Review Peter Bruntnell Trio at Celtic Connections 23rd Jan by Mike Ritchie
An evening in the company of Peter Bruntnell is always a delight, something to savour and then, when it’s over, you have a lingering, good memory of a gig that is quietly triumphant.
This happened again as Bruntnell brought to this Celtic Connections’ gig a performance and setlist that sat at five-star level throughout.
His is a masterful and intriguing way with words, delivered sagely and effectively, and enhanced wholeheartedly in trio format by Iain Sloan (The Wynntown Marshals and Blue Rose Code) on pedal steel, guitar, and backing vocals and Danny Williams (The Rails, Robert Vincent, Black Grape) on double bass. These two consummate musicians excel in coaxing and nudging the rich and cultured material from Bruntnell’s widely admired songbook.
There’s an understated sense of wonder to his carefully-crafted songs and maybe that’s because his vocal delivery is never forced or strained, despite him nursing a cold – it is the exact opposite, and that helps his material envelope and resonate with fans.
Bruntnell visits his current, critically-acclaimed 10th album release, “King of Madrid”, for nuggets such as Broken Wing and Snow Queen, and stilled the house with their gentle intensity, their soft persistence.
He’s rarely sounded better on Here Come The Swells, which opens his terrific 2002 album “Ends Of The Earth,” performed here with smile and swagger, with Sloan and Williams prodding with gusto.
We get the title track as well, with its steady yet meandering feel and a trio of songs – John, Cold Water Swimming and Domestico – from 2010’s “Peter And The Murder of Crows” that intensifies the feeling we are seeing and hearing musicians at the very top of their game, not compromising on shade or nuance, depth or passion.
A Long Way from Home – a reminder for Bruntnell of long, solo drives between his Devon home and London – is mellow and in itself would be soothing on a journey while his attempt-to-write-like-Buddy-Holly song, Caroline, brings a sprightly contrast, which the great man would have found pleasurable.
And he leaves us with his genius, heads in cryogenic tanks song, By The Time My Head Gets To Phoenix from 1999’s “Normal For Bridgewater.” Bruntnell sings: “By the time my head gets to Phoenix / You’ll be on your way to school / By the time my earlobe freezes / You’ll be acting like the fool / And if our world explodes / We’d never know the truth.” It’s simply superb as he, Sloan and Williams flex their musical muscles in a fine, inspiring salvo of camaraderi.
His latest wonderful album may be “King Of Madrid” but tonight Peter Bruntnell can be crowned King Of Glasgow.
By Mike Ritchie