Alas, all good things must end, and this was the last Celtic Connections concert for us. It’s a bittersweet thing. The craic was grand, but we need some sleep and we’re missing our dogs and home something fierce. The last concert, held at our favorite St. Andrews in the Square, was a doozy.
Categorizing Skaidi is impossible. It’s traditional yoik singing; it’s jazz; it’s unique. Inga Juuso, heralded by bassist Steinar Raknes as “the Queen of Yoik,” challenges her audience to follow her onto a raw plateau with her dark sound. Using growls and chanting, she mesmerizes, while Raknes uses his extremely physical style to wring an astonishing variety of sounds from his double bass. Everything from muttering mice to laughing cats, to the metallic slap of strings beating a panicked retreat away from a wailing yoik monster, issues from the instrument. The total effect was amazing, though I’m still not sure if I liked it.
Duncan Chisholm has been one of our favorite artists, since we first saw him in Wolfstone, playing a fantastic cutaway fiddle. His solo work on “Redpoint,” “Door of Saints,” and this year’s MG ALBA Scot’s trad album of the year “Farrar” has been featured many times on KZYX&Z.
Chisholm and Cunningham began with the gorgeous, heart-rending air “Lorient Mornings,” then Byrne’s guitar sneaked in to signal a mood shift as the tune changed to the upbeat Angus Grant masterpiece “250 to Vigo.” The tune built energy, and reached a crescendo when Henderson joined in. That first set demonstrated Chisholm’s thoughtful method of putting tunes together, as well as his confident, emotional playing style.
When the tunes weren’t playing with your heart and soul, Chisholm held forth with an easy patter and a lot of humor. The evening was pure genius right down to the final set, “The Knockard Elf/Turbo Shandy,” which had the entire hall of St. Andrews ringing with the sound of stomping feet. For the encore, Chisholm and Cunningham played Phil’s lovely air “The Gentle Light that Wakes Me,” calming the audience down somewhat, before swinging into the upbeat, optimistic-sounding “Isaac’s Welcome to the World” and “Leire’s Welcome to Cozac.” That was enough to get the happy audience ready to head out into the loud Glasgow night.
As usual for St Andrew’s, the sound was nearly perfect, allowing us to fully enjoy a superb performance by gifted musicians. A magical night that we will long remember.