When asked to do some concert reviews I decided to experience the relatively unknown artists playing at this year’s Celtic Connections. After feverishly scouring the Celtic Connections programme (and YouTube videos) I settled upon The Mae Trio and The Stray Birds.
The Mae Trio
The Mae Trio kicked of the evening to a packed house – if a little late due to audience still coming into the hall – with a collection of their own songs intertwined with little snippets of home.
The Melbourne based band consisting of sisters Maggie (banjo, ukulele, guitar, marimba and vocals) and Elsie Rigby (fiddle, ukulele and vocals) along with Anita Hillman (cello, bass and vocals) each took the lead vocals keeping tonight’s show fresh.
Some of the songs that stood out of the set were “The Shore” and “Leave Well Alone” as well their song about designer “William Morris”.
As a multi-instrumental group it was a nice surprise as they put down their instruments to perform their vocal song “Lately” that filled up St. Andrews in the Square beautifully. Being an old restored church gave the song an ethereal quality to it.
The second half of their set moved up another level with the addition of percussionist James who played on their album. However, the audience (as it always is) stayed respectful and quiet, only breaking to applause.
Due to the celebrity culture this country trawls through, if you mention Australian music, the popular-ists will instantly go straight to the Minogue sisters or anyone else who came from a soap opera, forgetting bands such as INXS, Men at Work, Crowded House and the like.
The Mae Trio (pictured above doing a set at Hazy Recollections, ABC2 Glasgow on Sunday 26 January) bring a fresh outlook on Australian life utilising their instruments and three part harmony to great effect (including playing the fiddle as a mandolin), proving that great music out there if you delve just a little deeper.
The Stray Birds
Coming all the way from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA, The Stray Birds took to the stage to perform the first show of their international tour.
Another three-part harmony group who switched up instruments as well as lead vocals, started with their song “I Dream in Blue”.
With one microphone in the middle of the stage for vocals all three members commanded the stage during the harmony sections by visually coming together to sing through the same microphone (think Paul & George of the Beatles) .
Other musicians/bands may choose to set up with three separate mic’s, and that would give the sound engineer more control over the vocals, however this would take away from the stage show.
Another great song “Birds of the Borderline” went down well with the audience. As well as their own songs we were treated to a few covers from their latest EP Echoes from “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet” a traditional song they attributed to Woodie Guthrie to Nanci Griffith’s “I Wish it Would Rain”.
However, my personal favourite was their take on Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” a fast paced version with a rocking mandolin solo.
To see two music groups who gave flawless polished performances complete different from one another was in my opinion a great night to discover new music. If you love music, if you really love music, take the opportunity to see either of these groups live when you can.