Music Review: John Smith at Bourke’s/Other cool music

john-smith-music-imageI went to see John Smith in Bourke’s a fortnight ago and yes, it’s a belated review. As I mentioned here before, the regular gigs of Thursday Nights @ Bourke’s now have a new guise— Seoda Shows—and a small cover charge but the vibe is much the same.

John Smith is a self professed “guitar man from Devon”. Although an established solo artist, he plays with Lisa Hannigan’s band and I first saw him on Other Voices dueting with her on a beautiful version of ‘Tonight you belong to me’.

After a stern warning to be quiet and a nice warm-up set by Emma Langford, Smith and a double-bassist took to the compact stage in Bourke’s. The music was a gorgeous blend of folk, country and bluegrass complemented by Smith’s husky voice. He reminds a lot of another favourite of mine, Ray LaMontagne, both in tone and musical style.

The highlights were ‘A Long Way for a Woman’, ‘Town to Town’, ‘Freezing Winds of Change’, ‘Winter’ and the heartfelt, lullaby-like ‘Great Lakes’ as well as the catchy ‘Salty and Sweet’, the current single off his album (Great Lakes), which Hannigan contributes vocals to…not that night, although Smith did a good impression.

There was a pretty diverse mix, from blistering murder song, ‘Axe Mountain’ to ‘There is a Stone’, which combined excellent fingerpicking and rich bass. He threw in a few interesting covers of songs by Tom Waits, John Martyn and others.

To jack up the entertainment value, there was plenty of banter, a ‘Happy Birthday’ interlude and a verbal tussle with a snap-happy photographer who broke the no noise rule.

John Smith’s low-key acoustic gig suited the venue perfectly. The crowd was so impressed, he ran out of albums to sell so I had to acquire Great Lakes (and some back catalogue stuff) on iTunes and have been listening since. Seoda Shows has a packed programme with all sorts on it including Candice Gordon tonight (May 2). Check out the Facebook page.

On an aside: Other great music!

I’ve been to several gigs in the past few months that were brilliant and particularly, show the depth of talent in Ireland right now. Surprisingly, I didn’t review them here at the time. D’oh! I’ve included videos for your entertainment.

First was Galwegian guitar virtuoso, Albert Niland, in Glór. I went to see him on the strength of one cover he did a few years back—a haunting version of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights—but was blown away by his own material, which has a lot of beautiful classical and Spanish-style guitar. He has an excellent double CD compilation out at the mo.

At another show in Glór, I saw a double-bill of We Banjo 3 and I Draw Slow. We Banjo 3 are made up of two sets of ultra-talented brothers. All are multi-instrumentalists but mostly combine three banjos with a guitar for a heady mix of traditional Irish, bluegrass, ragtime and country tunes. Spectacular musicianship and a fascinating lesson in banjo history…sher what more could you want?

I Draw Slow was more firmly set in bluegrass and country territory with beautiful guitar, double bass, fiddle and banjo as well as class vocals and harmonies. Their music weaves some great stories (a lot of them dark but interesting). The audience was treated to a large portion of their new album, which sounded great and songs from their last two. It was right up my street anyway, very impressive. They’re even getting some attention from the US too, which as the home of Americana, is a good sign. I’ve given the album Redhills a good old spin and will definitely be getting the new one too.

I’ve seen The Riptide Movement a few times in the past year at various gigs and festivals. This four-piece outfit have retro swagger with overtones of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lynyrd Skynrd and even Kings of Leon in flashes. Either way, their performances display great skill and energy, the tunes are catchy and lead singer, Mal Tuohy, has a throaty voice made for rock.