Siobhan Wilson

Venue: St Andrew's in the Square
Town: Glasgow
Date: 17/01/16

Siobhan Wilson, the Elgin-born and Glasgow-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, made an eagerly-anticipated return to Celtic Connections on 17th January in the majestic setting of St Andrew's in the Square, a beautiful 18th century restored church in central Glasgow. Expectations were high, following last year's Celtic Connections, when Siobhan and her hand-picked band of first-class musicians had delivered a stunning live performance of her themed 'New Voices' commissioned work, "The Great Eye". Last year also saw the release of Siobhan Wilson's second mini-album, "Say It's True", which was warmly-received by fans and critics alike. This home-town gig for Siobhan was sold out and the venue filled up quickly, as the audience sought refuge from the light snow falling outside.

Keeping her friends in reserve initially, Siobhan Wilson got the evening's music underway with two songs performed solo. The opening song, "Say It's True", showcased her impressive vocal range, beginning in gently-hushed tones and building gradually to the point where her voice soared gracefully, high above the auditorium. The touching and confessional "Dear God" was equally impressive and Siobhan quipped that she doesn't often have the opportunity to sing that in a church….

Having warmed the audience up nicely, Siobhan decided it was time to call on her friends to join in the fun. First up was Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter Adam Holmes, who duetted with Siobhan on the upbeat "Sing, Darling, Sing", a song they had recently written together. The swinging fiddle provided by Catriona Price (one half of Edinburgh-based harp/fiddle/vocals duo Twelfth Day) gave this song a lovely Cajun feel. Siobhan then welcomed Esther Swift (the other half of Twelfth Day) to add some sumptuous harp to a delicious version of the Richard Thompson classic "Beeswing". Siobhan then treated us to "Cannot Keep A Secret", the first of a number of brand-new songs (some of which had been introduced to fans in recent weeks in home-made videos posted on social media). In the meantime, Joe Nisbet Jnr (also known as Stuart Nisbet or Mr Niz) had taken to the stage to add his considerable talents on guitar, pedal steel guitar and bass.

Local singer-songwriter Emma Pollock (formerly of celebrated indie band, The Delgados, and indie-folk-rock collaborative, The Burns Unit) was next to come on stage. Proudly showing off a recently-acquired and particularly impressive vintage guitar, Emma played two songs from her forthcoming new album, including the quietly brooding "Dark Skies", and then duetted delightfully with Siobhan on the iconic1940s French song "Les Feuilles Mortes" ("Autumn Leaves"). This was followed by another of Siobhan's brand-new songs, "I'm Gonna Make You Mine", which provided another fine example of her melodic and lyrical songcraft and had all the hallmarks of an instant classic.

The final guest of the evening was Roddy Woomble, singer-songwriter and member of the formidable indie-rock band, Idlewild. Roddy served up two of his quietly anthemic songs, "Between The Old Moon" and "I Came In From The Mountain", both featuring some lovely ensemble playing and exquisite harmonies on the choruses, courtesy of Siobhan, Esther and Catriona. Roddy seemed to particularly enjoy Esther's sparkling harp flourishes on these songs. Siobhan and Roddy then traded verses and duetted on a hugely enjoyable version of one of her signature songs, the bittersweet and country-tinged "All Dressed Up". The main set closed with the vibrant "Touch Paper", another of the new songs which suggest that Siobhan Wilson's next recorded release will be very special indeed.

Siobhan left the stage to loud and warm acclaim from the audience, who naturally demanded an encore. This provided a rare opportunity for Siobhan to play the breezy and heart-warming "Land Of Cloud" (which she had written at age 15). The audience pleaded for one more song and Siobhan duly obliged with yet another brand-new gem, "Must Have Been The Moon".

This gig was a triumph for Siobhan Wilson. Her performance was full of invention, spark, professionalism and poise and she has an easy charm and a hint of vulnerabilty which endear her to the audience. Her gifts as a singer, songwriter, musician and arranger mark her out as a singular talent on the Scottish music scene. On a stage graced by a number of stars, none shone brighter than Siobhan Wilson.

David Ferguson

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