Lori Gordon

Bletherings From a Music Obsessed Mind

Best of Danny Kyle 2013, week 2

Another year of the Danny Kyle Open Stage competition has come to an end. All that’s left are for the 6 winners to be announced and the “winners concert” tomorrow night. There was a strong showing of musicians from Orkney this year; all of them ended up on my favorites lists. For such a small island, they have an amazing music culture up there. Once again, I would like to thank the folks at Celtic Music Radio for broadcasting the Danny Kyles. CMR is one of the finest sources of folk and traditional music I’ve come across and it’s run entirely by volunteers.

Here are my Week 2 favorites, in chronological order:

Reely Jiggered – A trad trio from Gourock. Their fiddler, Alison McNeill, left me speechless. As soon as their set finished, I tracked down their debut CD. You can listen to their set here.

The Scott Wood Trio – A very sharp, incredibly talented band with lots of pipes & fiddling. Their EP is just as fantastic. Check out their set here.

Genesee – A singer/songwriter with a gorgeous bluesy voice. Reminds me a lot of blues & gospel singer Ruthie Foster. You can hear her set here.

The Linzi Murphy Band – Linzi is a young trad/folk singer from Neilston. The band has only been together for a few months but they have a beautifully polished sound. Listen to their set here.

Hannah Graham and Josh McGregor – Fiddle/guitar duo originally from Orkney. Exquisite playing!  You can listen to it here.

Graham Low & Jack Kirkpatrick – A young trad duo from Orkney. Absolutely brilliant fiddling. They both have incredible futures ahead of them. You can hear their set here.

Zoë Bestel – When I first read that she was a ukelele player, I almost wrote her off. I’m glad I didn’t. This 15 year old singer/songwriter/ukelele player has more brilliance and talent than many twice her age. I was blown away. Listen to her set here.

Do yourself a favor and check out all of these performers. It’s so rewarding to come across new artists and watch them grow and evolve into even more amazing musicians. Cheers to another successful Danny Kyle!

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February 1, 2013 Posted by | Celtic, Folk, Music Styles, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best of Danny Kyle Open Stage 2013, week 1

Every year, I look forward to the Danny Kyle Open Stage competition that takes place during Celtic Connections in Glasgow. It’s a fantastic opportunity, not just for up & coming artists to gain wide exposure, but to hear some amazing musicians that I might otherwise miss. My music collection has grown substantially over the years, thanks to the Danny Kyles. Of course, I have to give a huge Thank You to the folks at Celtic Music Radio, who make it possible for me to listen to the Danny Kyle from 3,000+ miles away.

After last year’s stellar DK, I wasn’t sure that this year could match it. I needn’t have worried. The caliber of performances is even higher.  I listen to a lot of traditional and “new trad” music, so in order to catch my fancy, the music has to be top-notch. Of the 13 groups that I adored from this first week, 11 of them are trad.

Here are my favorites, listed more or less in chronological order:

Matt Tighe – A young fiddler from London who plays in an Irish style. A lot of talent in this lad. You can listen to his set here.

Halina Romaniszyn & Aidan Morrison – A trad duo from Orkney. Absolutely brilliant! You can hear their set here.

Neusa – A refreshing group of students from Glasgow. You can listen to their set here.

Gria – A brand new group, hailing mostly from the Islands, performing their first gig. I can’t wait to hear more! Their set is here.

Kat Healy – A lovely singer/songwriter from Edinburgh. I’ve already added her CD to my collection. Listen to her set here.

The Jellyman’s Daughter – Great name, great duo from Edinburgh. They remind me of  The Civil Wars. You can hear their set here.

The Mhairi Marwick Band – Amazing! One of my top favorites. I hope there’s an album in their future soon. You can listen to their set here.

Charlie Grey & Pablo Lafuente – A fiddle/guitar duo from Plockton. These lads have a bright future ahead of them. Listen to their set here.

Malcolm Bushby – Tasmanian fiddler who was also on the Danny Kyles last year. I loved him last year and love him just as much this year. His music is truly sublime. Give his set a listen here.

