Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Malcolm Holcombe - USA - Monday, October 1

Malcolm Holcombe returns to play for BAG in Mick Murphy's Stage Inn, Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, Monday, October 1, 9pm. (Doors 8:30pm) Admission is €12 on the door.

Malcolm Holcombe is considered one of the best folk/americana artists around, at home in his native USA, and across Europe. He is touring with his new CD, his ninth, entitled 'Down he River'.
I have to tell you that this will be one of the most honest and intense performers you will see in a long, long time. Malcolm's road has been hard and tough, but he lives to tell the tale with passion and humility. A remarkable performer.

This article details the travels through life that have brought Malcolm to BAG:

"Malcolm Holcombe.
In the end, our lives are simply gatherings of contradictions. We are capable of being cruel, funny, angry and unfathomably kind, sometimes all in the space of a few minutes. The same mouth that launched angry words at a driver who cut us off in traffic will kiss and sing a child to sleep. The wise ones among us know this, and the best artists embrace this paradox and use it to fuel their making.

Malcolm Holcombe’s new album Down the River, his ninth, is born from that bed of contradictions we all lie in. There are songs here such as “Twisted Arms” and “Whitewash Job” that sizzle with anger at a society that seems intent on losing its way and running over its poor and disenfranchised. These are coupled with songs from a softer, more generous perspective such as “The Crossing” and “In Your Mercy,” written in the voice of an old woman who sees “All I worked for/…sold and surely gone,” but who trusts that “many years will tell the truth.” There is truth embedded in these songs the way quartz is embedded in the steep driveways and black dirt of Malcolm Holcombe’s western North Carolina.

The multiple perspectives of these songs speak of the man who wrote them. Malcolm Holcombe takes the stage in the same clothes he wore driving to the gig, and his soft voice, rasped from years of smoking and singing to be heard in honky tonks, rises to a howl as he frails his guitar with furious precision. He stomps, growls, rolls his eyes as he plays, then between songs cuts the tension with a corny joke. A veteran of Nashville who has little good to say about the music industry—“a bunch of people trying to buy their way to fame”—he has won the praise of such artists as Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams as he works and tours from his home in western North Carolina. A once-legendary drinker and hell raiser, Malcolm is now many years sober and embraces a gentle if non-specific spirituality.

Down the River is just the most recent step in a journey that began in western North Carolina in 1955. The youngest of four children, Malcolm was fascinated by the guitar early, an interest he fed watching TV in his parents’ living room. “If it had a guitar in it, I’d watch it,” he has said. After high school and a brief stint in college, Malcolm played for a while with a trio called Redwing, then in a duet with Sam Milner. Eventually he found his way to Nashville where he established a local reputation and signed with Geffen Records.

In 1996, in one of those twists of logic only understood in the music business, Geffen signed Malcolm and paid to record his major label debut A Hundred Lies. The album was pressed, promotional copies were sent, and the album, a stunning, low-key masterpiece, was never released. In the wake of that fiasco, Malcolm made his way back to Asheville, North Carolina. A Hundred Lies was eventually released on a much smaller label and garnered some attention, including a four star review in Rolling Stone, and Malcolm began booking his own shows. There are stories from this time of drinking, drugs and wild behavior, but like most in recovery, Malcolm would rather let the past stay in the past. “It’s miracle to be here every day,” he offers. “I’m just glad to be able to drive on my side of the road.”

Newly married and sober, Malcolm released a series of independent records, then signed with a couple of small labels. Down the River is Malcolm’s first independent release in several years (the album will be distributed by Proper Music) and reunites Malcolm with Ray Kennedy, who produced earlier efforts like Gamblin’ House and For the Mission Baby. This album also boasts more recognizable guests than most of Malcolm’s earlier records. Emmylou Harris lends background vocals to “In Your Mercy,” and Malcolm duets with Steve Earle on “Trail of Money.” Darrell Scott plays dobro, banjo and electric guitar, and former Uncle Tupelo and Wilco member Ken Coomer handles drums. “I wanted to shoot for Mars,” Malcolm says of the high-powered lineup on this record. “Luckily, Ray knew some Martians.”

