- 26 Sep 19
I make no secret of my great admiration for the work of Dave O’Grady as Seafoam Green and his very fine debut album Topanga Mansion, brought into the world with help from former Black Crowe Rich Robinson. Not only does it recapture that marvellous tight but loose but warm sound that The Crowes picked up on from The Stones, The Faces, Humble Pie, etc. but it stands up on its own as one of the best records I’ve been lucky enough to hear in the last few years. It's so good, in fact, that in a fit of the vapours - possibly brought on by a surfeit of stout - I will, by the end of the evening, purchase a copy of a record that I already own just to show my support, which is a rare move from a man who could peel an orange in his pocket and jealously guards his confirmation money.
O’Grady’s gang are on an Irish tour (the Inchicore native is based in Liverpool) ostensibly to polish up the new songs that should make up album number two. Once things wrap up in Belfast, they’re off to Atlanta to do some heavy lifting in the studio with various members and associates of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which is a very good sign, and should insure the next record sounds as good as the first one.
Now, I, of course, can only hazard a guess at the names of most of the songs played tonight. I got onto Dave after and he provided me with a rough set list of “working titles”, so if the bloke who wrote them doesn’t know, what hope have I? But I’ll give it a go. There’s not that many punters in when The ‘Green kick off at nine bells, but it builds up as they go along, people drawn in by the sound coming out of the big room at the back of the Workman’s Club. ‘Something To Say’ showcases the almost supernatural harmonies that O’Grady and co-vocalist and other full-time Seafoamer Muireann McDermott Long pull out of the air. There’s a line that says something about “God scaring the Jesus out of me” (if I imagined that, it’s a good one) and Justin Johnson’s sympathetic brush work behind the drums brings it all together. After the slide guitar intro, Muireann takes the lead vocals for the Southern blues of ‘Tell Me’ which owes Delaney and Bonnie a few bob. Another duet on ‘Mine All Mine’ – “baby, I love you always sounds brand new” - a beautiful mix between O’Grady’s lived in voice and the sweet soul sound coming out of Muireann. You can see it on the faces of a lot of the men here, and not a few of the women. They’re all gazing longingly at the stage, dreaming about moving to Laurel Canyon (in or around 1970), raising six strong sons with McDermott Long - all called Nathaniel - and living off granola and good vibes. It’s her voice that does it to you. In the interest of balance, I should point out that my companion, Ms Callaghan, was very taken with O’Grady’s kung fu hippie look too.
‘Working Man’ and the Creedence strum of ‘Swimming In The Paint’ get that 70s tube groove going, driven by solid work from Chris Nicholls on bass, and ‘Home’ from the first album is achingly lovely. When Dave sits at the keyboard for ‘Maggie’ it sounds a bit like Little Feat with Shelby Lynne on vocals (i.e. very good) and he’s back on slide guitar for the stop-start swamp boogie of ‘On The Corner’. That same slide takes off into space for a solo during the appropriately titled ‘Sun And Moon’, and ‘House On The Hill’ is built on a solid foundation of the kind of riffs that Keith Richards used to swop with Mick Taylor. I spot someone nearby trying to clap, only to miss their hands altogether, after the band use a false ending to turn up the heat, always a good sign on a Wednesday night.
There’s a particularly country-favoured duet that evokes the memory ghosts of Gram & Emmylou, George & Tammy, even Porter & Dolly (not a reference to myself and Callaghan) before a properly stretched out ‘Sister’ that, just as you suspect it’s morphing into a Neil Young wig-out, breaks into CSN&Y’s ‘Ohio’. Fantastic.
‘Lowly Lou’ and the great ‘Down The River’ close things out. This was the song that I heard Fiachna Ó Braonáin play on the radio one night, prompting me to ring the station to find out who it was. It calls up all those great bands from the first paragraph, it’s the sound of an overdriven Gibson guitar going through a valve amp, ringing out those I-IV chord changes, driven along by perfectly-in-the-pocket bass and drums, with O’Grady and McDermott Long hollering over the top. It’s glorious and I could listen to it for the rest of the year. They’re not quite gone either, coming back for a final duet on The Band’s ‘Evangeline’. Fit to stand beside Emmylou and Levon? Yes. Seafoam Green are that good. That second album can’t come quickly enough.