Tuesday
Aug082017

Jim Lauderdale/Beth Nielsen Chapman @ NCH, Dublin - Sun 30th July 2017

JIM LAUDERDALE

Quite aside from his standing as a prolific singer songwriter, Jim Lauderdale’s reputation as best dressed artist in Nashville is beyond dispute. He most certainly cuts a dash taking the stage this evening togged out in a multi coloured Liberty print Dandy & Rose shirt and light green embroidered Manual trousers. The stage in a concert hall can be a lonely and unforgiving platform for an artist to perform solo but Lauderdale breezes through his set this evening accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, customary confidence and good humour.

Since his debut release in 1991 Lauderdale has released no fewer than twenty-eight albums, collaborating and working with the cream of country, bluegrass, roots, soul and rock including Rodney Crowell, Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, Robert Hunter, Nick Lowe, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Buddy Miller.

Tonight’s setlist includes a selection of many of those collaborations and a selection of songs from his latest album London Southern, which was actually written five years ago but only finally surfaced earlier this year. The album was a labour of love, (excuse the Nick Lowe pun), explains Lauderdale later in the show, having been recorded with Nick Lowe’s band and production team.

Opening this evening with Three Way Conversation from his 1994 recording Pretty Close To The Truth and continuing with Midnight Will Become Day and The Hummingbirds from the album of the same name it’s clear that the show will be a trawl through his imposing back catalogue rather than concentrating on his latest album. This Changes Everything, released in 2016, found Lauderdale revisiting his love of the  Texas ‘Red Dirt’ Country sound  and the title track comes next followed by Drive from the same album, a stunning  co-write with the young Texan troubadour Hayes Caryll.

Lauderdale refers to his opportunity to work with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys as one of the musical highlights of his career and proceeds to play Lost In the Lonesome Pines and Feel Like Signing Today, both being title tracks of the two albums recorded with Stanley. It’s difficult to perform bluegrass songs solo acoustic but he manages to do both songs more than justice before an impressive a Capella delivery of the gospel song Like Him.

He seeks out audience requests, "songs that I’ve written please, no Wonderwall or even Cosi Fan Tutte given our surroundings in this beautiful Hall!" The King of Broken Hearts, a song inspired by two of his heroes George Jones and Gram Parsons, is requested and duly delivered.

At this stage Lauderdale explains that’s its twenty-five years since he first played Dublin, "my favourite city to tour", recalling that the gig was in Bad Bobs and he was accompanied by his band Buddy Miller, Donald Lindley, Dusty Wakeman and Gurf Morlix. The response to that show, and in particular the praise by journalist Lisa Hand and musicophile Steve Averill, was a hugely encouraging and a significant confidence booster for his career going forward, adds Lauderdale.

Two songs from London Southern are included, both dedicated to the producers on the album Neil Brockbank who passed away earlier this year and Robert Trehern who died in 2015. The beautiful ballad Sweet Time is first up and followed I Love You More, possibly one of the strongest songs he has written to date. Delivered with immaculate discipline it’s one of the highlights of a most enjoyable set by an artist that always delivers whether in a solo show or accompanied by a band.

Finishing his slot with Headed ForThe Hills, co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, he insists the audience help him out by singing the chorus concluding what has been a typical engaging, entertaining and delightful Jim Lauderdale show.

Review by Declan Culliton

BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN

A singer-songwriter and performing artist of some renown with a career that has spanned the decades; indeed, it is 27 years since her debut release in 1990. Of course, she was already active before this release and has written for a who’s who of major artists, in addition to releasing her own work. The names of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill are just a sample of the talent she has written for and her list of song-writing collaborations runs just as deep and too numerous to mention.

Filling in for the original artist Rodney Crowell who was unable to travel, Beth takes the stage with her trusted accompanist Ruth Trimble who plays bass and keys in addition to harmony vocals. In a set that ran for 13 songs Beth puts in a commanding performance with favourites from her song catalogue along with four new songs from a future release.

Ruth Trimble is invited to play one of her songs and sits at the grand piano to perform Goodbye, a beautiful track from her debut release. She shows all the reasons why Beth chose her as a touring companion with a fine performance that showcases Ruth’s beautiful voice and melodic touch on the keys.

