Monday
Jan232012

Sarah Savoy and the Francadians @ Whelans, Dublin - Sat 21st Jan 2012

Cajun came to Camden Street in the formidable shape of Sarah Savoy and the Francadians - a quartet of David Rolland on accordion, Manolo Gonzales on upright bass, Vincent Blin on fiddle and the larger than life Sarah Savoy on vocals and guitar. Savoy is the obvious leader and focal point of the band (and from an illustrious family steeped in the cajun traditions and music) but this is a fully integrated band not a backing group and vocalist. Something that was highlighted in the opening song Little Bitty Girl that played with double entendres and ended with the line that “we all play together”. This was one of the few songs delivered in English but that didn’t in any way affect the overall enjoyment of the evening as French is the natural language of cajun and at least half the band are native Frenchmen. This was their first time to play Dublin although they had been in the city before. Many of the songs they featured in tonight’s set were taken from their current Allons Rock ‘n’ Roll album. It takes a mix of classic country songs and one original all delivered in smokey French. For instance the Tex Williams, Merle Travis song Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette is now Fume, Fume, Fume. Johnny Can’t Dance and Folsom Prison Blues were two others, the latter got an especially warm response. Savoy who was dealing with a shot voice due to a series of gigs and some bad PAs had to drop the keys of some songs in order to be able to sing them. However her natural exuberance carried her through and won the day. David Rolland took the lead on some songs too and provided a nice balance between the two. It was one of those gigs where both sides of the stage seemed to be enjoying the evening which ran to two sets and ended with the curfew. Throughout Savoy translated the essence of the songs and had an entertaining and funny stream of between song banter. Telling us that “there are blondes, brunettes and girls whose hair is so dark that even the devil don’t want them!” ... Savoy has jet black hair. She has an expressive face that makes her a natural on stage and has a band that are equally adept at what they do. She confided that all have very different tastes and agreeing on what to play in the van is difficult and usually comes down to some classic George Jones, something that they can all agree on. She also told us that cajun music is a very masculine music and so she had written High-Heel Two-Step to help redress the balance. The subject of many of the other songs though revolved around the consumption of alcohol and its subsequent results. Although space didn’t allow it and it only briefly broke out for the last song this is music made for dancing and the whole audience was caught up in its infectious rhythms. They said that they wanted to move to Dublin but true or not they would be welcome back anytime.

Review by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Ronnie Norton

Sunday
Nov272011

Glen Campbell @ The Convention Centre Dublin - Nov.19th 2011 

 

Glen Campbell paid a farewell visit to his Irish fans with an a near capacity house at Dublin’s Convention Centre. Supported by his family based band Instant People he gave an almost flawless performance marred and jarred only by the loss of stage lighting about a third of the way into his show and then a constant trickle of totally inconsiderate well-wishers at stage front looking for handshakes, abusing the star’s generosity and good manners, and freaking out most of the rest of the audience. For once I wished for a tighter and more diligent house crew.

The show itself was a credit to all concerned and with Glen’s acknowledged medical condition on everybody’s radar, there was always the possibility of an embarrassing glitch. But under the watchful eyes of mother hen and 35 year veteran musical director T. J. Kuenster and his three children Cal, Shannon and Ashley, that was never allowed to happen. One little guitar fluff in Wichita Lineman was quickly glossed over by the excellent twin lead guitar work of Shannon who shows every sign of becoming a major star in his own right way into the future. 

From the start, all the favourite songs were there, By the Time I Get To Phoenix, Where’s the Playground Suzy, Only Make Believe and Rhinestone Cowboy, all drawing huge audience response. They were interspersed with songs from the excellent current album Ghost On The Canvas, especially one called It’s Your Amazing Grace with daughter Ashley. Ashley is also a fine banjo player and together they hit my nostalgia bone with a reprise of the highlight of my first Glen Campbell concert in Dublin’s Carlton Cinema when supported by Anne Murray, Glen had there introduced the world to banjo maestro and future mega producer Carl Jackson with a stunning Dueling Banjos.

