Woody Pines @ The Seamus Ennis Centre, Naul - 27th April 2012


On a cold Saturday night the quartet played the welcoming ambience of the Seamus Ennis Centre, their first visit to the venue as part of an extensive European but short Irish tour. They exuded both musical skill and a good humour that went down well with an audience who were equally new to the band's charms, but both sides of the stage had some fun and called the band back for an encore at the end of the show. Leader Woody Pines led the band with powerful lead vocals and resonator and electric arch-top guitar. He is joined by long-time companion Zack Pozebanchuk on doghouse bass, Mike Gray on the very effective rhythms with thimbled fingers that he drew from his neck-hung washboard as well as some telling banjo playing. The final weapon in their armoury is guitarist and clarinettist Lyon Graulty. This current line-up is the one that recorded the e.p. You Gotta Roll from which, along with their previous album Counting Alligators, they drew a selection of the songs featured in their two part set as well as earlier songs and other covers. Both recordings get the general ambience of what the band offer which they themselves describe as "viper jazz, ragtime and country blues". The main difference between their rewarding recordings is the spontaneity they have live where Graulty's distinctive clarinet is more of a feature which immediately links their sound to an earlier era and adds that jazzier emphasis. Something that has always been a part of their overall sound but is further highlighted by Graulty's contribution. He is also a interesting and arresting electric guitarist who uses a selection of self-made pedals that enhance his sound which covers some Travis County picking, lap steel-styled slide guitar, organ sounds and rockin' blues riffs. This band line-up's next recorded outing should be special. Their live set draws from new and traditional songs such as Satisfied, Rich Gal, Poor Gal for the latter which sit easily alongside Pines originals like Crazy-Eyed Woman and Counting Alligators. Between songs Pines connected with the audience with his introductions and explanations of the band's lifestyle and song choices. A hard working band he recounted that they spend a lot of time driving to gigs and on the road, doing 248 dates last year. They are road warriors and that shows in the tightness of the band. A cover of Hank Williams' Ramblin' Man reflects this ongoing traveling and their love of the music from earlier eras. A part of this is the fact that they travel so much is that they listen to a lot of radio. Pines relates of hearing a particular song that struck, they had tried to catch the chords but didn't quite get them or hear the song title so they ended up writing a song of their own based on the part-heard song. At the end of the show they got the audience to sing-along to the refrains of "I'll see you in the morning if I live, I'll see you in the morning I don't get killed". The audience singing out the last part of the line after the band had sung the aforementioned lines. It ended the show on a high and Woody Pines, the band and the singer, had made a lot of new friends.

Live review by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Ronnie Norton



CMA songwriters session@ Whelans - 23rd Feb. 2012

The CMA (Country Music Assocation) was back to Dublin for another of its outreach events. In the past they have brought in (then) upcoming acts like Jace Everett, Julie Roberts and Dierks Bentley as well as holding their AGM meeting in Dublin in 1995. This time out it was a trio of songwriters, Bill Anderson, Clint Black and Bob DiPiero, who were here to play some of the many songs they had written and to expand on them with stories about how they were written or about their own lives and times. This was as much about the repartee as it was about the music. To some it was an odd paring in that both DiPiero and Bill Anderson are predominantly songwriters although Anderson has had a lengthy career as an recording artist in his own right. Clint Black, who emerged at the same time as Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson, has not released an album of new material in some time and is not really known as a writer for other artists. But in the end the balance worked and the audience were enthralled.

Black arrived on stage a little later than the others as he had picked up a flu virus along the way and was trying to give his voice as much chance to recover as possible. This gave him time to show his skills as a guitarist and harmonica player. He impressed on both and played on songs by both the other participants. Anderson commented that "my guitar doesn't have all the notes on it that yours does" in recognition of his dexterity. He was particularly poignant on harmonica on a couple of Anderson's classic country songs. Anderson was indeed the most obviously "classic country" of the trio and he played a selection of songs from his "deep" catalogue. These ranged from Five Little Fingers, a song that was a hit here in Ireland by Frankie McBride, from his early years through to Whiskey Lullaby, a CMA song of the year in 2005, though it was written years earlier by Anderson and Jon Randall, it was eventually recorded as a duet by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. DiPiero acted as MC and called on the other two sing or to tell a particular story. They took it it in turns to deliver the songs and tell tales and, as is befitting a veteran artist we are unlikely to see playing live again Bill Anderson was granted a couple of extra choices. DiPiero told us that Bob Dylan had been asked in the documentary Don't Look Back which songwriter he most respected and he had named Bill Anderson. That's some respect.

For a man in his 75th year Bill Anderson has an uncanny memory of his songs and lyrics and has a gentle humour and is still in good enough voice to give life to his songs. These included Po' Folks, Still and the Ken Dodd covered Happiness and a song he opened his selection with titled The Songwriters which pretty much summed up the vocation with humour and insight. Anderson told us about touring in Ireland back in the day with Loretta Lynn and he remembered the review he had received from one disgruntled critic who was non-too-partial to his mid-song recitations. The reference to their sentimentality he said had the effect of tour mate Conway Twitty referring to him as "Hallmark" for the rest of the tour. Another story he told was of a couple who were watching television in bed and the husband had the controller and was constantly flicking channels between and x-rated show and a fishing channel. This exasperated his wife who told him to "stick with one channel or other". "Which one" the husband said, to which his wife replied the x-rated one as "you already know how to fish"! He played us a more contemporary song called Give It Away that he had written with Buddy Cannon and Jamie Johnson that was build around an explanation of the title that Johnson had said was a drawn from the experience of going through a divorce. At a later award ceremony Johnson had thanked his wife for divorcing as he had gotten this song from it.

