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One last blast

​Folk and roots music isn’t usually the natural habitat of high net worth individuals (and certainly isn’t often a way to become one), but last night’s audience at Òran Mór, if they made it for the support act, found themselves in the presence of personal wealth estimated at some $1.5 billion, that being the fortune amassed by James Dolan, who flew in from New York with his band, JD & The Straight Shot, to open for Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys. Dolan’s ‘day gig’, you see, is as CEO of Cablevision Systems and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, in which latter capacity he oversees various sports teams including the New York Knicks. His requests for extra security at Òran Mór, however, were met merely with polite bemusement by the festival team.


With the competition even to secure a slot on this year’s Danny Kyle Open Stage being fiercer than ever, hearty congratulations indeed are due to the six acts named as finalists earlier today. There are two Bellas among them – the inventive Glasgow-based duo Bella and the Bear (neither of whom are actually called Bella) and young Bradford singer-songwriter Bella Gaffney – together with fiddle/bagpipes duo Ross Miller and Charlie Stewart; Ayrshire folk/bluegrass trio Quick; English sextet Northern Company and Glasgow songstress Charly Houston. As their prize, of course, they have the honour of being the first six artists lined up for Celtic Connections 2017.


When we reported somewhere back in the dim and distant past – ie during the first week of the festival – on Ewen Henderson’s late-night arrival at the Holiday Inn with two other pipers in full flow, leading a hopefully posse around from the Flying Duck, we failed to appreciate quite what special breeks he was wearing, though we did clock them as decidedly flared and garish. Seemingly, though, they were none other than his very favourite Dress Buchanan trews, a garment he’d long aspired to, thanks to that tartan’s nearly unrivalled clash of colours, and eventually found a couple of years back in a charity shop in upstate New York. The fact that they fitted him like a glove, when in Henderson’s own words, he’s “not a normal shape”, confirmed his sense of destiny fulfilled. You certainly can’t miss them, that’s for sure.


Audience feedback suggests that Celtic Connections has again succeeded in its aim of introducing people to new musical discoveries, with undoubtedly the buzziest name in this respect being Rhiannon Giddens, whose revelatory performance in the Transatlantic Sessions saw her selling a festival-record total of 160 CDs after Friday’s first show. This accounted for nearly half the albums she’d brought with her for the whole Transatlantic Sessions tour, which continues for five more UK dates this coming week: thankfully an express delivery replenished her stock today.


And so as those of us still standing (if only just) take in the last round of concerts, and perhaps one final foray into the Festival Club later on, the return to reality looms as Celtic Connections 2016 draws towards a close – albeit with one final near sellout show tomorrow, namely the second night of Bert Inspired. (And as regards the Festival Club, we’re told that Kevin MacLeod’s gold suit has arrived safely in Glasgow, for the traditional finale.) We’re sure we can depend on you to round off the party in suitably celebratory style, after which, with storm Henry heading our way, here’s wishing everybody safe travels home – and here’s to next time.