Entries in Dublin (18)


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


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


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


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