Wednesday
Nov142018

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

Wednesday
Nov142018

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

Sunday
Nov042018

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.

FRIDAY

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.

SATURDAY

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. 

SUNDAY

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


Wednesday
Oct312018

Thomas Gabriel @ Whelan’s, Dublin - 30th Oct 2018

For Thomas Gabriel, the oldest grandchild of Johnny Cash, this was something of a pilgrimage - to come to Ireland in the footsteps of his grandfather. This included a date in what was the Dreamland venue in Athy, where Johnny Cash had played 55 years ago to the day. In his live show Gabriel pays homage to the legend that is his grandfather and includes many songs associated with Cash. He also includes songs taken from the debut Gabriel album Long Way Home.

He opens the show with Big River, which is then followed by his own song Instant Relieffeaturing an extended guitar solo from his guitarist Daniel Toa. Toa was a standout throughout the show giving the Cash songs a different perspective that blended with Gabriel voice, which a has definite echoes of his grandfather’s. They played their version of Fulsom Prison Blues next. It was taken at a much slower pace, which Gabriel mentioned was, for him, more reflective of his ownprison experience. He had served over 7 years in jail. He poignantly noted that he had been let out on a furlough to be a pall bearer at the funeral of June Carter Cash. However, he is now concentrating on his music and putting those darker times behind him, other that recalling them in song. The song Cell was written from the perspective of an inmate and features a slow riff not unlike that in The Rolling Stones Paint It Black.

His rhythm section of Nathan Oxley on bass and Mike Little on drums provided a solid platform throughout that allowed his voice and the guitar to take centre stage. Gabriel did not refer to a setlist, rather he used his iPad to looked at possible song choices as they went through the show. There was no hesitation though from the band who were able to play each choice at a moment’s notice. The songs played from his grandfather’s later albums included Unchained, Rusty Cage and Hurt,which he segued into Everything Must Be Sold - the opening song on his (Gabriel's) album. From Cash’s earlier recordings he played spirited versions of Ring Of Fire and Ghost Rider In The Sky, with another incisive David Gilmore-ish solo from Toa, amongst others in a 20 song set.  

After a number of Irish dates, he was having some voice issues to the point of losing his voice after singing Home Of The Blues. Indeed, he had some problems again tonight but recovered well enough to finish the set. This fragility in his voice added some venerability to his song Come To Me. Anyone listening to Gabriel’s voice can be left in nodoubt ofits direct relationship to Johnny Cash. It may not be as deeply resonate but it is still a distinctive instrument. His take on Sunday Morning Coming Down was testament to that.

The show is both a homage to a beloved person and a testament to redemption, suggesting that in the future the show is likely to be less Cash and more Gabriel. However those few who attended the show thoroughly enjoyed both aspects of the show. A show that doubtless shouldhave been enjoyed by many more and once his reputation extends beyond those already acquainted with his music should draw bigger crowds. Again,it is the anomaly of Dublin which for one reason or another seems to be a difficult place to draw an audience of a size worthy of his and other who play here’s talents.

Gabriel closed the show with a rousing second version of Folsom Prison Blues,done this time at the pace of the Cash original. That infamous location was also a place that Gabriel had played on the 50 anniversary of Cash's original recorded show. It is indeed a long way home, but Gabriel is finding his path.

Review by Stephen Rapid  Photography by Kaethe Burt O'Dea

Thursday
Oct252018

Emily Barker/The Remedy Club @ Cleere’s, Kilkenny 18th Oct 2018

Americana U.K. Artist of the Year Emily Barker literally parked her camper van in Kilkenny to perform at Cleere’s, on her whistle stop tour of Ireland, which also saw her play shows in Waterford, Dublin, Galway, Belfast and Limivady. Joined on stage by the talented Lukas Drinkwater on upright bass and electric guitar, her set covered material from her early career Red Clay Halo days up to her current soulful classic album Sweet Kind Of Blue, which was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis Tennessee last year.

Concentrating on material from her earlier albums for the first half of her set, she opened with Little Deaths and the title track of her 2013 release Dear River, before performing Nostalgia, the theme song she composed for the BBC TV hit show Wallander. Blackbird from her live 2015 album The Toerag Sessions followed. Despite being somewhat under the weather her stage presence was particularly engaging, with tales of camper van travels and the luxury of a possible shower somewhere on the road. She also joked that she takes some credit for introducing the Father Ted sitcom to some of her fellow Australians while touring there. Whereas Barker's early career output concentrated on the more folk/Americana side of things, her current and delightful album Sweet Kind Of Blue recalls her inspiration and love of soul music as a teenager. The instrumentation and production on the album are phenomenal, not surprising given that it was produced by Matt Ross-Spang and included the cream of Memphis session players on the recording. Performing the material from the album stripped back may have presented a challenge but she rose to the occasion flawlessly and passed with flying colours. Performed in succession were No.5 Hurricane, the simply divine Sister Goodbye- dedicated to the Godmother of rock and roll Sister Rosetta Tharp - and equally impressive Over My Shoulder– co-written with Boo Hewerdine and inspired by the horrific newspaper image of a dead refugee child face down on a beach. She also included More! from the same album in its initial stripped back format, a dreamy slow version before it got ‘souled and Motowned up’ in the studio for the catchy album version. 

She closed the show with Anywhere Away,which she wrote for Jack Gavin’s film Hector and the gorgeous Precious Memories and The Blackwood from her Red Clay Halo days. The evening was further evidence of the limitless talents of Emily Barker, a young lady always prepared to challenge herself and never likely to stand in the same musical spot for very long.

Opening act, The Remedy Club are no strangers to Lonesome Highway or indeed to Cleeres’s, where they performed their own showcase gig only a few weeks previously. Husband and wife duo Aileen Mythen and Kieran McEvoy have been impressing us at Lonesome Highway over the past few years, establishing themselves as the leading exponents of Americana in Ireland. They met with Emily Barker while performing at The Americana Awards U.K. earlier in the year and were invited to support her on this tour. The perfect act to warm the crowd up in the cosy intimate setting, their set included Listenin’ To Hank Williams, When Tom Waits Upand a rousing finale of Big Ol’ Fancy, all from their current album Lovers, Legends and Lost Causes

Review and photographs by Declan Culliton