Askolenn – A stunning Breton band. If you’re not familiar with Breton music, listen without haste to their set here!

Shona Brown – Delightfully surprising flute player and singer from Motherwell. Fantastic integration of styles. Give her a listen here.

Cairngorm Ceilidh Trail – Unbelievably talented group from the Highlands. I’ll be surprised if they’re not one of the winners. You can hear their set here.

Mulk – A trio of lads who play a crazy and amazing fusion of styles. Their set was jaw-dropping. You can listen to it here.

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Celtic, Country, Folk, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best of Danny Kyle 2012, week 2

The final week of the Danny Kyle Open Stage ended this evening and it featured performances by a lot of extremely talented artists. In fact, the field of competitors has been amazingly strong and I don’t envy the judges their task of narrowing down the group from 73 to just 6 finalists.  Below are my favorites artists from this past week and, before I list them, I want to give a huge shout out to Celtic Music Radio, a wee station run entirely by volunteers, for broadcasting the entire run of the Danny Kyle each year.

In no particular order:

Muran – A trad music trio from Glasgow. Their music is high energy and spot on. You can listen to their set here.

Lorraine McCauley & The Borderlands – Folk group with a fantastic sound. Lorraine’s vocals are lovely, as is her glockenspiel. You can listen to their set here.

Thalla –  A spectacular trad group from Plockton. Their set floored me. You can listen to it here.

The Coaltown Daisies – This singer/songwriter duo features gorgeous harmonies and deeply thoughtful songs. You can listen to their set here.

Malcolm Bushby – Exquisite fiddler originally from Tasmania. You can listen to his set here.

Ben Church – Traditional folk singer with a clear, strong voice and great guitar skills. You can listen to his set here.

Marit & Rona – A very delightful mandola/fiddle duo. I’ve been familiar with Marit’s music for a couple of years and her pairing with Rona is superb. You can listen to their set here.

Maggie & James Nicolson – These youngsters are only 13 & 14, but have more polish and musical talent than many twice their age. You can listen to their set here.

No Soond – A young trad group from Orkney that packs a wallop! A fantastically talented group. You can listen to their set here.

St. Ambrose High School Traditional Band – These youngsters are dazzling! They have great musical futures ahead of them. You can listen to their set here.

Barluath – These are students from the Royal Conservatoire and they are all very musically gifted. You can listen to their set here.

Give them all a listen. You will be hearing a lot more from these folks in the future.

February 4, 2012 Posted by | Celtic, Country, Folk, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , | Leave a comment

Best of Danny Kyle 2012, week 1

Another Celtic Connections festival is upon us and with it, the nightly Danny Kyle Open Stage performances. For those unfamiliar with the Danny Kyle, it gives emerging artists the opportunity to showcase their talent before a live audience and a panel of judges, as well as via the radio, thanks to the wonderful folks at Celtic Music Radio. The six overall winners of each year’s Danny Kyle get a gig at the next year’s Celtic Connections. It’s a fabulous forum to hear what’s on the horizon.

The following are my favorites from the first week of Danny Kyle performances, in no particular order:

The Sally Simpson Trio – Unfortunately, this group does not have any sort of a website. The members are Sally Simpson, fiddle; Michael Ferrie, guitar; Catriona Hawksworth, piano. I loved this group! You can listen to their set here.

Albanach Duo – Classical guitar duo. I was impressed with how intricate their playing was. You can listen to their set here.

Georgia Gordon – This lass is only 16 but she is already exhibiting amazing talent. You can listen to her set here.

Cherry Grove – A brilliant trad group that was spot on! You can listen to their set here.

No More Cages – Another trad ensemble teeming with amazing talent. You can listen to their set here.

Laurie Cameron – Lovely singer-songwriter from Perth. There’s a gentleness about her that’s very alluring. You can listen to her set here.

Pauline Alexander – Singer-songwriter hailing from Glasgow. Something about her reminds me of Yvonne Lyon, an extraordinary singer-songwriter from Greenock. I really enjoyed her songs. You can listen to her set here.

Quirky Jade – A delightful trio from western Scotland singing mostly a cappella. You can listen to their set here.

