it out over 10 minutes on Physical Graffiti. And The Be Good Tanyas tone it back down again with banjo plonk, a skippy beat and backing harmonies that are as soft as a feather.

City Halls, January 26, 7.30pm

10. Maeve MacKinnon


From the album Once Upon An Olive Branch (Maeve MacKinnon)

There are rappers in the US who would give respect to the rapid precision of Maeve MacKinnon's Gaelic wordplay on this traditional song, made famous by The Bothy Band. It's given a rather funky makeover here, with James Lindsay's bass making feet twitch. And when Fraser Fifield comes in on whistle, the music soars.

St Andrew's in the Square, January 20, 7.30pm

11. Caravan Palace


From the album Panic (Wagram Music)

Electro swing meets gypsy jazz over a glass of absinthe in one of the hippest pavement cafes of Paris. Yes, it's an unlikely mix – like Django Reinhardt being given a dancefloor remix by Daft Punk – but somehow these distinctive styles, devised decades apart, sound remarkably cool when brought together by this French septet. It's the logical step after Belleville Rendezvous.

02 ABC, January 24, 7.30pm

12. Sam Lee

Goodbye My Darling

From the album Ground Of Its Own (The Nest Collective Records)

When Ground Of Its Own received a Barclaycard Mercury Prize nomination at the end of last year, it proved that the traveller community's oral tradition was in safe hands for future generations. Sam Lee has done his research but, as Goodbye My Darling reveals, this isn't an academic exercise in folk culture but a celebration of music full of narrative and character, performed with vigour.

St Andrew's in the Square, January 18, 7.30pm

13. unreleased The Mavericks

Come Unto Me

From the album In Time (Big Machine Music/Mercury)

With a twangy guitar that sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the reunited Florida band announce their comeback in style. Come Unto Me will feature on In Time, their first album in eight years, due for release on February 4. The Tex-Mex shuffle is in full effect: accordion chords form a stabbing rhythm, the trumpet reaches a hot mariachi climax and Raul Malo seems to channel the spirit of Roy Orbison.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, January 22, 7.30pm

14. Kate Rusby

Unquiet Grave

From the album 20 (Pure Records)

Rather than release a greatest hits album to mark two decades in the music business, the Yorkshire singer sifted through her back catalogue and made fresh recordings of favourite songs with an array of guest artists. Some could be classified as duets; others, Unquiet Grave included, saw the guest (in this case, Crooked Still's Aoife O'Donovan) slip their backing harmony delicately behind Rusby's lead vocal.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, January 24, 7.30pm

15. Heritage Blues Orchestra

C-Line Woman

From the album And Still I Rise (Raisin' Music)

Grammy-nominated for Blues Album of the Year

Talk about being thrown in at the deep end: mere months after releasing their debut album, Heritage Blues Orchestra will be competing at the Grammys against the likes of Dr John. Their authentic feel for the roots music of Black America is obvious here in the tribal insistence of the percussion and the field holler pattern of the vocals, both pepped up by what's probably the only New Orleans-style tuba solo you'll hear at the festival this year.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, January 31, 7.30pm

16. unreleased Vicente Amigo


From the album Tierra (Sony)

Cordoba-based Vicente Amigo is an undoubted master of the flamenco tradition, and it's his playing that underpins his new project, Tierra. But music knows no geographic boundaries and, when Michael McGoldrick and John McCusker are called in to play, the result can be nothing other than a Celtic fusion. Tierra will be premiered in its entirety at the festival concert; it's due for release as an album mid-February.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, January 18, 7.30pm

17. Kathleen MacInnes


From the album Cille Bhrìde (Kathleen MacInnes Records)

No Gaelic singer has a more soulful voice than South Uist's Kathleen MacInnes, and this beautiful hymn to the sun, lifted from what's only her second album, contains all the smoky flavours that set her apart. The perfect coda for the cd.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, January 25, 7.30pm