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Ashley Davis, Joe’s Pub, NYC: It’s beautiful, let’s go roaming the wild mountainside February 23, 2012

Posted by Anton A in Ashley Davis, Irish music.
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Celtic singer Ashley Davis gave a delightful, captivating performance at Joe’s Pub. It was an intimate show in a small, comfortable room with excellent sight lines and great sound.

Ashley is a lass from Kansas who early in life became fascinated with the music of her ancestors, went to Ireland to study it, and has since become one of its foremost practitioners as a living art. She hops back and forth between traditional folk songs, old poems that she’s set to music, and songs that she’s written by herself and in collaboration. In concert, the songs seem to form part of one stream that’s been flowing on for centuries and remains present for anyone with a mind to dip in for refreshment and renewal.

The title of her latest recording, Songs Of The Celtic Winter, hints at the fact that Ashley has conceived a four-album cycle of songs inspired by each season of the year. This one is the first; we were treated to almost every song on the album. She transported us variously from moonlit skies to festive banquet halls and back to quiet wintry scenes.

Her voice rings pure and clear. She was accompanied beautifully by her band.

 

 

 

Cormac De Barra played the Celtic harp wonderfully.

 

 

 

Megan Hurt’s violin added haunting textures.

 

 

 

Two fellows on traditional stringed instruments and Irish percussion added to the mix. Gawain Mathews literally backed the ensemble on piano.

 

 

Together, the group wove one sonic tapestry after another that seemed to glimmer and linger in the room. There’s always been something in Celtic music beyond words that calls to my mongrel Scottish soul. Ashley and her band awakened that feeling in me once again, and for that I thank them sincerely.

More photos can be found here.

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Joe Hurley’s 12th Annual Irish Rock Revue, Highline Ballroom, NYC: Stoned me to my soul March 12, 2011

Posted by Anton A in Irish music, Joe Hurley.
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Joe Hurley, a London-born Irish fellow, has become fixture of New York’s East Village rock community over the last two decades. For the past dozen years, he’s organized and staged an annual Irish Rock Revue where a cavalcade of musicians, writers, poets and artists spend four hours or so performing a wide variety of Irish (loosely defined at times) songs, with maybe a couple of non-Irish tunes thrown in for good measure. I became aware of this event only two years ago; this was the first year I managed to attend. I regret that it took me so long; the night left me with a huge grin on my face. There’s no better way to celebrate the imminent arrival of springtime.

The show was anchored by the rock-solid Revue band. From Joe’s comments during the evening, I gather that guitarist / keyboardist Jon Spurney serves as the show’s musical director, as well as delivering some fine onstage chops. Mark Bosch, the lead guitarist in Ian Hunter’s Rant Band and a musician I’ve long admired, held up his end with his usual combination of style, aplomb and taste. Sal Maida was superb on bass, as was Steve Goulding on drums. Kenny Margolis had a deft touch on keys and accordion. Megan Weeder wove the lovely lilting sound of her fiddle through the night’s performances, adding that essential texture that let you know you were at an IRISH rock show.

A long parade of stars delivered splendid individual performances. My three sentimental favorites:

1) Dennis Dunaway (original Alice Cooper bassist) and Albert Bouchard (former Blue Oyster Cult drummer), who now form 2/3 of the fine hard rock band Blue Coupe (with Albert’s brother Joe, also a BOC alum, on guitar) took over the rhythm section for two songs with the Revue Band. The fabulous Tish & Snooky, who delivered backup vocals & dance moves from the front of the stage all night, made sure to give Blue Coupe a shoutout.  The ensemble  performed a stirring rendition of U2’s Hands That Built America, with Marni Rice & Charlene McPherson sharing the vocals, and then went into a ripping School’s Out, with Joe Hurley taking over the lead vocal. (Joe didn’t forget to remind us, twice, that Dennis D. was born in Arizona, but of Irish parentage.)

2) Jeff Kazee, keyboardist and vocalist in Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes, played keys on a couple of tunes, and worked the stage as front man on an extended Van Morrison’s Domino, energizing the night with his fiery tenor voice and lithe soul-man moves.

3) Gene Cornish, from the Rascals, gave the room a lesson in how to play rock & roll Strat; his performance of Good Lovin’, sharing vocals with the energetic Victoria Levy, stripped away the decades and got everyone shaking & moving. When Gene announced that The Rascals are back together for the first time in 40 years, I felt excited. Yes, there’s some nostalgia there; they headlined my first rock & roll show, back when they were known as The Young Rascals; but based on this performance, I bet that they will still deliver the goods.

There were so many other fine moments. Tami Lynn gave a soulful peformance of another Van Morrison tune. Someone, somehow, had got their hands on the recently passed Gary Moore’s turquoise-colored Les Paul; Ricky Byrd, from Joan Jett’s band, played it, starting out with a series of solo blues lines which segued into Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song. The classic The Boys Are Back In Town followed, with Mark Bosch & Jon Spurney evoking Lizzy’s signature harmonized lead guitar sound in splendid fashion.

Niamh Hyland sang a haunting solo a capella version of the folk song, Greenfields, which almost completely hushed the room. Michael Fornatale gave an energetic rendition of Come On Eileen that had the whole room dancing.

At break time for the Revue Band, we were treated to a fine set of Joe singing several of his own songs with his band, The Gents, who have the estimable Tony Garnier on bass when he’s not on the road with Bob Dylan; we were lucky that Tony had this month off.

There were 46 songs in all; I’m obviously glossing over a lot of songs and artists. There’s more detail on Joe’s website and the Revue’s Facebook page. The grand finale had virtually everyone on stage for the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen – as Joe pointed out, John Lydon’s parents were born in the same village in Ireland that his own family came from. That’s what Joe said, anyway. There’s always that Irish connection if you look hard enough.