Rhythm & Roots Festival – (Kilkenny, Ireland)
Paul Burch’s music has a distinct old-school country feel, his voice reminiscent of Nashville Skyline-era Dylan. If his presence onstage is understated, it’s because the songs are the stars, with able backing by Fats Kaplin on fiddle and lap steel. Songs such as “Carter Cain” and “Willpower” were nothing less than revelations.
Burch and Kaplin were joined by Jason Ringenberg for a rousing rendition of Hank’s “Honky Tonk Blues”; later, Kristi Rose sang backing vocals on a Burch original, “Foolish Things The Lonely Do”. His show wasn’t as hyped as some of the other performers at this festival, but it was one of the most memorable of the weekend.
Ryan Adams, by contrast, was somewhat of a disappointment. There’s no doubting his talent as a songwriter; tunes such as “Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)” and “You Can’t Make Me Stay”, a new song he played on the piano, are as good as you’d hear anywhere. Between songs however, he seemed distant and distracted. He often waited too long to start a new song without communicating with the audience. “Is anyone mad at me?” he asked at one stage, perhaps sensing the growing restlessness.
In fairness, he did try and veer the show back on course, asking the crowd to give him a subject to make up a song about. and proceeding to compose a song about Kilkenny that was pretty funny.
The Hammond organ is infrequently used anymore, but English band Grand Drive employs it to great effect. Julian Wilson’s mellow playing is given an edge by the guitar of his brother, lead singer Danny Wilson. Songs such as “Tell It Like It Is” and “Wheels” have been compared to other bands, but they don’t really sound like anyone else, and that’s a success in itself.
Marah are loud. Coming onstage to music from Rocky, they oozed rebellious rock ‘n’ roll attitude. Like a young E Street Band, they rocked their way through songs such as “My Heart Is The Bums On The Street” and “Christian Street”. There were loud cheers when they dedicated a song to the late Joey Ramone. Taking another cue from Springsteen, guitarist Serge Bielanko offered some monologues while the band played on in the background. Their encore of “Love Train” had people dancing and headbanging at the same time. Not many young bands these days can put on a really great rock ‘n’ roll show. Marah are one of them.
Back in the early ’80s (when I was still wearing Michael Jackson T-shirts), some of my older brother’s more enlightened friends were listening to the Long Ryders and Jason & the Scorchers. I spotted some of them as Jason Ringenberg came onstage with his guitar and straw cowboy hat. I’ve never seen someone have so much fun onstage. It’s a wonder Ringenberg didn’t injure himself as he kept swinging around, his guitar struggling to keep up with him.
He didn’t let his loyal Scorchers fans down, playing old favorites “Harvest Moon” and “Sabotage”. He was joined by Paul Burch for a version of Merle Haggard’s “Rainbow Stew”, and by Kristi Rose for “Whispering Pines” and one of his own gospel songs “Under Your Command”. And there was his trademark version of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie”.
Ringenberg’s energy and enthusiasm had everyone leaving in a good mood. Isn’t that what it’s all about?