Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Rura, Strathclyde Suite, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Celtic Connections

When the Kinnaris Quintet walked on stage in sparkly tops they immediately marked themselves out as a different kind of folk band, but would they be all flash and no pan?  There was immediate reassurance in spotting Laura-Beth Salter of Shee fame, so it was clear these would be serious musicians.

It's one of life's great joys to go to a gig and be presented with a support act you've not previously heard of, and who prove to be an unexpected delight.  So it was with Kinnaris, who delivered a performance strong in musicianship, a sense of fun and, most importantly, imagination and originality.  Anchored by Jenn Butterworth's clever guitar work and percussive left boot, and Salter's nimble mandolin and tenor guitar playing, the three fiddlers deliver a deep warmth of sound and interplay.  The tunes are a mix of their own compositions and other contemporary sources, but the influences come from a wide range of genres.  Whilst clearly based in Scottish traditional music they range across classical, bluegrass and much more in developing a style that is very much their own.  I look forward to the release of their first album later this year.

Rura nowadays lack a vocalist, so their set was entirely instrumental.  A shame, as they have some excellent songs in their back catalogue, but easily forgotten when they start playing.  Aided by a minimum of electronic trickery, they produce a powerful sound from their four man line up, and there is no more rousing musical noise than Stephen Blake's full-fat Highland bagpipes.  Much of the set was given to new material from their as yet unrecorded third album, due out later this year, and it's clear they are becoming more experimental in their approach.  What's also clear on stage is how much they enjoy working together, and the musical empathy that exists.  There's a lot of subtlety in the arrangements, and a willingness to play around with tempos and some elements of discordancy in building a new sound.  But they remain at their best when delivering a powerhouse of traditional style music, pipes, fiddle, driving guitar and the smart percussive effects of David Foley producing one of the most exciting and distinctive contributions in the world of folk.

My one regret - no bodhran solo from the amazing Foley, something I hope they will consider returning to in future live performances.  But that's a small carp to make in what was an excellent show.

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