It’s always great to find a wee gem among the big names at Celtic Connections. A visit to the Mitchell Library on Friday night (17th January) provided two such treasures. Before The Simon Bradley Trio and guests took to the stage as the Albastur Cultural Exchange, we were treated to an unlisted appearance by Cherry Grove. This group of five youngsters from around Scotland first appeared at Celtic Connections on the Danny Kyle Open Stage in 2012. Since then they’ve made appearances at Lorient and Solas Festivals, where their fusion of traditional and contemporary styles has highlighted them as a name to watch out for in the future.
After a couple of lively opening sets, in which Grant McFarlane’s accordion provided more than a modicum of continental flavour, there was a refreshingly up-beat arrangement of Black Is The Colour; and it was soon clear that Cherry Grove have an ear for original arrangements. Marianne Fraser’s vocal style offered an endearing combination of rock drawl and west coast accent, (and the same could probably be said of her guitar work) whether singing her own songs or treating us to Johnny Cash’s Ain’t No Grave – inspired by Crooked Still’s excellent cover. There were some positively delightful duets between Sarah MacNeil’s harp and Mhairi Mackinnon’s fiddle: Sarah’s harp can be dexterous, dramatic or as light as rain, while Mhairi’s fiddle playing was precise, accomplished and imaginative. Heather Shelley on keyboards provided an unbeatable foundation for the performance, supporting every nuance of the band’s delivery. As well as an immediate and stirring connection with an audience, Cherry Grove produce a sound that sets them apart and puts them firmly in their own place among Scotland’s up and coming bands.