Dar Williams @ The Workman’s Club - November 22nd 2018.

When it comes to matters of the heart or wry observation on life’s daily struggle, there are few musical artists as cultured and erudite as Dar Williams. Her career, that spans twenty-five years, has brought many accolades for her perceptive writing and musicianship, her collaborations with many seasoned and successful fellow-artists and her penchant for activism and causes in the name of equality and dignity for all.

Folk music has always held a special place in the psyche of the Irish people. It is a music that captures the spirit of the times and is a reflection of the forces within society that drive people to endure. As a mirror held up to assist us in self-reflection Contemporary Folk music is no less diluted as the challenges of these times weigh heavily upon so many of us. Where lies the light?

Dar Williams has always been searching for that light, a path to show the way forward and a solace to those in need of restitution and renewal. Tonight, she plays from her impressive body of work across a set that lasts 80 minutes and covers many of the 9 releases she has to her name.

Her ruminations and tales between the songs are very engaging and somehow, as important as the actual performances on solo guitar. Dar can spin and weave her words into witty and pithy songs of brittle humanity in all its frailty and understated nobility. You cannot help but be enthralled by her craft and communication.

Included in the set tonight are songs from her last release, Emerald. The title track is a look back on a life lived, seen through the memories that are sparked on a car journey. The superb New York Is A Harbour comes later in the set and is filled with imagery of the expectations and broken dreams that are intertwined in the great symbol for hope and the American Dream.

There are also two new songs, Time To Be My Friend and Let The Wind Blow, that sound right at home already and could have been plucked from any period of her discography to date. Old favourites are included such as The Christians & The Pagans, The Babysitter’s Here, The Beauty Of The Rain and the timeless insight of When I Was A Boy.

February and The One Who Knows are wistful ballads and go straight to the heart while the more up-tempo Iowa has the audience joining in on the chorus. Calling The Moon and I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything are also included and the encore, We Learned The Sea, brings everything to a very pleasing end. Always welcome to these shores, Dar Williams has lost none of her ability to engage and inspire in equal measure.

Review and photograph by Paul McGee


JP Harris @ Celtic Music Radio & Nice 'N' Sleazy Glasgow 13th Nov '18

Considering he only plays a handful of shows annually in his adopted hometown of Nashville and does not tour regularly, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to see Lonesome Highway favourite JP Harris & The Tough Choices for the fifth time in three months, when he performed a blistering set at Nice 'N' Sleazy on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, preceded by an acoustic set earlier that afternoon at Celtic Music Radio Station at Admiral Street. The previous occasions to witness Harris live were at Americana Fest in Nashville, where he played at 3rd & Lindsley, Robert's Western World and Sunday Coming Down at Gallatin Avenue, East Nashville. The latter was an all-day event organised by JP, featuring a number a artists, a spectacular and fitting end to the festival.

The personnel in The Tough Choices is very much a moving target and his touring band on this current trip around Europe are entirely different, but no less talented, than the musicians he had backing him in Nashville. The afternoon acoustic set was a pre-recorded interview and performance for Mike Ritchie’s weekly Sunday afternoon radio show on Celtic Music Radio. The set found Harris joined by his touring guitarist and they performed three songs (J.P.’s Florida Blues #1, Long Ways Back and When I Quit Drinking), all from his recently released album Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing.

Mike Ritchie’s interview with the engaging and extremely articulate Harris, included him revisiting his teenage years, his life experience since relocating in Nashville, his continuing support for female artists in the industry – he consistently includes female artists in his band, on this tour Nashville neighbour Miss Tess plays bass in his band together with preforming as an opening act - and an in-depth insight into the recording of his latest album. Harris explained that the album was produced by Old Crow Medicine Show’s Morgan Jahnig and the production was quite unorthodox by Nashville standards. The selected musicians to perform on the album came into the studio, having been given the skeleton of the tracks to consider a few days previously, with the instruction not to confer or discuss them with each other before recording. It's fair to say that the methods adopted were a qualified success and the six songs selected from the album to perform later that evening at Nice 'N' Sleazy sounded splendid in the live setting.