Beth exudes a strong confidence on stage and chats easily between songs with stories about the writing process, relationships, touring and the current state of things. While not specifically talking about the situation in American politics, she does make reference to a lack of empathy and grace before singing the Paul Simon classic American Tune; a most appropriate and classy statement to highlight where her feelings lie. It is her ability to sing from the heart that separates Beth out from many of her contemporaries and her powerful delivery is utterly convincing on both guitar and piano. 

This Kiss, Sand And Water, How We Love and I Find Your Love are all received with great enthusiasm from the audience and Beth includes a song from her recent collaboration with Olivia Newton John and Amy Sky, Stone In My Pocket. She also sings a song written for Willie Nelson back in 1989, There’s Nothing I Can Do About It Now, adding great colour in the last verse by mimicking both Willie and Bob Dylan’s vocal delivery – both carried out with great aplomb.

Her final song of the evening is taken from an astronomy project she was involved with and is the gentle message that light exists everywhere across the Universe. The song is called There Is No Darkness and Beth leaves the stage to a standing ovation which is richly deserved. Beth Nielson Chapman stands at the pinnacle of her art as an accomplished artist of great insight and maturity. Her gift of communication is something to hold close and treasure. 

Review by Paul McGee   Photography by Ronnie Norton

Tuesday
Aug082017

Buddy Mondlock @ The Hot Spot, Greystones - Sat 29th July 2017.

This is a very fine venue, located at the marina in the beautiful setting of Greystones harbour. It is the perfect place to host live music with an intimate setting and the only drawback is that it must rely mainly on local residents for support, which is crucial to its survival.

The journey from the centre of Dublin is a long one and I am sure that many people have concerns over the return leg after the show has ended. However, it is well worth the trip as I discovered on Saturday last when Buddy Mondlock and Mike Lindauer performed a set that had the small crowd waxing lyrical about the talent on show.

At the end of an Irish tour, both musicians play with an easy style that comes from many years of playing together and Mike makes reference to the fact that they first met in the principal’s office at school when they were ten years old.

Playing a selection of songs that includes many fan favourites like The Kid, The Ugly One, Coming Down In The Rain, Mud, New Jersey Sunset, The Cats At The Colosseum and the regular encore No Choice, Buddy proves himself the consummate songwriter with his keen observations on life, love and everything in between. He has a gentle approach to both his guitar style and his vocal phrasing. Indeed, it can be quite hypnotic in a venue like the Hot Spot where the atmosphere is one of quiet listening and attentiveness. Mike plays beautifully on his custom-made bass guitar and compliments the soft vocal delivery with understated harmony vocals and subtle melody runs.

A few new songs are tried and well received, Come Back First, The Witness and Filament will no doubt appear on an upcoming release. Buddy co-writes a lot of songs and tells stories of his time spent in younger days writing with Garth Brooks. As their respective careers took different paths, Buddy waited for one of their co-writes to appear and this finally happened on The Chase (1992) when Every Now And Then was included. The royalties kept Buddy in comfort for some little time and also gave him the joyous experience of purchasing a brand-new car for cash … !

A word for support artist Martyn Travis who entertained with his quick wit and easy conversation. A natural storyteller, Martin comes from a fishing background and has known Buddy & Mike for many years, having originally met in New York. He is a fine guitarist with a clear voice and sings of Salt On My Skin, The Harbour Bar, A Father And A Son, A Place In My Heart and As This Night Becomes Day in a short set that impresses and makes a positive statement of intent for future outings.

Review and photo by Paul McGee

Friday
Jul282017

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express @ Dublin & Belfast -July 2017

 

The Errigle Inn - 26th July 2017

Glorious late afternoon sunshine suggested a relaxing road trip from Dublin to The Errigle Inn on the Ormeau Road in Belfast for the return to Ireland of Chuck Prophet and his regular touring band The Mission Express. Or so I thought. On approaching Belfast, a colossal rain storm seemed to appear from nowhere with deafening thunder and spectacular fork lightning as if to announce that Prophet had hit town. As it happened it was a fitting precursor to an enthralling and energetic show that exploded into action shortly after 9pm and continued relentlessly for the best part of two hours.

