- 13 Dec 19
Stephen Porzio was on-hand as the Kerry singer wowed a sell-out crowd.
Before Junior Brother’s set, the crowd are well warmed-up by The Mary Wallopers. It’s rare you see a support act returning after pleas for ‘one more tune’. Yet, that’s what happened with the Louth trio – who some may know under the different guise of rappers TPM.
As The Mary Wallopers, the group play covers of both classic and obscure trad songs – somehow making them feel contemporary. It’s partly their energetic style, and partly their delivery, which prioritises storytelling. They also have a biting sense of humour: their rendition of ‘Whack Fol the Diddle’: with its jabs towards the British Empire, has people in stitches.
It’s then time for Junior Brother’s performance – and based on the barstorming set, Irish folk music is alive and well. The sell-out crowd can’t get enough, stomping their feet and singing along raucously. There’s also a notable experimentalism in the singer’s approach. There’s plenty of humour in tracks such as ‘Hungover At Mass’ – the opening bars of which are greeted with huge cheers – and energy in songs like ‘Coping’ and ‘Girth And Plain’. Yet, those who listened to the Kerryman’s debut record, Pull The Right Rope, know his gift is creating rich soundscapes.
With his raw vocals and simple-but-effective guitar playing, Junior Brother conjures hypnotic tunes with irresistible melodies. This can be heard on stunning break-up ballad ‘The Back Of Her’, which the Whelan’s crowd know off by heart – no mean feat given the idiosyncratic lyrics. The gloomy and gothic ‘Big House’, meanwhile, is transformed into a spine-tingling, hair-raising affair in a live setting.
Junior Brother also showcases two new tracks. The ballad ‘No Country For Young Men’ feels excitingly timely and angry, while the jaunty ‘This Is My Body’ is perhaps his funniest song to date: “This is my body now, like it or not / The price of exercise, when the exercising stops”. After dropping one of 2019’s most exciting records, Junior Brother’s Whelan’s gig confirms his star is firmly in the ascendant.
Photography by Shane Tully