It’s difficult to believe that this is Catherine MacLellan’s first gig in Scotland. The daughter of late Canadian singer-songwriter Gene MacLellan, Catherine is rated as one the finest voices in North American folk music, but after four albums she’s still relatively unknown in the UK (although that looks to be changing with the release of Silhouette earlier this year).
This intimate gig at the CCA is one of those that will have its attendees boasting about their foresight for years to come. On a dark and dimly lit stage, the audience almost on top of her, she glides through a set list of songs from all four albums.
MacLellan’s voice soars throughout from the heart-melting honesty of Water in the Ground to the foot-tapping playfulness of Old Tin Can. Accompanied on vocals and guitar by her friend Chris Gauthier – a wonderful foil both musically and through tales of their shared experiences of a Canadian childhood – it’s an incredibly full and fleshed out sound for just two people on guitar and vocals.
Part of what makes MacLellan such an engaging and likeable performer is her easy rapport with the audience. Between songs she throws in gentle stories of potato planting and on the road pranks – simple tales that illuminate the rich lyrics, so many of which refer back to her experiences of growing up and living on Prince Edward Island. It’s famous, she reminds us, for seafood and Anne of Green Gables. And potatoes. The way she tells them it sounds like heaven.
You could argue that Catherine MacLellan’s music has the power to make grown men faint, but when an unfortunate audience member temporarily succumbs to the cranked up heating in the CCA, she is philosophical.
“After that I think I might need a cigarette, so just one more song,” she drawls when she returns to the stage, before closing with a delicate and heartfelt version of her father Gene’s Snowbird, a version of which she recorded for Silhouette. A hit for Anne Murray in the 1970s, and covered by Elvis and Loretta Lynn, it makes for a fitting and poignant close.
Catherine MacLellan – Snowbird (Live in the Bing Lounge)
New Video: Catherine MacLellan – Stealin’
Photo credit: Patrick Nichols