By now you know about our exciting trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland to stage a special Roots as part of the tenth annual Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival. But did you know that it’s a two way street? Nashville sends contingents of troubadours to our sister city in Ulster, and then they send musicians our way a few weeks after that. Having been treated so well, it’s only hospitable that we’d play host to a gang of Ireland’s finest. Four of our featured artists on Wednesday March 19 – two days after St. Patrick’s Day – are official delegates of the festival. Our show-closing act has been called Ireland’s greatest folk guitarist, and we’ll enjoy a bonus cross-continental exchange with the very American roots music of Pete Anderson, a West Coast icon.
I’ll start with that guitarist, because it’s quite the coup that he’d join us. John Doyle came to my attention and the attention of many others as a member of the awe-inspiring band Solas. When I got hold of their 1998 release The Words That Remain, I wore it out, transfixed by the fluid, punchy drive and glorious chord voicings of John Doyle’s guitar. I saw the band in Nashville years ago on one of the most exciting nights of music I’ve experienced, and it was bewitching to watch Doyle’s economy of motion and hear his wall of round-wound sound. He’s since pursued a solo career and put his songwriting and singing out front. The Wall Street Journal’s Earle Hitchner calls him “mind-vaultingly good” and I think you’ll agree. He’ll perform with banjo master Alison Brown, a frequent collaborator and MCR regular whose Compass Records label has been home to Doyle’s recent albums. This will be a tour de force.
The solo songwriters are new to me, so I’ll be forming impressions as we go. They’ll perform three-song sets in the heart of the show. Allow me to rely a bit on their own bios and press kits so I don’t mischaracterize anybody.
Triona Carville writes that her dad inspired her to play as a kid: “Ever since, I’ve been writing, playing, singing, and I still look through my dad’s old guitar books now and again for more good songs to learn. I would sum my sound up as country/pop with influences of Americana and a lot of attitude and energy. I have supported Joan Armatrading in Dublin. Last year I received the Cel Fay Bursary Award for young musician of the year. I’m also very excited to announce that just before I head to Nashville I will be having an EP launch with my full band.”
Peter McVeigh leans in a pop direction with his writing. He “first cut his musical teeth in the critically acclaimed band Eskimos Fall. When the group went their separate ways two years ago after releasing a clutch of well received offerings, the tunesmith decided to go it alone and (unveiled) his debut EP ‘Lights’ in early 2012. He’s a writer with a gift for story-telling, his uplifting rock anthems and delicate acoustic tales have made the likes of Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Olga Kaye (Cool Fm) sit up and take notice.”
Stephen Macartney is a member of celebrated N. Irish group Farriers. Critic Stephen Rainey gushed over their recent album: “The skill with which Farriers approach the various genres is startling. A luxurious blend of fiddle, pedal steel, acoustic and electric guitar, as well as subtle percussion, provide the ideal backdrop for the Appalachian harmonies to shine through. Rustic, but modern, Farriers have somehow managed to achieve a perfect fusion of roots music and contemporary songwriting. This music could only have been made in the last few years, but the debt it owes to the past is considerable.” Sounds like our kind of thing.
As for Wilfie Gilbert, well your guess is as good as mine. He’s an artist who’s left almost no internet breadcrumbs, and the only bio published for this veteran songwriter is about 30 words long. He does seem, via Facebook, to have close ties to our Belfast friend Gareth Dunlop and fellow performer on the bill Triona. So come and welcome Wilfie and we’ll ask him a few questions.
Last but not certainly not least on our bill (though we suspect least Irish) is the great Pete Anderson. Why is that name familiar if not instantly recognizable? Because you own every Dwight Yoakam album, right? And because Pete’s the name on the back of every one between 1986 and 2003 as producer, guitarist and vital collaborator. But Anderson’s contributions run deeper than that, through musical associations with Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Roy Orbison, Rosie Flores and our own Jim Lauderdale among others. He founded the exceptional Little Dog Records. And he’s been a champion of the LA roots/country scene. All along, he’s been releasing his own albums, which have spanned genres from country standards to rockabilly. His recent projects have focused on the blues and his new project Birds Above Guitarland, featuring all original songs, is authentically cool. It was hailed by Vintage Guitar magazine as a “perfect guitar album,” and they’ve heard a bunch of them. Pete will play Roots with an efficient trio including organ and drums. It’ll be a spring breeze of California cool.
So keep your green out a couple extra days and wear it to the barn. It’s our season-closer, so you can say farewell to winter and hello to spring as well. I will be on travel so I regret I can’t make this show. My trusty and erudite colleague Larry Nager will handle interview duties. I hope you’ll all hoist a glass to our Irish friends. They certainly treated us well.