For well over a decade, The Transatlantic Sessions have been an annual closing highlight of Celtic Connections – before nowadays heading off on tour, to share its unique musical camaraderie around the UK and Ireland. The past year has seen the concept’s original instigators, Douglas Eadie and Mike Alexander – co-directors of the eponymous TV series –honoured with a Services to Broadcasting award from Hand Up For Trad, following on from their Good Tradition accolade at the 2010 Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Alongside dobro maestro Jerry Douglas, who again shares musical direction with Shetland fiddle legend Aly Bain, Stateside artists include John Paul White - formerly of multiple Grammy-winners The Civil Wars – whose new solo album Beulah stirs together a deliciously brooding blend of mournful folk balladry, swampy southern rock and dark acoustic pop. Texan-born Tift Merritt, a fellow Grammy honoree, was raised in the rich Americana heartland of North Carolina, the bedrock for a wide-ranging country/soul sound that’s been variously likened to Dusty Springfield and Lucinda Williams. Multi-instrumentalist and singer Dirk Powell is a welcome return visitor to ‘the ultimate backporch session’, one whose artistry encompasses virtually the entire US roots music spectrum. Singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale has also covered plenty of bases in his three-decade career, including bluegrass, soul, R&B and rock, but his 2016 album This Changes Everything marks a return to classic country, playing tribute to Texas’s legendary dancehall scene.
From Scotland, the inimitable Eddi Reader joins in the song-sharing with a voice that’s been described as “nothing short of miraculous” (Spiral Earth); a revelatory instrument whether reinterpreting Burns and other folk material, or in the self-penned songs on her most recent release, 2014’s Vagabond.Anchoring the show with Douglas and Bain at the helm, the regular all-star house band also features John Doyle, Danny Thompson, Michael McGoldrick, Russ Barenberg, John McCusker, Donald Shaw and James Mackintosh.