Making a welcome return to these shores Greg Trooper reminded us again of his talent and timbre. Delivering his song with just voice and guitar he showed that he has lost none of his wit or witnessing since he last played in Ireland. Then he was working with the late Larry Roddy, a man who had a genuine passion for bringing his favourite music to these shores.
Trooper played 22 songs in a two part set. Many came from his latest album, Incident On Willow Street, living proof to his continued worth as a musical craftsman. These are among some of his best songs and included Steel Deck Bridge, Amelia, One Honest Man, Mary Of The Scotts In Queens and All The Way To Amsterdam. The later two were prefaced by amusing and insightful stories of their origins. The former came about from a wedding he attend that featured a bagpipe band who then were joined by the groom’s mother and by a separate story of local New Jersey legend name "Irish" Brian. Two separate sources he combined in the one song. The later song was inspired in part by a visit to Amsterdam and a comment that in the winter months one could skate into Amsterdam on the frozen canals. He took that concept and put it into the head of an abused girl in West Texas. Despite his comment that “anyone can do this shit” it’s apparent that not everyone can do it with Trooper’s skill.
But like all the best troubadours Greg Trooper is not only a fine wordsmith he is also a great singer and a good guitar player. All that combines into a thoroughly convincing and entertaining evening in the company of an honest and unassuming man. Another new song from the latest album was This Shitty Deal which he described as one country song you would never ever hear on country radio - more’s the pity - again it has a depth beyond the unbroadcastable title.
He also told us that when contacted by his publisher that one of his songs was going to be recorded by a Nashville artist named Vince Gill his immediate reaction “was who the fuck is Vince Gill?” But as that album, When I Call Your Name, sold by the ton he soon learned who Gill was and to love him. He praised Gill's many talents and the privilege of having his song We Won’t Dance covered by the star.
Through the years many of his songs have been covered by other artists, and its easy to see why, but nothing beats hearing them in their original form from the man who wrote and conceived them. However don’t miss the studio albums where he employs some of the finest players to accompany him and broaden their palette
After the interval he remarked “I’m so glad you came back” as, he continued, there’s nothing worse that taking a short break only to find the audience has disappeared in the meantime. No chance of that here though. Further tales relating to the songs were given. Diogenes he related used to walk around with a lamp looking for one honest man. He turned that into a song about a woman looking for a similar person in One Honest Man. While Einstein, who once said that “everything’s a miracle”, was the spark for a song of that title.
There were a number of requests from the audience and these found their way into the set towards the end. They included the sombre Damaged Eyes, the venue appropriate Ireland - song about a girl from Brooklyn and Inisheer - about, well, Inisheer. A song he revealed had been covered singer from Friesland in her native language. No Higher Ground tells of the flood in Galveston,Texas that killed thousands of people in a hurricane in 1900. A natural disaster of which they had been warned about, but ignored, by the weather service in Cuba. See you learn stuff too as well as being entertained.
He thanked everyone for coming “I couldn’t do it without you”. It works both ways Greg - come back soon.
Review by Stephen Rapid Photography by Ronnie Norton