Celtic Connections: The Deslondes at Oran Mor, 24/1/18

Glasgow’s annual Celtic Connections festival has yet again pulled out all the stops in another stellar array of the finest talents in the world to help celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Amongst a raft of acts ranging through a myriad of styles and genres, the festival has developed a reputation for delivering a very strong country/Americana lineup, and one of the gems hidden amongst the extensive bill is New Orleans quintet The Deslondes.

It’s a far cry for their home state as they take to the stage on a wet and blustery evening in Glasgow, however, the five-piece waste little time in warming up the crowd with an early airing of the fast-paced ‘One of These Lonesome Mornings’, which could have been plucked straight from the back catalogue of Buddy Holly.

The Deslondes’ material ranges from old-timey Americana to classic rhythm and blues, and although their sound is nothing unfamiliar, they play it with the virtuosity and clinical precision of their inspirations.

‘Hurricane Shakedown’ is a frantic homage to the R&B records that pioneered the origins of rock and roll.

The rasping howl of the chorus springing the audience into life, as the first signs of movement are noticeable on the Oran Mor dancefloor.

There is a considerably larger crowd in this evening than there was the last time the American’s were last on these shores, and the band are clearly appreciative of those in attendance, as well as the hospitality they have received.

Vocalist/guitarist Riley Dowling dedicates the aptly-titled ‘Yum Yum’ to the venue chefs, talking in-depth about the quality of the mushy peas he was served with his fish and chips (followed by an unrepeatably bad John Lennon/mushy peas pun).

The five-piece all take their turns in the spotlight with lead vocal duties being passed about freely, and all with an equal level of competence.

The standard never drops, whether it be on the Dowling-led hoedown of ‘Less Honkin’ More Tonkin”, when snare drum player Cameron Snyder takes over on the soothing balladry of ‘Low Down Soul’, or even when multi-instrumentalist John James Tourville takes a break from swapping instruments to lead his bandmates into a fiddle-led, “old cajun song” sung entirely in French.

As the band return for an encore which ends on a cover of J.J. Cale’s sombre ballad ‘Drifter’s Life’, the whole crowd joins in on a tender singalong of the refrain “a drifter’s life is a drifter’s wife, don’t say I didn’t tell you so” – an embodiment of the spirit which seldom comes anywhere other than a Celtic Connections show.

Words: Graham McCusker


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