Review: Texas Songwriters at Celtic Connections, Glasgow
Put four songwriters on a stage together, give them a vague direction – in this case, the fact that they all call Texas home – and you get something quite unique, totally unrepeatable, and out of this world.
Native Texans Kimmie Rhodes and Sam Baker joined adopted sons Slaid Cleaves and Tom Russell at Celtic Connections in Glasgow for more than two hours of sharing songs, stories and jokes about the state that is the spiritual home of Americana music, as well as about the characters that have filled their lives.
The show brought out some old classics and some unusual songs. Russell, who cast himself as the emcee for the event but without in any way dominating it, is touring his new album very heavily, but for this show he played only a couple of songs from it, instead concentrating on old favourites like “Navajo Rug”, as well as two brand new songs. Baker didn’t play a single song from his latest album.
“I try not to think about it until I get to the stage too much,” Rhodes told Backroads. “I think that’s what’s great about in-the-round things. Something happens besides just a show. It’s a moment in time that doesn’t come back. If we all went and tried to do that again it wouldn’t have the same spark.”
The quartet told tales of the bars they frequented – Cleaves said he’d been afraid to go into the Horseshoe Lounge in Austin until after he’d written a song about it – and discussed Texas’s relationship with its tumultuous neighbour, Mexico. Russell lives in El Paso, on the border with the violent Mexican city of Juarez that has been the inspiration for many of the performers’ songs.
Kimmie Rhodes waited until the second half to bring out her “secret weapon” – a guest appearance by her close friend Beth Nielsen Chapman, who is appearing at Celtic Connections herself next week.
It was a show heavy on tales of Townes Van Zandt (check out the audio link above), so it was appropriate that it ended with two unruly version of Townes songs, “If I Needed You” and “White Freightliner Blues “. Both performances brought the audience to their feet. It was a remarkable night in Glasgow.