Prophet is gifted with the ability to write killer songs that tackle difficult issues and struggles whether social, political or personal yet always tinged with humour and an ‘let’s get on with it folks and try and treasure the good moments’ attitude. His current album Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, is his most political recording since Let Freedom Ring in 2009 and possibly his most sardonic, moving and uplifting. The album tackles political issues, laments the many lost musical icons in 2016, questions ongoing racism and class distinction in his home city, gun control (or lack of) and conspiracy killing. However, it’s an album that leaves the listener pensive rather than depressed or downbeat. It’s no surprise that his set this evening includes a large chunk of the album together with his customary crowd favourites and the odd killer cover to complete the setlist.

Prophet’s characteristic stage presence, often tongue in cheek, has all the moves, shapes, facial expressions and antics that makes his shows every bit as much a visual delight as a musical feast. Behind this window dressing is a guitar player to equal any in his genre and a band to match in The Mission Express -"the longest Mission Express line up that Stephanie and I have ever had and one that we want to last forever" he explains early in the show. He is of course referring to his wife Stephanie Finch (keyboards, vocals), James De Prato (guitar), Kevin T White (bass) and Vicento Rodriquez (drums) whose combined interaction is faultless throughout the show, as are Prophets frequent guitar solos, more often than not extended from the studio songs versions, delivered on his trusted white fender which he often comments can play the licks unaided at this stage it’s been around so long. 

The hilarious Jesus Was A Social Drinker, which got one of the biggest cheers of the night, had to be included in the set given the lyrics "Jesus wasn’t Irish, just imagine if he was. He might have written poetry and verse, And enjoyed a pint of Guinness every day for lunch." It’s funny, it's clever but also includes some serious input from Finch from her robotic cowbell intro to her brilliant keyboard solo which Prophet encouraged be played a number of times while he casually corrected a loose lead in his guitar amp.

The set had started off with an instrumental intro before launching (1-2-3-4!) into Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins and kicking on with Fast Kid and Rider or Train. A maestro in terms of audience participation, only a few songs into the set list and he demands a call and response to Temple Beautiful  and from then on  has the crowd eating out of his hands encouraging or rather demanding people to get of their chairs and move.

Bad Year For Rock And Roll is dedicated not only to the musicians that passed away last year but also fittingly to Mohammed Ali, Harper Lee and the politically non-democracy that worryingly prevails, particularly in his resident country. He recounts how he was approached by an elderly gentleman after a recent show in Berlin who tapped him on the shoulder and simply enquired "Mr. Prophet, we’ve created history by taking down walls, why would your people even consider building walls."

Fittingly Barely Exist follows with Prophet reminding us of the hopelessness facing so many people on the southern borders of America and questioning why on earth they should not strive for a better existence by crossing borders to the prospect of basic survival for them and their families.

An extended adaption of In The Mausoleum (written for the deceased Alan Vega of electronic duo Suicide) features Finch sharing vocals with Prophet, who mid song slips his Fender over her shoulders encouraging her to let rip with some beautifully distorted feedback. We Got Up And Played, slowing things down for the only time in a full on set, is introduced as a true story of how unglamorous and difficult touring can be, sound men not showing up, loading in equipment on cold winter nights, long drives in cramped vans and poor crowds. A cover of Rank & Files Amanda Ruth also has Finch centre stage in front on the microphone again before a lengthened Summertime Blues with Prophet and De Prato splendidly sharing guitar licks. You Did with it’s expected audience input rolls on for the best part of ten minutes including a ripping solo by Prophet. Wish Me Luck see Prophet demanding the audience to vocally do exactly that and isn’t content until they drown out his vocal with good luck gestures and Willie Mays Is Up At Bat, a favourite of the baseball loving Prophet and always played in his shows, closes out the show.

Encores include the Howard Tate soul tour de force Shoot Em All Down and the Bobby Fuller classic Let Her Dance with Prophet coming off stage and finishing his solo among the audience. The closer Shake Some Action is proceeded by a tale of seeing the Flamin' Groovies for the first time at the age of fifteen, hearing the best ever power pop song ever written and at that moment deciding what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Chuck Prophet, and this can’t be said of many artists, managed to transform a dull, wet Wednesday night into a New Year’s Eve celebratory type evening with a performance that ticked every box you’d hope for in a live show. Great songs, exceptional playing and no end of humour to a very large, appreciative and engaging congregation. I was still grinning from ear to ear when I arrived home after a five-hour round trip that was worth every minute and mile.