Bob DiPiero's songs have been covered by a wide range of country artists but in person he delivers them more in rockin' acoustic mode. His first cut was by, then newcomer, Reba McIntire. He explained how when he got the cheque he went out and spent it only to realize after that he had not kept anything back for tax. Writing about theis experience gave him the song American Made, which was covered by The Oak Ridge Boys, and also the title of his current solo album. He also told how the experience of watching Forrest Gump had inspired him to write Blue Clear Sky and hiw he had to defend it's title with the artist who recorded it, George Strait, from changing it to Clear Blue Sky. He stuck to his guns and it stuck to the top of the charts. 

Clint Black, had a more caustic wit that he aimed at his fellow artists and the audience on occasion. He told us how his song Code Of The West was inspired by those in uniform who put themselves in harm's way, such as those in the military or the fire service. Black told us he was raised a Catholic and his middle name was Patrick and how, as a kid, he had kept snakes but had lost a poisoned one in the house but it had turned up, dead, in the washing machine. He got a great response from the audience for his 1989 hit A Better Man, his first single. Black had been requested, via Facebook, to play the song A Bad Goodbye. This he put off till later in the show when he felt his voice was warmed up enough to tackle it. He told us how he had got Wynonna Judd to sing on the recorded version but tonight maybe Bob would fill in. Bob declined to, so he started to sing it solo when the lady who had requested it was heard singing along in the audience. Her name we discovered was Michelle and he brought her up on stage where she, despite her nervousness, delivered it well and it was one of the evening's magic moments. 

The evening closed with the trio delivering a rousing version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken with the entire audience singing along and a standing ovation for three individualistic personalities who showed some insight into their skills as songwriters and singers as well as communicators. It was a master class in how the art of good songwriting can cross boundaries and decades to connect with a sympathetic audience.

Review by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Ronnie Norton


TransAtlantic Sessions @ National Concert Hall Tues 7 Feb 2012


While it might have seemed an unusual venue for the Celtic Connections crowd the Concert Hall worked just fine as the musicians transformed it from a formal setting into a casual evening with music from a bunch of companions who all happen to be superb musicians. There were (I’m pretty sure) 16 musicians with 7 featured singers. I won’t attempt to list each number but will pick out my personal highlights.

The band opened with a fast tune – unannounced, but sizzling, which left everyone eager for more – and they were followed by Tim O’Brien who was, as always a delight. Ruth Moody of the Wailin’ Jennys beautifully sang Nest from her album and a Jennys tune, Asleep at Least switching neatly from guitar to banjo. Eddi Reader was a crowd delight with her perfect voice; she started with a Burns song before singing Declan O’Rourke’s Love is the Way and introducing Declan himself who received a rousing reception, as a home-town boy should before he went into Galileo.

Aly Bain led the amazing ‘band’ - although it is almost silly to count musicians of their calibre as merely band members – through a set of tunes before turning the stage over to the great Karen Matheson who triumphed with Si Kahn’s Aragon Mill which Karen noted she had learned from Andy Irvine.

The extraordinary Raul Malo came next and his two songs here were, for me, the highpoint of the night. He opened with JD Souther’s You’re Only Lonely making me feel that JD had written it for Raul and then blew me away with a version of Every Little Thing about You. Raul Malo’s voice over Jerry Douglas’ lap steel and the astonishing Michael McGoldrick’s uillean pipes was a perfect experience for me in what was a powerful night of music. Tim O’Brien wrapped up the first half with a singalong version of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land to honour Guthrie’s centenary.

Eavesdropping at the interval I heard that some thought last year was better, some thought this year was much better. And someone else was…bored. Bored?! Please.

The second half started with a rippling Jerry Douglas resonator solo followed by Bruce Molsky’s 2 lovely old time songs – I only wish I could have worked up the nerve to introduce myself to him – followed by Raul crooning, as only he can, Around the World, the theme to Around the World in 80 Days a choice that puzzled many. Perhaps it was the mention of County Down? All the singers came out again, we had guitar wizard Russ Barenburg’s jazzy Hallowe’en Rehearsal which featured all the musicians . Phil Cunningham, who had only joined the tour the night before, gave us a lovely, wistful Cajun flavoured Lake Charles Waltz just before Karen Matheson again triumphed with Diamond Ring.  The band then ripped into Frankie/The Crossing before the encore when Paul Brady and Ciaran Tourish joined the multitude for a Raul Malo led romp through Hank Williams’ classic Hey, Good Lookin.

