A few hours ago, I popped along to the first of this year's free Danny Kyle Open Stage events at Celtic Connections, and I kept thinking that the standard was strikingly high compared to the ones I'd been to before. Ever quick on the uptake, it wasn't until halfway through that it dawned on me there was a very good reason for that - it was a showcase of all the 2010 winners! Anyway, that meant I had the huge bonus of being able to see the Seonaid Aitken Trio again, who were far and away my favourites from the sessions I saw last year. The eponymous Ms Aitken is not only a gifted singer, but also an incredibly dynamic fiddler - there's almost as much pleasure in watching her fingers dart around the instrument as in listening to the music itself. But it was a much more 'egalitarian' performance from the three of them this time round, with the bodhrán player suddenly jumping up at one point to announce that he was going to sing a song about - startlingly - broken general election promises. And very good it was too, as indeed was the reel inspired by a computer on the blink. (I'm not making this up...)
All five acts were superb, though - in particular, Kilairum performed some truly gorgeous tunes, notwithstanding the pedantic quibble of the chap standing behind me that Northumbrian music isn't "Celtic". It's incredible to think it's even possible to enjoy such high-quality live music for free, especially bearing in mind that I forked out almost £10 for the privilege of seeing Tron : Legacy a couple of weeks ago! Incidentally, apart from Seonaid Aitken, my other highlights from last year were the uncanny experience of seeing one of my former classmates take to the stage with her band, and perhaps most of all, Amy Lord's evocative rendition of the Jim Malcolm song Waterloo, accompanied by the choir-that-don't-like-to-be-called-a-choir Liltin' Lassies. It can still be heard here (it starts roughly twelve minutes in).