The Transatlantic Sessions: An Appreciation
Steven Proctor’s review (16 February) reminds me that I had intended putting up a post about the London show, nearly three weeks ago on 3 February. Perhaps that’s too long to leave a review, something that should be written far sooner when everything is fresh in the memory. Maybe, but I’m not sure that necessarily applies to this unique musical experience. Having watched the excellent Transatlantic Sessions recordings on TV over the intervening weeks I am reminded that this is more than a show, though eagerly awaited each year now, but the foundation of my Americana and roots passion.
My interest started in Scotland with the groups that played the 1970s folk club circuit then widened to bands from further afield. Travels in the US introduced country, bluegrass, Cajun; the components of Americana. So what, you may be asking and quite right too. Well, nowhere have I found a single source of all that better than the Transatlantic Sessions. In none of the shows I have seen, the television recordings or albums has there been any dominance of an individual or “side” if that’s the right description. All the musicians are sensitively led by Jerry Douglas with Aly Bain. The guests each year fit in as if they had been performing together for years. In many cases they have, others form smaller “sub groups” that never look isolated, but very much part of the overall effort. A highlight this year was Darrell Scott with Tim O’Brien. Another of this year’s many memorable contributions was Julie Fowlis with her haunting Gaelic mouth music as well as reels from Bain, McCusker and McGoldrick. Not only does the theme switch sides of the Atlantic throughout the show but Phil Cunningham’s excellent “Lake Charles Waltz” of two years’ ago is a reminder they are by no means restricted to their own shores.
The Transatlantic Sessions also give us a great opportunity to see artists in different surroundings. The last time I saw Darrel Scott was in Robert Plant’s Band of Joy three years ago, a group of huge talent whose show was sensational but I certainly felt I got more from Scott in TA. My lasting impression of the whole event is a group of deep and varied talent with a complete absence of ego, who so clearly enjoy what they are doing.
It does us no harm to remind ourselves how we came about all this great music and appreciate the real meaning of “roots”. I thank Jerry Douglas and all those who have contributed to the Transatlantic Sessions over the years for my annual reminder.