Kimmie Rhodes - Irish Tour 2018.

This artist has been visiting Ireland on a regular basis for a number of years now. Playing small venues around the country does not really do her justice, given her proven pedigree in the music business over a career that has spanned a few generations since her introduction as a real talent back in the early 1980’s.

This short tour is in support of her recent book, Radio Dreams: The Story of an Outlaw DJ and a Cosmic Cowgirl. It is a duet memoir and filled with great stories of a life spent together with her soulmate Joe Gracey who sadly died in 2011 after battling cancer over many years. 

The tour has dates in Rathfriland, Ballyboffey, Armagh, Lisburn & the Naul in north county Dublin. My journey takes me to a house concert in Rathfriland, plus the experience of the final gig at the Seamus Ennis Centre at the Naul.

Kimmie plays from a setlist that covers many of her 16 releases to date and she also allows herself creative licence to deviate away from this as the mood dictates. Joined by her incredibly talented son, Gabriel on guitar, the duo creates a very engaging and homely atmosphere with stories from the road and beyond. Kimmie is a natural storyteller and raconteur and her lengthy song introductions and back stories are equally as fascinating as the songs themselves. 

Drawing from the memories of a music scene that developed in Austin in the late 1970’s, Kimmie regales both audiences with her tales of meeting and being mentored by Willie Nelson. Her husband Joe Gracey was a much-respected singer and DJ before he lost his voice to cancer, only to turn his hand to studio production and working closely with Willie Nelson as part of both family and friends.

The songs include some carefully selected covers such as Buddy Holly (Raining In My Heart), Donovan (Catch The Wind), Townes van Zandt (White Freight Liner) and a new song yet to be recorded, Radio Dreams, to accompany the book.

Old favourites such as Love & Happiness, a song she wrote with Emmylou Harris, sit comfortably alongside Love Me Like A Song, a track she recorded with Willie Nelson.

Windblown is a song about her father and his colourful life, whereas Bells Of Joy celebrates an old Gospel band that she used to admire back in the early days. Just Drove By is the longest song she ever wrote, taking her a number of years to finish, but it captures everything in terms of family relationships and our changing feelings as we move through life.

God’s Acre is about coming home to be buried with those you love and the strength of family ties while Walls Fall Down references the present tensions in the USA and is an old song that has suddenly taken on new meaning with the turn of events there. 

Contrabandistas is a tex-mex workout that highlights the real craft of Gabriel on guitar as he soars and swoops around the rhythm laid down and delivers quite a performance. 

At the Naul, Kimmie sings 2 songs from different perspectives; one, Don’t Leave Me Like This, a bitter memory of the death of Joe Gracey and the other, Yes, a statement of intent in getting back into the light and living again.

House concerts are not really a big thing in Ireland Just yet but increasingly it appears to be a way of finding an intimate space where the artist can perform at controlled costs in the hope of making a profit and the sales of some merchandise. Rathfriland is a beautiful location and a very healthy crowd turn out to support our host Andy and to pay special tribute to the wonderful performance that is delivered.

The Naul is also an intimate setting and tonight there is a new soundboard to be tested – it passed with flying colours. A very attentive crowd sing along to the songs that they know and both performers give everything to that feeling of being in the moment while the magic of live music occurs.

Two excellent nights, spent in great company and you really must catch this superb artist on her next visit to our shores in 2019.

Review and photo by Paul McGee