Celtic Connections: Shoeshine Showcase @ ABC, 17 Jan
Tonight's event showcases Francis MacDonald's (BMX Bandits, Teenage Fanclub) pick of the artists involved with his Shoeshine record label-cum-management/production company. Boa Morte (*) are given the unforgiving task of opening while early comers are thronging the bar. The audience respond politely but unenthusiastically to their lack of stage presence and stubbornly grey atmospheric folk-rock. Like dogs, we sense their fear, and back away, teeth bared.
BMX Bandits' (***) beaming eccentric Duglas T. Stewart beckons us back again with banter that provides a welcome break from the Deacon Blue earnestness of the music, but we suspect that the current Bandits line-up is best enjoyed in bite-sized doses.
By contrast, Norman Blake and Euros Childs' (***) delicate '60s-influenced folk-pop is the highlight of a night where we have to be thankful for small pleasures. On the surface, a rather odd couple - the Scottish underground's favourite uncle meets Welsh indie's slacker cousin - Childs and Blake have a basic musical chemistry which belies their shuffly awkwardness.
The presence of Blake and McDonald's most well-known outfit, Teenage Fanclub, hangs heavily over tonight's proceedings. A possible sighting of Fannies bandmate Gerry Love at the bar is the most exciting thing we've heard all night when Attic Lights (**) take to the stage. They liven things up by dint of having a couple of up-tempo songs, but it's a short-lived thrill: Fanclub impersonators down to the last guitar pose, they alternately bore and offend with their homogeneity. A dull end to an event that, while part of a festival promoting Scottish culture, is a poor ambassador for our alternative music scene. [Gillian Watson]
See more shots from Celtic Connections here