But the core of each cut is Holcombe’s voice, which can growl like a cement truck in low gear or mellow into a heart-tugging croon, and his guitar playing. Malcolm plays with his bare fingers and his percussive attack makes it easy to overlook the precision with which he plays. “I always forget what a good guitar player he is,” said an audience member after a recent Malcolm Holcombe show. “You think he’s just beating on it, but then you realize he’s fingerpicking really fast and not missing a note.” There is an intensity in Malcolm Holcombe’s performances that can put off those used to a more laid back product, but those who have watched him know that Malcolm Holcombe is not just playing for gas money. This is who he is and what he does.

This circles back to the righteous fury I spoke of in this new batch of songs. “I don’t claim a thing/ Not a two-bit clue/ But I heard somebody whisper/ War kills the truth,” he sings/ hollers on the album’s first cut “Butcher in Town.” Later, on “Twisted Arms,” he spits, “Fair and square/ Looks good on paper.” This arises from Holcombe’s view of present day society. “The subject is unavoidable,” he says about the political content of the songs. “There’s just an appalling amount of injustice and greed everywhere you turn.”

But it is not all storm and fury here. The pace is leavened by gentler songs such as “The Crossing” and “The Door,” a song from Holcombe’s back catalog. One song that will undoubtedly garner a good deal of attention is Malcolm’s duet with Steve Earle on “Trail of Money,” the album’s penultimate cut and one of the album’s highlights. But the album’s real masterpiece is the title cut and the final song on the album. Here the anger of earlier songs gives way to acceptance that understands the world has changed and not necessarily for the better. “They make the laws/ to suit themselves/ the ones that buy and sell the rest/ of us down the river,” Holcombe sings. But down the river is not as bad as it seems: “Down the river/ we pray for one another…we hold on to our dream.”

The acts of writing songs and playing music have always been hopeful ones, however the bleak the subject matter of the songs might be. With Down the River, Malcolm Holcombe has once again given us a handful of songs that are testimony to the human spirit. In these songs, the old truths still hold. Love, the inner life, music, these are eternal verities and will outlast the trickery and chicanery of those who would turn us against each other. In these strange and troubled times, we need Holcombe ’s witness as much as we ever have, and it is our good fortune to receive it."

-Al Maginnes
July, 2012

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Richard Gilewitz (USA) - Monday Sept. 24

Richard Gilewitz
 Richard Gilewitz - Monday Sept. 24

U.S. fingrstyle guitarist, Richard Gilewitz plays Mick Murphy's Bar, Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, on Monday Sept. 24. Doors: 8:30pm Gig: 9pm. Adm. €12 on the door.

Richard Gilewitz fascinates crowds with 6 & 12- string finger gymnastics & spins yarns too unbelievable not to be true. His live shows defy specific genres with sounds of BLUES, FOLK, CLASSICAL, AMERICANA & TRADITIONAL as this veteran performer captures a history of fingerstyle guitar with a touch of humor.
"At turns mesmerizing, playful, humorous and wistful, Gilewitz is a master of moods when he speaks to audiences through his guitar. He's always at the service of his inner voice, which has a sneaky way of connecting directly to the listener's heart." 
Creative Loafing Magazine, Tampa Bay FL                 

"I actually wanted to be a drummer. Five minutes after my folks heard that news, they bought me a guitar. I tried flat-picking, but the pick kept falling in the hole. At one point I thought about playing a harmonica, so I blew on that for about a month. Then a real harmonica player saw me in action and said, 'Did you know if you breathe in you get all the other notes? You could ride down the road and hold it out the car window and get what you're doing.' So I recovered and rediscovered fingerstyle guitar." - Richard Gilewitz.


Recognized in the international field as a musician who composes and performs a kaleidoscopic mixture of instrumental selections, Richard forges a unique voice to include the expanse of his influences as his complex and energetic original works become stories from the guitar. His use of banjo style picking patterns, classical arpeggios, tapping and harmonics, as well as a rhythmic and percussive approach, bring a fresh impression to the listener. According to 20th Century Guitar Magazine, "A powerhouse of eclectic guitar styles and genres, Gilewitz wears his influences well."

