It is wet. I am cold. This is the last night of the 20th Hebridean Celtic Festival. Going on your own…not that much fun, even though this is an assignment. The Big Tent is empty…tuning and testing.
So…let's try the second tent…and there I find Chastity Brown, with electric guitarist Luke Enyeart and percussionist Greg Shutte.
And when I say find, I mean I am swept away, I mean I am dragged into another world, I mean my world is unexpectedly suffused with a wonderful voice, a great stage persona, and fabulous guitar playing and drumming.
I have always loved skilful, detailed but not overly demonstrative guitarists - and drumming and percussion that is strong and clear, without being dominant and overwhelming.
In the middle of the set, poet and writer Ian Stephen says to me: "It does not get better than this." Normally, I argue with Ian, I tend to controversialism. But what was there to argue with? "What a voice," he says. And again, I could not argue.
Singer-songwriter Chastity Brown has the sort of voice that shatters the calm of your soul, that reaches to emotions in chasms of the past long abandoned. The audience is rapt, hanging on every note, consuming every variation in tone. And this is Stornoway on a wet Saturday night…and Chastity Brown's music is, I think it can be fairly said, neither particularly Hebridean nor Celtic. She is from Tennessee, but found her band in Minnesota. She told the audience she tried originally to shake off her roots but then returned to them to add to her inspiration.
And remember…I just popped in to get a few images of the last hours of the festival. And now – after an unknown amount of time spent spellbound – I am within inches of the front of the stage, surrounded with an audience happily singing along with the chorus of the Van Morrison song that concludes the performance and everyone clearly wishing this could just go on for ever.
Bravo to the HCF for bringing Chastity Brown to Stornoway…this was an inspiring performance which drove out the cold and inspired the mind and body.
(By Fred Silver)