Music in All its Guises 2
By George Fleeton
Down Arts Centre literally swung into new year events’ action with two, at-first-glance similar gigs, showcasing the music making talents respectively of Mary Ryan (January 26) and Brigid O’Neill (February 02).
Both singers are essentially balladeers, 21st century troubadours.
The Mary Ryan Blues Trio
In Ryan’s repertory the focus is determinedly on Mississippi Delta Blues (the songs of Bessie Smith, and especially Memphis Minnie), plus ragtime and jazz, with touches of Gospel: so both Blind Willies were recalled too – McTell and Johnson.
Ryan, her guitarist Mark Braidner and pianist Simon Templeton harmonised impressively in an unashamedly eclectic songbook which also included nods to Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.
One highlight to savour? A rendition of Peggy Lee’s Why don’t you do right? (but that only left you pining for Lee’s versions of Fever, I got it bad and that ain’t good and Is that all there is?).
The current Mary Ryan Blues Trio album is called Trimmed and Burning.
Brigid O’Neill Trio
This event was much better attended, as you might expect for a local singer-songwriter from the same parish as Jayne Trimble and the Wildflowers.
Brigid O’Neill writes her own songs – it’s dead easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank Word document on your laptop until drops of blood form on your forehead.
When I last caught up with O’Neill, in DAC three years ago, it was the Doris Day songbook that she was touring, and I understand she is still doing that.
At that time I described her music making as ‘understated and relaxed’ and today, having reinvented herself as a singer-song writer, I have no reason to change that assessment.
We were still skirting Mary Ryan’s blues territory, but O’Neill wandered much more widely, particularly into Bill Monroe Bluegrass country – where the acoustic strings reign supreme – and where Bill Johnson played effortless upright bass, while Jim Rainey mesmerised with his zither-style flatpicking guitar – and a droll humour, yet he still managed to mangle Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues beyond recognition.
I’m afraid it got worse: the gig was 20 minutes late starting, the interval lasted 30, not 20; there were 10 minutes of unannounced poetry from Maria McManus’ Cello Suites (underpinned by Arvo Pӓrt’s Spiegel im Spiegel) and, for reasons which escaped me on the night, Brigid O’Neill chose to close her show with Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots are made for Walkin’.
The next Arts column in Down News will cover a superb production of Benjamin Britten’s opera The Turn of the Screw, and Rebecca Vaughan’s brilliant one-woman-show Female Gothic.
George Fleeton’s next production features local singer-songwriters The Wildflowers, and their Band:
Friday 15 March
St Patrick Centre
The Spirit of the Wildflowers –
New Irish Voices
Singer/songwriters + Band
£15 (inc. refreshments) / no concessions
Tickets: 028 4461 7184 (Mainstay DRP)
028 4461 9000 (St Patrick Centre)
All proceeds to Mainstay DRP
Part of the St. Patrick’s Festival 2013