Last weekend in Glasgow the largest celebration of Celtic music – "Celtic Connections" – came to a rousing conclusion, setting records for attendance and number of performers, including many we would recognize as regulars in the American scene.
The three-week extravaganza, now in its 21st year, showcases musicians with a Celtic kinship or a world music outlook that closely approximates it. One of its more popular programs is the annual trans-Atlantic sessions performance that unites musicians with a simpatico and openness to sharing and creating music and arrangements in a comfy stage setting that feels like a house session.
What the series underscores is roots music that finds its inspirations in traditional music handed down from generation to generation or from kindred spirit to kindred spirit. To me it also defines a group of artists who flow easily between the Celtic nations, absorbing bits and pieces as they travel along.
One of the more intriguing artists is Nuala Kennedy, who is about set out on another American tour this weekend. Kennedy performed at Celtic Connections with her band members Donald Hay and Mike Bryan, and she also took part in a tribute to Cathal McConnell last Saturday night in Glasgow.
McConnell comes from County Fermanagh and Kennedy from Dundalk, Co. Louth. These two Irish natives have made their homes in Edinburgh for many years. They are part of a large community of Irish people who are as at home in Scotland as they are in Ireland, continuing a travel pattern that has existed for centuries.
Kennedy is a brilliant singer who also wields a mighty flute. She credits McConnell with encouraging her over the years with songs and tunes whenever their paths crossed.
Kennedy released her third album for Compass Records last year, "Noble Stranger," and the upcoming tour will serve to launch it officially.
Adventurous as a musician, singer and traveler, she brings a fetching animation and winsome style to the stage. Through her recordings she is breathing new life into the folk music that now affords her a decent career, keeping her busy as she wants to be.
Like so many contemporary musicians in the traditional camp she has the disposition and mindset that allow her to perform throughout Ireland, the British Isles, Canada (and especially the maritime settings of Cape Breton and Newfoundland). She's always ready to link up with the many great musicians who find themselves at home no matter where the planes, boats and GPSes may take them.
Kennedy’s band begins its tour this weekend in Madison, CT on Friday, followed by an appearance at the newly opened Towne Crier Café on Sunday at 7 p.m. (845-855-1300 or townecriercafe.com) in Beacon, NY.
In Massachusetts, she performs on the Cape in Chatham on Tuesday, February 11 at 8 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Chatham ([email protected]) before hitting the Burren Backroom Sessions in Somerville on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
On Thursday, February 13 at 8 p.m. Kennedy will be at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan (866-811-4111) and on Friday at the Old Songs Concert Series in Voorheesville, NY (518-765-2815) at 8 p.m.
For more tour information visit www.nualakennedy.com.
Look for another interesting project from Kennedy in the fall when she teams up with John Doyle and Eamon O’Leary to release a new CD based on work that they started together late last year in time for a new U.S. tour that promises to be quite collaboration between the three talented artists.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”