Live Reviews

  Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson live at The Recital Rooms in Glasgow

Saturday night. The last place that this Bluesbunny expected to find himself was in the sophisticated surroundings of the Recital Rooms in Glasgow during Celtic Connections watching a performance by Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson but a last minute reviewer change put me - the only Bluesbunny with no knowledge of or grounding in Scottish or Swedish traditional music - on a seat with pen and paper in his hands.

Tonight was unlike the majority of gigs that I write about. Firstly, it was entirely acoustic with no amplification to get between the musicians and their audience with the high roof of the Recital Rooms being ideal for this sort of approach. Secondly, the audience was both appreciative and attentive. Silence would fall during the songs allowing the eloquent playing of the performers to be fully enjoyed. Mr Johansson played a fascinating instrument called a nyckelharpa that sounded something like a fiddle but with a resonant tone more akin to a keyboard instrument and Ms McKay is, of course, world renowned for her affinity with the Scottish harp.

catriona mckay

The songs performed ranged from Swedish traditional polskas to songs written by either or both of the performers. Again probably due to my unfamiliarity with the genre, the polskas were the most interesting to my ears although there was also much to be admired in the newer compositions like "1st Class to Glasgow". Both Ms McKay and Mr Johansson proved to be affable company as well, entertaining the audience between songs with wry tales of their musical adventures that seemed miles distant from the morally bankrupt society that we all inhabit. I suppose that was the effect of their music on me. It provided a sort of beautifully decorated musical conduit to the simpler, perhaps happier, times of the past. So, whilst this was an unusual Saturday night for me, it was also an interesting one that introduced me to music and sounds that had previously been strangers to me.

As Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson left the stage, I pondered the sight of the harp on the stage. Struck down by an almighty thirst, I departed rapidly in search of a Guinness. Subliminal or what?

Review Date: January 23 2010