The highlights of the evening for me were a powerful rendering of Jimmy Webb’s The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress and a mini guitar marathon on the break in Galveston. Glen’s poignant visit to A Better Place brought a few tears to his enthralled audience. All in all a very enjoyable farewell concert from one of Americana music’s icons who in his career crossed all the boundaries from bluegrass to country and West Coast to standards and leaves us with no regrets and a shed load of great memories.

On Saturday night Glen Campbell kicked alzheimer’s ass, played guitar like a demon, and lost not one fan in the process. May he have a peaceful journey as he faces the one medical spectre that we all dread, in the company of friends, family and legions of devoted fans. 

Review and Photograph by Ronnie Norton

Sunday
Nov202011

Gillian Welch @ The Grand Canal Theatre, 17th Nov. 2011

Was the Gillian Welch concert one of the gigs of a lifetime? Yes. As a fellow audience member said ‘it was as close to perfect as is possible.’ It was an eager audience – tickets had been sold out for ages. After listening to Gillian’s own mix CD Gil and David came onstage at about 8:15 with Gil in her trademark dress and cowboy boots (a look later nicked by – of all people – Taylor Swift) and David in his neat grey suit and a face-concealing Stetson hat he got from James Monroe, Mr Bill Monroe’s son.

They went back to the very first album, Revival, to start the night with Gil’s Tear My Stillhouse Down and the great contrast of Gillian’s rock-solid flat top guitar rythmn playing against David’s intricate picking on his arch-top Epiphone is as characteristic and gorgeous as it always has been. In two 50 minute sets, plus 5 encores they played most of the new album The Harrow and the Harvest and songs from each of the other albums with particularly strong versions of Elvis Presley Blues, Revelator, No One Knows My Name, the still chilling Caleb Meyer and Look at Miss Ohio.

Their version of Six White Horses from the new album was a particular delight with David playing banjo and harmonica while Gil hamboned (used her body as and hands as a percussion instrument) and clog-danced, wryly commenting afterwards that she had intended to learn a fancy new clog-step ahead of the tour, but that ‘it just hadn’t happened’.

The encores raised the evening even higher – which I’d doubted was possible – with cover versions of O Brother’s I’ll Fly Away followed by the Johnny Cash/June Carter stalwart Jackson but culminating in an extraordinary choice, gorgeously played, of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit. It was incongruous and absolutely…perfect.

While Gillian switched between guitar and banjo – and occasionally added harmonica – Dave stayed with his guitar excepting Six White Horses. His playing, particulary in his solos, continues to astound; I sometimes feel he gets himself into beautiful places that it will be impossible to get out of, but each time he resolves the solo and amazes his listeners. They are two halves whose sum really is greater than its parts. Gil’s singing apart from David, as in O Brother, is wonderful and his playing on his solo album and other projects is great, but I feel that they achieve an energy working together that is unique and unsurpassable – and we in the audience were blown away by it in the Grand Canal Theatre last Thursday. What a night!