The Deadly Winters – Alt folk group with a soulful sound. A really talented group of lads. You can listen to their set here.

Dorec-a-belle – This group has a fantastic musicality! You can listen to their set here.

Adam McCulloch Trio – I have to confess: I wasn’t expecting to like them as much as I did. They are top-notch musicians and have a great sound. You can listen to their set here.

Do yourself a favor and check these folks out. You won’t be disappointed.

January 28, 2012 Posted by | Celtic, Folk, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joy Dunlop – Dùsgadh (Awakening)

Joy Dunlop has been a strong advocate of the Gaelic language, both as a teacher and as a performer. Those roles continue on her debut release Dùsgadh (Awakening). Sung in Gaelic, with liner notes in Gaelic and English, Dùsgadh offers listeners a guided foray into the world of traditional Gaelic song.

Though the material is traditional, the delivery is fresh and vibrant, reminding the listener that this is indeed a living language. Sultry jazz grooves, string crescendos, luscious piano and even step dancing layer behind Joy’s crystalline voice. While the puirt a beul and upbeat songs are performed brilliantly, Joy’s real strength is in the songs of love and tragedy. Her voice beautifully transports us deep inside each story. We feel every nuance of love, wistfulness, despair and grief.

The standout song for me is the closing track, “Thig Am Bata,” a take on the Two Sisters tale. It is heartbreakingly poignant and left me breathless. I found it to be the perfect conclusion to this album.

Joy Dunlop’s Dùsgadh (Awakening) is an amazing debut that promises even greater things to come.

To visit her website, click here.

To visit her MySpace page, click here.

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Album Reviews, Celtic, Traditional | , , , , | Leave a comment

Danny Kyle Favorites, week 2

The final week of the Danny Kyle Open Stage (as well as Celtic Connections itself) has passed and there were a few more stunning gems performing their hearts out. I recommend checking them all out – I think they all have fantastic careers ahead of them!

Fiona Driver – fantastic fiddler from Orkney who is also a very prolific composer.

Enez Trio [Tristan Le Govic] – Centered around Tristan’s harp playing, they have a full, rich sound.

Seonaid Aitkin – Amazing fiddler who spends most of her time as a classical violinist.

Rachel Sermanni – Really delightful singer/songwriter who performed with a couple of friends.

Parsec – These lads have mad skills! All hail from the University of Limerick.

Kilairum – This group came to my attention early last year. Their music is a blend of trad & jazz.

Lurach – Great trad group that performs Gaelic song & music.

Kirsty and Katie Lawrence – Incredible trad musicians from the Isle of Man. I found their stage presence refreshing and funny.

All of their performances can be found over on Celtic Music Radio in their “Listen Again” section.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Celtic, Folk, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Danny Kyle Open Stage, week 1

The first full week of Celtic Connections has come and gone and with it, the first week of the Danny Kyle Open Stage. The wonderful folks at Celtic Music Radio provide the live broadcast each day (5pm BST/11am CST), which I’ve made an effort to listen to, as well as a recording of each act’s set in their ‘Listen Again’ archive.

In the first week, I’ve heard 8 acts that have totally blown me away. I think they’re all fabulously talented and I’m excited to watch their careers grow. They all have MySpace pages, where you can hear some samples, or head over to Celtic Music Radio to hear their live gigs.


The Helen Currie Band – singer/songwriter whose songs have an understated intensity about them

Elaine Davidson – singer/songwriter with a gorgeous alto voice. Accompanied on the live gig by Danny Hart

Eilidh Patterson – another singer/songwriter who is altogether lovely

The Bevvy Sisters – Fantastic swing/gospel vocals!

Tyde – great trad music trio

Sporran Again – funky, electric ceilidh band that is wild fun!

Stushie – very talented group of youngsters. Mostly trad but some contemporary.

4 Square – folk band with great vocals and spot-on playing


January 23, 2010 Posted by | Celtic, Folk, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tristan Le Govic – “Awen”

If there was one word to describe Awen, Tristan Le Govic’s latest offering, it would be Gentle. In his hands, the Celtic harp laments, dreams and dances its way through this collection of original and traditional music. Included here are slow airs, slides, slip jigs and other tunes from Le Govic’s native Brittany, as well as Ireland, Scotland and even Sweden.

