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!

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

Annlaug – “November”

I’ve been waiting a long time for Annlaug’s debut album, November, to come to fruition. Demos of sparse fiddle tunes and songs had captured my attention and I was curious to see where it would all lead. November is everything I had hoped it would be and more. It’s sophisticated, engaging and musically diverse.

Featuring a Who’s Who of Scottish folk musicians (Mattie Foulds, Inge Thomson, Martin Green, Aidan O’Rourke and Anna Massie, to name a few), plus string arrangements by Kim Edgar, November delivers a powerhouse of sound and artistry.

Annlaug’s musical versatility is evident in the array of styles presented here. Rock, Americana, folk and traditional flavors are married beautifully on this album. Having primarily heard her fiddle tunes up to this point, I was surprised, and pleasantly so, to discover that the majority of November is sung. Regardless of style, Annlaug’s self-penned lyrics paint an intimate portrait of the songwriter. It doesn’t really matter that the lyrics are in Norwegian (English translations are given in the liner notes) because her voice ably tells each story.

The entire album is brilliant and it was difficult to choose favorites. That said, my favorites are “Hakestad,” which showcases Annlaug’s exquisite Hardanger fiddle playing; “Songen Eg Skulle Ha Skreve,” with its gorgeous strings; and the two traditional lullabies: “Suril Luril” and “Till Till Tove,” which closes the album with a sparse, haunting arrangement.

With November, Annlaug has established herself as a force to be reckoned with on the contemporary folk scene.

To visit Annlaug’s MySpace page, click here.



February 25, 2010 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter, 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

Yvonne Lyon – “Ashes & Gold”

yvonne ashes

Yvonne Lyon’s latest offering, Ashes & Gold, is a brilliant study of the paradoxes of life: the hopeful and the horrific, the light and the dark, the beauty and the difficulty. The songs themselves range from the light-hearted to the heart-breaking.

Though Yvonne admits to really struggling with this album, between writer’s block and the high expectations of producing something better than A Thousand Questions Why, that struggle is not apparent here.

The album opens with “Feel the Light,” one of two songs inspired by Yvonne’s trip to Cambodia earlier this year. Though she saw abject poverty so extreme that even the simplest things could make a huge difference, there was still a sense of contentment and happiness that pervaded their lives. That optimism shines through on this song and it sets the mood for the emotional journey the album brings us on.

The second song inspired by that visit is the album’s most heart-breaking. “The Reckoning” was written after her tour of Toul Sleng, a former interrogation center used by the Khmer Rouge now turned into a genocide museum. It’s a lament for the women who lost husbands, sons, fathers and brothers, some losing 5 or 6 family members. The stark arrangement, primarily piano and voice, is breathtakingly emotional.

At the other end of the spectrum is the very light-hearted “Tiny Things,” a song about the wonders of the world as seen through the eyes of her 2-year old niece. Equally light is “The Coffee Song,” about those days when curling up with a cup of coffee and a good book is the recipe for a perfect day.

Overall, there is a beautiful sense of depth and maturity to this album that really highlights Yvonne’s songwriting abilities. Ashes & Gold is best summed up by “All is Not Lost,” a song that reminds us that everything we experience, whether good or bad, goes into making life what it is and that none of those experiences are ever wasted.

Even though the album certainly has its dark and intense moments, there is still a sense of light that shines through to the end. The result is an uplifting affirmation of life, love and sense of self.   Ashes & Gold is an exquisitely crafted album destined to shine for a long time.

To visit Yvonne’s official website, click here.

To visit her MySpace page, click here.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Retro Look

As I’ve been doing some preliminary pondering of my Top 10 Albums of 2009 (which will be published at the end of the year), I realized that there were also a number of albums I heard for the first time this year but that were released prior to 2009. Some are more recent releases and some are rather old. A few of those albums really blew me away, so I’ve decided to give them a shout-out. After all, it’s never too late to discover “new” music!

This list is not in a particular order.

Archie McAllister – A Fiddler’s Tapestry. Ok, this first one is a bit of a trick. This actually was released in 2009 but it’s a compilation of older material, therefore I thought it better suited here. I hadn’t really listened to the west coast fiddling style before this and I quite like it. His slow airs made my mouth drop open.

