Bob Wayne and the Outlaw Carnies @ Thomas House - Sunday 23 July 2017

Welcome to Wayne’s world -  a world of outlaw carnies, trucker’s caps, drinkin, cussin’ and of course some pretty hardcore country music. Though the audience was small enough they made up for it in enthusiasm. Not too many locals though with fans from such diverse countries as Canada and Norway in attendance. They had a good time and Mr. Wayne delivered the goods in a nearly two hour set. 

This time out he was ably supported by the rhythm section of Elmer Johnston on upright bass (with it’s White Trash Dating Service sticker on the side), Drummer John Keeley and Matthew Thomas on upright steel and Telecaster - often played simultaneously. It was Thomas’ birthday and he celebrated by playing his ass off. These guys can grace any stage from a small club to a festival and the evidence is on YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK2wj-SKwlE)

Wayne has a way on stage that despite the image is friendly and fun. He has a big voice that give his songs a depth in the somewhat stripped down live setting. His Andy Gibson produced albums have a broader range and a more subtler delivery at times but here there is some raw energy to contend with that rarely lets up.

He has just released a new album Bad Hombre from which several songs were played including Hell Yeah, Stll Truckin’ and Mr. Bandana which sat alongside songs from his covers album that were examples of the Wayneification of such classics as Eric Clapton’s I Shot The Sheriff, Sympathy For The Devil from the Stones and Zeppelin’s Rock ’n’ Roll. There were a host his own songs from his albums as well as Workin’ Man, which was recorded by Hank 111 on his Damn Right, Rebel Proud album much to Wayne’s pleasure. 111 is an obvious hero. These were all well received as was Love Songs Suck which he said was the closest he had to a love song. This and other songs showed  a disregards for the law (Fuck The Law being a case on point) and the laws of being PC. A word of warning - don't go if swear words offend you.

The joys of drug abuse were celebrated and condemned with Dope Train and Everything's Legal In Alabama (the latter with the advisory note of “just don’t get caught”). As well as  a selection of road warrior songs from Till The Wheels Fall Off, Spread My Ashes On The Highway, Sam Tucker through to Hillbilly Heaven and the final song of the night the tale of murder and retribution that is Hanging Tree.

The band gave it loads despite having a power failure in the middle of the gig which did not seem to faze them as they picked straight back up when it came back on. Throughout we got his, by now, trademark Truck Horn sound as well as a number of "Hell Yeahs." Bob Wayne has made Europe his second home and hopefully will come back to play in Ireland again. His is an entertaining and effusive night out and again, it should be mentioned, that the band were right up there with him making everything happen in a way we don’t see to often. This was not the pose of the latent hair-metallers who graced the C2C stage but some real country music taken to the edge and delivered with passion. Hell yeah.

Review and photography by Stephen Rapid


Song Writer’s Circle @ DC Club, Dublin - Fri 21st July 2017


Take a bunch of musicians outside the headlight glare of the media and put them together on a small stage in intimate surroundings; well, you just might stand a chance of some magic happening ... Such was the case on this night of great musicianship, storytelling, variety and just plain ole’ craic.

Bouncing increasingly off each other’s talents as they settled into the pace of things, the writing styles and the lyrical perspective of each song-writer comes to the fore and gives a balance to the overall tone of the evening, which sees 2 hours of swapping songs fly by in what seems like half that time.

Buddy Mondlock is a frequent visitor to these shores and has played many venues across our fair land over the years; tonight, he is joined by the excellent Mike Lindauer on 5-string fretless bass, an instrument that really sings in the hands of this very accomplished musician.

On the Irish side of the stage are Nick Kelly, talented songwriter and filmmaker, not seen in public very much these days but giving a timely reminder of the enduring talent that gave him success in the Fat Lady Sings and subsequently as a solo artist.

Sean Millar is the final songwriter on display tonight and his friendship with Nick over the years has seen him also develop as a singer-songwriter, playwright and poet. Sean was known by the name of Doctor Millar, and both he and Nick were media darlings in the 1980’s who wrote individual, idiosyncratic songs from a finely-honed creative perspective. Sean is joined by his daughter Faith on harmony vocals for the evening and her pure vocal is a sweet counter-balance to the four male voices that differ in delivery and tone.