With a five-piece band of pedal steel (and occasional keys), bass, drums and guitars, Harris and his buddies took advantage of the excellent sound, lighting and indeed smoke machine at Nice N Sleazy, to deliver a killer seventeen song set. Kicking off and closing with the only two covers on the set list - the opener was David Allan Coe’s California Turnarounds and the encore a rousing version of Jerry Reed’s Freeborn Man– Harris and his cohorts raced through a free-flowing catalogue of songs that never lost steam. Sparks flew for up-tempo numbers Two For The Road, Gear Jammin’ Daddy, JP’s Florida Blues #1 and Hard Road, complimented by some equally impressive country ballads such as Maria, I Only Drink Alone, Lady In The Spotlight and Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing, the slower numbers all performed to pin drop silence. The road tight band were a joy to behold, with note perfect bass, drums and lead guitar, together with cracking pedal steel, supporting JP’s luxurious lead baritone vocals. 

In a market overflowing with plastic and industry manufactured acts masquerading as country artists, it’s a thrill to witness a genuine artist playing real country music with such a talented bunch of musicians and noticeably enjoying himself on stage as much as we were offstage. Make no mistake, Harris is the real deal and if you get the opportunity to catch him and his Tough Choices on the road, don’t pass it up. 

Thumbs up also to support act Miss Tess who, together with her band mate and co-producer Thomas Bryan Eaton, played a storming opening set featuring material from her album Baby, We All Know, before they both reappeared on stage as members of The Tough Choices.

Review and photographs by Declan Culliton


The Mulligan Brothers @ Naas Presbyterian Church - November 12th 2018.

This band is a breath of fresh air and seeing them play live again after a few years is such a joyful experience on a cold Monday night at a relatively new venue in Naas. 

The Presbyterian Church is a very intimate and small space, with the audience taking up the seating in the pews for an evening of highly entertaining music and song from this 3-piece who hail from Mobile, Alabama. This is their third tour of Ireland and the original touring 4-piece has now been reduced for the current dates and includes a female influence for the first time in the engaging presence of Melody Duncan on fiddle and vocals. 

Existing members, Ben Leininger on upright bass and lead singer/songwriter Ross Newell bring a warmth and finely crafted talent to the experience and the superb vocal tone of Newell is without doubt one of the finest live voices I have heard in some time.

Together the three-part harmony vocals are a complete pleasure throughout their generous set that touched on all three of their releases to date. The songs are based on personal observations in many cases but are also rooted in story songs that unfurl a narrative as they weave around the sweet melodies that are crafted from the tight playing on display.

Songs included Cecelia, Thrift Store Suitcase, Oh Susanna, Lay Here and the live favourite, Mama Gets My Soul. The new release, Songs For The Living And Otherwise, is given a good exposure with songs like Roseanne, a nicely crafted story that contains a clever twist, Possession In Gm, I Know That Man, and Great Grandaddy’s War, a song that reflects on the enduring divisions that were caused in the civil war and still resonate in the southern states of America. An evening of uplifting, infectious melodies and vocal harmonies that see this trio really hit the mark. 

The Mulligan Brothers may well have to consider a name change as they are well beyond ‘second chances’ at this point in their career and when you have heavy hitters such as Steve Berlin and Trina Shoemaker producing your records, then you know that you are already headed in the right direction!  

The support act was a local artist, Sina Theil, originally from Germany and now living here. She has a confident presence and a fine vocal that carries her strong set with conviction. Her backing band of three musicians all play a role with fiddle, lead guitar and bass joining together to fill out the guitar and voice of Sina. 

Definitely one to watch out for on the local circuit and already making inroads into the listening public with her debut album Under Cover charting at Number 1 in the Irish Country Download Charts and Number 5 in the Overall Irish Download Album Charts. Her version of Travelin’ Soldier (Bruce Robison), blended with the traditional Irish song, The Minstrel Boy, was a highlight of her set.

Review and photograph by Paul McGee


Deertick @ Whelan’s - 10th November 2018

Minus the Keyboards and Saxophone of Rob Crowell, Deertick have embarked on their current European tour and this stop in Dublin with the 4-piece comprising of John McCauley (guitars, vocals), Chris Ryan (bass, vocals), Dennis Ryan (drums, percussion, vocals) and Ian O'Neil (guitars, vocals), turn in a stellar performance in front of a capacity crowd on a Saturday night that has plenty of competition in other acts visiting the city this weekend.

