Multi-instrumentalist and singer Hamish Napier has probably made just as many Celtic Connections appearances this year as Highland fiddle ace Adam Sutherland, they’ve individually contributed to an impressive number of remarkable events (many of which you’ll read about on these very pages). At the Drygate Brewery on 26th January, after a spirited set from Michigan’s Jeremey Kittel Trio, Hamish and Adam brought their off-the-cuff musical musings, Nae Plans, to a packed and enthusiastic house. The idea behind Nae Plans is straight-forward – Adam and Hamish tour the country, providing a one-stop pop-up shop of musical mischief for which there is no planning (other than, of course, where they plan to pop up).
After due consideration, and numerous references to Adam’s big clock (Celtic Connections would fall apart without schedules), Nae Plans decided to open proceedings with a march – The Battle Of Waterloo March, before Adam finds a jig hiding in there, decides he likes that adventure and heads off in pursuit of one. You get this gist – this could take us anywhere. Where we were taken next was to the distant past of Hamish’s pre-dishwasher youth and Don MacLean on the kitchen radio. Hamish really knows how to deliver a good song, and Don MacLean’s Vincent clearly goes down well with the crowd, as does Adam’s inspired, exceptional fiddle bridge.
On this occasion, though, a degree of planning was required. Hamish and Adam were soon joined by Glasgow-based duo Jenn Butterworth & Laura-Beth Salter and percussionist Steve Foreman. In fact, they were joined by the whole audience for a hearty rendition, led by Hamish, of Alexander’s Thrashin’ Mill.
Jenn (guitar) and Laura-Beth (mandolin) may well have made as many Celtic Connections appearances as our dynamic Highland duo. They found time, though, to squeeze in a few songs of their own. From their 2016 album, Bound, comes the lively 1,2,3,4 (named in tribute to Laura-Beth’s counting-in skills, we hear). It isn’t only the guitar and mandolin that work in perfect harmony, though. Both are equipped with fine singing voices, and American classics like Kate Wolf‘s Across The Great Divide benefit from some truly beautiful vocals, and an audience sing-along.
The delightfully breezy Shine preceded the return of Adam, Hamish and Steve. After Hamish and Laura-Beth had discovered they both had the same Johny Cash poster as youngsters, Redemption Day seemed a good start, and it was. With Adam’s atmospheric fiddle it was also a powerful one. The mood stayed in the West with Jenn’s rendition of Oh, Atlanta before Hamish indulged his love of song, especially Paul Brady songs, with Nothing But The Same Old Story.
Adam soon feels the need to express his love of Japanese food, and bemoan the lack of it in the Highlands. There’s also, it would seem, a dearth of 7/8 reels, so he sets about righting that with Sushi 7/8 – during the punishing reel Laura-Beth’s mandolin is right there with him – perhaps a fellow sushi lover. Soon, Hamish wants another Paul Brady song to cheer everyone up. Given the current choice of worrying political situations, he opts for Oh, What a World We Live In. Hamish sings, his friends sing, the crowd sings.
It felt like everyone could happily carry on all night, but Adam’s big clock was ticking, and The Drygate had to reset for yet another Celtic Connections event. The festival’s late night sessions are legendary, and just as eagerly attended as the main events. Nae Plans, with Jenn, Laura-Beth and Steve, brought a flavour of those late night sessions to an early-evening Glasgow audience, which is a good thing – some of us have trains to catch and work in the morning.