Ten Stand Out Performances and Songs @ Kilkenny Roots 2018

Rachel Baiman & Molly Tuttle Wicked Spell (1)

Perfection personified both vocally and instrumentally by these exceptional young artists. Wicked Spell from Baiman’s Shame album was one of many peaks but anything from their setlist could have been highlighted. Faultless!

Birds of Chicago Love In Wartime (2)

The title track from their recently released album that will certainly feature in our Best of 2018. Gorgeous vocals courtesy of  Allie and J.T. and the first act to sell out both their shows at Roots. For anyone that missed their Kilkenny gigs the good news is they are back in Ireland in July for more of the same!

The Blasters One Bad Stud (3)

Anyone even thinking for one minute that these guys would be only going through the motions were left in no doubt for the word go. Vocally Phil Alvin sounded no different than decades back, rhythm section of bassist Jon Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman set down a killer groove throughout and Keith Wyatt got the Lonesome Highway nod as guitarist of the festival with his blistering solo on their closing number One Bad Stud! 

(left to right 1,2,3)

The Sleepwalkers Wichita Lineman (4)

It felt like being transported from Kytelers in Kilkenny to Robert’s Western World on Broadway in Nashville for this master class in Western Swing and Country Classics by our very own recently formed supergroup of David Murphy, Clare Sands, Kevin O’Shea, Cian Heffernan and Declan O’Shea.  A rendition of the classic Jimmy Webb song that Glen Campbell would have been proud of.

Mary Gauthier Soldiering On (5)

A performance that even surpassed her normal excellence with songs and tales that both moved and enthralled and appeared to be savoured equally by the artist and audience. Material from her recent album Rifles & Rosary Beads was outstanding, in particular this opening track from that album.

Bennett Wilson Poole Ask Me Anything (6)

A performance that fully lived up to expectations from these three amigos with the collective adroitness to create lyrically astute songs with hooks and rhythm that catch and reel you in on first listen, all enriched by killer jingle jangle Rickenbacker playing by the most senior of the trio. This particular song has been on Lonesome Highway’s playlist since the release of the album and they delivered it to perfection.

(left to right 4,5,6)

Prinz Grizzley and his Beargaroos Wide Open Country (7)

Austria may be better renowned for classical rather that country music but it has struck gold with these honky tonkers. One of the busiest acts of the weekend playing three sets including a double helping at the ‘wind down’ friends and promoters afternoon session at Billy Byrnes. Also voted best looking band of the festival by the large female contingent by all accounts! 

Seamus Fogarty Carlow Town (8)

Festival opener Fogarty has suddenly become a cult hero with his witty and poetic song writing. The opening act of the festival and an act much loved and encouraged by our great friend Willie Meighan. His live shows more than justify his growing fan club and his yarn of an overnight in Carlow Town with its jocular lyrics and electronic loops and beats brought the house down.

Whitney Rose You Don’t Own Me (9)

Melting heat and melting hearts at Billy Byrne’s for Whitney Rose’s first Irish dates. A throwback to late 50’s and early 60’s Nashville sound when the use of the two words pop and country in the same sentence did not send you scrambling for the pause button. Her extended version of the Lesley Gore hit from the early 60’s was stunning.

Peter Oren Throw Down (10)

The perfect lunchtime set from the affable and articulate young man with the dreamy baritone vocals and equally engaging stories and songs to match. Shades of Bill Callahan in his low fi set list that not surprisingly included most of his excellent recent album Anthropocene. Throw Downjust about shaded Canary in a Mineas the highlight of his set.

(left to right 7,8,9, 10)

Special Achievement Award

The festival offered so many musical highlights but the highpoint of the weekend was without doubt Del Day, Con Crean, Alan Treacy and Sinead Fitzgerald arriving at Cleere’s on Friday afternoon after their epic and €10,000 + fund raising cycle. Extraordinarily they did not encounter a single rain drop on their eight-day adventure.  No doubt Willie Meighan was still working his magic and looking after them. Heroes one and all and testament of how the festival has in the past - and continues to – create friendships, bonds and camaraderie way beyond our collective love of music. 

Review and photography by Declan Culliton