Despite the fact that the band are playing across much of Europe over a 4-week period, the crowd tonight is dotted with fans who have travelled some distances from other countries to see the Dublin gig. They sing along to every song and their command of each line and lyric is very impressive to witness among the many smiles. Perhaps the fact that the gig was put in jeopardy by a major power cut, just after the support act had performed, only added to the unique atmosphere of the occasion. 

As the stage area fell into darkness, many thought that this was no more than a clever ploy to build up the anticipation and excitement before Deertick took to the stage. Not the case however, as the outage lasted almost 60 minutes before power was restored. The band had appeared to say that they wanted to play and that the gig would go ahead, but the longer the delay unfolded, the more people worried that the whole night might fall flat.

Once the difficulties were overcome, Deertick launched into their set (see photo) with an energy, intensity and power that suggested that they were on a mission to blaze through as many songs as possible before the curfew. They need not have worried as the venue is nothing if not a very relaxed place to enjoy live music and the staff were in no hurry to ask the band to leave the stage. Big applause to the patient crowd who remained good humoured throughout the power failure, even those who had travelled from abroad, as rumours circled that it was the U2 concert at the 3 Arena that had blown up the electricity grid in the city…!


Included on the night were tracks, Don't Hurt, Dream in the Ditch, Clownin' Around, The Bump, Easy, Me And My Man, Card House, Hope Is Big and the guitar heavy rhythms were cathartic as the superbly resigned vocal style of McCauley fought for room in the heady mix of sound and sweat. 

A cover version of the Pogues, White City, was especially well received by the crowd, while songs like Sea Of Clouds, Baltimore Blues No. 1 and Look How Clean I Am ensured that the pace never dropped as the ridiculously tight band twisted and turned driving rhythm into breaks of melody and quieter moments such as, These Old Shoes, Ashamed, Mange and Twenty Miles, ensuring that all seven of their releases to date were featured across the impressive set list. 

The final encore of You Are So Beautiful (Billy Preston/Bruce Fisher) was a fitting conclusion to a night of drama and intensity, not only on the stage and among the audience, but also in the unique circumstances that framed this exciting show.

A word also for the support act, Joanna Barbera, who played solo and was very well received with her easy stage manner and some interesting songs that no doubt had her supply of merchandise take a popular hit after the show. 

Thanks also to my new friends from Italy who were very welcome to Dublin for the show and who generously allowed me to take a photo of the set list, just for completion purposes, but also for any of you collectors out there who seek out such souvenirs!

Review and photographs by Paul McGee


BluesFest @ 3Arena, Dublin 2018

This yearly event has been running since 2013 when London’s Royal Albert Hall was the original venue and artists Van Morrison and Robert Plant were two of the key headline acts. Over recent years the Festival has been extended to include Glasgow and Dublin as cities for the event and this year sees the symmetry of both Van Morrison and Robert Plant headlining on the Sunday night at the 3Arena in Dublin.


The weekend of great music kicked off on Friday night with performances from Ireland’s Ultan Conlon, followed by guitar legend Steve Miller and band; before the headline act of John Fogarty closed the evening on a real high.

Ultan Conlon played a short set which focused mainly on his recent release, Last Days of the Night Owl. Opening with The Town Square, followed by Fond Memories and Twice A Child, Ultan played with a quiet confidence and his assured vocals won over many new admirers in the growing audience as the night began to take shape. Accompanied by Michael O’Connor on guitar and Dave Curtis on bass, the three musicians played together with an easy style and tempo and the appearance of Mary Coughlan for two songs was an added treat and she brought her own individual stamp to proceedings with her vocal colour on A Weak Heart Like Mine and The Measure.

A quick changeover by the very professional road crews that populated the stage throughout and we were ready for the great Steve Miller, all of 75 years old now, but still rocking out like there is no tomorrow. It was a real pleasure to watch such a consummate guitar virtuoso perform and to witness his impressive style across a range of different guitars over a 90-minute set that included many of his well known hits such as Abracadabra, Space Cowboy, Take The Money & Run, Rockin’ Me and the always impressive Fly Like An Eagle, with its space intro where the wonderful band are allowed to stretch out around the lengthy intro to such a showstopper. 

