House concerts, particularly in the States, have become essential for touring musicians and offer the best of both worlds to both audience and artist.They often act as fillers between club dates for the artists and give punters the opportunity to enjoy the act in more intimate settings without the distraction of clinking glasses and over-talkative spectators.
I have to admit that this was my first attendance at a formal house concert but what better way to start than with the East Nashville based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Anne McCue. The concert was the last of four shows in Mc Cue’s tour of the UK and Ireland. McCue said that she "needed this tour to raise funds for some new guitar strings, you gotta have big dreams!".
The venue is the front room of a residence in the leafy suburb of Knocklyon and is hosted by the extremely welcoming Joe Kelly and his wife Monica. The room comfortably accommodates twenty two people seated and with an excellent sound system (courtesy by John O’Leary who also provided electric guitar, acoustic guitar and ukulele which McCue on a number of occasions makes reference to the best ‘pick up’ equipment she has ever encountered) contributed to a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Throughout the set McCue performs material from her current jazz influenced album Blue Sky Thinkin’ together with visiting her extensive back catalogue and some well-chosen covers.
Her stage manner is relaxed and quirky, telling tales of her Catholic upbringing in Sydney such as the wry commet that "I was child number eight, my mother used to say she only wanted four, imagine how that made me feel, needed therapy for years" and marvelling over the scenic drive earlier in the week from Kilkenny to Clonakilty and a breakfast earlier in the day at Inchydoney Strand.
The evening certainly reinforces the extreme talent of McCue possesses both as a song writer and as a musician. Her guitar work throughout is quite stunning whether it be playing acoustic, electric, lap guitar or indeed ukulele.
The range of material on offer is testament to how she has explored and crossed many genres throughout her career.
She introduces one of her signatures songs Want You Back as a western song that was "in fact a Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly song to the key of e-minor".Things You Left Out In The Rain, Spring Cleaning In The Wintertime, Cowgirl Blues, Uncanny Moon (a tango co-written with Carl Byron,) all feature on her current jazzy, ragtime album, yet sit comfortably beside a powerhouse version of Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile ,The Door’s Cars Hiss BY My Window and her own delta blues number Hangman which includes superb soaring lap guitar.
Milkman’s Daughter, she recalls, was written in recognition of one of the many additional jobs her father worked at in order to raise and educate his large family.
She finishes the set in style, encouraging and succeeding in having the chorus of Little White Cat sung by the audience, telling us that "I’ve broken my golden rule by writing an audience participation song" before fittingly encoring, ukulele in hand, with Say Bye Bye.
The one hour forty minute set passes all too quickly, evidence of the all engaging quality of the artist in a most comfortable environment. A first but definitely not a last house concert for the writer, though it will no doubt be difficult to match the standard set by Anne McCue this evening.
Review and photograph by Declan Culliton