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

Thursday
Oct182018

Kimmie Rhodes - Irish Tour 2018.

This artist has been visiting Ireland on a regular basis for a number of years now. Playing small venues around the country does not really do her justice, given her proven pedigree in the music business over a career that has spanned a few generations since her introduction as a real talent back in the early 1980’s.

This short tour is in support of her recent book, Radio Dreams: The Story of an Outlaw DJ and a Cosmic Cowgirl. It is a duet memoir and filled with great stories of a life spent together with her soulmate Joe Gracey who sadly died in 2011 after battling cancer over many years. 

The tour has dates in Rathfriland, Ballyboffey, Armagh, Lisburn & the Naul in north county Dublin. My journey takes me to a house concert in Rathfriland, plus the experience of the final gig at the Seamus Ennis Centre at the Naul.

Kimmie plays from a setlist that covers many of her 16 releases to date and she also allows herself creative licence to deviate away from this as the mood dictates. Joined by her incredibly talented son, Gabriel on guitar, the duo creates a very engaging and homely atmosphere with stories from the road and beyond. Kimmie is a natural storyteller and raconteur and her lengthy song introductions and back stories are equally as fascinating as the songs themselves. 

Drawing from the memories of a music scene that developed in Austin in the late 1970’s, Kimmie regales both audiences with her tales of meeting and being mentored by Willie Nelson. Her husband Joe Gracey was a much-respected singer and DJ before he lost his voice to cancer, only to turn his hand to studio production and working closely with Willie Nelson as part of both family and friends.

The songs include some carefully selected covers such as Buddy Holly (Raining In My Heart), Donovan (Catch The Wind), Townes van Zandt (White Freight Liner) and a new song yet to be recorded, Radio Dreams, to accompany the book.

Old favourites such as Love & Happiness, a song she wrote with Emmylou Harris, sit comfortably alongside Love Me Like A Song, a track she recorded with Willie Nelson.

Windblown is a song about her father and his colourful life, whereas Bells Of Joy celebrates an old Gospel band that she used to admire back in the early days. Just Drove By is the longest song she ever wrote, taking her a number of years to finish, but it captures everything in terms of family relationships and our changing feelings as we move through life.

God’s Acre is about coming home to be buried with those you love and the strength of family ties while Walls Fall Down references the present tensions in the USA and is an old song that has suddenly taken on new meaning with the turn of events there. 

Contrabandistas is a tex-mex workout that highlights the real craft of Gabriel on guitar as he soars and swoops around the rhythm laid down and delivers quite a performance. 

At the Naul, Kimmie sings 2 songs from different perspectives; one, Don’t Leave Me Like This, a bitter memory of the death of Joe Gracey and the other, Yes, a statement of intent in getting back into the light and living again.

House concerts are not really a big thing in Ireland Just yet but increasingly it appears to be a way of finding an intimate space where the artist can perform at controlled costs in the hope of making a profit and the sales of some merchandise. Rathfriland is a beautiful location and a very healthy crowd turn out to support our host Andy and to pay special tribute to the wonderful performance that is delivered.

The Naul is also an intimate setting and tonight there is a new soundboard to be tested – it passed with flying colours. A very attentive crowd sing along to the songs that they know and both performers give everything to that feeling of being in the moment while the magic of live music occurs.

Two excellent nights, spent in great company and you really must catch this superb artist on her next visit to our shores in 2019.

Review and photo by Paul McGee

 

Wednesday
Sep262018

AMA Report by Declan Culliton

Searching Out Country Music at Americana Fest 2018

It’s necessary to do a bit of digging to uncover what I consider ‘real’ country music these days. Robert’s Western World on Broadway in Nashville is a sure bet for the purist among us and with over three hundred acts performing at Americana Fest 2018, you’re guaranteed a decent representation of acts keeping that flag flying. Six acts in particular impressed and ticked the Lonesome Highway "real country is alive and kicking box." 

Jaime Wyatt at 3rd & Lindsley

Resembling a young Lucinda Williams in both appearance and sound, the striking Californian outlaw artist’s gig drew in the main material from her current album Felony Blues. Recalling her former years as a hell raiser - she did a prison stretch for robbing her drug dealer - Wyatt and her equally tight band delivered a storming set with full on numbers like Wishing Well and Wasco impressing every bit as much as her dreamy delivery of Merle Haggard’s Misery and Gin. Wyatt is the real deal, an artist with the ability in her writing, delivery and stage presence to make giant career steps. She sings from the heart, with pain, emotion and healing oozing from her every word. A festival highlight for those lucky enough to have caught her at 3rd & Lindsley.