Support act John Blek also deserves a worthy mention. An artist that is just as comfortable with the fuller and rockier sound of his work with John Blek & The Rats as he is with his more folk/traditional solo work. Night & The Liquor, Ruby Blood, Lightness Vs.Weight and Little Sparrow from his excellent solo album Cut The Light all featured in a slot that was particularly well received. 

Review and Belfast photograph (above) by Declan Culliton

Whelan’s 28th July 2017

If the round trip to Belfast could only be tackled by our dedicated scribe Declan, with plenty of positive energy and stamina reserves, then my short trip into Whelan’s was a complete breeze.

The best recommendation I can make is a Chuck Prophet show If you like to rock out and forget the daily routine. The Mission Express, as a band, really kicks up a storm – with both the noise level and their full-on adrenalin attack. Members Stephanie Finch, Kevin White, Vicente Rodriguez and James DePrato play in perfect unison and produce a compelling support behind Chuck, who is the consummate front-man.

He struts and poses over the audience as he cajoles a reaction from all those faces staring up at him. He has a magnetic charm as a performer and the avid crowd hang on his personal anecdotes. His defining quality after you strip everything down is his quality on guitar. Searing solos and wonderful dual play with James DePrato remind me of Allman Bros or Thin Lizzy when they dove-tail together for some extended workouts during the set.

The songs were very much the same as Belfast so I won’t repeat the running order as already outlined above by Declan. Suffice to say that every song is played like it is the first and last time it will ever be heard; total commitment and intensely honest delivery. The inclusion of a Linda Ronstadt song in the encore, Different Drum, was sung by Stephanie and created a pleasant moment of calm amid the tornado that spilled off the stage and into the packed crowd tonight. Fantastic show!

Review by Paul McGee  Dublin photograph (at the top) by Vincent Lennon

Tuesday
Jul252017

Bob Wayne and the Outlaw Carnies @ Thomas House - Sunday 23 July 2017

Welcome to Wayne’s world -  a world of outlaw carnies, trucker’s caps, drinkin, cussin’ and of course some pretty hardcore country music. Though the audience was small enough they made up for it in enthusiasm. Not too many locals though with fans from such diverse countries as Canada and Norway in attendance. They had a good time and Mr. Wayne delivered the goods in a nearly two hour set. 

This time out he was ably supported by the rhythm section of Elmer Johnston on upright bass (with it’s White Trash Dating Service sticker on the side), Drummer John Keeley and Matthew Thomas on upright steel and Telecaster - often played simultaneously. It was Thomas’ birthday and he celebrated by playing his ass off. These guys can grace any stage from a small club to a festival and the evidence is on YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK2wj-SKwlE)

Wayne has a way on stage that despite the image is friendly and fun. He has a big voice that give his songs a depth in the somewhat stripped down live setting. His Andy Gibson produced albums have a broader range and a more subtler delivery at times but here there is some raw energy to contend with that rarely lets up.

He has just released a new album Bad Hombre from which several songs were played including Hell Yeah, Stll Truckin’ and Mr. Bandana which sat alongside songs from his covers album that were examples of the Wayneification of such classics as Eric Clapton’s I Shot The Sheriff, Sympathy For The Devil from the Stones and Zeppelin’s Rock ’n’ Roll. There were a host his own songs from his albums as well as Workin’ Man, which was recorded by Hank 111 on his Damn Right, Rebel Proud album much to Wayne’s pleasure. 111 is an obvious hero. These were all well received as was Love Songs Suck which he said was the closest he had to a love song. This and other songs showed  a disregards for the law (Fuck The Law being a case on point) and the laws of being PC. A word of warning - don't go if swear words offend you.

The joys of drug abuse were celebrated and condemned with Dope Train and Everything's Legal In Alabama (the latter with the advisory note of “just don’t get caught”). As well as  a selection of road warrior songs from Till The Wheels Fall Off, Spread My Ashes On The Highway, Sam Tucker through to Hillbilly Heaven and the final song of the night the tale of murder and retribution that is Hanging Tree.

The band gave it loads despite having a power failure in the middle of the gig which did not seem to faze them as they picked straight back up when it came back on. Throughout we got his, by now, trademark Truck Horn sound as well as a number of "Hell Yeahs." Bob Wayne has made Europe his second home and hopefully will come back to play in Ireland again. His is an entertaining and effusive night out and again, it should be mentioned, that the band were right up there with him making everything happen in a way we don’t see to often. This was not the pose of the latent hair-metallers who graced the C2C stage but some real country music taken to the edge and delivered with passion. Hell yeah.

