Music to blow away the winter blues

As usual it’s been much too long since my last blog entry. Now that Christmas is over and New Year is upon us, it’s time to look forward, and 2015 already has many musical treats coming over the horizon. There’s nothing better than live music to lift the spirits on these long, cold, dark evenings. So check out the listings, raid your Christmas box and get those tickets booked to give yourself something to look forward to!

First up, the mighty Cahalen Morrison & Eli West will be back on these shores in just a couple of weeks. The hardworking duo from Seattle will be starting their tour in Hertfordshire on 14th January and working their way up to Scotland over the course of a fortnight – here’s the link to concert dates. Regular readers will know that Cahalen and Eli are huge favourites of ours, and they are fantastic in live performance. Their music is influenced by bluegrass and old-time country, but it comes across as something completely fresh. Cahalen’s superb soulful voice is complemented by Eli’s sweeter tones, and the harmony singing of this pair is something really special. They are great pickers too, Eli a master of the flatpicked guitar and Cahalen switching between mandolin and clawhammer banjo. I’m proud to be hosting one of their concerts in Sheffield on 24th January 2015 – check out the details here.

It’s partly thanks to the epic two-week Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow that we see so many high quality American musicians visiting the UK around this time. The event features a significant number of acts representing (or influenced by) bluegrass, old time and Americana, and many of them use the opportunity to play a few more dates around the country. If you’re lucky enough to be in or near Glasgow, this year’s highlights include Le Vent Du Nord, Punch Brothers and many more, including the annual Transatlantic Sessions concerts.

My personal favourite CC picks are: firstly, the wonderful double bill featuring Cahalen & Eli supported by Canadian husband and wife duo Pharis & Jason Romero. Then there’s the very special event which sees Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) join forces with Aoife O’Donovan (ex-Crooked Still) and Sarah Jarosz. All three women are highly talented singers and instrumentalists as well as songwriters, and their influence in the US bluegrass and roots music scene has been huge. I’m looking forward to a trip north to see both of these concerts. Plans are already advanced for a full UK spring tour of the Watkins/Jarosz/O’Donovan collective – more details on that very soon.

Happily, the aforementioned Pharis and Jason Romero will be following up their Celtic Connections debut with an extensive UK tour during February. Based in the tiny British Columbia town of Horsefly, they combine a bespoke banjo-building business with making beautifully subtle music together, featuring delicate picking and gorgeous harmonies. I’m planning to write more about this talented pair in a future update, but meanwhile you can check out their gig dates here.

Fellow Canadians (albeit French-speaking from the other side of the continent) Le Vent Du Nord will be playing a handful of dates in late January after their Glaswegian sojourn. I’ve heard they are sensational live, and look forward to catching them in Sheffield. January and February really are choc-a-block with juicy sounding gigs for those of us who enjoy the Americana/bluegrass/old-timey strand of things. Additional artists on tour in the coming weeks include Ruth Moody (ex-Wailin’ Jennys) and Vancouver chanteuse Oh Susanna.  So get those tickets booked, fill up your diary and before you know it, spring will be here. Here’s to a music-filled 2015. Cheers!