Double JD on the rocks...



The living, breathing pumping heart of rock 'n' roll could be found in Dublin when JD McPhearson and his band played a blinder in Whelans for a appreciative sold-out crowd. in an 18 song and three encore set they displayed a sense and profound understanding of what makes rock 'n' roll work. It starts in the engine room with the solid foundation of drummer Jason Smay and upright bass player Jimmy Sutton. Sutton is a key component in the line-up as album producer, label owner, singer and musician he is a perfect partner to JD McPhearson. The icing on the cake was the wonderful texture added by saxophonist and occasional keyboard player Doug Cochran and B3 and pianist Ray. Both were integral to the powerful and expressive sound that is a soulful take on the fundamentals of r 'n' b and rock 'n' roll. JD is an expressive and impassioned singer and edgy guitar player who's Telecaster thrusts can only remind of a certain New Jersey singer and guitarist. The bulk of the set is taken from the debut album Signs & Signifiers, which originally was released back in 2010 on Jimmy Sutton's Hi-Style label. In the best way the songs were developed, expanded and energized from their recorded versions. JD opened the show with the words "This is going to be special!". It was. The songs from Jimmy Sutton's favourite song that JD had written A Gentle Awakening to other songs from the album which included Fire Bug, B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R, Dime For Nickles and of course the popular North Side Girl, a song which pretty much everyone in every city can relate to. They expressed delight in being in Dublin and Jimmy told us that many of them had Irish ancestry. He had on his father's side and as his mother was from Peru he declared himself a "mick/spic" hybrid. They also joked that the obviously Asian Ray was Irish too. Aside from JD's songs we were treated to a range of covers that highlighted the band's roots from Chuck Berry's Carol, the Premiers' Farmer John, their favourite Art Neville song as well as one from the pen of Bo Diddley with that vital signature drum beat. They return for a three song encore that finished with a  reggae-fied take on Oil In My Lamp, which JD informed us was in recognition of the Beat, a band that keyboardist Ray had played with for several years. It closed the show in fine style and again displayed the scope that this band are well capable of embracing. The signs were all good.


The Dublin debut of the Dirt Daubers proved again that Col. J. D. Wilkes know how to lead his troops to musical victory. This trio which includes his wife Jessica on banjo, mandolin and vocals and Legendary ShackShakers bassist Mark Robertson - who replaced original bassist 'Slow' Layne Hendrickson - on a set of new and traditional songs. Many came from their latest album album Wake Up Sinners including Wayfaring Stranger, The Devil Gets His Due, Trucks, Tractors and Trains and Single Girl and the set also included some ShackShakers songs like Blood On The Bluegrass from their debut Cockadoodledon't album. For those who might have missed some of the underlying humour that is apparent in the music it is much more obvious in these new/old songs and in the between song patter between the three members themselves and with the audience. Musically the trio make a very full sound built around Robertson's bass rumble, Wilkes' frailing banjo, washboard percussion and always excellent harmonica playing and (a kazoo on the end of a wire!) and Jessica Wilkes strong vocal and instrumental skills. These three are at ease with each other and their music and it shows. They entertain on every level and are called back for an encore which they obliged with and which had the sinners and saints wide awake and looking for more but curfew called.

