January is usually a frozen dead month for live music but in Scotland we are lucky to have a festival filled with fabulous music to keep you warm even on the coldest night. Celtic Connections runs from the 18th January to 4th February in a variety of venues all across Glasgow. Now in its 25th year the festival hosts some of the best roots, folk and traditional music from Scotland and all around the world, with a particularly strong Americana representation (when Jason Isbell played he joked that there was no one left behind in Nashville).
The main dilemma with a festival that offers such an array of different events is choosing who to see. So to help you narrow things down I have spent some time going through the programme to highlight some of the female acts playing the festival this year.
Starting off with the homegrown Scottish talent, the queen of Celtic Connections herself, Julie Fowlis, is playing the Transatlantic Sessions with the Secret Sisters (what a dream line up). If you’re unfamiliar with these shows they are part of a long standing tradition of uniting Scottish musicians with those from across the pond who have connections to our traditional music. Julie will also be performing as part of the celebration of Gaelic song, as well as her own show featuring songs from her excellent new album Alterum (read my review here). If you come to Celtic Connections and you don’t hear Julie sing then you’re doing something wrong.
The festival continues to include excellent alternative music too, with Kathryn Joseph’s new project Out Lines playing and another of our favourites Siobhan Wilson taking to the stage at the Mackintosh Church (read my review of her fantastic new album here). Roseanne Reid will be supporting Ricky Ross at his show, where we will no doubt hear songs that will feature on her soon to be recorded debut album. Iona Fyfe is launching her debut album at the festival too, playing alongside The Railsplitters, a female fronted band from Colorado. The lovely ladies of Fara, from Orkney, will also be gracing the festival with songs from their Radio 2 Folk Award nominated debut album.
In terms of international acts there is an embarrassment of riches performing in the Tribute night to Tom Petty including Natalie Prass, Lera Lynn and Susanne Sundfor. Americana is well represented with shows including Alison Moorer & Shelby Lynn, I’m With Her and Shawn Colvin. Newcomer Kaia Kater will also be at the festival, giving audiences a chance to hear new Americana voices as well as those more familiar names.
Last but not least I’m delighted that Courtney Marie Andrews is returning to Scotland to play her biggest venue yet, after wowing everyone with her new songs at St Luke’s earlier this year. In my opinion she’s a superstar in the making and I know she’s going to own this room. The good thing with Celtic Connections is that they are brilliant at promoting shows which helps to bring in wider and larger audiences for newer acts.
This is just a snapshot of the musical choices on offer, plus there are also walking tours, workshops and late night sessions to enjoy. The only downside to this festival is potential bankruptcy…but who needs money when you have music? Celtic Connections is a welcome winter gift to the soul and the spirit.
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