I counted somewhere in the region of 25 songs shared across the guitars and microphones, including a solo debut for Faith when she delivered a lovely version of Through the Morning, Through the Night (Alison Krauss) -a very appropriate choice!

Buddy is such a strong storyteller and his popular body of work endures over the years. Tonight, we are given some new songs to whet the appetite for a new release and both Filament and Come Back First sit nicely into his set of songs which also include fine renditions of Let Me Go, Break the Cup, The Ugly One, The Dark (co-written with Guy Clark), No Choice and a final sing-along encore of I Count You My Friend. His high pitch vocal delivery gels comfortably with his quietly impressive rhythmic guitar playing and the superb touches added by Mike Lindauer really help to elevate the songs to a higher plane.

Nick Kelly is very personable onstage and smiles easily. His stories are always told with due respect to other creative sources and his joy at being in a live environment is plain for all to see. We are given a taste of Baby, a song from the film, The Drummer And The Keeper, due for release in 2017. He talks about placing objects into songs instead of the usual subject-matter around our emotions and then proceeds to deliver a very clever discourse on washing machines with the song Small Loads. Tennis legend Arthur Ashe is celebrated in a song of the same name while Infrastructure is also included from his recording days as Alien Envoy.

Holy Show revisits his second solo release, Running Dog. Sam And Andre is particularly poignant as it reflects on the friendship between Samuel Beckett and Andre the Giant, a most unlikely topic but one that is steeped in gentle understanding of fragility and love. Republic is a really strong song from the 1997 release Between Trapezes and performed with real passion. World Exploding Touch from the Fat Lady Sings release Jonhson (1993) also sounds fresh and born-again.

Sean Millar has released six solo records over the last twenty years but his influence in Irish music circles runs much deeper than this output. He describes himself as a theatre-maker and as a composer he has gained international acclaim for his theatre show Silver Stars and his work on BrokenTalkers The Blue Boy which have both toured the world.

Tonight we are treated to songs with titles that challenge the graphic designers of the music business, such as I’ve Never Loved Somebody This Much Before In My Life, Hard Years In The Big City, All I Want Is Your Love Girl, Tarzan’s Ambition and Unnatural Bleeder (not just a boxing metaphor) … One song is a particular highlight, Happy Can Be, and has the attentive audience, along with his fellow musicians giggling away to the clever lyric and up-tempo arrangement.

As an experiment, musicians in the round does not always work but when the chemistry is right then the song-swapping and story-telling are a joy to witness. Everyone certainly left the venue smiling broadly and hoping for similar nights of celebrating the creative process.

Review by Paul McGee

Photograph by Vincent Lennon 


Cast Of 'Nashville' Live @ The 3 Arena, Dublin - 19th June 2017


Almost one year to the day since the popular tv series Nashville rolled into Dublin to play a live concert of hits from the show and more. The cast who make the trip are pretty much the same as last year with Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne), Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott), Chris Carmack (Will Lexington), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor), Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley) along with others.

A number of the songs played tonight as part of the set list are repeats from the show last year, but this is not a criticism per se, as the material stands up very well and deserves a repeated listen. Each performer takes the stage in a solo capacity for a few songs before being joined by another of the principal actors, either to sing together or to take over for the next section of the show.

This diversity creates an interesting variety and adds to the overall atmosphere, with each performer staying only long enough to achieve maximum reaction from the audience before handing over the microphone to the next in line. Each of the main characters is so comfortable with live musical performance that one has to wonder which talent came first – the acting or the music?

The first half of the show contains 13 songs that are all played with great energy and commitment. The backing band of 5 musicians includes the talents of Fats Kaplin and Colin Linden.

Jonathan Jackson steals the show with two passionate deliveries; Love Rescue Me and Unchained Melody. His voice is pure and strong and his timing in delivery is everything to move the appreciative crowd into a standing ovation.

Chris Camack is very personable and a really fine guitar player as his various performances prove. His blues playing on Texas Flood (Stevie Ray Vaughan) is quite superb, as is his delivery of favourites What If I Was Willin’ and Pieces of You (despite forgetting the words, for a verse…)!