While the jazz-laced tunes “Dans Plin” and “Piz Bihan” show off Tristan’s great technical skill, it’s the gentle, slower pieces that really shine. Here, the true voice and soul of his harp can be heard.

“Le Songe d’Orianne” is the sumptuous lament of a mermaid queen, with layers as deep as the ocean she dwells in.  On another original tune, “Glaz,” the listener is infused with  the soft golden sunlight of the rain-drenched forest that inspired this piece. The album closes with  the traditional “Enez Eusa,” a beautiful tune full of profound longing.

The solo instrument nature of Awen allows the listener to enjoy the breadth of sound the Celtic harp can produce, as well as the intricate nuances. Tristan Le Govic has created a gorgeous tapestry. This album is a “must-have” for Celtic harp fans, as well as those seeking an introduction to the “son Telenn,” the sound of the Breton harp.

To visit Tristan’s website, click here.

To visit his MySpace page, click here.

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Celtic | , , , , | Leave a comment

Jamie McClennan – “In Transit”

jamie mcclennan

After several years as a core member of Emily Smith’s band, New Zealand-born fiddler Jamie McClennan has finally come forward and released his own solo album, In Transit. It takes a certain audacity for an instrumentalist to release a debut album of all original tunes and it definitely pays off here, as that confidence can be heard throughout this recording. In Transit is a refreshing amalgamation of material that highlights Jamie’s skill as a musician, as well as a composer.

The tunes on In Transit reflect Jamie’s diverse musical influences. The album opens with “Emily’s Wee Tune/In Transit,” the latter of which is a rollicking bluegrass-tinged tune, before moving into “Fun With Colin,” which would be at home in any traditional session. There are several slow melodies on the recording that have a real sweetness and sensitivity about them. “Crichope Linn/The Painted Lady” and “Road to Bennan” are truly gorgeous.

I have a fondness for tunes that know their way around the bottom end of the fiddle and I was pleased to find a few tunes here that fit this bill. The added bonus is that these tunes are funky, contemporary and fun! Leading the way is “Little Red,” followed closely by the “Demon Ducks of Doom” and “Rainbow Sheep” sets.

Jamie McClennan’s In Transit is an outstanding album with an incredible amount of musicianship and maturity. I certainly hope he continues to branch out and produce solo work.

To visit Jamie’s official website, click here.

To visit Jamie’s MySpace page, click here.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Celtic, Folk, Traditional | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Poozies – “Yellow Like Sunshine”

poozies0001

The Poozies latest release, Yellow Like Sunshine, demonstrates that they are still a force to be reckoned with on the traditional folk scene. Their first studio recording in several years, newcomers Eilidh Shaw (fiddle, vocals) and Mairearad Green (piano accordion, pipes, vocals) have joined original members Mary Macmaster, Patsy Seddon and Sally Barker. The result is a brilliant album of fantastic vocal harmonies and spectacular instrumentals.

The album opens with the traditional “Hó Mhòrag,” before crossing the Atlantic on the contemporary Americana song “Black Eyed Susan.” Other traditional and contemporary songs are sprinkled throughout Yellow Like Sunshine, all featuring The Poozies trademark harmonies.  The show stealer, however, is the closing track, “Will I See Thee More.” Stunning vocal harmonies and a subtle drone beautifully convey the deep anguish and sorrow of a lover saying goodbye.

What impressed me most about this album, though, are the instrumental pieces. The Poozies are amazing musicians and the tunes feature tightly interwoven fiddles, harps and accordion, backed by guitars & percussion. “The Planxty Lover” and “The Hen’s March” perfectly showcase their virtuosity.

Nineteen years on, The Poozies can still deliver! Yellow Like Sunshine is fresh and vibrant and destined to garner new generations of fans.

To visit their official website, click here.

To visit their MySpace page, click here.

This review is also published at Folk Radio UK.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Celtic, Folk, Traditional | , , , | Leave a comment