Broadcast on BBC4 and in Ireland, RTE the on going Transatlantic Sessions presented by Dobro legend, Jerry Douglas and Scottish fiddler Aly Bain has become a fixture in the music calendar. What a joy these gatherings are. Visual and audible plus in recent years the accompanying tour in January to go with their Glasgow Celtic Connections appearances are a spectacle not to be missed.
To open last year’s work we have a staggering 16-track effort kicked away by Bela Fleck (banjo) and his instrumental ‘Big Country’ (that as with most all pieces have the house band in some form or other) and never looks back as the full expanse of Irish and Scottish music is joined by their American cousins performing blues, bluegrass, acoustic old timey music and in the case of Amos Lee straight ahead, singer-songwriter fare. Of a quality James Taylor would be duly proud to have on his CV; yes, his composition ‘Clear Blue Eyes’ draped in Dobro and the sweet heavenly harmony vocals of Alison Krauss and up-and-coming star in the making Sarah Jarosz (the flute playing of Michael McGoldrick is also worthy of a special mention) is rather special.
With so many standouts, I am unable to mention each and every one in detail but Jarosz’s ‘Run Away’ (she also plays hammerhead banjo and guitar on the album, and she is a hot mandolin act too!), Sam Bush’s ‘The Ballad Of Stringbean And Estelle’ (a tragic tale from 1973 made into a song by Bush, Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson) and from multi-talented Dirk Powel the sombre, fiddle, flute and Dobro aided ‘Waterbound’. Not far adrift you also have Iain Morrison, Krauss (‘Dimming Of The Day’) plus instrumental genius’ Sharon Shannon (accordion), Russ Barenberg (guitar, mandolin), blues man Eric Bibb and a new name for me, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh via a wonderful version of ‘Western Highway’. I so love the graceful feel of her vocals on a song I remember Maura O’Connell recording a few years back. As for Douglas, his solo piece ‘A New Day Medley’ of ‘A New Day / North’ also produces insurmountable distinguished beauty and during the second tune some fiery picking too.
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