As a youngster, Richard embraced such diverse artists as The Beatles, Andres Segovia, Kraftwerk, Leo Kottke, J.S. Bach, Arlo Guthrie, John Fahey and Flatt & Scruggs. Soaking up the wealth of inspiration supplied by the assorted acts featured at the Renfro Valley festivals, "The Dr. Demento Radio Show" and "The Midnight Special", Richard welcomed the challenge of mastering and adapting many styles of music for the acoustic guitar -- a trait that continually places him among a multitude of genres.

Richard began honing his skills both as a performer and composer during the late 1970’s at the University of Alabama, playing the local coffeehouse circuit while pursing degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Music. Following graduation, Richard placed his musical calling in the background and joined the world of flight simulation design, telemetry and satellite systems. Soon the pull of his passion for performing and recording was so compelling that Richard left corporate life to teach and perform full time in a career that has propelled him across countless countries worldwide.

Today, acknowledged as one of the most unique and humorous performers on the contemporary acoustic scene, Richard is respected worldwide for his command of the 6 and 12-string guitar. He continues to work on his craft under the direction of classical guitarist David Walbert, who has studied with renowned violinist Frances Magnes, and guitarists Gil de Jesus and Sophocles Papas. Richard is also a contributing writer for Mel Bay Publications on-line magazine, Guitar Sessions®, Singer & Musician, Fingerstyle Guitar, and for a number of trade magazines and industry blogs. International Public Radio fans often sample Richard’s wit and zany outlook on life on syndicated shows such as RTE Lyric Radio of Ireland, BBC radio of Northern Ireland, BBC Orkney, National Radio New Zealand, as well as numerous local radio shows in America.

But it is his live shows that bring out the best in this artist who follows a distinct cadence that creates a glow that continually grows a little brighter with each tune. “Gilewitz fingerpicked with such graceful facility and improvised so intelligently that he is a guitarist to follow here,” observes The Washington Post. Whether playing solo, conducting guitar seminars and school programs, or sharing the stage with fellow performers, Richard Gilewitz always creates a sparkle of mood mastery and wonderment.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

SJ McArdle & Stewart Agnew, Monday Sept 17

SJ MArdle
 SJ McArdle & Stewart Agnew play BAG on Monday Sept 17. Doors 8:30pm

SJ McArdle released his new album Blood and Bones in  2011.
Accompanying the album release was some significant media attention and reviews and a very successful Irish tour, culminating in an appearance at Electric Picnic. So far in 2012 he has performed live on the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show on Today FM and played a triumphant set at Vantastival.

Songs from the album had already garnered considerable Irish airplay as well as TV promos for Survivor and Grey’s Anatomy.

The songs were recorded in Nashville and feature contributions from some of SJ’s heroes like Rodney Crowell, guitarist Richard Bennett (Steve Earle’s Guitar Town) and the Love Sponge Strings (Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising).

The result is a stew of roots, pop and rock, with some truly unexpected twists.

Stewart Agnew

Stewart Agnew is one of Ireland’s most refined singer songwriters, Stewart Agnew, is emerging from his self-imposed musical exile clasping a clutch of AOR masterpieces to his chest in the shape of his third album, Hello Bright Spark (Trick Records), which will be released on 30 September, simultaneously with the single, "Look How The Stars Turn On".

With initial writing and pre-production sped along by contributions from Lou Natkin and Paul Wilkinson, Stewart headed into the studio in May 2011. Renowned producer Roger Bechirian (The Undertones, Elvis Costello, Bell X1) took control of the console and in a whirlwind of eighteen studio days in the depths of leafy Westmeath the 10 songs that resulted offer slivers of magic and moments of sublime comfort. All of which makes for an album of light, optimism and progression that can’t fail to appeal, both musically and lyrically, to the broadest possible audience.

Agnew has expanded on the palate suggested by his previous albums (Tailor Made and, more recently, Songs From The Gasstation) displaying a pop-nous and songwriting maturity previously only glimpsed at.

In an era of insanely accelerated pop careers burnouts and X-factor pot-celebrity the Hello Bright Spark harks back to an era when craft, time and emotion meant so much more.