Live Preview: Celtic Connections Festival 2020

Celtic Connections is the best traditional roots, folk and Americana festival in the world, offering a dazzling array of artists live on stage in Glasgow during January and February each year. What always impresses me about the festival is how well represented women are from across all of the main roots genres. Read on to find out my highlights from the festival, with a focus on the Americana offerings.

This weekend sees the festival kick off with the opening night performance by the Grit orchestra, who never fail to dazzle with their inventiveness. On Sunday Lucy Rose plays the in support of her excellent recent album No Words Left. On the same night Tyler Childers plays to a sold out crowd with support from the Local Honeys (who will also be playing a headline show the day after). The legendary Iris DeMent will be taking the stage on Monday 20th January, supported by Pieta Brown.

Some of my favourite artists who are gearing up to release new music in 2020 are appearing too including Della Mae, Brandy Clark and The Secret Sisters (supporting the Milk Carton Kids). Other great Americana artists to look out for include Danni Nicholls, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters and Kacy & Clayton.

There are some seriously talented instrumentalists playing the festival including mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull (who will also offer a bluegrass masterclass) and Grammy nominated violinist Tessa Lark, who combines classical training with her Appalachian musical upbringing.

One of the most celebrated traditions of the festival is Transatlantic Sessions, where artists from both sides of the pond play together and this year the line up includes Rachel Sermanni and Sierra Hull. The Roaming Roots Revue is building a similar reputation as an integral part of the festival programme. This year it will be in honour of Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday, including appearances from Lisa Hannigan and Karine Polwart. The groundbreaking Bogha-Frois project also returns to celebrate LGBT voices in traditional Scottish music, featuring amongst others Man of the Minch and Roseanne Reid.

There’s a real embarrassment of riches in the programme that also includes Sturgill Simpson, The Lone Bellow and Shovels and Rope. It’s an honour to be able to attend this festival every year and I always end up wishing I could move to Glasgow for the whole duration. Look out for my reviews of a selection of these shows over the next few weeks.

If you’re heading to the festival don’t forget there is a fantastic music shop open during inside the concert hall too selling music from the artists playing so make sure you check that out. Below is a playlist featuring songs from some of the artists mentioned (and more) so even if you’re not attending this year you can get a flavour of what the festival offers.

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