Entries in Dublin (18)


Mark Olson @ Whelan’s, Dublin - 24th October 2017

Nearly three years previously at the same venue Mark Olson took to the stage accompanied by his wife Ingunn Ringvold and performed a set mostly comprising material from his album Good-Bye Lizelle, released earlier that year. Quite experimental by his standards, the album was recorded using non-mainstream instrumentation, full of Eastern and Asian influences and suggested a new departure for Olson.

Three years and one album later the pair return to the same venue and the advancement is quite noticeable in many ways. Olson’s latest album Spokeswoman Of The Bright Sun does not abandon the worldly feel of its predecessor but instead blends flawlessly with his talent as an inventive songwriter and creator of so many distinct songs.  It also retains the cottage industry feel of Lizelle with both his and Ringvold’s personalities firmly stamped on it. 

What has not changed is their interesting choice of instruments and the distinctive sounds they create as a two piece, whether it be a combination of Olson’s trusted Fender and Ringvold’s echoing Djembe drum or the sonic bonding of his Appalachian Dulcimer and her harpsichord sounding Armenian Qanon. Their chemistry on stage is sincere and uplifting, two people on stage quite obviously cherishing what they are doing and managing to create a house concert atmosphere in the room.

The set comprises of sixteen songs in total, six taken from his current album, three from Lizelle, six from his Jayhawk days and one from his career changing classic The Salvation Blues, recorded ten years ago. Introducing material from the current album, Olson points out early in the evening that it is genuinely his most favourite of all his work adding "Ingunn and I have a really good thing going at the moment." Their stage banter is gentle and relaxed, Ringberg explaining the lush floral landscape on the current album cover- photographed at their desert home in Joshua Tree - and how that greenery only occurs rarely and for a very short time while Olson recalled how he blocked up all the windows in their house and barricaded himself indoors in advance of the recent eclipse with dread of blindness on venturing out of the house, a sentiment not embraced by his wife who, ignoring the warning signs, boldly ventured outdoors and returned unscathed.

Seminole Valley Tea Sipper Society, Dear Elisabeth from that album feature early in the set with Olson on guitar and Ringberg on percussion before she switches to Qanon on the album’s title track, creating a delightful sound that falls somewhere between harpsichord and sitar. The selection of Jayhawks material is a reminder of the quality of Olson’s writing for the band with favourites Blue, Clouds, Over My Shoulder, Pray For Me and a particularly impressive remodel of Two Angels all featuring.

Somewhat apprehensively and solemnly he announces that the second last song is challenging to perform and that its "important I get this one right." The song in question is You Are All from his current album and you got the impression that his concern was not in a technical sense but that the song is dedicated to his wife and that the delivery is valuable to him.

Clifton Bridge from The Salvation Blues closes the show, ("We Came Here To Live, There’s A Hope In Our Hearts"), a touching and timeless melody and sentiment, fittingly written when Olson was recovering from rock bottom and about to rebuild a career that thankfully has gone from strength to strength since then. He is an artist that has certainly proven throughout his career that there is much to be gained by following your instincts and not merely settling for the easy option when navigating the numerous sign posts met along the journey. This leg of that journey unquestionably finds Olson as creative and vital as at any other stage of that musical pilgrimage.

Earlier in the evening the most impressive Wexford duo The Remedy Club played a storming and very well received opening set featuring material from their debut album Lovers, Legends and Lost Causes, released only two weeks ago. The duo consists of Aileen Mythen (vocals and percussion) and KJ Mc Evoy (guitar and vocals) and their combination of gorgeous harmony vocals, slick guitar playing and striking stage presence shone brightly on Big Ol’Fancy, Last Song, When Tom Waits Up, Bottom of the Hill and their current single Come On. Certainly an act worth checking out and further reassurance of the wealth of local talent that we are blessed with at present.

Full marks and a big shout out to local promoter Ray Rooney who continues to bring in a host of excellent artists that we may otherwise not get the opportunity to enjoy.

Review and photography by Declan Culliton and Paul Mc Gee


Drive By Truckers @ Vicar Street - February 28th 2017.

Vicar Street sees the welcome return to Ireland of this much-loved band who have been visiting these shores on a regular basis over their career. Formed in 1996 and with 12 studio releases to their name, Drive By Truckers deliver a show that is as rousing and vibrant as any since they first formed. Despite a number of rotating musicians and personnel changes over the years, the creative axis of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley has remained firmly front and centre when it comes to driving this uncompromising collective ever-forward.