The encore included The Joker and Jet Airliner both of which had the crowd singing along with gay abandon. He spoke freely about his career and his easy storytelling style which was well received, especially when he gave a brief history concerning the guitars he owns, highlighting a Coral Electric Sitar Guitar (Vincent Bell design), that he purchased for $150 in the 1960’s only to be offered $250,000 for it recently…

Such an enjoyable set with something for everyone and a timely reminder of the huge influence this artist has made on so many of the bands that followed his lead in the 1970’s and 1980’s – not that he is stopping anytime soon; Steve Miller is still a fine talent who continues to burn brightly. His voice is as strong as ever and surrounding himself with musicians of this quality can only be good for everyone who is fortunate enough to catch him live.

John Fogarty follows with an equally impressive band, which includes his son, and he turns in an incredible performance of great stamina as he runs around the stage during a lengthy set that included pretty much every hit in the Creedence Clearwater Revival songbook, plus a few very tasty covers thrown in for good measure. Travelin' Band, Green River, Hey Tonight, Up Around the Bend, Who'll Stop The Rain, Lookin' Out My Back Door, Long As I Can See the Light, Born on the Bayou, Down On The Corner, Fortunate Son are all played to an increasingly fervent crowd who sing and dance to every note. 

It is amazing just how many hits his band had over their career and the legacy lives on with such affection for this artist of 72 years who still sings and moves with such dexterity and ease. The encore included Bad Moon Rising and Proud Mary plus there had also been cover versions of My Toot Toot (Rockin' Sidney), Jambalaya On the Bayou (Hank Williams cover), New Orleans (Gary “U.S.” Bonds cover) and I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Gladys Knight & The Pips cover). He was also joined by his son, Tyler, celebrating his 26th birthday on (Friday 26th)or an energetic and rousing rendition of Good Golly Miss Molly (Little Richard cover) and Psycho (The Sonics cover).

In the band was another son, Shane, who plays superbly on guitar throughout including a terrific trade off with his Dad which proved beyond any doubt that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


The night started with a set from The White Buffalo, aka Jake Smith and his supporting players, Matt Lynott on Drums and Christopher Hoffee on Bass.

He wasted little time in making an impression with songs like Love Song #1, Go the Distance, Come Join the Murder, Home Is in Your Arms, Joe and Jolene, I Got You, Oh Darlin' What Have I Done, This Year, Into the Sun, The Whistler and The Pilot, all performed with an energy and verve from the trio who really make the most of the 40 minutes that they have been given.

Driven by Lynott (The Machine) on drums and with plenty of punch from Hoffee on bass; the White Buffalo gives full vent to his smoky vocal delivery and rhythmic guitar playing. Eight releases under his belt and well worth your attention. Come back soon.

Next up is a sublime set from the glowing presence that is Alison Krauss. As a keeper of the traditional flame she stands in a special place and her devoted stance to preserving the old traditions of the bluegrass, folk and country heritage is laudable in its passion and scope. Over 90 minutes we are given some 20 plus songs that just pulse with joyful delivery and subtle musicianship of the highest order. The band are a complete joy to observe as they play with understated grace and serve the songs so well. James Mitchell (guitar), Ron Block (guitar, banjo), Barry Bales (bass), Matt Rollings (piano), Jay Bellerose (drums) just knock it out of the park. The beautiful violin playing and vocals of Alison are the cherry on top of this cake that tastes ever so sweet. You can hear a pin drop which is testament to the performance, as the previously noisy crowd realise just how special this performance is.

Sidney and Suzanne Cox also join Alison on harmony vocals and add so much colour to renditions of so many favourite songs. Her set was River in the Rain (Roger Miller cover), I Never Cared for You (Willie Nelson cover), Stay, Forget About It, Baby, Now That I've Found You (The Foundations cover), Ghost in This House (Shenandoah cover), Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson (Little Milton cover),The Lucky One, Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us (Sam Phillips cover), It's Goodbye and So Long to You (The Osborne Brothers & Mac Wiseman cover), Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground (Willie Nelson cover), Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby (traditional), I Am Weary (Let Me Rest), Down to the River to Pray (traditional cover), Gentle on My Mind (John Hartford cover), When God Dips His Love in my Heart, Walk Over God's Heaven, When I've Done the Best I Can, I Want My Crown, It Is Well With My Soul. Pure bliss from start to finish and a real highlight of the weekend.