The early part of the show is dogged by poor sound as Buckle Up, with Charles Esten, suffers from microphone problems on the vocals and later, Jonathan Jackson is drowned out by an overly loud backline and keys delivery on Keep Asking Why. These are really just small observations as the entire performance over 2 hours plus is one of celebration and positive energy as Clare Bowen implores the die-hard fans to celebrate the light and not dwell in the darkness of all that is weighing us down in these uncertain times.

Indeed, she is a sensitive flower who flits across the stage in her faerie dress and later completes the outfit by adding wings...! Her voice is beautiful and on her performance of Fade Into You with Sam Palladio, you could hear a pin drop. Equally, when she sings with Brandon Young on Longer she really takes control before following with Little By Little, a new song that acknowledges a positive attitude to living. Later in the show Clare kills it once again with great versions of When The Right One Comes Along and Black Roses.

Sam Pallidio plays his excellent song, Wake Me Up In Nashville which is a big favourite from last year and the story behind the song is one to break many hearts. He also puts in a stellar performance with guest singer Una Healy on their co-written single, Stay My Love.  He also turns in another fine performance on I Will Fall, with Jonathan Jackson on piano and then, with Chris Camack on the hard rockin’ Headed For The Fire.

The audience are surprised by a visit from the artists with Charles Esten and Clare Bowen performing You’ve Got A Hand To Hold on the floor of the arena and later, when Chris Camack and Clare Bowen return to the audience to dance and pose for photos during Stand Up which speaks of love, unity & strength.

The finale features the ever-popular Charles Esten who performs Everything To Me and He Ain’t Me before the entire cast take the stage for a rousing version of David Bowie’s song Heroes. One More Song follows and then a rendition of Danny Boy which blends into the show-stopping A Life That’s Good.

There is no doubting the sincerity of the performance or the earnest comments of the main performers and the crowd love every minute. This show is so popular here and the performers have every right to make the crowd feel special as they face a return to reality and the working day. Tonight brought many smiles to numerous faces and after all, isn’t that what entertainment is really all about? 

Review by Paul McGee with photography by Ronnie Norton


Jackson Browne @ Vicar Street, June 2017

"Legend" is a word that gets misused regularly in connection with artists who have spent relatively little time basking in the midday sun of the media glare. Not the case when you consider Jackson Browne and his expansive career that has covered 5 decades of musical highs in tandem with his ideals and involvement in conservationist and political activities. Arriving back in Ireland after an absence of 7 years, he thanks the capacity crowd for making him feel so welcome on his return, together with his band of sublime players who have travelled for this sold out 4-night residency at the always impressive Vicar Street venue.

We are looking at musicians with massive experience and consummate talents and a backing singer that can lift the song arrangements to a new height when she is given flight. Accompanying Jackson are long-time bandmates Val McCallum (guitar), Mauricio Lewak (Drums), Jeff Young (keyboards), Bob Glaub (bass), Alethea Mills (Vocals) and the acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz (guitar, lap steel, pedal steel). In a word, stunning.

Night One: The first night is laced with songs that please everyone, young and old, with a first set taken mainly from more recent releases and the second set focused on old favourites. Jackson is in great spirits and communicates with ease between songs as he responds to audience requests. He has a keen sense of humour and the little boy still shines brightly from his eyes as he recalls stories from his past and explains the origins of songs played. There were 21 songs in total, including the cover song Walls & Doors (Carlos Varela), A Child In These Hills, I’ll Do Anything, Fountain Of Sorrow and a nightly encore of Take It Easy, the song that in some ways started his career all those years ago in 1970’s California

The seasoned touch brought to each song is just a joy to witness as the band play off each other in a knowing fashion that brings smiles all around. Twin guitarists Leisz and McCallum really shine when colouring the arrangements with dextrous solos and subtle touches while the inventive paying of Glaub & Lewak propel everything along with a rhythm and groove that is really impressive. Jeff Young adds rich keyboard swells in addition to providing high harmonies with Jackson on most songs. Jackson is singing really well and his performance on Late For The Sky is one of the best I have witnessed over the years of seeing him play live.

