Trad/roots: Blow away the winter blues with a January gig or three

If that special someone who you haven't gotten round to buying a Christmas present for happens to like trad, folk or roots music, there's a veritable cornucopia of gigs coming up that you could buy 'em tickets for

Duke Special and traditional musicians Ulaid have collaborated on a collection of old and new songs and tunes they've called The Belfast Suite
Robert McMillen

YOU are panicking. It's two days to Christmas and while, the pressies are bought, there are a couple of stocking fillers to go... Your nearest and dearest are music fans so what better than a couple of tickets for events which are going to blow away the winter blues and all happening in January?

It's actually quite amazing how many festivals and gigs that are happening in the first month of the year. So what's on?

The Out to Lunch festival in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter has upped its trad game for 2017 with an number of unmissable events coming up with a light lunch included in the entrance fee.

January 6 in Irish is called Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas) and two days later on the eighth, one of our finest female talents, Pauline Scanlon, will be doing a 2pm show at the Black Box in Belfast. Pauline's gorgeous new album, Gossamer, has been drawing huge praise from far and wide and this looks like a gig to savour.

Friday January 13 sees Na Leanaí, sons and daughters of various members of the Sands family, take to the Black Box stage at 1pm, but not everything is that local as 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year Award winner Amanda Rheaume brings her folk/country music to Belfast for the first time on January 15 at 3pm.

That evening, there is another chance to hear the creative collaboration of Duke Special and trad superband Ulaid as they delve through the archives of Belfast's slightly eccentric Francis Joseph Biggar. The show has been rapturously received wherever it has been so don't miss out on this one.

As featured in a recent Irish News interview, medical doctor/singer/guitarist/uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson who will be performing with his equally talented sister, Alana who has been playing alongside Hosier recently. That gig is on January 21 at 2pm.

I was having lunch at Bia, the much-lauded cafe in the Cultúrlann in Belfast one Saturday, when they have trad musicians play in the background. I, however found it hard to concentrate on eating as the music played by Aaron O'Hagan on the pipes and Craobh Rua's Jim Rainey was just so good.

Aaron and his band, Réalta, are back from touring abroad and will be taking part in Out to Lunch on Saturday January 7 at, wait for it, 11.30am. (Shouldn't it be called Out to Brunch?)

Another really special occasion will be the daddies of English folk-rock, Fairport Convention, who are on a 50th anniversary tour. The Friday night gig is already sold out but there are still a few left for the Saturday 2pm show on January 28.

And if all this wasn't enough, the festival is also boasting Martha Wainwright, Sarah Jarosz, Mary Chapin Carpenter, James Vincent McMorrow and Billy Bragg. That is enough to fill the biggest Christmas stocking.

But there's more …

I was at the wonderful inaugural Derry International Irish Music Festival (DIIMF) last year and the good news is that is coming back between January 29 and February 5, although under a new moniker.

Imbolc was an old Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring and the Imbolc International Music Festival centred around Cultúrlann Uí Chanain in Derry has a fabulous line-up of world-class acts but never forgets its local talent so alongside the Sharon Shannon Band, Four Men and a Dog, Declan O'Rourke, Dervish, the Kilfenora Céilí Band, Notify and Anúna with the Lewis Psalm Singers, there will be music and dance (sean-nós) workshops; lunchtime sessions; film screenings; events for children and for young people with special needs and a citywide session trail.

Once the final line-up is confirmed. I'll let you have all the details when the time comes.

If you want to travel a bit for your fix of trad, the Temple Bar Tradfest in Dublin is going from strength to strength and this year celebrates its 10th birthday.

It really is living up to its ambition of “showcasing the cream of both Irish and international trad and folk artists while also providing a stage to promote the next generation of Irish musicianship”.

Running form January 25-29, amongst the headline acts this year are the Afro Celt Sound System (who have Grioguir Labhruidh and Rioghnach guesting with them), Martin and Eliza Carthy, Na Mooneys, Paddy Keenan, The Furey and Altan.

Tradfest also features Front Row Sessions which are free concerts in intimate settings featuring five of the very best in Irish music, up close and personal. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance while the Tradfringe where there is so much more than just Trad to be had with a taste trail, exhibitions, film screenings, workshops, masterclasses and much more.

Now these are just some of the festivals that are happening. Throughout 2017, there will also be fabulous gigs at the Duncairn, An Droichead, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich and Cultúrlann Uí Chanain as well as sessions in pubs and clubs throughout the land.

And we have just got to the end of January – so get those Yuletide stockings filled and have a folky Christmas.

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: