This column tends to give most singer/songwriters a fairly wide berth. Too many ‘wannabe Dylans’ out there who would be hard pressed to distinguish between Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas. Their songs carry some enlightening message or so they claim. That’s if you can decipher it among the jumbled phrases delivered in mumbled monotones.
Let them off. The stage is for entertainment first and foremost. Leave education to another forum.
And I’m not alone in my belief either. For once I’m in good company.
Eric Bogle is a renowned Scottish songwriter living in Australia. He wrote ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘The Green Fields of France’ among other timeless classics.
Eric encountered enough Plastic Dylans prompting him to essay a brilliant pastiche called ‘Do you sing any Dylan’. Check it out before you harbour ambitions of being the next Prine or Kristofferson.
But, like all things in life there are exceptions. Early this year I met Pearse Doherty who played with the Saw Doctors. When Pearse champions a songwriter then it’s worth paying attention. And when his wife Joanne echoes Pearse’s lauding of Seamus Ruttledge’s latest offering it’s time to sit up. Leo Moran and Davy Carton also lent their support to Seamus in this adventure. With all those in the van Seamus must be doing something right.
Things moved fast and within days of meeting Pearse, a copy of Seamus’s album ‘Songs to have your tea with’ arrived along with the ESB bill. A most welcome diversion it proved to be too.
Seamus is a Knockmore native now living in Tuam. A more down-to-earth fella you won’t meet in a day’s walking. There’s no pretence whatsoever with Seamus and he talks and even sings in plain English.
Joanne was right. It’s a CD you won’t ever tire of playing. Seamus is an entertainer who has long copped the notion that there’s actually an audience out there and it would be a good idea to engage with them.
And songwriters are like buses. You wait ages for one and then two come along. Last week word reached me that Carla Merrigan is about to launch her first album. Carla and I drew water from the same well in another existence.
There are some things in life we can never forget. As the 80’approached amber Pat Coen, Bert Cunningham and a few more decent souls threw me a lifeline by giving me employment in a Galway factory. It provided a wage to keep the wolf from the door and a pound to live. Any job would do that but Digital was different. It subsequently became Compaq and Hewlett Packard but, while the label changed, the contents in the tin remained the same.
Beyond the world of technical computer speak there was normality and camaraderie too. Memorable trips to Old Trafford with Brian Long and the gang. The journey with Martin King and Tony Jordan to a match in Killorglin will forever live in the memory. Car sharing with Pat Nalty in all weathers when a lasting friendship and trust was forged on those long drives. And a litany of other yarns where nothing was sacred as Margaret Ryan, Brian Forde Teresa Flaherty, Gerry Daly, Mary Martyn or many more can testify. They merit an airing some other day perhaps.
For social occasions the HP band was wheeled out. Or ‘McNamara’s Band’ as we called it. With an abundance of talent to draw on they can churn out a repertoire ranging from John McCormack to Jon Bon Jovi.
Carla Merrigan is in the line-up too. She’s an accomplished singer with an impressive musical CV and a craft honed in some exalted company around the globe. She has a beautiful captivating melodic voice. Her debut album ‘In Too Deep’ is a self-funded labour of love for Carla. The launch takes place in Monroe’s Tavern, Dominick Street, Galway on Friday night next March 2.
And you’ll even get to hear McNamara’s Band. But don’t mention Dylan.