Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with Transatlantic Sessions

Better get yourself a big mug of coffee today!  You’re in for a magical treat today – well, at least, I am!

Some (many) of you may never have heard of Transatlantic Sessions and, so before we get into the music, let me give you a bit of background.  In 1994 the first of an annual music festival  - “Celtic Connections” – was held in venues across Glasgow and featured Celtic music, international folk with American country and bluegrass a big influence too.  Each year featured one concert in which many of the stars came together for an ensemble night of the most wonderful music.  This concert was called, “Transatlantic Sessions” which is recorded by the BBC. 

Beyond this, on four occasions, the BBC has taken the stars to a Scottish hotel where again they make music which is released on CD and, latterly, on DVD.  The output from the hotel stay is also called “Transatlantic Sessions” and it is from this source that I have compiled today’s show.

Every week I have a great time finding the music for the show but, this week, I have listened to hours of music and I have had an incredibly hard time whittling the numbers down.  In fact, so hard was the job that I will do a follow-up show, probably in a couple of months unless the feedback is overwhelming in which case I might follow up with Part 2 next week.

Enough of this, the show is about to start.  Get your coffee, sit back and enjoy top musicians performing at their very best.  I’ve written only a few words about each performance I couldn’t do the music justice!  Relax and start.

Sophie’s Dancing feet / Andy Brown’s Reel

featuring Aly Bain and Jenna Reid (both Scottish)

Many of the videos have a few seconds of chat at the start.

dobro:  Jerrry  Douglas (US)
guitar: Russ Barenberg (US)
bousouki: Dónal Lunny  (Ireland)
bass: Todd Parks        (US)
flute: Michael McGoldrick (Scotland)
piano: Phil Cunningham Scotland)
percussion:    ????

from Transatlantic Sessions 3 (2007)

Sheer enjoyment! If this didn’t move you then you are dead.

Have you any coffee left in your mug?  I put mine down before the music started.


Silver Tassie    Emily Smith

backing vocals: Martha Wainwright and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh
dobro: Jerry Douglas
fiddle: Aly Bain 
bass: Danny Thompson
keyboard: Donald Shaw
whistle:Ronan Browne
guitar: Russ Barenberg
percussion: James Mackintosh
mandolin: ?????

Transatlantic Sessions 4 (2009)

There is so much beauty around us.  A new singer and a new song to me but …..


Carrickfergus   Allison Moorer

I had never heard of Allison before this show but …..  I have read some say that this song needs a man’s voice well … men move over.

dobro:   Jerry Douglas
fiddle:  Aly Bain 
bass:  Danny Thompson (England)
accordion: Donald Shaw (Scotland)
whistle, uilleann pipes: Ronan Browne (Ireland)
guitar: Russ Barenberg

Transatlantic Sessions 4 (2009)



Kansas City Hornpipe

Back over to the States now for an instrumental duet with:

uilleann pipes: Fred Morrison (Scotland) and Bruce Molsky on banjo.

Fred, of whom I had never heard, is described by Wikipedia as “one of the world's leading pipers and is a globally renowned composer of music for the bagpipes.
Morrison is known for his unique, powerfully exuberant, virtuosic and highly improvisational style which combines the Gaelic piping tradition of South Uist with contemporary and eclectic influences. One of the few pipers to have achieved success in both the competitive piping and folk music scenes, Morrison is a virtuoso of the Great Highland Bagpipes, the bellows-blown Reelpipes, the Irish Uilleann pipes, and the low whistle.”

I believe Wikipedia!  They can both play a bit!



The Lakes of Pontchartrain   Paul Brady (Ireland)

A traditional American song given the traditional brilliant Paul Brady treatment.

slide: Jerry Douglas
fiddle: Aly Bain
accordion: Donald Shaw
bass: Todd Parks

Transatlantic Sessions 3 (2007)

I never used to listen to Paul Brady – would skip tracks – but not any more.


Crucán Na bPáiste    Karen Matheson (Scotland)

This is a gem!  Don’t be put off by the Gaelic in this sad, sad song of a mother who has lost her child – “The Burial Place of Children”.

Without any understanding of Gaelic the mother’s pain and despair is clear and the introduction of the uilleann pipes at 3m 54s gives the last 90secs a particularly haunting air.


piano: Donald Shaw
fiddles: Aly Bain & Tim O'Brien (US)
slide: Jerry Douglas
whistle & uilleann pipes: Ronan Browne
bass: Todd Parks
harp: Catriona McKay

Transatlantic Sessions 3 (2007)

No more words.


The King’s Shilling  

featuring Karan Casey (Ireland) and James Taylor (US)

We stay in Scotland for this song with the Irish singer, Karan Casey, of whom I had never heard before this week …. but she’s good, very good.

JT looks a lot older but then all of us who remember him from the first time round are much older too.

Sheer beauty … enjoy.

dobro: Jerry Douglas
piano: Phil Cunningham
fiddle:  Aly Bain
melodion: Niall Vallely (Ireland)
guitars: Russ Barenberg and Dan Tyminski (US)
bass: Todd Parks
whistle: Michael McGoldrick
bousouki: Dónal Lunny

Transatlantic Sessions 4 (2009)


We’ve reached the end now and we cross the Atlantic to the West and up the tempo considerably.  This last video is from the Transatlantic Sessions concert in Glasgow (2009) and we have an absolutely wonderful performance of a song many might find surprising at such a gathering. 

Again, if this doesn’t move you then you are still dead,

Hey Joe    Tim O’Brien

featuring Jerry Douglas – dobro, John Doyle - acoustic Guitar and Todd Parks on bass.


Quite a way to end!


Well, that’s it for another week. I’m off to listen to the music again.  I don’t know when I last had so much fun.  I hope you did too.  Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.


  1. I woke up this morning with Allegri's Miserere on the radio; the sun was (and is still) shining and now you complete my joy with this.
    Carrickfergus by Allison Moorer is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt renditions I've ever heard.
    The Transatlantic Sessions should be renamed the Transcendental Sessions because somehow they seem to inspire the performers to give just that little bit more than their best.
    Some videos have disappeared from YouTube for whatever reason. (Shattered Cross by Darrell Scott being one of them.) Fortunately I have the records: must buy the videos.
    As long as there are people such as this in the world then "all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."

  2. JD Thank you. You are right, the performances are magical.

    Thank you again and have a lovely day.

  3. Filling in the gaps for you.
    On the Aly Bain clip the percussionist is Donald Hay who is Scottish.
    For the Emily Smith clip the mandolin is probably Russ Barenberg. This track may be included on volume two of series four which has not yet been released.

  4. I had a great time discovering this type of music. Never heard any of it in my French growing up years in Montreal. Whether sad or lively it certainly grabs your attention and keeps you riveted. Thanks!

  5. JD Thanks. The mandolin player isn't Russ. I haven't seen him in any of the other clips I've viewed this week.

    Claudia I'm glad you enjoyed this. There's lots of new music for all of us out there!