Celtic Connections: Withered Hand, Richard Dawson, Jeff Lang, The Mae Trio at Platform, 24/1/14

celticconnections_platform28Platform’s characteristically inspiring mix of styles are on offer for Celtic Connections starting with The Mae Trio, Aussie sisters (and friend) variously playing ukulele, fiddle, cello and banjo.

The young Melbourne group sing harmonious folk songs about William Morris and leaving high school with a good variety of pace.

They end on an acapella take on Kate Rusby song, and her work is clearly a strong influence.

Jeff Lang, another State of Victoria native, is a real find.

With a slide guitar (played across his lap) and some mighty fine two-tone shoes, he introduces some blues vibes with ‘Walk Out On St Georges’.

He invites some audience participation in lieu of a drummer and makes for a powerful one-man band.

With a foot pad to get some rhythm up, ’10 000 Miles’ sounds like a full band and when he manipulates an acoustic with a bank of pedals for a rousing ‘Running By The Rock’, he plays his guitar like it is burning his fingers.

He calls his sound “disturbed folk music” and that is certainly a theme for the evening.

celticconnections_platform17Richard Dawson, seems a little distracted by a story about his grandpa painting his car with house paint, but it’s all a feint to put us off balance.

His Northumberland bellow, with no microphone, tears through a dark, graphic tale of sheep stealing.

A little humour creeps through a dramatic rendering of the memories evoked by an old knapsack.

Dawson contorts himself around a small guitar, lies on the floor to soak up the reverb and then snaps back up to tell us of ‘The Poor Old Horse’, a visceral, piercing, downright gory song lifted from his project with Tyne & Wear Museums .

The resulting album, The Glass Trunk has received plaudits but is anything but easy listening.

By turns, moving, confusing, funny, frightening, his performance is startling, like a wild thing you wouldn’t want in the house.

Withered Hand, by comparison, seems oddly tame tonight.

Dan Wilson plays a selection of material from forthcoming second LP, New Gods, he still has his battered acoustic guitar but this time brings a four-piece made up of Fence Collective and Second Hand Marching Band members.

A drowned out accordion gives a nod to folk instrumentation, but by tonight’s standards this is almost a straight up rock sound.

Themes of death and fear still stalk the songs, but confessing that he’s happier now than when the earlier songs were written makes the reconfiguration of ‘I Am Nothing’ distract from the song.

The band is loud, and any subtlety in new songs ‘King of Hollywood’ and ‘California’ is smothered.

What was blazingly original becomes something akin to mundane, the new songs don’t burn like the first batch, however, the more complex ‘Between Love and Ruin’ might still pack the necessary punch.

More photos

Word: Lucy Brouwer
Photos: Michael Gallacher

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