Special thanks to all at Ubangi Stomps

Reviews by Stephen Rapid and photography by Ronnie Norton



Jason Ringerberg @ Whelans 4th July 2012


Resplendent in gold cowboy shirt and sparkly hat Jason Ringenberg opened the show with Self-Sabotage recorded with The Scorchers on their Clear Impetuous Morning album. He delivered it with his trademark energy, foot-stompin' and guitar twirls. This was followed in similar fashion with another early Scorchers song Shop It Around. Jason then told us how much he admired the skills required to travel around Ireland on a bus, especially as an American in a cowboy hat, later he told us how an encounter with a stranger nearly came to blows as he walked up to the gig when the aforementioned citizen took offence to him for no apparent reason other than his choice of headgear. Throughout the show Jason regaled us with stories and anecdotes about the songs. He told us about meeting and befriending guitar legend Link Wray before playing the song of that name. Oh Lonesome Prairie was about his upbringing on a hog farm which later led to a tale of the castration of hogs as a young boy on his father's farm. He reiterated his long time love for Ireland and how when he had first visited these shores he took time to drive around the country side on his own. On the road Jason reads a lot and became interested in Irish history and also American history and these two things came together in the song Erin's Seed about the Irish fighting on opposing sides during the battle of Fredericksburg that was written on his visit to the Kilkenny Rhythm & Roots festival  The American Civil War was also the setting for the song Bible And A Gun - a song that he had taken the liberty of revising the lyrics which were originally written with Steve Earle, for that momentous time period. It was also in Kilkenny where he met Hammil On Trial who appeared on the album version of Honky Tonk Maniac From Mars which he delivered with abandon. His inability to keep his guitar in tune was mentioned, "it's my style" he joked, but none of that really matters too much as Jason Ringenberg is a unique talent whether solo or with The Scorchers. He opened the show to requests mid-set and did covers then of Absolutely Sweet Marie, Don't Come Home A Drinkin' (With Loving On Your Mind) and Rainbow Stew as well as his own Rebel Flag In Germany. From the Farmer Jason side of his persona he performed Well Oh Whale (recorded with The Saw Doctors a band he much admires) and The Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug. He walked off stage and played AP Carter's Lonesome Valley unplugged from the audience before taking the stage to play what he said was his final song, his favourite piece of poetry in the English language which turned out to be his equally demented version of The Ramones I Wanna Be Sedated. He left with a smile on his face as did most of the audience. He had earlier said that he can still rock hard but it just takes longer to recover these days, he also occasionally resorted to lyrics on a music stand as "when you turn 38 you start to lose things" but age has not diminished his love of performance and the feedback he gets in front of a live audience. As his main gig now is as Farmer Jason these solo Jason Ringenberg gigs are special, as indeed this one was.

Review by Steve Rapid and photography by Ronnie Norton


Alejandro Escovedo @ Whelans - 27th June 2012

There's no doubt that Alejandro Escovedo is a trooper, a reformed rock 'n' roll animal, who has battled illness to continue to make the music he so obviously loves. On his last visit to Whelans he was accompanied by his ground-breaking rockin' string quartet, this time out he is joined by the current incarnation of his Sensitive Boys band including a guitarist who's name I didn't quite catch, drummer Chris Searles and bassist Bobby Daniel who has played with Escovedo over the last three albums. The show was centered around the current Tony Visconti produced album Big Station. They opened with Sally Was A Cop, a song that Alejandro explained was about Mexico and the love of community that exists there. Other songs which, for a first time hearing, connected with the largely enthusiastic audience included the album title song plus Man Of The World, This Bed Is Getting Crowded, San Antonio Rain, a song he said was about his birth city while Bottom Of The World was focused on his current home city of Austin, a place he said that for many "doesn't want to change". From Streets Songs Of Love came This Bed Is Getting Crowded with it's powerful chorus of "This ain't love" and later in the set, also from that album, Down In The Bowery, about which he mentioned that all his family were Ramones fans. Castanets with it's chorus of "I love it when she walks away" about an acquaintance who he was less than fond of, who played the titled castenets, but with absolutely no sense of rhythm was taken from the Man Under The Influence album. These songs were delivered with full-on rock raucousness, a fiery sound that culminated in an extended guitar work out on I Wanna be Your Dog. A song that saw Escovedo using a distorted vocal mic and had him prowling the stage with some menace. Throughout Alejandro was in great voice, one that is immediately distinctive, something that was further emphasized when he came back onstage for the solo encore of Last To Know. There were undoubtably some who would have loved to have heard a few more of these earlier, much-loved songs. But with such a strong back catalogue he would have had to have booked a multi-night residency to cover these (he at one point commented that "I've made too many albums"). I don't think that that remark was a sentiment echoed by anyone in the audience. During the evening the singer switched between acoustic and electric guitar as he is very much a part of this band's musical output and the quartet meshed together well as tough well-oiled unit. Alejandro Escovedo has his devoted fans and they love his varied output and are only too pleased to see him in the live context. Even when he was, naturally, concentrating on his newer songs. During the set he talked about family, his parents and siblings as well as his own 7 kids including his 19 year old son who plays drums and synth as a somewhat angry one-man band. Family is key to Escovedo's outlook and the second to last song was a cover, Sabor A Mi by Álvaro Carillo, a song he said he father sang to his mother, anywhere - at the drop of a hat, he sang it in Spanish. Then they finished the evening with an appropriately rough-housed cover of Beast Of Burden during which he got the crowd to sing along with the chorus. After the gig Escovedo came to meet fans. It was that kind of informal and intimate gig.