Pat Reedy and The Longtime Goners at The Vinyl Bunker

The location for Pat Reedy’s set was a small vinyl record store located in the office of an underground car park. Not the most salubrious of rooms perhaps, but Reedy’s not the type of artist that’s going to grace the stage of The Grand Old Opry. He’s been touted as the most likely ‘country’ artist to follow in the footsteps of Joshua Hedley by making a name for himself way beyond Nashville. His appearance is that of someone that just drifted in from an auto store having spent the day changing tyres. With a three-piece band consisting of a recently acquainted Scandinavian pedal player, drummer and upright bass, he played two short sets of material mostly drawn from his recent release, the wonderfully titled That’s All There Is And There Ain’t No More. A former busker and construction worker, Reedy is the real deal, no frills, dirt under the fingernails and he dished out the perfect mid-afternoon set of raw and ragged country tunes. 

Jason James at Acme & Seed

Having played a solo performance at the same venue at the festival a few years back, James’s return with a full band was a joy to behold. The opposite side of the coin to Reedy, James is immaculately turned out, his appearance more George Jones than Willie Nelson and his performance was equally impressive. Playing to a large - and talkative- audience, it didn’t take long for him to silence them with his smooth Texan country sound, at times sounding like a young George Jones and helped in no small measure by his very impressive band. The new material on offer - to feature in his early 2019 album - sounded every bit as impressive as his 2015 self-titled album, using the same formula of traditional Texan country music, delivered with his silver-tongued southern tones. His signature tune Here Comes The Heartache and the honky tonkin’ I’ve Be Drinking More were standouts.

JP Harris at 3rd & Lindsley

Previous appearances at the festival had seen JP Harris play to smaller crowds at less spacious and less impressive locations, so it was a blast to see him and his entourage - which totalled ten at one stage - given the chance to play one of the larger venues. The stage at 3rd & Lindsley is one of the larger ones at the festival and Harris ensured that every square inch of it was put to use. His band featured guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel and keys with additional backing vocals courtesy of the Watson Twins and Kristina Murry. His set drew on material from his new album – officially released that day - including the title track Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing and When I Quit Drinking, alongside the crowd pleaser Give A Little Lovin’.Harris is not only a killer performer, he’s also a staunch supporter and promoter of emerging artists – in particular female East Nashville acts – often investing as much time in pushing them to the fore as he does in self-promotion. A rocking set from an artist that – were there any justice in the music world - would be a household name in country music. 

Mike and The Moonpies at 3rd & Lindsley

With the perfect mix and twang, honky tonk and boogie, Mike Harmeier and his five-piece band were the ideal act to close off the Evenings showcases at 3rd & Lindsley. Living up to their reputation for delivering full on high octane sets with a forty-five-minute onslaught of material that transformed the room into a Texas Dance Hall. Drawing in the main from their recent album Steak Night At The Prairie Rose they accelerated through Might Be Wrong, Getting High At Home and Beaches of Beloxi at breakneck speed. A "send them home sweating and smiling" set of fun music!

 Colter Wall at The Station Inn

One of the names on many people’s lips as the emerging young artist on the Americana scene of recent years, the 23-year-old Canadian nabbed a prime slot as the closing act at the revered Station Inn on the night of the Americana Fest Award Show. Playing out like a veteran, he mesmerised the full house with a spell binding stroll through his breakthrough self-titled album with the superb Me and Big Dave and Kate Mc Cannon bringing the house down. No mean guitar picker himself, the addition of a full band elevated his stripped back baritone vocals to another level. A memorable show!

Review and photography by Declan Culliton

Tuesday
Sep252018

AMA Report by Paul McGee

AMA Music Festival, Nashville - September 11th -16th 2018

The annual festival and conference to put all others into the shade. 

Americanafest, now in its 17thyear, is spread across 50 venues over 6 days. Add a lot of music industry discussion groups and panels, afternoon showcases, label parties, BBQ’s and shindigs – followed by the evening fare of artist and band listings; typically, 4 to 5 acts at each venue that run into the midnight hours. Exhausting and exhilarating!

There is an award show that brings together the great and the good of Americana music at the famous Ryman auditorium, but the real essence of the festival is the sense of community, camaraderie and fellowship that can be embraced all over the city in many forms, as many music fans get to meet old friends and form new connections.

The choice of music is like being a kid in a sweetshop, with the similar frustration of not being able to sample everything. Choices must be made and inevitably bands missed along the way. However, there were so many moments to inspire;

MAKING A NAME

Two acts that are gingerly stepping their way through the minefield that is a sustainable career in this music game are My Politic and Arkansas Dave.

