Live Review: Sierra Hull & Rachel Baiman @ Celtic Connections

On a freezing January evening there is nothing more restoring to the soul and the spirit than a night of brilliant music, courtesy of the wonderful Celtic Connections festival. Returning to Glasgow after many covid postponements Sierra Hull and Rachel Baiman brought the best of Nashville musicianship to Scottish shores and were greeted warmly by a sold-out and appreciative crowd of folk music lovers.

Rachel Baiman last played the festival a few years back, this time she appeared solo and offered a selection of songs from her recent album ‘Cycles’ and upcoming release ‘Common Nation of Sorrow’. Highlights of her set included the brilliant ‘Self-Made Man’ offering us cutting insights into the problems of capitalism, her beautiful tribute to her sister ‘When You Bloom’ and the defiant ‘Shame’ still sounding as fresh and vital as the first time I heard it. Despite the problem of her guitar being smashed in transit (the news of which was greeted with sympathetic gasps by the audience) Baiman was a cheerful and convivial performer who set the perfect tone for the rest of the night.

Fresh from playing the festival’s opening night celebration show, Sierra Hull and her husband Justin Moses sounded delighted to be back in Glasgow, playing a duo show that offered an intimate and entertaining evening of virtuoso playing. The musical talent on display was so effortless and breathtaking at times, yet both players are humble and friendly in a way that invites the audience closer.

They played a selection of old time songs, offering thanks to the heroes who inspired them including Doc Watson and Ralph Stanley, as well as a selection from both Sierra and Justin’s solo work. Highlights included the gorgeous ‘From the Ceiling to the Floor’ from Sierra’s last album 25 Trips, showing that her voice is equally as stunning as her mandolin playing.

And what a joy to have an evening which gives that instrument a moment in the spotlight, because after this show you almost can’t believe anyone would bother picking up a guitar considering the sweet sound made by a little mandolin (or two in this case).

For the encore, Rachel joined them on stage to play new song ‘I Remember Now’ a sweet ode to their home state of Tennessee, inspired by the pandemic. The last few years may have prevented musical journeys between our two continents but that time away brings a renewed sense of appreciation and joy for the little things in life – such as lovely evenings of live music like this one.

– Find the full list of Celtic Connections shows here:

– Sierra & Justin tour dates:

– Rachel Baiman tour dates:

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