Monday, 18 May 2015

Gareth Dunlop

It's the start of the summer here and sunshine is beginning to appear. It's about this time that I start thinking about the tunes to accompany my summer night drives down the country and round the place. Doing a few races and that this summer means more time in the car but at least I will have the time to catch up with some great new music. That's why I am happy to have discovered Gareth Dunlop last week.

A man that hails from Hollywood was always going to have a special career ahead of him ((that's Hollywood Co.Down by the way). Gareth started his career in music at a young age playing his father guitar. Gareth progressed to study at Bangor College and from this he built up experience in sound engineering. His too progressed with gigs in bars around Belfast and beyond. His big break came in the vernarable Belfast Nashville Singer Songwriter's Festival in 2011 when he was awarded Young Songwriter of the Year. That led him to Nashville when he signed a publishing deal.

A talent such as Gareth's was always going to get his deserved break. His first EP was actually released the year previously. "Rooms" features some lovely mixture of acoustic and nice and easy-going americana melody's. My clear favourite is "Dreams". Led by a jaunty piano, the song carries itself along with a foot tapin' melody that easily drags you in and leaves you sauntering along to the tune without even realising it.

After a while Gareth put his musical and college experience to good use by building his own studio in Hollywood. He has been using the studio mainly to record his own music. His follow-up to "Rooms" was the "Devil Mocks Me" EP. He has been mainly working on EP's as releases and has been over and back from Nashville. His musical style is hard to pinpoint. His songs are generously warm, organ and piano feature throughout. The melodies are soft yet not slow enough to let you get distracted. Songs like "Trick of The Moonlight" really showcase his talent. Excellent structure, a beautiful melody and words that add generously to the mood of the song.

Gareth has been busy as a songwriter too. He has contributed songs to TV in the U.S. such as “Cougar Town,” “One Tree Hill,” “Private Practice,” “Army Wives,“Life Unexpected,” and "Nashville". His work with "Nashville" certainly has increase his profile. He teamed up with Kim Richards to write a number of songs for the show (some of which were recorded by the show's performers). This song from the Safe Haven soundtrack makes it obvious why his music has been so heavily featured in TV. The style and lyrics easily accessible and immeasurably listenable.

Definitely an artist that deserves more attention and is criminally under-rated here in Ireland, Gareth is an artist that I will be keeping an eye out for in the future.

Catch up with Gareth's going-on's through his official site and his Facebook page.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Live Preview: Kilkenny Roots Festival 2015

So for those of us of a certain persuasion, the annual pilgrimage begins on Friday to Kilkenny. The Roots festival has been, for a number of years and still remains the most premier festival if you are a lover of americana, alt-country and folk in Ireland. The organisers have a knack of getting artists just as they are about to cross-over to major recognition (c.f. Sturgill Simpson, Alabama Shakes). This year will be no exception and the line-up is just as exciting as previous years. Can you read how excited I am? So let's get down to my recommends for artists for you to catch over the weekend.

As well as the major gigs where there is a charge, there is also the roots trail which covers most of the city and where you will find some great (mainly Irish) artists playing. So for the best experience, I suggest pick one or two gigs you want to go to and after that, just walk the city and see where your ears take you.


The whole event kicks off on Friday night with the only appearance from John Murry (Ryans, Sold Out). John seems to like this country a fair bit and it's hard not to like him back. "The Graceless Age" was a brilliant album and his follow-up EP "Califorlornia" was just as infectious. Elsewhere The Eskies (Left Bank,10pm, Free) make an appearance with their high tempo foot tapin' gyspyesque folk. They are only a few weeks away from their album launch so I'm sure you might get a preview of the new album.There are also a few bands playing Friday that I know nothing about but am very intrigued by including Kingston, Strange Brew and Loudest Whisper.



The festivals really kicks off the next day with the Rockabilly of Dublin City Rounders (Brethnachs, 4pm, free). Then there is Pete Cummins at the same time (Biddy Early's) followed by Joe Fury & The Hayride (Billy Byrnes, 10pm, Free). Joe has just released a new album and it's great so definitely check that one out. The "imports" on Saturday consist of Sons of Bill (Kytelers, 10pm, €15), The Barr Brothers (Cleeres,10pm, Sold Out) and one I am looking forward to: Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires (Set Theatre,€15). This is perfect Saturday night rock n' roll. It's that simple. Lee Bains used to be in one of my favourite bands (The Dexateens) and he has brought the same energy to his new outfit. "Deconstructed" is a mighty collection of songs and worth checking out. This one will be loud, aggressive and sweaty. I'm excited for it.



