In my recent photos from Glasgow, I posted shots from The Old Fruitmarket venue, where we saw the three-piece Scots group Lau play support for the Lunasa show. This grand old warehouse wears its faded glory proudly—you can still read names of the original fruit sellers around the balcony railing, according to one Glaswegian—and yet there is a full bar everywhere you turn. Brilliant!
Lunasa put on a great show that night, but Lau got stuck in my head. You need to see this band to appreciate the wonder that is Lau. Fortunately for us, their recorded material indeed does justice to their live show. I picked up a copy of Lightweights and Gentlemen from Coda Music in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, and have been enjoying it ever since. Lau won Best Group at the 2009 BBC Folk Awards, just announced.
Lau was born in 2005, when Orcadian singer Kris Drever joined forces with fiddler Aidan O’Rourke and box player Martin Green to form the trio. The talented son of Ivan Drever, who at one time sang with Celtic rockers Wolfstone, Kris sits in the center of the Lau maelstrom and coaxes ubermodern yet ancient drony scales from his guitar. His singing voice is a black velvet pillow, a rest for weary eardrums, as fiddle and accordion weave melody and harmony like braids of Viking hair. Lau dances along that delicate tightrope connecting the folk, jazz, and rock idioms, and they come out at the end smelling like a red, red rose.
At Celtic Connections, we saw many excellent artists from the Orkney Islands. Why is that? I asked anybody nearby, and of course there was a fellow drinker ready to chime in with a friendly opinion. This rosy chap offered that the further one’s hometown lies from good television, the more musically talented the kids turn out to be. Nothing else to do in the Orkneys, apparently.