I’ve often considered if a musically educated punter was sent on a mission around Ireland, The UK and The States to assemble the most under-rated artists in each location it’s likely that his catch would include Peter Bruntnell, Jeff Finlin and our own Clive Barnes.
Bruntnell’s back catalogue, for me, compares with the work of his fellow country man Elvis Costello. Surely Finlin’s body of work is up there with his peer Rodney Crowell and possibly the only detail that prevents Barnes spending his days and nights as a session player is the market being so small in Ireland. Having toured the UK to great reviews last year the trio decided to bring their show to Ireland and play nine dates over a ten day period with the opening gig staged in Kilkenny.
Not an obvious three piece as Finlin and Bruntnell, both excellent songwriters, are quite different in style and delivery. I had incorrectly assumed prior to the show that the format would be a song writer circle set up with all three taking to the stage together. The delivery was in fact two separate sets by Bruntnell and Finlin with Barnes playing guitar, sublimely it has to be said, with both acts. Barnes also played a solo number between the two sets.
Jeff Finlin plays the opening set, a visit through his vast songbook featuring material from his current retrospective album Life After Death. His delivery, as is always the case, is passionate, intense and spirited. Never ever going through the motions Finlin is an artist that seldom wastes a word lyrically as evidenced by I Killed Myself Last Night, Jesus Was A Motorcycle Man and American Dream, all included in tonight’s set list.
Bruntnell stage demeanour is altogether at variance to that of Finlin’s, though every bit as compelling. Totally laid back and relaxed his set visits his early work in the main. "I’ve a new album out Nos Da Comrade but I can’t play any of the songs off it without a band!" Fortunately Bruntnell is not entirely true to his word and encores with the beautiful Caroline, the closing track of the album, performed acoustic solo and a fitting end to what preceeds it. Obvious inclusions are his career stand outs By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Domestico, Cold Water Swimmer and Have You Seen That Girl. He also includes a new song Widow's Walk, which is particularly well received by the crowd. Very much a favourite of Kilkenny audiences having played the Roots Festival on a number of occasions his set, as expected, goes down a storm.
All in all a wonderful night's entertainment enhanced of course by the stunning guitar work in support of both artists by Clive Barnes and his precious Gretsch. Barnes is without doubt the finest player on this island whether performing blues, Americana or metal and his contribution this evening elevates both Bruntnell’s and Finlin’s performances to another level.
Review and photography (Left to right above, Clive Barnes, Jeff Finlin and Peter Bruntnell) by Declan Culliton