Peter Mulvey @ Workman's Club Sunday 23rd March 2014

Playing in an intimate setting can be a challenge to an artist. Something about the audience dynamic and seeing the 'whites of their eyes' has caused many a performer to freeze in the headlights of expectation. Not Peter Mulvey however, who takes the constraints of an upstairs acoustic room and simply moves through the creative gears, until he is cruising at a speed that brings the appreciative audience along for the journey. And what a varied journey it is, drawing from his extensive song writing archive, a few well-chosen covers and a stripped down introduction to his new release, Silver Ladder, which has been getting very positive reviews.

Roadworks tours, as promoter, again get it right with bringing the talents of this fine singer/songwriter to an Irish tour. Working with such artists who are under the commercial radar is not easy, as the need to make everything work financially becomes a big hurdle for all concerned. Kudos then for this independent promoter, who always displays a positive attitude, in bringing such quality artists to our shores.

Peter Mulvey plays with elegance and a passion that gives his live performances quite an edge. In addition, he is a natural storyteller and his observations of life and tales from the road are engaging, humorous and sprinkled with a wisdom and perspective gained from years of touring and playing live.

The new release is featured heavily, as you would expect, with tracks like Trempealeau, Remember the Milkman, Landfall, If You Shoot At a King, You Must Kill Him and You Don't Have to Tell Me, providing strong proof that the creative muse burns brightly within the characters and vignettes of these songs.

Knuckleball Suite and Shirt get an airing from previous releases and an off mike version of the Beatles I Will is delivered with understated understanding of the song and its universal message of love.

Support act Kate O'Callaghan and Seamus Devenny also feature, with Kate singing harmony on a few songs and Seamus providing some very interesting violin accompaniment on others. Their opening set was perfectly delivered and contained lots of fine songs which marks them as an act to watch over the coming years. Kate has a beautiful voice and writes interesting song melodies and structures.

However, the night belongs to Peter Mulvey, a generous and talented performer who also gave an earlier workshop on guitar technique and song writing for those lucky enough to catch it. He takes a simple approach to the instrument and tries to break down the barriers that can often stop budding players from progressing their talents.

As part of a song writing group that is in contact every Tuesday, Peter speaks in terms of his 'homework assignment' and the discipline of turning in a song on a regular basis. Well, tonight we are given a beautifully realised example with Are You Listening, a wonderful human insight into the frailties of relationships and the need to forgive and move on. If Peter Mulvey has any message to impart then it is essentially the song for everyman. An entertaining night and what is more, an enriching experience.

Review and photograph by Paul McGee