The Scotsman

Trad explosion in good hands with Reeling’s younger acts

- Rouken Glen Park, Glasgow JJJJ David Pollock

“It's a great pleasure to be part of this incredible line-up,” said one of the Highlands-based group Elephant Sessions, by way of introducti­on to their Saturday evening set at the second edition of Glasgow’s contempora­ry trad music festival The Reeling. “You've stuck it out through the rain and the sun and the rain and the sun…”

A flavour of the northernmo­st parts of Scotland was recreated not just by the excellent range of music on offer, but by the sheerunpre­dictabilit­yofthe weather, with breezy bright sunshine giving way to bursts of drizzling rain and then a real nip in the air by the time the sun went down. Like real Highlander­s (which many of them probably were), the audience were hardy, just getting their heads down and getting on with it.

Although describing the musical menu at The Reeling as ‘contempora­ry trad’ might appear to be an oxymoron, once more the two-day event continued to not just champion music with deep roots in the Scottish folk tradition – it also gathered together some of the youngest players of it from across the country, who take the trad sound off in new and exciting directions.

The festival’s founder and director Michael Pellegrott­i is also the creator of Skye Live, which is based on the island where he grew up, and is where he perfected programmin­g an unusual but currently very fashionabl­e collision of trad and electronic sounds. Where Skye Live’s headline slots generally take artists from the worlds of rock and pop to the Hebrides, though, The Reeling draws the musicians of the Highlands to suburban Glasgow.

The main stage bill contained a bunch of young luminaries of the new trad sound, including Project Smok, the Siobhan Miller Band and the fresh, virtuosic five-way fiddle fusion of the Kinnaris Quintet. On the gladed a’choille (‘The Forest’) second stage, meanwhile – fortunatel­y reconfigur­ed from last year, when sound bleed from the main stage was an issue – up-and-coming artists including Kathleen Macinnes and the TRIP ensemble were heard.

Elephant Sessions provided an energetic fusion of rock guitar, drums and bass, sturdy drum machine backing, and some sparkling mandolin and fiddle playing which brought their set to life. As the sun went down, the temperatur­e fell and the stage lights began to blaze out over the crowd, headliners Niteworks gave a notunexpec­ted demonstrat­ion of why they’re the figurehead­s of the modern trad movement, and why – like The Reeling itself – they represent the point at which the rave and the ceilidh form a little-explored but perfectly-suited union.

Cutting up samples of Gaelic and Scots dialogue and the voices of all-female folk vocal trio Sian (also the afternoon’s ‘secret set’ artists on the a’choille stage) with a moody, powerful electronic groove, the Skye quartet have been on an extended farewell tour since 2023, bringing to an end a 17-year career.

As such, their gigs now have the sense of a greatest hits set being played out, and no fan could have been disappoint­ed with what they heard at The Reeling, including the pulsing, ambient hymn to Hebridean migration Somhairle; the gorgeous, vocal-led house grooves of Air Fàir an Là and John Riley; and the energising collision of pipes and electrohou­se that is Subdisco.

In fact, this was meant to be Niteworks’ final ever Glasgow concert, until they announced over the weekend that they’ll be back for one last fling at the city’s Academy venue in November. Occupying the place of a kind of techno Runrig in fans’ hearts, they will be missed, but the Sunday line-up which awaited The Reeling’s crowd – including Mànran, Julie Fowlis and Imar – demonstrat­es how the trad explosion will continue in rude health without them.

 ?? PICTURE: TIM CRAIG ?? The virtuosic five-way fiddle fusion Kinnaris Quintet on the main stage
PICTURE: TIM CRAIG The virtuosic five-way fiddle fusion Kinnaris Quintet on the main stage

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