This was truly a collaborative effort. A good few months ago Matt Brennan, aka Citizen Bravo and Glasgow serial collaborator Raymond McDonald, decided it would be good idea to do a tribute to Scottish-born legend of eccentric and whimsical poetry and song, the one and only Ivor Cutler.
The subsequent album includes a wealth of artists and runs to twenty-something tracks (ok Cutler was a master of brevity) and includes tracks from his first (mini) album proper ‘Return to Y’Hup’ plus a selection of his best-known work chosen by the artists covering the songs. The album was released by Glasgow’s mighty Chemikal Underground last week on vinyl and streaming formats.
So when it came to Celtic Connections Matt and Raymond approached heid bummer Donald Shaw with a proposal for a gig at Stereo or maybe The Glad Cafe, Shaw said it should be in one of Glasgow’s biggest auditoriums, the brutalist RCH, aka Stalin’s porch. And so it came to be, with the venue full in the stalls and somewhat further back (maybe an audience of about 1,000) the assembled musicians played cuts from the album, with a few tweaks for the live setting.
The cast was a reminder of the breadth of talent and tradition of collaboration on the Scottish music scene, from indie, folk, rock and experimental bents they came, and the whole thing sounded great, and brought warm feelings to the assembled masses. We even learned a couple of new facts, for example Cutler (it was always “Mr Cutler” according to BMX Bandit Duglas T Stewart, who once met the great man) used not a harmonium but a WW1 “field organ” (meant to bring hymns to the boys in the trenches overseas) and he left it in Glasgow after a bad gig in the 90s. And there it was onstage tonight, played by various artists in the course of the evening.
Most of the musicians were backed by McDonald (guitar and sax), Brennan (mainly drums), eagleowl’s Malcolm Benzie (guitar), Suse Bear (of Tuff Love) on bass, Scottish-Icelandic percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir, and Admiral Fallow’s Sarah Hayes on keyboards, who would later lend some impressive lead vocals to ‘Green Rain’.
It was Emma Pollok who arrived centre stage first for her take on ‘Size Nine and a Half’ followed by some of the more esoteric cuts from ‘Y’Hup’, a mythical island with strange flora and fauna. We got versions of these songs by the likes of James Yorkston, Duglas T Stewart, Rick Redbeard and the aforementioned Sarah Hayes.
Part two got even more surreal, with some excellent takes by Stuart Braithwait (‘Paths’) and Stuart Murdoch (a hilarious version of the classic “Gruts’). For BM the highlights were probably the contributions by Adam Stafford (‘Tooth Song’), Pictish Trail’s OTT version of ‘Good Morning, How Are You, Shut Up!’ which almost tore the roof off the place, and especially Chris Thomson’s disco re-imaging of ‘Who Tore Your Trousers, James’, a cover which transcended the original and you can only imagine what IC would make of it…
After some further adventures (and BM apologises this is a brief review which doesn’t mention everyone involved but time is tight) we got a final, everyone onstage together, version of ‘Women Of The World’, led by Emma Pollok (Tracy-Anne Campbell does it on the album) which broke into a mass percussion wig-out several times, and ended the night on a real high note.
As a tribute to Cutler’s truly original take on the world it was warm, appreciative and maybe even won him some new fans, which BM thinks he’d have liked. And fair play to Chemikal and Celtic Connections for believing that this thing could get off the ground at all!