Sunday at the Roots always feels like the beginning of the comedown for me. There are still great artists but the energy is more on tuneful americana than heavy rock. Still if your after your rock fix, you can do no worse that the Neil Young tribute Psychadelic Pill (5pm, Breathnachs, free). There is also the lovely soulful voices of John Blek & Anna Mitchell to enjoy (Cleeres, 4pm). I Draw Slow (Billy Byrnes, 5pm, €15) are one of the only Iris head-liners at the festival. Their roots fusion is worth catching and would make a great double shot of roots along with I'm With Her (Watergate Theatre,7:30pm, €20), the super-group consisting of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jaeosz and Aoife O'Donovan who's soft voices will surely easy any hangover!

One of the biggest acts to play the festival in a while, Calexico will be making one appearance at Kilkenny (Set Theatre, 10pm, Sold Out) on Sunday night. The band have just released a new album so expect some new songs. Hopefully these juggernauts of the tex-mex genre might play a few classics too.

Monday The final day of the Festival (if you're still standing) sees some fine americana on display. Apart from The Rails (Cleeres, 4pm, €12), I recommend seeing the Midnight Union Band (Rafter Dempseys, 3pm, Free), a local band with lots and losts of talent. A perfect way to end the weekend.

So that's my pick of the bunch. Check out the official website for more information and the full gig schedule. Don't just rely on my thoughts, get out there an explore the city and see what you find. Most importantly enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Record Store Day 2015

Tomorrow is Record Store Day. Apart from the great offers and chances of getting your hands on some fine records, there is also the opportunity to catch a few live gigs around the country.

There are a few recommendations going round as to what to buy on Record Store Day. The Telegraph in the UK have compiled a nice list here. If you are looking for the best releases in americana and alt-country then check out Twang Nation's summary. I might be preaching to the converted here (in facet I'm sure I am) but the value of a record store goes way beyond just the stocking and selling of albums and singles. Record stores were, and still are for me, the heart of expanding musical knowledge. You might come across the odd artist on the internet that I'm sure that you wouldn't find in your local record store but, you cannot beat those recommendations from your local record store staff. So head on in today to your local store, browse the music and catch a few of the great live gigs that are happening. It just might make you want to come back.

This preview is going to have an Eirecana bias to it i.e. I'll be highlighting all the americana, alt-country, and folk musicians but do check out all artists and records on offer today. Everyone deserves a bit of support.

Freebird Records have a number of live bands playing including Tomorrows, Lynched and more. Tower Records have a great line-up including Colm Mac Con Iomaire and The Urges on Saturday and on Sunday Mundy, The Mighty Stef. Spies, Cry Monster Cry, Fox Jaw, This Other Kingdom.

There is also Golden Discs around the city who have a fair few gigs going on in store. I'm leaving out a few record stores here but consult here for the full list.

Cork, Galway and Elsewhere
In MusicZone in Douglas, there are live sets from Live sets from Wasted Spaces (11am), The Shaker Hymn (12pm), John Blek & The Rats (1pm), John Spillane (2pm), and Raising Jupiter (3pm) as well as Fox Jaw. There is also a load of gigs happening in Golden Discs in Cork (though I dont know if that is a independent store). In Galway, there is a BYOB event in the city and Wingnut Records should have some decent record choices available.

So that's the summary. I have left out HMV's own event this weekend. As they are not a independent record store, they don't get to participate in Record Store Day. However the chain has gone ahead and organised "Record Fest". In fairness, they do have some great artists playing including The Mighty Stef, Buffalo Sunn ,Cry Monster Cry, Tucan, The Flaws, Riot Tapes and more on HMV Henry St. So make up your own minds on that one.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Eirecana Radio - 3rd December 2014

I'm almost there on the Eirecana radio back catalogue. Soon enough I'll have the shows uploaded within a week of being broadcast. Imagine that! Don't forget to listen back to previous shows on Mixcloud if you want some quality americana radio!

Eirecana radio is on every second Wednesday at 2pm. Catch up with previous shows on Mixcloud. Any requests, send them my way too.

You can stream the show through Mixcloud. The playlist is below.

