Simon and I are on the train rolling back up the East Coast Line to Edinburgh. We change trains in Edinburgh for Glasgow Central where we are picked up by taxi and deposited over at the Holiday Inn on West Nile Street.
Glasgow is buzzing on this, the last weekend of Celtic Connections 2014. Checking in, the lobby is teeming with musicians: beautiful songstress Shawn Colvin and the legendary Jerry Douglas. Phil Cunningham. Last time I saw Phil in person he was performing with Silly Wizard on a beautiful starry summer night at the Bermuda Folk Club.
Turns out the whole Transatlantic Sessions band is in town. Over the weekend we spotted Darrell Scott, Nashville songwriter, guitarist, banjo, pedal steel and mandolin player extraordinaire, the great bluegrass picker Tim O’Brien, fiddler Aly Bain and bassist Danny Thompson…personal heroes and stalwarts of the folk and country music scene. It’s a privilege to be in the same town as these guys, let alone the same hotel…
After dinner at La Bonne Auberge with our sound engineer Chris (Maddy Prior, Steeleye Span) we head over to the Mitchell Library to catch Gretchen Peters and Barry Walsh, who deliver a fantastic set to a packed house. Great way to start the weekend. Like true rock ’n rollers we head back to the hotel for an early night! Simon is knackered after three weeks out on the road and I have an eye infection which makes me look like the Cyclops!
After Breakfast on Sunday, Jack Henderson drops by for a chinwag. Jack, a friend for many years, is a great guitar player and songwriter and it’s good to catch up over coffee and hot chocolate. The rest of the band are flying in this morning, from Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow and at 11.30 Simon, Chris, Jack and I head down to the venue for load-in and soundcheck.
The Old Fruitmarket is a beautiful, atmospheric venue which retains its market hall character. As part of the City Halls complex designed by John Carrick in 1882, The Old Fruitmarket directly adjoins the Grand Hall and was a functioning market until the 1970s. Once home to bustling fresh fruit, flower and cheese stalls, it has been protected as a category A listed building since 1970.
We finish sound checking, dodge out for a bite to eat, then it’s back to the dressing room for the pre-gig rituals. Armed with our ‘long’set plus a couple of new numbers we hit the stage at 9.10 and wind up an hour and a half later with ‘Open Mic Blues’, featuring the fabulous Gretchen Peters on vocals and Barry Walsh on accordion…
Back at the hotel the old timers headed off to bed while the youngsters (and Ian) went off to party at the Hard Rock Cafe…don’t know where they get their energy.
Monday morning, 7.30am. I’m waiting to take the elevator down to breakfast from my room on the 3rd floor. It arrives from the 4th floor, the door opens and there stands Shawn Colvin, alone. I step in, a little starstruck but trying to act cool and press the button…for the 4th floor. Shawn says, “I was going to the ground floor”and I reply, “Er, yes, so was I”…