- 13 Sep 23
Nostalgic look back at the showband era
Homegrown singer-songwriter Ultan Conlon headed to LA with Grammy-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist, David Garza, to record his fifth album. It’s inspired by a real showband mecca in Mayo, The Starlight Ballroom, which thrived at the same time as the country-and-westernisation of Ireland was being challenged, if not entirely vanquished.
The title track recaptures the magic of that venue, especially the night the legendary Roy Orbison drew them in from miles around. ‘The Old Songs’, in compulsory time, also offers a convincing replay of the era, so realistic you feel like queuing for a mineral and a packet of crisps.
The downbeat opener ‘Talkin’ Bout Susie Gossip’ reflects on those named in a local cemetery, with Conlon’s appealing vocal swathed in strings, and audible nods to ‘Eleanor Rigby’. ‘Paradise Lane’ is about a real street in the townlet of Eyrecourt, which turns out to offer less than its exotic name suggested to his mother in her youth.
‘Hurts Like Heaven’ rekindles the downer mood of the opener for a song about past love, while ‘Working For The Man’ shifts up a gear as Conlon reveals the man in question is himself. Nice twist.
Conlon has a wry way with words that vividly portray life as once lived in an Irish ‘hood, and his voice carries melodies with conviction, but the production is generally more sombre than it needed to be. The showband world was depressing to some, with its fake American accents and priests prowling around occasions of sin, but it had its glitterball moments too.