This review originally featured in The Skinny.
Now in its fifth year, the Roaming Roots Revue has come to serve as somewhat of a centre piece in the annual Celtic Connections calendar. Possibly the showcase’s most ambitious yet, tonight sees the collation of the most artists for the concert so far, from Scotland and beyond, celebrating the 2017 festival’s loose theme; The Women of Song.
It’s no mean feat to ensure the smooth running of such a packed show, but it’s a well-oiled machine with a glamorous lustre. A mix of long-established stars and those on the rise, glorious cover versions and artists’ originals, the Royal Concert Hall’s vast stage is a constant bustle of activity, with multiple standout moments.
Host and curator Roddy Hart, backed by his incredibly tight band The Lonesome Fire, kicks off with a nod to Joni Mitchell, before English soul singer Yola Carter takes her first turn of the evening with a beautiful rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Scotland’s Emma Pollock follows with her string-infused Dark Skies and a fabulous version of Kirsty MacColl’s They Don’t Know.
Along with well-established artists – Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross, Brazilian singer Roberta Sá – this evening sees the inclusion of many ‘ones to watch’, from Texan Sarah Jarosz to Welsh singer Sarah Howells as Bryde, with the tricky task of covering Bjork’s Play Dead and tackling Gillian Welch with Rory Butler. Butler also interprets Suzanne Vega’s Luca, and Benjamin Francis Leftwich takes on Tracy Chapman.
Frightened Rabbit‘s Scott Hutchison gives an incredible full band performance of his own Death Dream, before a stunning, jazz-infused We Float by PJ Harvey. Manchester-based singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop is also a standout, from the Eurythmics’ Love is a Stranger with Field Music to a fabulous incarnation of Walking Barefoot by Patti Smith.
Kathryn Joseph shines, somehow filling the auditorium with just her powerhouse vocal and piano for new song Tell My Lover, before an outstanding Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac. Emma Pollock’s return with Kate Bush’s The Man With the Child in His Eyes accompanies the announcement of a repeat performance of her Running Up That Hill tribute. Staged last September in Aberdeen, Glasgow is due to see it again on 20 May at the O2 Academy.
Yola Carter provides the most memorable and unbelievable of showstoppers – a blistering, effortless Carole King-penned (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, with Carter channeling the great Aretha Franklin. Joseph and Hutchison have a hard act to follow with Feist’s hit 1234, while Blondie’s Call Me is a raucous ensemble piece.
Tonight embodies all that is special about Celtic Connections – unique, one-off performances and collaborations, the celebration of songs and songwriters. Jesca Hoop is stunning, closing the show with a sensational Wuthering Heights. Despite some of the audience making an exit before the end, others are swaying with the highest approval, no doubt already anticipating what next year’s Roaming Roots will bring.