Celtic Connections : Ricky Ross Glasgow Cathedral
The Herald 31st January 2005

Only a matter of weeks after the hometown nostalgia-fest that is a re-formed Deacon Blue concert at the Carling Academy, Glasgow Cathedral presents a different set of challenges for Ricky Ross: the need to shatter, rather than fulfil, expectations.

This stems from the combination of occasion and venue. Mick Slaven plays mandolin on the opening track to "prove that we are Celtic-ally connected", but thereafter Ross explores routes and influences that, in spanning Newman, Springsteen, Parsons and Sinatra, are almost entirely American.

The venue, which is standing room only and understandably drink and smoke free, makes for a sombre and austere atmosphere, yet its cavernous acoustics and sub-zero temperatures seem perfect for Ross.

This could stem from his Brethren upbringing. His mother and late father (whose memory is recalled for leading community singing in church halls on Friday nights and for being unenthused by his son's early ventures in songwriting) loom large throughout, and there is a degree of incredulity that someone who appears so comfortable in arena-sized venues can be as fragile and nervous as Ross on this occasion.

The acoustics, rather than the quality of the playing of a band made up of Slaven, Davie Scott, Jim Gash and Trisha McTeague, mean that the best and most poignant moments come when Ross is alone at the piano.

In The End a tribute to Deacon Blue guitarist Graeme Kelling is, for all the Elton and Diana connotations of the setting, utterly affecting. Similarly, Ross and McTeague duet hauntingly on The Further North You Go. 

However, where new songs prosper, the hits (Wages Day) and rockier tunes (What You Are) seem to stumble.
This is a particularly Calvinist take on both rock and Celtic music: at times uncomfortable, but frequently inspired. John Williamson