Artist (with Link)
People Like You
I Wanna Love You
Make My Head Sing
To Love Somebody
Somebody Else
Bad Girl Boots
Bad Girl Boots EP
Company Man
Do To The Beast
The Wayward Shepard
The Wayward Shepard
Rumble Shake
Rumble Shake
Mississippi Wine

Rain Plains
Left For America
Too Long Gone
The Voyager
The Voyager

Submit Music
If you want to submit music for the show (even your own), you never know I might play it! Please feel free to contact me at the email address: ron [at] So have a listen. If you like the show, check the back catalogue on Mixcloud. If you really like the show, tell someone!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Album Review: Whitetrash And The Spear-Headed Sparrowhawks - Lostman EP

I have written about Whiterash on the blog before. He got in touch with me recently about the new EP that they are releasing. So seeing as the EP was launched last week, it is high time that I reviewed

The "Lostman" EP was launched last week with abig night in the Grand Social in Dublin. The EP itself was self-funded with the money for the post-production raised through a Fund-It Campaign. But back to the music. The EP was mixed and recorded by Dave Heraty. I mention that because one thing you notice about all the tracks on the EP is the strong, full, bright sound that inhabits all of the tracks. These are not peeled back, raw, melodies. It's the exact opposite. There are layers of instrumentation here yet the songs never feel like they are too busy. A tough task to master. The arrangements are superb.

The opener on the EP is the dark and moody title track. The first thing that strikes you when you listen to the EP is Conor aka Whitetrahs's voice. It's hard to imagine how anyone can sing like that for long. The gravely voice feels like its resting on the shoulders of a man who has been crossing the country on freight train carriages who has gathered more experiences in a week than I could amass in a year. What I'm trying to say is that when he sings about going to Jackson you believe him. With the guitar licks, harmonica and those words, Lostman is the essence of a confessional of regrets that you can easily identify with.

The gospel like "Release Me" opens with a chorus that sounds like it came straight out of a Baptist preacher. It's only when the rhythm section kicks in that you realise it is not the work of a southern churchman. The guitar dominates this song yet never feels like its controlling the song. The solo is a straight up in your face and and when the songs picks up pace in the final third, you cant help tappin' your foot.

I won't feature all the track here. They are on Soundcloud for you to explore. "Runnin' Down the Mountain" which I have discussed previously again has echoes of a southern gospel tune while "Grave Robbin' Man" and "Devil's Chain" again explore the experiences of men hard done by.

It's rare that an artist can fuse gospel with alt-country and rock without it sounding like a mess but WhiteTrash has skilfully welded all these genres into one sound. It's powerful, chest thumping melodies are ones would be all the better for listening to.

You can get a physical copy of the EP through BandCamp where t-shirts and the like are also available. Keep up with what Whitetrash and the rest of the Sparrowhawks are up to with their Facebook.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Cry Monster Cry

My quest to bring you the best americana music from this fair isle continues. Often I come across artists that I feel as though I have written about when in fact they've just become embedded in my subconscious having seen them so frequently on social media, gig listings, magazine interviews and reviews. Every time I see them mentioned, I remember to look into the music but then I forget again, well not this time.

Cry Monster Cry are made up of brothers Richie and Jamie Martin. The Dublin brothers seem like they were always destined to be recording music. Richie was taught the violin by his mother, then moved onto the guitar and went on to study music in college. Meanwhile Jamie first started by playing piano and, according to their bio, tried out nearly every instrument under the sun before studing English in college. It all reads like a masterplan for forming an alt-folk group, the two members covering each discipline of the process. Despite how it reads, the brothers only formed Cry Monster Cry three years ago.

Having grown up listening to their parents records, especially on long car journeys, the brothers experienced the sounds of Bob Dylan, The Everly Brothers, Van Morrison, Ray Charles and Simon and Garfunkel. These early influences seem to have stuck with the them. Their sound clearly consists of folk melodies with both the lyrics and arrangements bringing the alternative to this alt-folk mix.
Despite having formed not that long ago, Cry Monster Cry have been busy with their output. The first EP "The Fallen EP" was released fairly soon after they formed and contains five tracks of warm, harmonious, lyrical beauty. The title track of the EP, "The Fallen" is a wonderful tune. Listening to it, I am somehow reminded of waves moving up and down moving against the keel of a boat. The song has a flowing melody that you experience for a few gentle minutes and then it's gone.

My favourite track off the EP is "On Tangled Shores", a true slice of alt-folk. The electric guitar notes add a sense of sparseness to the melody. It's a proper story song with no real chorus. The words about a former lover add real emotion to the song. When the song takes off halfway through, you are really hooked.

Since the release of the first EP, the lads have been gigging around Ireland and started recording their debut album last year. "Rhythm of Dawn" was released in February and the band are currently touring in support of it. The first single from the new album is "Postcards", a real pop-folk tune. The returning vocal refrain and those little mandolin licks really add to the warmth of the track that drags you in.

Cry Monster Cry have an official website and they are doing some gigs at the moment. Check out their Facebook page for more. You can preview and download the album on iTunes.