Live Review: Celtic Connections: Trampled By Turtles, Foghorn String Band at ABC, 23/1/14

Trampled-By-Turtles-Manic-Focus-RemixFoghorn String Band’s main aim and strength is old timey authenticity; from their strictly traditional repertoire drawn from inter-war America and beyond, to their everybody-gather-round-one-mic approach to amplification (as seen in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’) right down to the flat caps n vintage dresses—this band absolutely sounds and looks the part.

This is no museum piece though the music reaches out through the dead decades and centuries and stands firmly in the here and now, reaching out to the audience with shared humanity and pathos.

Trampled by Turtles are a whole other thing – folk, bluegrass, sure, but these styles are used here as a tool add conduit for a far more personal, unique and intense performance.

Almost all the songs are originals, not a depression-era ballad to be seen; the two covers TBT do play are quite telling—Loudon Wainwright III’s ‘Swimming Song’, and Pixies ‘Where is My Mind?’ – summing up the band’s two sides; witty lyrical song writing on one hand, and punk fury on the other.

A lot of this is essentially acoustic punk, and isn’t that what folk music should be? Raw, emotionally driven, made by real folk unhindered by the polyester protection of pop production, super-polished professionalism or Mumford & Sons (Inc.) pseudo-pastoral cosiness.

At the same time, every single band member is a virtuoso of his instrument, delivering dazzling solos one moment and subtle texture the next.

The one problem I had with this gig had nothing to do with the music; the Celtic Connections label leads to a bit of a generational clash, with the festival’s older acolytes occasionally frowning and shushing the rowdier youngsters.

When my mate received this treatment, I reminded them that this was the ABC, not The Royal Concert Hall, these things happen.

“Hey, you don’t need to tell me that, I was a punk in ‘77” was the reply; as the band gallop through one of their manic breakneck songs, I hope the irony isn’t lost on him.

Words: Calum Calderwood

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