Celtic Connections

The Secret Sisters/Kinnaris Quintet/An Tobar Sessions

Keith Bruce

four stars

WHEN last summer’s festivals were cancelled in the early response to the health emergency, organisations like the Edinburgh Festival and Scottish Opera set a very high bar for the standard of online performances that filled the gap.

It is not to diminish the value of the quality film and video work that has been created since, and has been a feature of Celtic Connections as well, to say that Laura and Lydia Rogers provided a reminder that sometimes keeping things simple can work just as well.

Past favourites at the festival, and due to be in Glasgow again before the pandemic scuppered touring, they sat at home in the United States with one guitar and a single microphone and sang five songs in close harmony. The camera, which could easily have been one on a phone or tablet computer, never moved as they chatted to the audience to cover between-song tuning, exactly as they would have done at a gig. There was an intimacy to the audio-visual postcard they sent across the Atlantic that exactly matched the style of their performance, sepia-tinged and missing us already.

The duo encapsulated their career too, by including Do You Love an Apple? from their debut album, mainly of traditional songs and country covers, through to the selections from their fourth, Saturn Return, entirely composed of originals, and honouring the women of their own family who made them, in songs like Silver, Cabin and Healer in the Sky.

The smile that accompanies the elegiac tone of their compositions is also the correct response to the original sound of the female five-piece Kinnaris Quintet in Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket, three fiddlers and two strummers-and-pickers whose sound has a foot in the past and one in the future. They too covered their own, rather briefer, career, from the earliest music written for the album Free One to a pair of tunes box fresh from lockdown.

The new music showcased by Mairearad Green, Sorren Maclean, and Roddy Woomble at An Tobar on the Isle of Mull had an unfortunately uniform downbeat tone to start the evening off, for all the variation in the song-writing. Green was accompanied by Maclean and then he was joined by the voice and violin of Hannah Fisher, before the Idlewild frontman’s more adventurous soundscapes in the company of Andrew Mitchell. If it all could have been cheerier it was still an example of out-sourcing that should continue to be part of the festival even after it is able to welcome audiences to Glasgow venues again.