Pickin' & Grinnin',
Celtic Colours 2002
at Judique Community Centre
in Judique, Cape Breton, NS
(17 October 2002)

I'm back in Judique this evening, very interested in the players listed tonight. I've heard much about Brian Doyle over the past few weeks, and from the media it seems Alison Brown is a big name from somewhere.

Judique has been a guitar venue for Celtic Colours since the festival's beginning thanks in part to local couple Bill and Leona MacDonald, who are active in the Highland Guitar Society. The society meets in Judique for open jam sessions every second Sunday for most of the year.

By the time I walk up to the front, Brian Doyle is on stage with his guitar. Those used to reading my reviews know that guitar is my favorite sound. I wished I could forget my review and just enjoy his playing but if I didn't take notes, this wouldn't get written. Brian emceed; unobtrusive and respectful, enabling the audience to relax and enjoy. After Brian's pickin', Ian Carr from the UK had the crowd grinnin' when he named his first tune "somebody's farewell to something." He gave us a taste of Swedish polskas; I think these could have been left at home and nobody would have been hungry. "Amberanna" a jumpy, lightly funky tune, was more enjoyable.

Fine Friday played a few pretty lively tunes with some Norwegian sounds, and though Nuala Kennedy and Anna-Wendy Stevenson were adept with flute and fiddle, it was Kris Dreaver, the guitarist, who stole the show. There wasn't a part of him that wasn't moving as they continued into their numbers. He was almost as amazing to watch as he was to listen to. When he joined Irish banjo player Eamonn Coyne in a mesmerizing duet, his guitar pulsed like a drum beat. Eamonn's banjo had a large, white, flat-top rimmed in gold with a long, sleek, ebony neck. Up until now, I always thought banjos were modest creatures.

Brian opened the second half with a guitar solo that was so impressive that when he finished, an audience member stepped up to ask him if he had a CD. He hadn't, but let's hope that by this time next year it's available and that it's filled with the type of music he played here.

Then came the Alison Brown Quartet and the evening concert became a real show. This band's music and it's delivery were more polished and less folksy than the others, but they surely were just as enjoyable. John Burr, the piano player, gave the music a great lift -- I think I watched him most of the time they were on stage -- and Alison contributed to the grinnin' part with a few witty comments while introducing her numbers. Of course, her playing was impeccable and she made it look so easy.

I enjoyed the concert but I knew going in that local or traditional sounds wouldn't be a big part of the evening; there wasn't much in the line of Celtic sounds this night, but an imaginative diversity for open-minded guitar fans.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 1 February 2003