Review and photography by Stephen Rapid

Tuesday
Jul252017

Song Writer’s Circle @ DC Club, Dublin - Fri 21st July 2017

 

Take a bunch of musicians outside the headlight glare of the media and put them together on a small stage in intimate surroundings; well, you just might stand a chance of some magic happening ... Such was the case on this night of great musicianship, storytelling, variety and just plain ole’ craic.

Bouncing increasingly off each other’s talents as they settled into the pace of things, the writing styles and the lyrical perspective of each song-writer comes to the fore and gives a balance to the overall tone of the evening, which sees 2 hours of swapping songs fly by in what seems like half that time.

Buddy Mondlock is a frequent visitor to these shores and has played many venues across our fair land over the years; tonight, he is joined by the excellent Mike Lindauer on 5-string fretless bass, an instrument that really sings in the hands of this very accomplished musician.

On the Irish side of the stage are Nick Kelly, talented songwriter and filmmaker, not seen in public very much these days but giving a timely reminder of the enduring talent that gave him success in the Fat Lady Sings and subsequently as a solo artist.

Sean Millar is the final songwriter on display tonight and his friendship with Nick over the years has seen him also develop as a singer-songwriter, playwright and poet. Sean was known by the name of Doctor Millar, and both he and Nick were media darlings in the 1980’s who wrote individual, idiosyncratic songs from a finely-honed creative perspective. Sean is joined by his daughter Faith on harmony vocals for the evening and her pure vocal is a sweet counter-balance to the four male voices that differ in delivery and tone.

I counted somewhere in the region of 25 songs shared across the guitars and microphones, including a solo debut for Faith when she delivered a lovely version of Through the Morning, Through the Night (Alison Krauss) -a very appropriate choice!

Buddy is such a strong storyteller and his popular body of work endures over the years. Tonight, we are given some new songs to whet the appetite for a new release and both Filament and Come Back First sit nicely into his set of songs which also include fine renditions of Let Me Go, Break the Cup, The Ugly One, The Dark (co-written with Guy Clark), No Choice and a final sing-along encore of I Count You My Friend. His high pitch vocal delivery gels comfortably with his quietly impressive rhythmic guitar playing and the superb touches added by Mike Lindauer really help to elevate the songs to a higher plane.

Nick Kelly is very personable onstage and smiles easily. His stories are always told with due respect to other creative sources and his joy at being in a live environment is plain for all to see. We are given a taste of Baby, a song from the film, The Drummer And The Keeper, due for release in 2017. He talks about placing objects into songs instead of the usual subject-matter around our emotions and then proceeds to deliver a very clever discourse on washing machines with the song Small Loads. Tennis legend Arthur Ashe is celebrated in a song of the same name while Infrastructure is also included from his recording days as Alien Envoy.

Holy Show revisits his second solo release, Running Dog. Sam And Andre is particularly poignant as it reflects on the friendship between Samuel Beckett and Andre the Giant, a most unlikely topic but one that is steeped in gentle understanding of fragility and love. Republic is a really strong song from the 1997 release Between Trapezes and performed with real passion. World Exploding Touch from the Fat Lady Sings release Jonhson (1993) also sounds fresh and born-again.

Sean Millar has released six solo records over the last twenty years but his influence in Irish music circles runs much deeper than this output. He describes himself as a theatre-maker and as a composer he has gained international acclaim for his theatre show Silver Stars and his work on BrokenTalkers The Blue Boy which have both toured the world.

Tonight we are treated to songs with titles that challenge the graphic designers of the music business, such as I’ve Never Loved Somebody This Much Before In My Life, Hard Years In The Big City, All I Want Is Your Love Girl, Tarzan’s Ambition and Unnatural Bleeder (not just a boxing metaphor) … One song is a particular highlight, Happy Can Be, and has the attentive audience, along with his fellow musicians giggling away to the clever lyric and up-tempo arrangement.

As an experiment, musicians in the round does not always work but when the chemistry is right then the song-swapping and story-telling are a joy to witness. Everyone certainly left the venue smiling broadly and hoping for similar nights of celebrating the creative process.

Review by Paul McGee

Photograph by Vincent Lennon