- 03 Dec 12
Sometimes you need to go way, way off the beaten track to find those extra special performances.
Larry Roddy rang me up once, out of the blue. He was running a gig with some old American folk singers, guys he had seen almost 50 years previously and wanted to make sure there was an audience for. You knew from talking to him that he didn’t want the crowd so that the bills got paid, he wanted a crowd so that people would get to hear great music performed by people who wouldn’t, in all probability, be passing this way again.
Larry died a couple of years ago. Happily his corner of Wicklow is still getting its share of great music. Roy Thompson, who appears to be cut from the same cloth, brings singers and songwriters to the tiny village of Ballymore Eustace in Kildare where he promotes shows under the banner of Ballymore Acoustic Gigs. The venue is equally small – he recently stuffed it with the 50 people who squeezed in to see Maria Doyle Kennedy. That’s the joy of acoustic music – you don’t need the O2 to make it a life-affirming experience. The body heat coming off a few dozen like-minded people seems to seep into the spruce tops of the old Martin and Gibson acoustic, and the sweat running down the fingerboard of an battered Loar F-shape mandolin makes the playing all the sweeter.
And musicians who have trekked halfway round the world, more often than not from towns no bigger than Ballymore Eustace, can travel on with a bright memory in their heart and a good word about Irish audiences.
Over the next few months he’ll be putting on shows from a smorgasbord of international talent including Rod Picott who visits on November 19. He hails from Maine, not widely regarded as a home of roots music. While not (yet) exactly a household name, he is gaining a relentless momentum and has some impressive admirers.
He has collaborated with Slaid Cleaves, who has co-written three tracks (including the title track ‘Welding Burns’ on Picott’s new album). And the record features longtime Rodney Crowell band member (and frontman of Daddy) Will Kimbrough, whose impeccable playing and ready wit make him everybody’s favourite side man. Also popping up is Amanda Shires, who seems to be so many places these days you suspect she has been cloned.
In his corner, too, is Mary Gauthier. She’s on record that he is ‘an artist who deserves to be heard’. Only a few days later (26) it’s the turn of Buddy Mondlock, no stranger to Irish audiences. He’ll be playing as part of a duo with Mike Lindauer, providing harmonies and contributing bass. Mondlock was famously ‘discovered’ by Guy Clark. His work has since been recorded by Garth Brooks, Nanci Griffith, and Janis Ian. He has written and toured with Art Garfunkel. Small wonder he is a Ballymore favourite.
In early December it’s the turn of some great players from closer to home with visits from the two-headed folk beast we know and love as The Lost Brothers (3) and Declan Sinnott (10), who continues to tour in support of his recent solo release, I Love The Noise It Makes.
Sinnott has, of course, one of the longest and most prestigious track records in Irish music as producer and performer.
Most of my past musings about Declan Sinnott have run along the lines of ‘amazing guitar player. End of thought’.
It’s unfortunate how we pigeon-hole performers who aren’t ‘the star’. Since Sinnott has embarked on the process of making and releasing this record, however, he has (probably out of promotional necessity) taken to the blogosphere and it has been a revelation.
Check out his website declansinnott.com, where he writes on his musical education, the players and personalities who have influenced him and coloured his view of how music should be made. It offers an entirely new perspective on his work, and is wonderfully written in a warmly engaging style.
Another musicians who falls into the category of ‘hard grafting performer with well crafted songs’ is Monaghan singer-songwriter Brendan McCahey, probably best known as frontman of The Making.
He travels to New York for a November TV performance of ‘Safe & Well’ on the prestigious NBC programme The Jimmy Lloyd Singer Songwriter Showcase. The track was chosen from among 2,000 entries. Recording will take place later this month in a Brooklyn studio and is to be aired over the NBC Network in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
The show has been described as a cross between Inside The Actors Studio and Later... with Jools Holland. Although he has been making music for longer than seems plausible given that fresh-faced glow, he has fronted Louth based The Making for the last three years, during which time they have released one album and four singles. “This is a fantastic opportunity for me and my band,” he says. “We’ve been gradually building a profile in Ireland. Here is a great chance to raise it nationally and internationally”.