Five star review in The Times for the Celtic Connections Gig !
FIRST NIGHT | CELTIC CONNECTIONS
Celtic Connections: Bruce MacGregor & Friends review — a joyful celebration of people and places
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Thursday January 27 2022, 5.00pm, The Times
Bruce MacGregor’s Road To Tyranny, a comment on present times, is his first in his own name in two decades
Throughout the past two years, as musicians have largely been unable to talk to audiences as they normally would, the fiddler Bruce MacGregor has been the voice of folk and traditional music for many as the host of BBC Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk. He was behind the mic here, too, introducing his musical friends and the music from his first album under his own name in some 20 years.
The album’s title, The Road To Tyranny, is a comment on present times but the tunes on it are celebrations of people and places, a practice embedded in the Highland tradition. They capture their subjects’ characters, such as the opening piece here, Essich conveying a view MacGregor grew up with, and still loves, despite the arrival of eyesore developments or the buzzing around nature of the evolving and involving Roddy MacGregor, written for MacGregor’s son, the Inverness Caley Thistle footballer.
MacGregor will tell you that he’s not a prolific composer and tunes often don’t make the grade. That may be true but the tunes that do survive have a quality to them that was matched and enhanced by the variety of their settings — from string quartet to swinging Highland dance band with washboard — and the superb variety of attack MacGregor brings to them.
We’ve become so used to MacGregor’s sound being subsumed into the barnstorming frontline of Blazin’ Fiddles, the band he formed in 1998 and continues to lead, that we sometimes forget his individual strengths, the subtly turned phrase, the emotional pull of his melody playing or the dynamic bowing that drives jig, reel and strathspey.
His friends, including his fellow “Blazers” — Jenna Reid, a fiddler; Anna Massie, a fiddler-guitarist; and Angus Lyon, a keyboardist — supported MacGregor magnificently. With a revolving cast of ten, in the first half at least, no two consecutive pieces featured the same personnel. As a result, the contrasts flowed. So, too, the stories, adding insight as well as entertainment, not least in the case of the emotional American hearing “daddy’s in heaven” in the chorus of Tatties and Herring.