It was a great evening for music and it is hard to convey how  amazing musicians were throughout. Guitarist John Doyle was both rocksteady and imaginative, a hard combination he carried off superbly. The fiddlers – Aly Bain and John McCusker, occasionally joined by Tim O’Brien and Bruce Molsky – were both sweet and tough. Danny Thompson on bass was, as expected, magisterial and perfect. Tim O’Brien, Russ Barenberg and Bruce Molsky played (I think) 5 or 6 different instruments amongst themselves switching around without a care. Phil Cunningham switched between accordion and piano with Donald Shaw and drummer James Mackintosh was a subtle yet constant and necessary  presence.

I thought it was a night of exceptional music and also great fun. Bring on next year

Thanks to Denis Finnegan for the set list.

 Review by Sandy Harsch. Photography by Ronnie Norton


Lindi Ortega @ The Sugar Club - Saturday 4th Feb. 2010


With Zoe Muth playing close by it was a toss-up to decide on which artist to see but on balance we chose to go and see Linda Ortega who had her full band The Wild Wranglers with her. It was the right choice (for us) as it was a great evening with Ortega a force of nature delivering a powerful set that should see her reputation and audience growing in the future. Greeting us with a "It's great to be back" she launched into her first song Angels, one of several songs from her enticing debut album Little Red Boots. Each song was introduced by a short incisive explanation. For instance Lindi told us that I'm No Elvis Presley was written after she did a industry showcase in L.A. and one of the 'men in suits' had contacted her manager to say while she was good she would never be "legendary". Hence the song. And while Lindi Ortega may never achieve "legendary" status she is going to find a lot of devoted fans. Other songs from the album included Black Fly, Little Lie, When All The Stars Align, a stunning Bluebird and heartbreaking Dying Of Another Broken Heart. Heartbreak was a continuing theme through her songs. She told us she had recently brought a crystal on a necklace that was going to bring her some true love.

She played several new songs including one which she said was a public service announcement, its theme was don't use drugs, "use me". Another song In My Backyard was about burying a former lover in that particular location. "Just don't break my heart, boys" she warned us. The band throughout were excellent and had apparently only met for a rehearsal the day before, as although they had individually all played with her before this was their first gig together with this line-up. Double bassist Travis Vance and drummer Tristen Henderson laid down a solid rhythmic foundation, while keyboard player and backing vocalist Sarah Silva (an artist in her own right) filled out the sound. Special mention must go to guitarist James Robertson whose Telecaster playing was precise, twang-filled and fun. His slide playing on the closing Fall Down Or Fly was worthy of Sonny Landreth.

There were two covers of Johnny Cash songs - Folsom Prison Blues and Delia, the latter played solo and she revealed herself to be an accomplished guitarist as well as a stunning vocalist. Live the Dolly Parton comparison was more pronounced, though I don't think Parton has ever delivered her songs with such force and ferocity. Her fifteen song set had the enthusiastic audience totally with her and ensured that when she returns so will these fans. She promised a new album later this year and this Irish-Mexican (the Irish Lindi said was on "the mammy's side") songbird will be back. Can't wait.

Review by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Ronnie Norton




Secret Sisters@ The Sugar Club, Dublin - Tues 24th Jan 2012


Sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers are no longer a secret judging by the sell-out audience in the Sugar Club on a Tuesday night. The siblings went straight into their first song of a 17 song set and it was obvious that they have a growing confidence and a more astute awareness of an audience. Tonight the fifties-style dresses were replaced by jeans with black tops but the between song banter was very much a part of the act, as are the asides about having to share so much time together and the minor conflict that ensues from that. Laura how happy they were to be back in Dublin.

Laura said that because of the song Tennessee Me many people believed that they were from there rather than from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Their home state was the subject of one of a number of self-written songs due to be included on their next album that they previewed in the show. The songs included King Cotton, the aforementioned Alabama tribute, Bad Habit, River Jordan, Little Again and a song written and sung by Laura that was a direct reaction to weather disasters in their home state. That song Tomorrow Will Be Kinder was  one of the evening’s highlights. They of course included a lot of covers, songs that they loved and heard growing up and singing on their front porch. Songs their father loved like Why Baby Why (a song  they stopped in the middle due to a distorted guitar and then faultlessly resumed once it was fixed), Am I That Easy To Forget, Your Cheatin’ Heart as well as a song that Laura had convinced Lydia to sing onstage, it was one of a number of songs that they often sang offstage. You Send Me worked well and got a great reaction - however she said that another song they occasionally did for themselves Careless Whisper would remain that way. They also did Do You Love An Apple? and revealed that when they started singing it neither they nor their father knew what “bugger all” meant. They do now. A highlight for this listener was the Everly Brothers (who they said they have often been compared to) Devoted To You.

As expected the harmonies throughout were sublime and the simple guitar accompaniment, shared by both sisters was effective. I do feel that in the future, after the release of the new album, a couple of additional players, double bass and lap steel perhaps?, would add that extra dimension. But it was a great night that showed that music in its most basic form of voice and guitar (and little light-hearted dialogue) can captivate an audience. The sisters have grown and learned from the large amount of touring they have done and their new album should take them to another level.

Review by Stephen Rapid. Photography by Ronnie Norton