Tonight, we are treated to over 2-hours of energetic and passionate performance from Hood and Cooley, together with the superb playing talents of Jay Gonzalez (Keys/Guitar), Brad Morgan (Drums) and Matt Patton (Bass). The band members are perfectly in tune with each and every direction that the 24-song set list takes throughout the evening.

Starting with the new record and Ever South, which mentions Irish emigration to America, the band could do no wrong as they spun the enthusiastic crowd into something of a frenzy. Old favourites were interlaced across the newer songs in order to keep the momentum building and the sonic attack of three guitars was quite something to witness.

It can sometimes be just a bit too much in terms of the sound quality and the vocals certainly suffered on certain songs as a result. However, take nothing away from the overall energy in the room and the cathartic quality of songs such as Puttin’ People On The Moon, Zip City, Sinkhole, The Living Bubba and Women Without Whiskey kept the crowd singing in unison and punching the air.

The latest release, American Band, gets plenty of attention with the inclusion of Ramon Casiano, Surrender Under Protest, Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of Dawn and others. In fact, the band revisit seven of their previous albums across the evening and the performance of all five musicians is a real treat to experience; players at the very top of their collective game.

No doubt there were fan favourites that were not given an airing but with the body of work this band has produced, that seems to be inevitable. The pace was unrelenting and the excellent song-writing talents of Cooley and Hood really stand strong against any of their peers.

Finishing with a rousing version of Neil Young’s Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World, the Drive By Truckers leave the stage to prolonged applause and the hope that they return again soon – perhaps to one of our Summer Festivals (here’s hoping).   

Also worthy of a mention are opening act Eyelids. Considered to be one of the finest recent bands to come out of Portland Oregon, they are fronted by John Meon (Decemberists) and Chris Slusarenko (Guided By Voices) and their energetic forty five minute power pop set is the perfect warm up for what is to follow.

Review by Paul McGee  Photograph by Declan Culliton


Eric Taylor @ Live at the DC Club, Dublin - Friday 25th September 2015

Returning to Ireland for the first time in a few years, Eric Taylor plays to an audience of long time admirers at this intimate city centre venue. His finger playing style is somewhat compromised on the night with the loss of his favourite picks ,but he soon puts such setbacks behind him to deliver a show of understated skill and sensitive touch in a 'less is more' performance that has the hushed room hanging on his every move.

Sitting in a chair and thumbing through his song book while tuning his guitar, Taylor speaks of his past in extended and elaborate storytelling, punctuated by an occasional grin and laugh while he remembers a specific moment.

His interest in the lifestyle of vagabond troubadours who never really found a settled home, colour his songs and the characters that he captures in the lyrics he writes. He sings about the free spirits and characters of the independent highway, living a code that defers to no man. His tales of whiskey nights and mornings of regret are the stuff of novels and short stories from the parts of living that only brave or crazy men inhabit.

Texas, Texas tells of adventures with Townes Van Zandt in a storm and of riding borrowed horses. The song, Strong Enough for Two references the fragile journey from Mexico City to Houston Medical Centre of a little boy and his family, hoping for a miracle cure and was the subject of a documentary in 1981.

Prison Movie is a song about a life spent behind bars and having to walk always in a line as an inmate. Cover These Bones (a Tim Grimm cover), Reno and Adios are taken from his latest release and visit such areas as Native Indian inequality, failed relationships and dangerous men who turn to a life of crime.

'Carny' is a slang term used in North America for a carnival employee, nomads on the highway of life and such is the restless spirit. He speaks of his early days in the Circus with a fondness and a longing, remembering them as the happiest of days. The song Carnival Jim & Jean captures the bond of such relationships, if not the almost claustrophobic nature of spending too much time together.

Louis Armstrong's Broken Heart tells of the great man at the twilight of his career and the sadness of seeing him used as some dressed up prize. Dean Moriarty is a look at the Beat Generation, inspired by Kerouac in aspiration and hippie ideals, heading out West in search of some illusory American Dream. A cover of Where I Lead Me by Townes Van Zandt is particularly moving and the nameless faces who toil for the simple basics of life are shown compassion and understanding in these vignettes as penned by Eric Taylor.

A Texan storyteller with a fine body of work to his name, Eric Taylor is a very accomplished guitar player and song writer and this was an absorbing night of music and tales that are long removed from the daily experience of Dublin inhabitants on a night of reflection and wistful memory.

Review by Paul McGee. Photograph by Vincent Lennon.


