Jace Everett @ Whelans, Dublin 23rd April 2014

“These are the songs, this is the show” so begins tonight’s performance with Jace Everett thanking the enthusiastic audience for coming out to see him and Dan Cohen deliver a compelling show. Cohen’s electric guitar adds both grit and textural depth behind Everett’s rhythm guitar and strong vocal presence. The songs came from the new album Terra Rosa with a couple of selections from Red Revelations and the somewhat inevitable Bad Things. Everett explained Bad Things had been on his first album and he’d fought for it to be released as a single only to find that the powers that be at radio were not duly impressed. It was not until HBO came knocking and it was chosen as the theme for True Blood that it found an appreciative audience.

Throughout the show there was some playful banter with the audience. After playing  No Place to Hide he asked if anyone understood what the song was about. “Having No Place to Hide” came the reply. To which Jace responded that it was like doing stand-up in Letterkenny! One front row member was celebrating his birthday and on being asked his age said “22”. ‘You look like shit then’ said Jace to the obviously somewhat older man. "Mind you I’m 24 and I look shit too" the over forty Everett joked.

The music, considering there were only two players on stage, had a edge due to both player’s strong delivery. Dan Cohen’s effects pedal and skill allowed him to give many of the songs different settings;  from slide guitar ridden blues to more reflective tones. Though little in the set could be labelled country,  there were elements of that part of Everett’s career in his singing and delivery. One of Them, from Red Revelations, was a particular highpoint. The stripped down songs from Terra Rosa also worked well. from. The songs,  based on Biblical stories and parables,  were far from gospel in attitude but maybe not in spirit. Lloyd’s Summer Vacation, In the Garden and the title song were all highlights in a strong set.

It’s a real shame that many more didn’t get to experience this fine duo. Dan Cohen played two songs acoustically from his new solo album Bluebird; I Want You and Love Is Gone proved to be bitter sweet,  sweet in their delivery but bitter in tone as they were written following a break-up. These two men play music that has life experience, something that the audience appreciated throughout the evening with Everett’s introductions and general good humour. They closed the set with an extended version of Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away the left the audience with a feeling that tonight’s show would follow that particular song’s title

Review by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Ronnie Norton

Tom Russell @ Whelans 14th July 2013

Roll up; roll up for the great Tom Russell extravaganza! Hold tight as this train is travelling at top speed towards the recapture of the human spirit. What was once assumed lost has only been missing and the treasure hunt at Whelan’s begins with tales of Bob Dylan and his early Duluth beginnings; of Peter Pan and the sad descent of actor Bobby Driscoll into his own dark never, never land.

We are regaled with memories of Tom’s ancestors and their great journey west from the lands of Norway and Ireland. We learn of the new CD release Aztec Jazz with the company of the Norwegian Wind Ensemble and their live renditions of classic songs from Russell’s extensive back catalogue. Unfortunately all 32 members of the wind ensemble cannot fit on the simply lit Whelan’s stage, so we are left with the talents of two supremely gifted f travellers: Tom Russell and Thad Beckman.

Truly one of the last of a dying breed, the rebel in Tom Russell is never far from the surface as he recounts tales from his career as a songwriter, poet, painter and raconteur. He commands the stage with a larger than life strut and asks that we join him on a trip that invites on board cowboys, dreamers, lovers, renegades and true believers.

In Tom Russell’s eyes true Country Music died with the arrival of the big hat brigade, in the shape of Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw, but the true heart still beats on in the memory and inspired writing of this songwriter. You are bound to hear an old favourite with most of the first set this evening concentrating on the new release, along with songs from Mesabi and the more recent releases among his 28 recordings so far. Guadalupe and Goodnight Juarez conjure up imagery of life on the Mexican Border with his tales of El Paso, where Tom Russell lives, adding to the colour of the lyrics. Jai Alai, the Mexican ball game, is also played along with Stealing Electricity and Nina Simone. Spoken tributes are also paid to Ian Tyson, Johnny Cash and Dave Alvin, among the many greats that he has encountered along the way. 

