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Steve's latest Celtic Connection article: 2014 - It's A Wrap
Monday December 8, 2014

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 2014 has been an amazing year for Roots music in Vancouver and beyond! Concert highlights include sold out shows at The Rogue with Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas last January, The Fretless with Cara Luft in February, Carlos Nunez Quartet in February (and the incredible concert at The Centennial Theatre in September with all those special guests!) Welsh songwriter Martyn Joseph also filled St. James Hall in March, and we had memorable and well-attended shows with Ireland's Caladh Nua, Scots guitarist Tony McManus, Scots & Irish pipers Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson, Quebecois trad. trio De Temps Antan (twice!) and English guitarist Martin Simpson. My personal fave was the debut of Cape Breton Celtic quintet, Coig. It was their first gig west of Ontario and they were in stellar form! 


Dervish made a rare visit to B.C. with a stunning main stage set to close the Mission Folk Festival in July, and Cathy Jordan teamed up with Canadian singer Ruth Moody for a memorable trad. song workshop earlier in the day. Far and away the best celebration of Celtic and Irish music at the summer festivals was the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in August, though. Celtic music legends Sharon Shannon, Lunasa, Donal Lunny & Andy Irvine, Ron Kavana, Niamh Parsons and Paddy Keenan were joined by young Dublin folk / pop singers Hudson Taylor, and rockabilly queen Imelda May delivered a magnificent set on the Friday night main stage. There were some great workshops / sessions (Dublin-born Festival Producer Terry Wickham likes to call them "Wessions") with most or all of the above cramped onto Stage 5 - including a memorable party called The Pineapple & The Potato, with Hawaiians Led Kaapana and Jake Shimabukuro jamming with Kavana, Lunny, Keenan, Shannon and the Lunasa boys! Canadians Lizzy Hoyt, Ruth Moody, Pharis & Jason Romero, England's Jez Lowe and Baka Beyond, and Americans Della Mae and Elephant Revival were among my other highlights of the weekend. Shorefest on Sunset Beach is presented by LG104.3 and The Rogue, and the Wednesday show with Locarno (led by Tom and Kalissa Landa) and Spirit of the West was especially memorable.


My favourite albums of 2014 include the following:

All Life Is Here by Manchester trio Harp & A Monkey, and The Ballad Beyond by Co. Durham singer Jez Lowe. Two great collections of songs about life in the post-industrial north. Bellowhead released their 5th CD, Revival, towards the end of the year and if you're careful you can get the double CD coming in at just under 80 minutes with 20 amazing versions of shanties and folk songs by the bellowing hendectet (that's the proper word for an 11-piece band, by the way!) Also look for The Elizabethan Session, a suite of songs written about the reign of Elizabeth I. It's a formidable peice of work, featuring no less than 8 musicians who are all singers as well (including Martin SImpson, Nancy Kerr, and Seth Lakeman.) Nancy Kerr also released a superb solo debut album, Sweet Visitor in 2014. Kathryn Tickell, renowned Northumbrian piper, teamed up with two classical musicians and a clog dancing accordionist to record a fabulous album entitled Kathryn Tickell & The Side. I'd also recommend Welsh band 9bach for their amazing trad/ techno CD Tinician and Manx-Gaelic singer Ruth Keggin for her debut album, Sheear. The pick of the Scots this year would be Hebridean singer Julie Fowlis (Gach Sgeul / Every Story), Scots/ Cuban fusioneers Salsa Celtica (The Tall Islands) and Emily Smith (Echoes) while Oysterband also released a superb song collection called Diamonds on the Water (they are coming to The Rogue in August, by the way.) I am also very impressed by the new albums by Limerick's Goitse (Tall Tales & Misadventures), Caladh Nua (Honest To Goodness) and We Banjo 3 (Gather The Good) while Donegal sisters The Henry Girls deliver sublime harmonies on their 5th CD, Louder Than Words. 


From Canada's east coast I'd heartily recommend Coig's debut CD Five and the new album by Antigonish sisters Cassie & Maggie MacDonald, Sterling Road. Calgary's Lizzy Hoyt is a superb fiddler and singer and harpist and her new CD, New Lady On The Prairie, was produced by Vancouver's John Reischman. Finally, Victoria's gorgeous old time band The Sweet Lowdown have just put out their 3rd CD, Chasing The Sun. They'll be at The Rogue on March 20th.


There's always heaps of Celtic music to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the Christmas season. Here are a few of them!


An Irish Christmas - Dec 13 at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue)

Christmas Roguelele Night - Dec 16 at St. James Hall

Winter Harp - Dec 17 & 18 at Blue Shore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts at Capilano University

Van Django Bells - The Rogue's Christmas Party - Dec 19 at St. James Hall

Dylan Thomas Christmas: A Child's Christmas in Wales, at Ryerson Utd Church - Dec 19

Winter Harp - Dec 20 at St. Andrews Wesleyan, and Dec 21 in Maple Ridge

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival - Dec 21, at False Creek, Yaletown, Chinatown, and Strathcona

Blues for Christmas - Dec 21, at The Commodore Ballroom

Chelsea Hotel NY Party - Dec 31, at the Firehall Theatre


January shows include

Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas - coming back on Jan 11, St. James Hall

N.Z.'s Don McGlashan - Jan 16, at Presentation House in North Van

Martha Redbone - Jan 17, Capilano University

Roy Forbes - Jan 24, St. James Hall

Foghorn Stringband - Jan 30, St. James Hall

and The Duhks - Feb 1, St. James Hall too