Night Two: We are treated to another set of 21 songs but on this occasion, there are 9 changes to the previous night, many as a result of audience requests. If anything, he runs the risk of letting the audience dictate too much and his changing mood to the numerous requests can lead to a few moments of confusion among the band members. In the main however he pulls it all off with consummate ease; after all, he is playing to a ‘home crowd’ and can do no wrong! My Stunning Mystery Companion, Something Fine, Our Lady Of The Well, Farther On and Lawyers, Guns & Money (Warren Zevon) all get a rousing reaction.

Sky Blue & Black is a real show stopper tonight and the reggae lilt of the Little Steven song I Am A Patriot has everyone wishing for a more rock driven direction with up-tempo material. As Jackson says there are moments when he can sense a crowd thinking "enough of this sensitive shit"…

When it comes to nailing the personal with a universal perspective then nobody comes close; he just hones his craft to produce beautiful words that mirror our own experience in the continuous struggle to walk this road of life with Everyman.

Night Three: Tonight 20 songs are performed and although there will be many cross-overs from the basic set there is still room for new renditions with 5 songs not played on previous nights. There is a particularly poignant tribute to his old friend Valerie Carter who passed away recently with the inclusion of Love Needs A Heart and That Girl Could Sing bringing a touchingly strong performance from all involved. Each night has seen Just Say Yeah and Long Way Around open the show and Doctor My Eyes, Your Bright Baby Blues, Boulevard and Somebody’s Baby are also ever-presents. The somewhat dubious pairing of Rosie and Red Neck Friend as back-to-back songs leave some in the audience smiling with a wry resignation, but the joy of hearing Barricades Of Heaven, Sky Blue and Black, Shape Of A Heart and Running On Empty all played in succession, as the performance built to its climax, more than made up for any dip in tempo previously.

Night Four: And those of us who have been ever-present are in the end stages of conflicting emotions as this richly indulgent experience winds down and we say goodbye to one of the icons in defining the musical map of so many who have been touched by his muse for so many years. Tonight sees 18 songs performed as the second set is shortened due to pressure in catching a ferry to England for the next part of the tour. This is a disappointment to the vociferous crowd who are, by a distance, the most noisy and boisterous of the four nights – uncomfortably so to many who paid good money to listen to the artist himself and not the inane conversations of those who repeatedly try to shout/talk above the songs…

Call It A Loan, The Pretender, For Everyman and I’m Alive are all played with power and majesty while Before The Deluge moves everyone to sing along with a special feeling of unison. A cover version of the Warren Zevon song Carmelita is a very welcome surprise as the set winds down.

The great song traveller is someone that Jackson referred to on his debut album and spoke about how his eyes were opened to the view. Well, he has become that very same great song traveller and has graced us with his humanism and empathetic perspective on our journey through this mortal coil.

He has been the ‘older brother’ for a generation of youth growing into maturity in the 1970’s; verbalising our doubts and fears as we matured into adulthood. Younger fans may see him as a knowing uncle who dispenses sage advice and wisdom. His more strident days of taking overt political stances during the show seem to be behind him now and we are seeing a more circumspect performer who wants to let his beautiful melodies and words do all his talking.

We can look back to realise that he is indeed the muse for so many lives that have followed his path of striving to care for our fellow man and trying to do the right thing by the planet we live upon.

It was a privilege!

Note: For those who want to see the full set lists on each evening, go to www.setist.fm where you will be rewarded!

Review: Paul McGee

Photography: Vincent Lennon & Paul McGee 


Static Roots Festival @ Oberhausen, Germany 9th/10th June 2017

Oberhausen is the location for The Static Roots Music Festival, being held for the second year in succession and is based on the river Emscher in the Ruhr area of Germany. It is a twenty-minute train journey from Dusseldorf and the town has a population of 210,000 people.

The festival promoter is Dietmar Leibecke who has been a regular attendee at The Kilkenny Roots Festival and now a popular member of the Kilkenny Roots Community. It therefore came as no surprise that many of the festival visitors were musical loving acquaintances of his; having flown from Dublin and various U.K. destinations to attend the festival.

The chosen venue was Zentrum Alterberg in Oberhausen. Constructed in 1853 the building is one of the oldest metal processing factories in Oberhausen and functioned as a zinc manufacturing facility until 1981. In its current life the facility is used to host cabaret, cinema, private parties and music events. Perfectly sized to cater for this particular festival the building also has the advantage of an external area, tree lined and semi seated, for punters and artists to mingle plus get some fresh air and refreshments between acts.