In the second set we are treated to Navajo Rug, Blue Wing, East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam,  St. Olav’s Gate, Tonight We Ride and two songs from a new folk opera, yet to be completed. A love song written for his wife, Finding  You is beautifully performed and the equally touching Where Love Abides follows in a similar vein.

The wonderful solo runs of Thad Beckman lift the songs throughout and never more so than in a section that pays tribute to the legendary blues players of old, with Lightning  Hopkins and Mississippi John Hurt featured in a bottleneck display of the highest order. A medley of US Steel and Veteran’s Day closes the show before a second encore pays tribute to Johnny Cash with two songs that tip a hat to the past and the inspiration of former artists; a very generous way to say goodnight to an ecstatic Dublin audience.

Tom Russell speaks of no limitations and of free thinking. He is a natural storyteller and one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. Full marks to Roadworks Tours for bringing this great talent to our shores and they deserve great credit for promoting quality artists that need to be heard. Check out future gigs on www.facebook.com/RoadworksTours.

Review by Paul McGee. Photograph by Ronnie Norton

The Tallest Of The Tall? - Whelan's 10 June

The Tallest Man On Earth 'The Wild Hunt'

I heard about this show via a MySpace (yes, remember MySpace?) link forwarded around.

Arriving to a sold out show is always a good feeling. On arrival at Whelan's Dublin I could taste a healthy dose of anticipation in the air.

Oddly enough, I noticed a large number of tall men in the audience. Perhaps they had seen the billing out front & thought to themselves 'I'll show him'. We were there, after all, to see The Tallest Man On Earth.

Cue the arrival of a very normal sized man stage left to a raucous cheer. Opening his set with the album opener 'The Wild Hunt' was a great place to start.

With a look of  Emile Hirsch from Into The Wild Kristian Matsson (Tallest Man's real name) was not going to let guitar pedal technical difficulties interrupt his opener, despite battery failure 3 times during the song. Matsson used the opportunity to show us his ability to stay in the moment - taking up exactly where he left off a minute earlier. He proved a humorous soul too, quipping "F*ck you Duracell!".

Firstly, let me say what a beautiful & intense performer Matsson is. A brilliant guitarist complete with vocal control is not something one comes across every day. And while the comparisons to early Gaslight period Dylan abound, Matsson is a far better guitar player than Dylan ever was & arguably a far more engaging stage presence (A big call, I know).

Secondly, I'd like to mention the fact that sometimes it takes more than technical ability & stage presence to really move an audience. Don't get me wrong. This crowd was being manipulated by Matsson as if we had all been invited to his house for a party that only he could throw. However, a friend & I commented that mid-way through the set, we felt we had heard the same song repeated over & over again - with different lyrics.

My major criticism of The Tallest Man On Earth would be this: he only ever got to 3rd gear. And 3rd gear is a good & sound gear. But what about 4th & 5th? At a show like this we want to be taken not just down the side streets, but we want to gush onto the highway in 5th gear & really hear the performer's musical engine take to the road.

Having said that, without a doubt, the anthemic 'King Of Spain' was a crowd favourite prompting a loud sing-along & the haunting 'Burden Of Tomorrow' reminded me of putting on a Dylan vinyl for the first time. Only this time, it was live & perfect in it's execution & vocal reach. 

The highlight of the evening was unquestionably the sublime rendition of Dylan's 1964 tune 'I'll Keep It With Mine' performed by Matsson & a mystery female guest invited up on stage. Positioning themselves very intimately on stage around one microphone with one guitar the duo cast a spell on the crowd.

Asking the sound man who the girl was he replied with a witty "The TM (Tour Manager), Girlfriend & Rodeo (I think he meant Roadie) all rolled into one!". If anyone knows who this mystery woman was, we'd be interested to know!

All in all, a fine show. I'd like to see Matsson again perform with a small ensemble. A small kit with brushes, an upright bass & a banjo (much missed from the album renditions) would be a welcome addition - just to get us out onto the highway of folk where we belong by the end of a set.

Check out The Tallest Man On Earth on MySpace here

Buy his album 'The Wild Hunt' here