Celtic Connections 2024: Our Top Picks
Published on 04 December 2023
Celtic Connections is an institution of its own kind and a pride and joy of Glasgow’s musical heritage.
The festival celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year with a stupendous lineup of some of the best artists in the folk/world music scene. And the upcoming 2024 lineup is shaping up to be equally tremendous.
Being a huge fan of traditional music myself, I am thrilled to be writing this blog where I’ll try and give you some of my personal recommendations that are (you guessed it) heavily guitar-based.
But before we dive into my top picks, let me tell you a little bit more about the festival itself.
The History of Celtic Connections
The history of Celtic Connections festival is truly a folk tale in itself. It was founded in Glasgow in 1994 by Colin Hynd as a way to fill in the usually quiet post-Christmas period at the Royal Concert Hall. It has proven so popular that it has been held every January ever since! The festival is sponsored and promoted by Glasgow Life, with Donald Shaw (a founding member of a legendary Scottish folk band Capercaillie) on Director duties.
Celtic Connections puts on an impressive 300 events, spans 25 venues across the city over the period of 18 days (from the 18th January til the 4th of February) and attracts around 130,000 attendees.
Glasgow’s status as a UNESCO City of Music stands undisputed with Celtic Connections kickstarting every year, bringing together music lovers and world instruments aficionados from every corner of the world.
The Instruments of Celtic Connections
With a hefty selection of over 10 various genres (from folk, gaelic through Americana, roots to jazz/soul) you can expect a whimsical realm of all kinds of exotic instruments you won’t normally hear on the mainstream radio. You’ll find the fiddle at the core of the Celtic Connections sound along with banjo, mandolin, bagpipes, small pipes, bouzouki, whistles (high and low), accordion, resonator, zhaleika variety of percussive instruments (bodhran, djembe, and of course - the guitar.
Thus, let’s take a look at some of the 2024 acts with guitar as their leading instrument.
2024 Lineup Highlights - Guitar-Driven Artists
Buffalo Nichols and Muireann Bradley
A fresh take on a blues arrangement with some great resonator chops from Buffalo Nichols with support from a young Donegal-native Muireann playing some Ragtime Blues from the 1920s and 30s.
The Bothy Band
One of the most influential Irish traditional music outfits from the mid 1970s are back and it would be truly a shame to miss out on this show! The Bothy Band inspired generations of folkies to come. Expect a plethora of stringed and woodwind instruments, uplifting jigs & reels balanced with hauntingly beautiful ballads.
The Black Feathers
Melodic vocals, harmonies and chunky guitar riffs, anyone? If acoustic folk meets Americana is what your heart desires then make your way down to see The Black Feathers. A duet of husband and wife who have stolen the hearts of audiences across the UK are a hot take right now so hurry if you want to grab a ticket because these two sell out their shows rapidly.
Okay, who hasn’t heard Caledonia or The Last of the Mohicans theme The Gael ? I think it’s safe to say EVERYBODY knows these two songs and their legendary author - Dougie MacLean. Celebrating his outstanding 50-year long career as a songwriter, Dougie is set to put up a performance packed with some of the most successful tunes that brought him worldwide fame. I’ll see you all there!
Tommy Emmanuel and Molly Tuttle
Accomplished session musician-turn-award winning recording solo artist, Tommy Emmanuel is well known for this insane precision in fingerstyle guitar playing. Emmanuel will be supported by a special guest, Molly Tuttle, whose career is equally enticing. Molly is an American guitarist and a singer who holds a Grammy award for her accomplishments as a songwriter; she’s particularly noted for her crosspicking, flatpicking and clawhammer techniques. One for the inspirational bucket list!
Israel Nash and Niall McNamee
A healthy dose of country rock will fill in the walls of Saint Luke’s venue with Israel Nash’s soaring sing-along set. Supported by traditional Irish guitarist, Niall McNamee, this evening will get you into an acoustic guitar frenzy!
Rose Room and Skreel
Shake it up a bit with some jazz affair you say? Count me in! Voted Best Band twice at the Scottish Jazz Awards, Rose and Room and Skreel are a Glasgow-based outfit delivering some of the coolest chops reminiscent of Django Reinhardt. If you’re looking for something a little different then come along and fill your ears with some of the finest Gypsy Jazz classics mixed with original 1930s influenced tunes.
The Langan Band
The Langan Band are an award-winning trio from Ayrshire hitting out with intricate fiery guitar rhythms, juicy double bass lines, jazzy violin and sweet yet powerful vocals.
Folk group Lau comes back with a new collaborative lineup, including Kris Drever - one of the best contemporary folk guitarists to come out of the UK in the last 2 decades.
The Wood Brothers
Composed of siblings Oliver (vocals and guitar) and Chris (vocals and upright bass) and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, The Wood Brothers bring Americana roots to your doorstep with storytelling numbers and foot-tapping beats. Get yourselves down for this, a good craic is guaranteed.
Workshops Worth Attending
Having so many brilliant artists performing every night is not only a fun experience but also a huge inspiration. If you’re a music nerd like me, you’ll quickly see for yourself.
Heard that interesting banjo part and you can’t stop thinking about it? You may be curious what it’s like to play one but none of your pals are into it? Or you just don’t want to invest in a full course in case it doesn’t work out? Fear not, Celtic Connections has that covered, too. With a variety of folk instruments workshops, you can come and try some of those fabulous sounding non-6-stringed things!
There’s also singing classes for the inner frontman in you, but I’ve picked a selection that I suspect may be the most appealing to a guitarist:
If you do find yourself enjoying that new instrument you tried at Celtic Connections, let me tell you that guitarguitar stocks an impressive range of entry-to-mid level folk instruments! Take a look at our selection today:
Whether you’re into folk music or not, if you happen to be in Glasgow in January you NEED to check out Celtic Connections festival! There is nothing like it out there, and as a regular gig-goer I can attest to that. Pick your genre, pick your artist, try a new instrument at one of the workshops and you’re guaranteed to leave with your soul enriched. Enjoy!