Kate Stables' music is stunning, and her approach deserves further exploration.
Having missed the first decade of Kate Stables' career, not even an arctic weather bomb was going to stop the masses in Glasgow from coming out in their droves tonight. It has taken twelve years from picking up that banjo in 2003, for Kate Stables' music to gain notoriety. The 2010 album Wriggle Out The Restless was "deserving of a Mercury Music Prize nomination", Guy Garvey told us in the 2015 Music Box documentary and all of a sudden, people started to take notice. Is this yet more evidence of under-valuing talented women in music? That may certainly be one factor, but this is not the only hurdle This Is The Kit have had to jump.
Around half of all album reviews on UK independent music sites are records by American acts. That compares with around a quarter from British musicians. It is prohibited to take organic material from the USA into the UK in case of impacting biodiversity. You cannot import products without large import taxes, for fear of disrupting the UK economy. You can however, import as much American music as you like into the UK music scene, regardless of the cultural implications. Would This Is The Kit have come to prominence earlier if the British music press were more balanced advocates of culture that's closer to home? "We've been going easy on the thieves," Stables sings to start the show off and I'm inclined to agree.
Stables and co then work their way into a grooving set that commands our undivided attention. You could hear a pin drop through the quiet moments. The rabble is rousing when it comes time to celebrate the end of each song. "This Is The Kit?" one reveler says in a questioning manor, at the end of "Bulletproof", before going on to say, "this is the shit, more like!".
Of course, it is not that we should ignore music from further afield. There's so much to appreciate globally, but we have a duty to strike a harmonic balance. In today's climate, many people feel disconnected with a sense of cultural identity, and indeed how it relates to Europe. Well, tonight we have rediscovered it, in the cross-border haven of the Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow. Here we are listening to musicians translate the historic influence of our shared Western European culture, into a world-class, contemporary broadcast. A timely reminder that the Celtic regions are a glue that binds us here in Scotland (Alba) with Ireland (Eire), Wales (Cymru), The West Country (Kernow) and at the very least Brittany (Breizh) in North West France, if not more of continental Europe.
"We met here, at Celtic Connections, ten years ago", Stables says of her brass section. It shows just how important this festival is to This Is The Kit, that way before anyone else was championing their band, this festival was a creative hub for them. It was 25 years ago this year, that the festival began. It seemed to many like a kamikaze mission back then, putting on a two week festival in the middle of icy January but when a festival is a deeply rooted cultural celebration, it finds a way to flourish.
Based out of Bristol and Paris, Stables is a perfectly positioned ambassador to absorb geographical Celtic influences, yet she's sufficiently connected to the wider world to transmit them more broadly. I want to say that this band is peerless and with regard to their modernisation and translation of heritage folk music, they are bar perhaps one. Last year at the same festival I took in King Creosote. Sadly with his music, the story is much the same. His incredibly prolific record label, Fence, was on the verge of financial collapse, until he was commissioned to provide the soundtrack to the archive-footage Commonwealth Games film, From Scotland With Love, saving the label at the last minute. Incidents like this beg a question: do we really need so many three star reviews of American bands, when we could be devoting a few more pages to the incredible acts from around the corner? Perhaps we should not be so shy about celebrating our native culture.
The ability to spark such debates is the mark of a true a cross-genre act with genuine cultural importance - see also the way which Stormzy is engaging us in compassionate politics, Young Fathers subject perceived ethnic divisions to continual scrutiny, and Sleaford Mods give voice to a disaffected demographic that has been badly served by lumpen indie lads for far too long. This Is The Kit are quietly setting an example of how to value and respect our culture, while avoiding jingoism or retrogression; maybe it's time we did the same.