Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 06/02/2013 | Transatlantic Sessions – Royal Festival Hall, London

06/02/2013 | Transatlantic Sessions – Royal Festival Hall, London

Jo Cox


First conceived as a series of TV programmes back in the 90s, the Transatlantic Sessions are now well established as the premier annual showcase of traditional music from both sides of the North Atlantic, as much in their live form as recorded. This year follows as you would expect, with the core band joined by a stellar circle of special guests from blues-man Eric Bibb to Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan, and country/folk stalwart Mary Chapin Carpenter (who had at least one woman in the audience frantic with excitement and could probably have done with an entire set to herself).

With 17 performers coming together and then disbanding to the back of the stage throughout the mammoth two and a half hour performance, it goes without saying that there has to be more to the night than raucous reels and jigs to keep the audience engaged. To that end, one of the many highlights of the show sees the ensemble stripped back to just piano and vocal for a haunting rendition of Hallowell, with Aiofe O’Donovan taking the lead and Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emily Smith providing notably sensitive harmonies.

We are also introduced to pretty much every shade of roots music in between, from Eric Bibb’s straight up blues rendition of Going Down The Road Feeling Bad to the big jazz band sounds of Aoife O’Donovan’s Oh Momma, Dirk Powell’s injection of rural American traditional music in the form of Waterbound, right through to a rousing closing rendition of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s biggest hit Down At The Twist And Shout.

Of course, given the size of the ensemble tonight also had the ability to go horribly wrong. That’s where Dobro aficionado Jerry Douglas comes into place centre stage, smoothing the transitions and overseeing the whole affair. As such he becomes the linchpin that stops the wheels falling off and the whole thing messily skidding into a ditch. The overall result is a set that remains wholly captivating despite it’s length, and once again provides a glimpse into the many facets of traditional music.

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