Celtic Connections comes to a crescendo!

Biffy Clyro front man Simon Neil rocked Campbell's world on the Songs for Survival set. Photograph by Gaelle Beri.

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Oban FM’s Campbell Cameron gives a standing ovation as Celtic Connections 2021 online extravaganza comes to a close.

The second and final week of the greatest winter music festival in Europe, Celtic Connections, does what it always does.

Reaches a crescendo! Despite being audience-less and online the festival has maintained superbly high standards throughout and although unlikely to repeat the venture, assuming the auld vaccines are doing their bit by next January, maybe it will be made available online as well as in the flesh.

My guess is world audiences are up this year as travelling to Glasgow is impossible of course so that audience might be retained – something for festival director Donald Shaw and his team to muse over as they settle back into February and count on the success of this year’s event.

So, what rocked me? Well, Roddy Hart is one of my favourite performers and runs a decent show on Radio Scotland with the Americana theme that threads through the Roaming Roots Review that he hosts and leads with his Lonesome Fire Band each year. Made it for the first time this year …well!

Songs for survival gave us the roots theme and what a gig it was, with Biffy Clyro and Deacon Blue personnel influenced on favourite well-loved American Tunes. The concert was a real winner with a Travelling Wilbury’s hit leaving us begging for more. Hart and Ricky Ross are a formidable duo on vocals and the Field music duo in support were a revelation.

Quebecfest deserves an honourable mention too – Gros Isle were new to me, De Temps Antan were familiar, and Le Vent Du Nord are mega. So, there are three tips for your next playlist. Along with final band advice in song – J’aime le Vin.  Word from the Iona correspondent was favourable as it is for much of the event and my friend and I have caught most events, including the marvellous Uists celebration. This is the advantage of being online. You miss nothing.

The Transatlantic sessions are always a hit, bringing up the rear of the festival, but this year Phil and Aly were separated from their North American fraternity by 3,000 miles and a pandemic. Nashville based co-director Jerry Douglas’s Dobro playing sometimes veers toward overwhelming a live performance, so I feel but the separation this year tempered the slide guitar well. Tim O’Brien and the Nashville-based team played a blinder as always and this will be one concert that a live version in the Royal concert hall will be all the better for next January.

So that is us done for 2021 in the new normal, hopefully a temporary thing and full service will be resumed next year. But last week’s dilemma continues. Online or live – what is best? My pass this year (thanks Santa) is still valid for a few days and everything is available. This year has one thing in its favour – we can rerun the whole thing. What a binge fest that would be!

All the best from Benderloch world music HQ.