Live Reviews

Live Review: John Smith, The Transatlantic Sessions in London

The Transatlantic Session in London Photo © Oscar Tornincasa for

The Transatlantic Sessions is a grand concept that brings folk and country musicians across North Atlantic together for collaborative performances. With music from Scotland, Ireland, England, all the way to North America, it is fascinating to observe the chemistry formed in the band, how they are culturally diverse and yet resonate one another.

Following the first critically acclaimed series of Transatlantic Sessions produced in 1995, five other sessions and live performances have been subsequently staged over the years, and this year it was back in Southbank Centre. With the house band full of world class musicians, led by fine fiddler Aly Bain from Shetland and legendary guitarist Jerry Douglas from Nashville, it was a rare and spectacular night you do not want to miss as a folk and country music fan. As what audiences wish for, the band did not fail to deliver a number of classic bluegrass tones. This was the sound from a solid team of core musicians that grows over years of collaborations. Their performance in general was slightly lack of surprises; however, it is worthwhile to just see the talent and integrity each individual star musician has on stage. First of all returning to the gang we have the accomplished Scottish fiddle player John McCusker, his remarkable fiddle playing definitely stood out the most in the group. Also worth noticing were the amazing Scottish accordion player Phil Cunningham, Russ Barenberg the American guitarist, Irish multi-instrumentalist Michael McGoldrick who played beautiful flute and pipes, last but not the least English double bassist Danny Thompson who stunned you with his dazzling skill on a solo that opened the second half of the show.

Guest performers of the night were also equally exceptional. First guest on stage was American fiddler and singer-songwriter Sara Watkins who brought in the sweetest country vibe. Then Scottish singer Kathleen MacInnes sent us back to ancient times with some traditional Gaelic songs. Following up was the lovely singer –songwriter John smith from Devon, his mellow but beautiful ballads surprisingly married perfectly well with the backing of the band. Lastly, the two award winning country singer-songwriters Patty Griffin and Rodney Crowell delivered to us the American roots music. Griffin’s mesmerizing cover of Lefty Frizzell’s Mom and Dad’s Waltz gave us a revisit of the old Texas. While Crowell sang country classics I Still Miss Someone by Johnny Cash and Honky Tonk Blues by Hank Williams, which absolutely roused the crowd to the highest point. Crowell finished off the night with his hit song Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.

Photo gallery by Oscar Tornincasa:

Poyan Chan
I am Poyan Chan, a visual effects artist from Hong Kong, now based in London. I believe art appears in any forms, it is in paintings, writings, films, photos, and certainly in music. I love the idea that art is the creation inspired by life experience, and yet it transforms itself to surprise and inspire the others, essentially become part of our life. That is why I engage in the creative industry, I have participated in the post-production of numerous commercial films and adverts, I also got involved in several art exhibitions in the past. Outside of work I sketch, I take photos, hug my guitars, and occasionally I write. My music choice ranges from indie, alternative rock, grunge, folk to recently jazz and soul. To me nothing is underrated. We just have to get the unheard heard. That is what we are here for. Let the inspiration begin.