Review by Sandy Harsch, Photograph by Ronnie Norton

Sunday
Nov132011

Steve Earle@The Olympia Theatre Dublin - 6th Nov 2011

Review by Stephen Rapid, Photograph by Ronnie Norton


Bringing the Dukes (and the Duchesses) with him for the first time in an age Steve Earle delivered a two part set that was an appropriate mix of old favourites and new songs from his extensive reportaire. It featured various vocal turns from the band as well as from Earle who's own distinctive and forceful vocals were as powerful as ever. A prompt 8pm start (" Sometimes we are are own support band") was followed, as usual, by a set of back to back songs before Earle spoke to the audience and began his first introductions to the band. The songs in this part of the set included some songs from his MCA days - Hillbilly Highway, My Old Friend The Blues and Someday as well as songs from his latest album. He then introduced his wife Alison Moorer, who had up to this point been playing keyboards. They sang a duet Days Aren't Long Enough after which Moorer sang solo, including a version of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come and again proved what a fine vocalist she is, and has always been. The band switched instruments throughout the show with Moorer playing accordion, acoustic and electric guitars. Guitarist Chris Masterson, something of a revelation, played pedal steel, mandolin as well as a variety of six and twelve string guitars and also sang harmony. He is a member of The Mastersons along with partner Eleanor Whitmore who tonight played fiddle, mandolin and guitar, as well as backing vocals. Both were versatile, adaptable and essential parts of the band's sound adding the twang factor when neccessry. The rhythm section was completed by Will Rigby on drums and the only surviving member of previous Dukes line-ups long time bassist Kelley Looney, who also took a turn at the microphone to sing Free Men. In his between song introductions and explanations Earle referenced the Occupy Wall Street campaign and it's Irish offshoots. Indeed the bass drum carried a "We are the 99%" sign. He also prefaced The Devil's Right Hand by telling a tale of how he used to keep a loaded pistol around the house until his son Justin misappropriated it and the lengths which followed to find out where it was. He further talked about the American Civil War and how there were 58,000 casualties at Gettysburg and how even today "the people who start these wars aren't fucking going" before playing Dixieland. This was followed by a rousing Galway Girl and a more acoustic version of The Mountain. Meet Me in the Alleyway had an rough-edged dirty blues sound with Earle playing harmonica and sing through a distorted mic. Another duet from Earle and Moorer, Heaven and Hell was from the current album I'll Never Get out Of This World Alive. Another small point that yet again Earle and band had no onstage mointors. The enthusiastic and invigorated audience demanded and got two encores which included a new song written for Treme, the TV series set in New Orleans that Earle has starred in as well as Taneytown, Johnny Comes Marching Home and Copperhead Road. Steve Earle is a captivating performer in any form but with the Dukes (and Duchess) it encapsulates his career in a better way than any other. This show was up there with the best I've seen him do and after the show they band met fans in the lobby to meet and greet and sign, which was an added bonus for hardcore fans

Sunday
Nov062011

Eilen Jewell @ Sugar Club, Dublin - 3rd Nov 2011

Queen Jewell told us how excited she was to finally play a date in Dublin, something she had wanted to do, it was she enthused "a magical event". Her previous visits were only to Dublin Airport on the way to other venues. The audience in the Sugar Club were equally delighted to have her and her superb band there. The rhythm section of Jason Beek on drums and backing vocals and Johnny Sciascia on upright bass were solid and sympathetic to the songs throughout, laying down a solid musical bedrock. Because of his role in the music guitarist Jerry Miller gets a lot of attention, and deservedly so, he is an dexterous and dynamic player. This is a band as Jewell says that are "capable of playing anything" and that is proved as the music then touches on classic country, rockabilly, blues and honky-tonk. This tightly focused outfit played songs from all of their albums including a couple of songs from the gospel side project the Sacred Shakers. The 22 song set included two songs from her Loretta Lynn tribute album- Fist City and Deep As Your Pocket - the latter song described as a public service warning. Her relaxed introductions including telling us that cupid wasn't all he was cracked up to be with his scattered aim as outlined in her song Bang Bang Bang, that Jameson is their favourite whiskey before playing High Shelf Booze. That the first song she learned was a blues song that they had adapted their take from previous versions as Nobody's Business. Other covers outside of Miss Lynn's still relevant songs included Arthur Alexander's The Girl That Radiates That Charm, Bob Dylan's Trouble In Mind and the Miller showcase, the Johnny Kidd and the Pirates classic, Shakin' All Over which saw Miller include a slew of riffs from 60's songs like Paint It Black into the mix and the audience singing the chorus. Her own songs are every bit as good and included Sea Of Tears, Boundary County, Santa Fe, Warning Signs and Heartache Boulevard. Eilen Jewell is far more than just a queen of the minor key, the music played before an audience by this tight and thoroughly engaged and engaging quartet is an ideal live experience. They breathe new life into these songs in this setting. Both sides of the stage had fun, which is exactly how it should be.

Review by Stephen Rapid, Photograph by Mark Averill