Mid-week in Manchester and the Bridgewater filled up fast with music lovers keen to see this latest edition of the transatlantic sessions. Those around me were not newcomers like I was as they reminisced the previous 16 live editions before the show began. It peaked my interest as I started getting excited in anticipation of what's to come. Some World class instrumentalists were about to take to the stage, some who had been in most of these sixteen editions were about to be joined by fresh faces who are equally as talented. Seasoned professionals Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas come onto the stage to a rapturous round of applause from the audience followed by their all star cast who are announced one by one and politely wave at the crowd. They welcome us all and get straight into it.
The instrumental is foot tapping-ly good and starts the night off well. It has the relaxed feeling of a jam night in your local pub but with the most talented musicians in the World. They introduce their guests who take centre stage for a couple of songs as the rest join in behind them. The first guest of the night was the very talented banjo player Cahalen Morrison, his music felt like it was fresh out of the honky tonk and his vocals were very unique. His first song which had an interesting lyric about footprints was off his new record which is coming out soon. The vocals weren't quite high enough in the mix and so you lost some of the lyrics but when you have around 12 musicians on stage all joining in, it is easy to see how he got drowned out. This improved throughout the night though and it wasn't the last we saw of Cahalen as they followed a similar format in the second half too.
Award winning Irish singer Cathy Jordan was next to take centre stage. She began with a traditional Irish song and the minute she began it was clear why she is held in such high esteem. There was some audience participation in her second song as they joined in eagerly having already built up quite the rapport with the musicians on stage. Sierra Hull an acclaimed and accomplished Bluegrass Mandolin player performed original songs How Long and Lullaby. The latter referred to her homesickness being out on the road and she talked about missing her mum. Her vocals were hauntingly beautiful as the melodies blended well with her Mandolin playing. Scottish singer Rachel Sermanni performed an original folk song followed by a great rendition of a Robert Burns tune. Tommy Emmanuel, the Australian guitarist who now resides in Nashville closed the first half of entertainment. He was quite the comedian as he introduced himself and what he was about to perform and seemed the most happy to be there throughout the evening as he grinned and moved to the music as each artist took to the stage. He was a good vocalist as well as he lead the band into a folk version of Springsteen's I'm on Fire.
The second half followed a similar pattern but they all took it up a notch as they engaged in traditional folk numbers singing in three part harmonies. It was a fantastic night of traditional music and such a lovely blend from Scotland, Ireland and the US musicians. I spent the night mesmerised by Jerry Douglas' Lap Steel Guitar playing and flautist Michael McGoldrick's intricate melodic performance on various flutes and pipes. It is a night for for music fans with a deep appreciation of traditional folk music but there was a song or piece that could speak to everyone.