Celtic Connections 2023: Ross & Ali Trio, with Startijenn and Beinn Lee

The evening of Sunday 29th at St Luke’s was a nicely balanced three-layer cake of music.

We caught most of the Hebrides band Beinn Lee’s set and were duly delighted and entertained by the solid performance. Their trad stylings lean occasionally towards pop and, for me, it sometimes works for them and sometimes not so much; I think they are, so far at least, a better modern trad band than a folk-pop band.

To wit: they took a slight risk by doing a cover of Runrig’s “The Story”, a song about Hebrides but also about time and distance. It was an honorable cover but lacked that certain emotion that can only come with time and age (sigh…)

Beinn Lee, pic by me

Brittany’s Startijenn, on the other hand, lay down a set of music that sounds very much their own. Again firmly rooted in the musicians’ native soil, they presented what I felt is an innovative mutation of the Breton tradition, combining traditional and electric instruments and melodies with rich arrangements and quite “heavy” overall sound (not in the heavy metal sense, though).

As a drummer, I was fascinated with how they created very effective and danceable grooves in mid-tempo rhythms; I don’t think there were any really fast tunes in the set and yet it never felt boring. Very effective in a techno-cum-archaic kind of way. Excellent musicians, too. Refreshingly different!

Startijenn, there somewhere in the pink mist. Photo by me

As headliners, Ross Ainslie, Ali Hutton and Owen Sinclair (on guitar) gave us what we certainly expected: a dazzling serving of pipes and whistles magic, grooves tight and relaxed at the same time, positive vibes all over the place.

Nothing really surprising but so what – the guys seemed to enjoy themselves, playing in this minimal lineup to a crowd who loved them already. It was like a family gathering, and when my wife and I had the chance to chat a bit with Ross right after the gig, our evening must be marked as an A+ event 😊

Ali, Owen and Ross, on fire and firing up the audience 🔥 Photo by me

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