The success of any festival is all about knowing your audience when considering your line up and in this regard Static Roots got the mix absolutely spot on. With the large contingent of visitors travelling from Ireland and the U.K., a number of the carefully selected acts invited to play were guaranteed to hit the spot and the inclusion of one of Germany’s top roots bands and a few possibly less known but well researched artists worked an absolute treat. However, acts alone don’t guarantee a bonanza and the organisers had the foresight to engage Winnipeg radio presenter Jeff Robson as master of ceremonies. His knowledge of the artists and school masterly yet diplomatic introductions were an added bonus, ensuring that patrons were whisked indoors as the artists were about to take the stage which resulted in the acts performing to respectful and attentive crowds.

In addition, the sound engineer, although having limited time for sound checks, seemed to get the sound right for all the acts and an impressive stage lighting and perfectly sized music room all contributed to a hassle free and most comfortable two days of festivities. The torrential rain that fell on Friday morning and early afternoon also conveniently stopped a few hours before the festival opened on Friday evening and gave way to some glorious sunshine that evening and all throughout the following day.

So, what about the acts.  Friday evening saw David Corley, playing for the first time in Germany, open the festival having completed a quite extensive tour of Ireland over the previous two weeks. Accompanied throughout the tour by his trusted stage mate and producer Chris Brown, the U.S.  singer songwriter had availed of the services of some seasoned local musicians on his dates in Ireland. Joining him on stage at Static Roots were Brian Hassett (bass) and Cian Heffernan (drums), who both also featured later in their day jobs as members of John Blek & The Rats. Playing a selection of material from his breakthrough debut 2015 album Available Light and his most recent release Zero Moon, Corley’s mixture of upbeat and more often downbeat tales of struggle, agony and rehabilitation was the perfect start to the festival. Sharing guitar and keyboard with Chris Brown, particular highlights were the title track of his latest album Zero Moon and the six minute plus epic Desert Mission also from the same album. Gregor Beresford (Barenaked Ladies, The Bourbon Tabernacle), who played on all Corley’s studio work, took over drumming duties for a couple of songs and favourites such as Available Light and The Calm Revolution were also included in a perfect start to the evening.

 Visitors to Lonesome Highway will be quite aware of this writer's regard for the following act, Peter Bruntnell. His appearances at the Kilkenny Roots Festival (playing four times over that weekend) with his trusted band were memorable and expectations were understandably high for a repeat performance at Static Roots.  Bruntnell and his band (Dave Little, Peter Noone, Mike Clews) are perfectly suited to a large stage and they delivered a faultless set, rocking out to the maximum on Peak Operational Condition, Yuri Gagarin, Where The Snakes Hang Out and Mr.Sunshine from his 2016 classic album Nos Da Comrade and finishing their blistering set with favourites Have You Seen That Girl Again and By The Time My Head Gets To Phoenix.

John Blek and The Rats appearance was one of nine dates scheduled for their latest tour of Germany. They have established a loyal following in Germany in recent few years and well deserved on the basis of their closing slot. Concentrating on much of the material from their album Borders, their stage act is polished, visually striking, technically impressive both in the quality of the playing by The Rats and their ability to provide strong harmonies to charismatic lead man John Blek’s vocals. Funeral Home, Dead Friends and Dance With The Devil, all particularly strong songs on the album, seemed to even step up a gear into overdrive in their live show.

Starting musical proceedings early Saturday afternoon was Beirut born UK resident Nadine Khouri. Joined on stage by a stunning young violin player from Poland named Basia Bartz and slick drummer Jake Long, her style visited dark places often inhabited by P.J.Harvey and Angel Olson, yet at times her sound also brought to mind the more haunting offerings of Jesse Sykes. Playing material from her recent album The Salted Air the singular stand out delivery was Shake It Like a Shaman with its driven, almost robotic, rhythm. Particularly impressive was the dazzling violin work by Bartz who at one stage, while giving the impression of playing with her teeth Hendrix style, somehow managed to deliver a haunting string sound vocally manipulated, not exactly sure how, but wonderfully atmospheric.  Finishing her set with "one more sad song" Khouri played the Leonard Cohen classic Bird On A Wire.