My Politic is a 5-piece band, now living in Nashville, who play expressive roots music around the creative hub of Kaston Guffey and Nick Pankey. Fiddle, dobro, acoustic guitars and harmonica merge into an organic sound, topped off by the high energy performance of band leader Guffey.

Arkansas Dave is entirely different and delivers a performance of soulful blues that is hard hitting and quite compelling. His band deliver passionate playing across driving workouts in an impressive set.

STAYING THE COURSE

Diversity in music is everything that makes it great and the attraction of the celebratory, soulful sound of Birds of Chicago sits in contrast with the mellow, reflective style of Erin Rae. Both deliver stellar sets as they continue to hone their craft and build upon careers that are flourishing and moving forward at a pace.

Birds of Chicago have great songs and the key element of interplay between joint-lead performers, JT Nero and Allison Russell. Erin Rae has a calm and restrained stage presence as she gently coaxes her band to higher performance levels in what can be described as dreamy soundscapes on top of which her soothing voice glides.

RISING HIGHER

The impact of breaking stars can never be underestimated as pressure is brought to bear on the existing status quo and order of things. Rightly so, as all things must be subject to change.

Courtney Marie Andrews is a performer who has developed into quite a star with her strong work ethic and some killer songs. Her band is really tight and they play in support of a vocal performance that is highly impressive. Her career is going in one direction only and her powerful talents bear witness to this.

The Lone Bellow are another act that continue to find accelerated momentum around their increasing media buzz. 

They perform here as a 3-piece with a single stand-up microphone, an acoustic guitar and a mandolin. Their vocal gymnastics and harmonies are an absolute treat to witness as they play a compelling set of songs from their 3 releases to date.

THE OLD ROAD WELL-TRAVELLED

Artists such as Emmylou Harris, Mary Gauthier, Eliza Gilkyson, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt and Kim Richey have seen it all before and show their durability and experience while appearing at a number of venues over the festival. 

Far from burning out and fading away, they display an energy that far belies the advances of old father time. Playing songs from new releases, plus dipping into extensive back catalogues, they excite all who witness their powerful presence. They also show no fall in their vocal prowess as performers and continue to display  an easy stage presence that has been earned over time and travel.

HAPPY TO MEET

Whether unknown or just unheard, there are so many acts who win over new admirers and indeed, make up the major part of this festival. Always a pleasant surprise to discover new talent that delights.

Sons of Bill are such a band. They have been around since 2006 releasing albums and are led by the 3 Wilson Brothers. They have a vibrant roots rock sound that is exciting and very engaging.

Samantha Fish plays blues guitar in an incendiary style that fires her song arrangements into orbit and her band create a big sound with warm organ swells, horns and rhythm section to fill out the performance. 

Jaimee Harris played a fine set at the Campfire propaganda day party and Ana Egge also captured the room at the Proper Music Party, along with Ben Glover who closed the event.

Other acts worthy of mention were Neighbor Lady, Mike Farris, Walter Salas-Humara, Tom Freund, Ordinary Elephant and Ladies Gun Club.

SORRY TO PART

All goods things must come to an end and the gathering of friends for Sunday Morning Coming Down provided a gathering of gumbo and good times. The wonderful JP Harris was hosting this event and his generous spirit was evident throughout as he highlighted other artists as well as playing a superb set with his own band. We were treated to the perfectly aligned vocal performance of the Watson Twins and an exciting set from the ever- impressive Elizabeth Cook. 

SPECIAL MOMENT

There were so many of course, but perhaps the one that sticks out and epitomises the festival spirit more than anything else was the Lone Bellow playing on the sidewalk to the line of fans who were unable to gain entry to their sold-out gig at The Station Inn. They delayed their show in order to ease the disappointment of the crowd outside and turned in a 3-song performance that was quite something.

ENDURING MEMORIES

Hearing about a late-night gig at the 5-Spot that led to my finally seeing an old favourite of mine perform live – Webb Wilder. He played a set that was packed with superb craftmanship and electric moments as his crack band turned out performances that made for one of those special nights; a crowded bar, plenty of high & hot energy and smiles all around. Also, meeting Tim Easton and seeing him play again after many years. A seasoned songwriter who continues to produce music of the highest quality. Equally as important was my reunion with Walter Salas-Humara and his unique talents. Founder member of the legendary Silos, he has lost none of his sparkle and the songs are as sharp as ever.

CODA

This was my first trip to the AMA festival but it will not be my last … It is addictive in all that is offered and delivered, in a setting that is just perfect. Music City USA lives up to the name and there is also much else to see and do, outside of the music. Definitely a Bucket List recommendation.

Review and photography by Paul McGee