Check out the tracks “Ossian” and “Lachlan Dubh”.

Gjermund Larsen Trio – Ankomst. Norwegian fiddler with a slow, sultry jazz style. Absolutely delicious! And it’s definitely chill music. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.

Check out the tracks “Midnattsdrøm” and “Regntung Dag”.

Rallion – For No-One and Everyone. I still can’t get enough of this album! This is their debut release. Marieke McBean’s voice is to die for and the fiddle work takes my breath away!

It’s really hard to narrow it down to a couple, but check out the tracks “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” and “Fisherman’s Wife”.

Fiona Driver – Orkney Fire. Very talented young fiddler from Orkney who is also a prolific tune writer. Of the various styles I’ve heard, this reminds me the most of America’s Appalachian music, which has its roots deep in Scottish music. It’s a gorgeous album!

Check out the tracks “Fidgarth Fiddles” and “Graham In A Tent”.

Synnøve Rognlien – Undr. Synnøve has created an Avant-garde, lush aural tapestry of song and sound. Gregorian chant sits side by side with jazz & electronica and the result is intoxicating!

Check out the tracks “Det Røde” and “Serk”.

Le Vent du Nord – Dans les airs. Until giving them a listen, I hadn’t realized how similar Quebecois music was to Breton music, especially with the call & response songs. This is a fantastic album full of hot instrumentals and great songs. High energy!

Check out the tracks “La Piastre Des États” and “Les Larmes Aux Yeux”.

Fridarey – Across The Waters. Lise Sinclair, a member of this family group, has a stunning voice and is the reason I got this album (she also has her own solo recording out).

Check out the tracks “Day Dawn” and “Wild White Swan”.

Whirligig – Celtic Dawn. This is the oldest album in the list, released back in 1995, but I’m still just as amazed by it. It’s early music meets Celtic music, with jazz elements thrown in for good measure. The recorder & fiddle work of Fiona & Jenny Cuthill is sublime!

Check out the tracks “Aisleag Ur” and “Roslin Castle” (one of my favorite arrangements of this tune).

Yvonne Lyon – Fearless. This is Yvonne’s second album, which was released a few years ago, and it is an excellent showcase of her exquisite songwriting skills. There’s something about this album, even in the darker, more emotionally intense songs, that is uplifting.

Check out the tracks “Come” and “Love”.

Gordon Gunn – Shoreside. He’s a recent find for me, thanks to a suggestion from a friend, but I was wowed from the get-go. His fast sets are amazing but his slow airs are divine! They stopped me in my tracks.

Check out the tracks “Orkney” and “Hogties Reel/Wooden Whale”.


All of these albums can be found either at Music in Scotland, Amazon, or iTunes.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Avant-Garde, Celtic, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yvonne Lyon – Fearless

yvonne lyon fearless

Scottish singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon left teaching to pursue a full-time career as a musician and that leap of faith has paid off on Fearless, her second full length recording.  Yvonne delivers her brilliantly-crafted songs in a gorgeous voice full of intimacy and emotion. The effect is soothing, heartwarming and inviting. While most of the album is in the acoustic/folk vein, Yvonne proves she’s able to rock out with numbers like “Subscribe” and “Mariana”.  An accomplished musician herself, she is joined by the likes of David Lyon, Chris Stout, Graeme Duffin and others to create the rich tapestry her songs are built upon.

On the surface, Yvonne’s lyrics are engaging and intimate, sweet and poignant.  Yet there is a deeper story here. Though her music is rarely labeled “Christian”, Yvonne is no stranger to the Christian music scene and her Faith-centered lyrics are just as welcome in the church as on the secular stage. “Mariana” is a lovely dedication to a woman able to maintain her faith in the face of hardship and grief.  In “Run To” there’s the realization that, even though we stumble and fall due to our own folly, God is still there. My personal favorites are the beautifully poignant “Come”, written for a loved one who has passed on, incorporating Matthew 11:28 as the chorus, and “Love”, a gorgeous song about the true definitions of love.

Fearless is an uplifting celebration of faith, love and peace and Yvonne’s heartfelt sincerity reaches deep into the listener.

To learn more about Yvonne, visit her official website or her MySpace page.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter | , , , , | Leave a comment