Joel Plaskett @ Whelan’s, Dublin - 22nd September 2015

It has been a few years since this contemporary Canadian folk artist from Nova Scotia has played in Ireland and this short tour is in support of his recent release, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test.

The show is well attended, with plenty of expatriate support from the Canadian contingent on the night and it is a timely reminder of the great talent that we have been deprived of on a more regular basis.

Something of a national treasure in homeland, Joel Plaskett has been releasing quality music since his solo debut in the late 1990’s. Whether as part of the more rock orientated Joel Plaskett Emergency or as a solo performer, he has maintained a consistently high standard of song writing with a keen turn of phrase and an observational style that has highlighted his craft and increasing maturity.

Tonight he concentrates on the new release with excellent acoustic versions of The Last Phone Booth, On a Dime, Song for Jersey, Broke and Captains of Industry instantly finding favour and adding to the list of his impressive body of work. A fine guitar player, Joel also presents a very strong stage presence with his easy manner and amusing comments and stories which lend added weight to many of the performances.

A great version of Hard Times, the famous Stephen Foster song, is particularly poignant in its humanity and timely message. We are also treated to On the Rail, a song he was commissioned to write about the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. Nina & Albert is a fictitious love story and I Love This Town is always a fun song to hear live.  

A request for old favourite True Patriot Love is granted and the title song of the new release is a real gem. Finishing the encore with Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ is an upbeat way to say goodnight to the enthusiastic crowd, who loved every minute of this intimate performance.

Support on the night was from young Canadian artist Mo Kenney who has been gaining critical acclaim for her talents and who joined Joel for part of his show on guitar and harmony vocals.

Hopefully Joel Plaskett will return in the near future and share his fine musical and song writing talents with us – an artist with much to offer and recommend to any discerning music fan.

Review and photograph by Paul McGee


Ed Romanoff @ Whelans, Dublin - Wed 25th Sept 


Back at Whelans Ed Romanoff this time out played in the downstairs room. He again brought with him some accomplished players - Deni Bonet on violin and backing vocals, Seth Woods on cello as well as the ever excellent local boy Clive Barnes on steel and electric guitar. Clive will be familiar to may through his own solo work. All three added a subtle but highly effective atmosphere to balance with Romanoff's voice and guitar centred songs. He will freely admit the limitations of his voice but gigging has definitely improved his tone and timbre. He appeared earlier in the evening to sing a song with his special guest Rachael Yamagata during her short set. She returned the compliment and joined Romanoff later in his set.

The songs were mostly taken from Romanoff's debut album. Between the songs he told some stories and anecdotes about the backgrounds and inspiration for the songs. He told us how while on a cab he had come across a dead man lying in the street who had a small dog who was staying beside the unfortunate man and he wondered who would look after the dog but that neighbours had come out to take care of the dog. This led on to how he had found his own dog Freckles and how he brought him back into the States from Costa Rica. There is a mix of humour and warmth along with some darker tones in his tales of what is the human condition that features in Romanoff's music. He is an entertainer who is on this chosen journey of expression, using words in different forms to tell the real and imagined stories.

For the song Two Yellow Roses he was joined by a singer Sharon, a singer he had encountered while walking round Dublin on his last visit to Dublin and who he had asked to join him onstage. She repeated her vocal harmony again tonight. He related a story of a singer who had been sent a letter from John Lennon telling the singer to always pursue his dream but that the letter never got to him at the time but turned up years later. It is this sense of the storyteller that is at the heart of what Ed Romanoff does. He is further exploring that aspect of his own life with a book that will tell the story of his adaption. That tale is the subject of St. Vincent De Paul on his album and here live. 

Rachael Yamagata joined him then for a song and used Romanoff's guitar and they sang together Lost And Gone. A new song not on the album. She later came back on stage at the end of the set and played piano and added vocals. There was an obvious rapport and friendship between the two. Less Broken was written for a friend that Ed had visited in hospital who was recovering and who had said she was "a little less broken now". Which shows again a songwriter always needs to have a ear open for little expressions or phrases that can spark off a song.

The show ended with a version of Orphan King, a song that Romanoff had written with Mary Gauthier, which he has subsequently rerecorded with Rachael Yamagata and released as a single to benefit the Chernobyl Kilkenny Outreach Group. It was a fitting end to an intimate and warm show and was followed by Romanoff coming off stage to meet those in the audience who wanted to speak to him.

There's no doubt that Ed Romanoff will be back in Ireland before long as he feels a strong affinity with the country and those who have heard his music will likely be happy to have him back here to.

Review by Stephen Rapid. Photography by Ronnie Norton