Canadian singer songwriter Jack Marks has been recording for almost ten years now. Very much the travelling troubadour type artist with an exceptional ability to create landscapes and mental images with a minimal few words. His story telling delivery is very much in the same vein as John Prine to the extent that on certain songs you’d be forgiven for assuming they were Prine covers. Playing as a three piece with Alistair Christi on bass and his wife Leslie-Ann on stand-up drums, you could actually sense the audience straining to catch his every singing word from opener Hardware Store to his closing song Greasy Maggie.  Including Heartbreak, Used To Be An Outlaw, and Isabelle from his most recent album Wicked Moon, he was the perfect mid-afternoon entertainer and you could literally hear a pin drop throughout his set.

Erin Rae and the Meanwhiles was an act that I was particularly looking forward to, having seen the young Nashville resident appear briefly at a Margo Price interview show with NPR in Nashville last September. Her debut album Soon Enough made quite an impression on Lonesome Highway last year featuring in a number of our end of year best lists. Playing the first date of her European tour she was accompanied on guitar by Jerry Bernhardt and Dominic Billett on drums and occasional keyboards (both of who played in Andrews Combs Band at Kilkenny Roots), each also adding delightful harmonies. Rae excelled with a set that included Minolta, Pretty Thing (inspired by her childhood obsession of all things relating to the Great Depression), Soon Enough and Clean Slate from her album, together with Playing Old Games, released as a single by Clubhouse records in the U.K. last year. Apologising for having to retune her old trusted acoustic guitar (a 1970’s model given to her by her father), she also introduced some material from her forthcoming album to be released over the next twelve months, Goodnight Sorry For Coming being particularly impressive. The combination of Rae’s exquisite breezy vocals and the flawless playing of her band was bordering on the hypnotic by times and you got a most definite sense from the manner in which her set was received that Rae is a young lady with the songs, vocals and stage presence to make quite a name for herself. Simply divine.

The only act to perform solo at the festival was Kent born artist David Ford. His early musical path began with Indie band Easyworld and his solo career has seen him support Elvis Costello, KT Tunstall and Suzanne Vega. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the last few songs of his set but strong vocals and confident stage presence were obvious and he certainly made his mark judging by the reception he received when finishing his show.

German band Torpus & The Art Directors were a totally unknown quantity for me prior to the festival but most certainly left a lasting impression after their action packed, high energy and full on set. With immediate comparisons to Wilco coming to mind – and what’s wrong with that – band leader Sonke Torpus had both locals and visitors eating out of his hands from the word go. Comparisons with Arcade Fire had been offered by people familiar with their sound prior to them taking the stage, which accurately described their delivery and energy, though personally I found their sound more Americana than Indie and none the worse for that. Their set featured material from their latest album The Dawn Chorus, well worth checking out on the strength of their live performance.

A more suitable act could hardly have been lined up to close the festival than Danny and the Champions of the World.  With possibly half the attendance being Champs devotees it was always going to be a celebration and more akin to a hometown gig than an away fixture. In football jargon if away goals counted double the result was sealed after only a few songs into their set. Transforming the venue effectively to a dance floor, the band gave the impression of enjoying themselves in equal measure to ourselves. Fast being acknowledged as The Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes of the Euro circuit they rattled out crowd pleasers effortlessly with their customary good humour, high octane delivery, exquisite guitar, bass, keyboards and pedal steel playing with the occasional ripping sax solo and Danny Wilson’s sweet soulful vocals. Gotta Get Things Right, Clear Water, Thinking About My Friend, Just Be Yourself, (Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket, Stay True all had the venue hopping before they slowed things down with the sing along encore of Henry The Van that sent a buzzing and sweat soaked audience out the doors smiling from ear to ear.

All in all, an enthralling action packed and fun festival with opportunities to renew old acquaintances, meet new like-minded music lovers and mingle with the artists in a friendly hassle-free environment. Thumbs up to all at Static Roots for managing to create, in only their second hosting, a boutique festival that seemed more like a private party from start to finish!

Review and photography by Declan Culliton

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