Counting Crows are celebrating 25 years as a band and they arrive back into Dublin after a few years since last performing here. The majority of the crowd have been eagerly anticipating this headline act and the energy prior to the performance is clearly evident in the talk and t-shirt displays around the arena. They take the stage with a less than dramatic entrance and their down tempo performance mirrors this laid-back attitude to proceedings. There are of course highlights when everything comes together but a lot of the performance seems unfocused as the ramblings of the past from Adan Duritz labour somewhat across the set. His tendency over the years to portray an angst-ridden, misunderstood thespian wears just a little thin as he faces his middle years and hangs on the nostalgia of a past that can never be relived in reality. There is no questioning his vocal delivery when he is on it, but his too-casual approach to much of the set does nobody any favours. Disappointing, despite the fine band who excel in moments throughout and bring the evening to a close with understated farewells as they leave the stage… 

The set list covered 16 songs and included were:

Mrs. Potter's Lullaby, Angels of the Silences, Omaha, Scarecrow, Miami, Colorblind, God of Ocean Tides, Washington Square, Round Here, Recovering the Satellites, Mr. Jones, A Long December, Hanginaround, Rain King, Holiday in Spain.

Friday and Saturday night reviewed by Paul McGee.

Due to unforeseen circumstances Paul was unable to cover Sunday. So thanks to Ronnie Norton and Joanne Cody for supplying these notes on the evening. 


Through the years I have always found Van Morrison off stage to be distant, reserved, and all in all not the most sociable dude in the world. But close your eyes when he’s on stage or listen to his records and a totally different artist appears. His Dublin appearance copper fastened that opinion for me. He pumped out hit after hit and the fans were enthralled. From the first notes of Days Like This I knew we were on to a winner and once again Van the Musician kept me locked into his dedicated herd of die hard listening fans.

I never was a Led Zeppelin fan. It clashed with my Dublin Folk Boom era. But then we got Rising Sand with Alison Krauss!  However the guy that played the 3 Arena was a totally different performer altogether. This guy hit the ground running and didn’t stop. A very minimal stage set with very effective and syncopated light which matched the moods from start to finish. The band were amazing and as tight as a well tuned Bodhran. Let’s just say I was really impressed and might even grab an album or two of his to fine tune my Robert Plant appreciation.

Ronnie Norton

It being the first time to experience Van Morrison live, I can't compare this with other gigs he has played but I do think we may have witnessed one of his best. He certainly seemed very relaxed and the performance just flowed. There was just one moment where we thought we going to see it all go wrong when he halted a song due to feedback but seconds later all was good again. Again seeing him for the first time, it did feel odd that he doesn’t engage at all with his audience but I think he just lets the music say it all.

Among his set list he played hits like Brown Eyed Girl, Moon Dance, Real Real Gone, and Days Like This. Really feel we very privileged to see this performance and also although he may not have mentioned his band as other artists do but I really have to try and catch him agin

Robert Plant turned it up a gear as soon as he hit the stage. At 70 years of age he still oozes cool! He mentioned early on in the set that this was their last gig in a tour of 70 performances and he really wasn’t sure were they would go next. One thing that was for sure is that it really showed that he and the Sensational Space Shifters decided to make this gig special. 

Robert stated how he has been influenced from his early teenage years by artists such as Buck White, Sonny Boy Williamson and LeadBelly. The music with the Sensational Space Shifters is very much a mix of combining Zep numbers with Robert’s love of the artists above and also the music of North Africa. His set included Black Dog, Carry Fire, Babe I’m Going to Leave You, Little Maggie, Fixin’ to Die, When the Levee Breaks, New World and Whole Lotta  Love. 

The Shifters showed us how it should be done with roaring quitar solos, drum solos, electric fiddle. It was a night where we were witness to musical masters at work and showing that they still have it. I was in awe. 

Joanne Cody

Photography by Ronnie Norton