II LOVE support acts. For every nine eager, misguided, musically-challenged ensembles that warm up the gnarled planks of staging, there is one sparkling surprise that invigorates even an old sod like me.

The mish-mash of Spanish-Celtic folk served up by Xose Manuel Budino at the Fruitmarket on Friday was, joyously, the one in 10. Sometimes gentle, often boisterous, every tune had punch and, for the life of me, I couldn't help but picture some crazy mediterranean carnival travelling from the sunshine of Southern Spain to the hillsides of Co Mayo.

There was even a little blast on the castanets, widening my smile of surprise and enjoyment.

With the stage nice and toasty, Senor Budino made way for Senor Bennett. I had the pleasure of experiencing Martyn Bennett at Celtic Connections last year and I was eager to discover how far his unique blend of folk and dance had evolved. Unfortunately, I got the distinct impression that 12 months had changed nothing, even down to the set list. The drum tracks, ranging from plodding Dr Who to frantic drum'n'bass, are still raw and the cyclic riffing of pipe and fiddle remains hypnotic but a little polish would have gone a long way. Where are the raging crescendos? Where are the calmer, mellow numbers to allow panting dancers to catch their breath? Having said all that there is no denying that Martyn is exciting. When riff and drum come together it really rocks the rafters and an audience can't help but dance. The musicianship is exemplary and Martyn's scat singing is intriguing. With a little

hard work Martyn Bennett could be the hero of the folk frontier. I'll be back next year for an update.