Kilmarnock Edition

24 Jan 2013 in Festival, Gaelic, Highland, Music

Celtic Connections, Glasgow Art Club, 23  January 2013

FIRST on stage in the vaulted hall at the Glasgow Art Club was folk singer Ian Smith, originally from Kilmarnock but now resident in Donegal.

One self-penned song lamented the decline of his home town’s once vibrant city centre with a sad litany of shops and cafes that are no more. It must be some time since Smith went home as, ironically, on the other side of Scotland at St Andrews, Kilmarnock had just won the major Creative Places Award for 2013 for its transformation of closed retail and industrial premises into ‘thriving arts venues and their year round series of festivals’.

Fiona J. Mackenzie

Fiona J. Mackenzie

The biggest of these music festivals is the Kilmarnock Edition, named for the famous 1786 collection of Burns’ poems in the Scots dialect, and one which inspired the name of the second act, a kaleidoscopic assembly of musicians from all sorts of genres who as individual winners of the Burnsong International Songhouse of 2009 were brought under one roof for a week of intensive songwriting collaboration. They’ve continued to make music together ever since, though chances for rehearsal for this far-flung crew, each busy with their own individual careers as singer-songwriters, are few and far between.

As a result their performance isn’t what you might call polished, but amid the gloriously exhilarating con-fusion of musical styles on stage, it simply didn’t matter. Yvonne Lyon, Lisa Rigby and Fiona J Mackenzie’s voices melted together irresistibly in beautiful harmonies strengthened by the warmth of Alex Hodgson’s voice and guitar, Roberto Cassani’s bass and Stuart Clark’s percussion textures. Additional delights were provided by Sarah on fiddle and producer David Lyon on box.

From Latin-y jazz to Gaelic song, from doo-wop to dub beats, it was a rich feast of musical elan. Hodgson’s humourous introductions were only outdone by Cassani. As he said, “My songs sound serious in my head, but when I sing them, people laugh”,and his lament for the angst of empty nest syndrome proved his point; comedy gold.

Dingwall-based Fiona J Mackenzie is the driving force behind the band; amid the cheers and whistles, her soft sweet unaccompanied Gaelic song had the power to hush the audience in seconds. As a complete contrast her paean to the smartphone, or little black box “Bocsaig beag dhu” was foot-tappingly catchy and, as with ‘Pay It Forward’ (the title track of their first album) the audience clapped along without any encouragement. That’s a cast iron indicator of a good gig, and the Kilmarnock Edition is certainly that.

© Jennie Macfie, 2013