Ags Connolly @ The Cobblestone, Dublin - Friday 13th July

Making his first performance and visit to Dublin Ags Connelly told that he had Irish antecedents such as Sean Connolly and Patrick Connolly. His parents lived here, he explained, before he was born but he’s never been in the city before. He was here to play a few of his songs (from his two fine albums) to a few of the faithful. This was a stripped back performance that took the songs back to their roots with just Connolly’s powerful voice and guitar. This gave the words even more prominence and show that he is a writer of compelling country songs that are very much as true to its real spirit as if he had been born and raised in his spiritual home of Austin, Texas rather than Oxfordshire, England. Mind you his accent soon gives him away even if the beard and Johnny Paycheck ball cap suggested differently!

Ags delivered an 18 song set that included A Good Memory For Pain, I’m Not Someone You Want To Know, The Dim And Distant Past, Trusty Companion. The latter he mentioned had been requested at both funerals and weddings and caused him to wonder if those requesting the song had actually listened to the lyrics. How About Now, the album title song was one he hadn’t played in a long time but reckoned he should. It was, he mused, his father’s favourite song of his. Also from that album he played When Country Was Proud - a song that the magazine Country Music People had selected as one of the best country songs of recent times. However he felt that as it was a sentiment that was a fairly common theme with songwriters these days that may he shouldn’t have.  He also played the song he’d written about on of his heroes I Saw James Hand. He said there was a live version of the song on YouTube where James Hand was in the venue when he played it (a second time as it happens as Hand had just walked in). From the latest album Nothin’ Unexpected he included such titles as I Hope You’re Unhappy (song brimming with positivity he laughed), Slow Burner, When The Loner Gets Lonely, Neon Jail, I Should Have Closed The Book. From that album he also sang Loudon Wainwright 111’s I Suppose. Wainwright he noted was perhaps his favourite songwriter and that many of his songs easily fit into the country genre.

Other songs, other than his own, that he included were Johnny Paycheck’s (another hero) Slide Off Your Satin Sheets. He also followed his James Hand song with one of Hand’s Over There That’s Frank. He was also road testing a couple of new songs and he hoped would be on his next album which showed that he has not lost his muse and good material. Throughout he was in good humour, something that was, perhaps, at odds with some of the lyrical content of his songs, but it made for an enjoyable evening of song and story that is rooted in these shores but translatable to any location and lover of country music as it was and should be. As Ags said "thank you folks" - rather, thank you Ags.

Review and Photograph by Stephen Rapid