Review by Steve Rapid, Photography by Ronnie Norton


Hank 3 live @ The Button Factory - June 24th 2012


A three hour set was divided, as normally, between Hank 3's "kuntry" and his heavier metal tendencies in the second half of the show. On stage at 7.30 Hank and the band gave their usual hi-energy renditions of a range of songs taken from the last few albums which included Six Pack Of Beer, Life Of Sin, Trooper's Holler, Rebel Within, Country Heroes and Dick In Dixie.With barely a moment to take breath one song ran straight into another, with most delivered at break-neck pace. Since his last visit his band has gone through many changes but this current band can deliver the songs with a large degree of skill and verve. Fundamental to this was the powerhouse drumming of Shaun Williams who was as at ease with the subtle swing of classic country as he was with the more forceful material where his drumming sounded added a depth that sounded like thunder. He was aided in driving the band by upright bassist and backing vocalist Zach Shedd. The music was given it's country textures by the trio of fine players that are David McElfresh on fiddle, Daniel Mason on banjo and long-time band member, producer and upright steel guitarist Andy Gibson. Gibson is a sonic showman adept at playing old school steel, as on the cover version on Hank 3 grandfather's ("the hillbilly Shakespeare") I'll Never Get Out OF This World Alive to delivering the atmospherics of some the more recent material. The focus of the show though is undoubtably Hank 3 and although he says little between songs other than short summations of the songs themes they played. He communicates through the music and his overall stance. He is dressed in his usual multi-patched trousers, cowboy boots, customized waistcoat and cowboy hat and commands the respect of the mixed audience. There are the older obvious country fans, metal heads and all points in between. Lots of devil hand salutes abound from the front rows. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the first hour and a half though once the lights went down and the stage was left to Hank and drummer Williams there tended to be a polarization of opinion. Some loved all parts of the show but others found the second section of the show a step too far and retired gracefully. But fair play to Hank 3, he does his own thing and gives it his all in his three hour set and no one should feel short changed. Hank 3 has created a sub-genre and plays with obvious passion and commitment for his fans and so deserves all the credit that comes his way. Still a rebel within and a rebel without.


Live photographs by Steve Rapid



Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers live @ the 02 June 7th 2012

A packed O2 Theatre welcomed Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers with a great cheer as the band launched straight into Listen To Her Heart. The excitment spread through those standing on the ground level, as well as to those seated in the balconies. All were treated to what amounted to a greatest hits set along with a couple of tracks from their current Mojo album and the odd surprise. The main one being a full-on version of Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green's Oh Well, done to perfection with the heavy riff well to the fore.The Traveling Wilbury's Handle With Care was another welcome choice. The amount of guitars on display was dizzying Mike Campbell didn't use the same guitar twice until eight songs into the set, and they even did one with matching Gibson Firebirds! By the third number in the crowd were singing along with songs like Don't Back Down. Here Comes My Girl, Yer So Bad, Learning To Fly, Runnin' Down A Dream and others all went over well. Petty told the audience that it had been too long since the band's last visit and how happy he was to be in Dublin. He mentioned that the previous day, while walking around, he had met some Spamish fans which led the crowd to burst into a sponteneous sing along of Ole, Ole, Ole which seemed to baffle, not understandably, both Petty and Campbell. So after a moment of confusion it was "back to the show" and they carried on with Free Falling and a extended guitar workout on It's Good To Be King with Petty, Campbell and Scott Thurston all on guitars. There were also slower songs, like Something Good Coming, that featured both Petty and Campbell on acoustic guitars. There was a balance between the hard and heavy, the immediatly catchy chart hits and the slower acoustic songs that all worked well. That the core of this band has been together for thirty years shows in the ease and skill that they deliver these songs. The rhythm section of the man Petty called "my favourite drummer" and like "standing in front of a freight train" Steve Ferrone and bassist Ron Blair anchored and drove the sound. While Thurston added guitar, harmonica, keyboards and harmony vocals. Heartbreaker mainstay Benmount Tench was a keyboard master who added colour and depth to the sound. Mike Campbell again reaffirmed his outstanding talent as lead guitarist. These guys didn't seem to be going through the motions and they were enjoying themselves and fed off the audience's response which was with them from the word go. It was a wide-ranging age group, though it weighed heavily toward the 40plus end of the spectrum. They called the band back for an encore of Mary Jane's Last Dance, and American Girl and then everyone went home on a high note.

Review and above stage-screen photo by Stephen Rapid