Hanley, McCarthy & Sinnott
at Whites Hotel,
Wexford, Ireland
(2 May 2002)

This small venue in a small Irish town witnessed virtuoso performances by combining two of the writers of the top songs of the past two decades and the country's premier record producer.

Think of "No Frontiers," "Past the Point of Rescue," "Ride On," "Katie" and dozens of other hits. Now imagine the writers and the producer giving an intimate concert, accompanied only by their own guitar playing, and you have a gig that was heaven.

Declan Sinnott, perhaps best known for producing many of Mary Black's albums, opened the gig with some excellent renditions of Bob Dylan material -- in particular "Boots of Spanish Leather." Sinnott got a rousing performance on his home turf. He is one of the great artistic exports of Wexford and was a force within Horslips and Moving Hearts before moving into production. As one audience member remarked, "He makes the guitar speak, but makes it look so simple."

Next up was the man from Cork, Jimmy McCarthy. For the uninitiated, he is the man responsible for hits by Christy Moore, Mary Black and just about every major singer in the folk genre in the past 20 years. McCarthy, like so many stars, is a shy person to begin with, but as the music took over, his witty repartee emerged. He held the audience spellbound with unadorned versions of his better-known material from "Ride On" to "Neidin." It was a revelation, to listen to this gentle man sing the songs that obviously meant so much to him. In particular the crowd enjoyed his "Rose of Harlem."

(One snippet of information that came out of the banter was that McCarthy has just finished a book, so fans of this prolific and gifted songwriter may have their Christmas wish for 2002 ready to be granted.)

Most country singers in the world have recorded a version of "Past the Point of Rescue," including a Norwegian language cover. The man responsible, Mick Hanley, took the stage next, and given that he was perhaps the performer of whom least was known on the bill, he still bowled the crowd over. His combination of repartee, explanations of how his songs came to be written, put-downs for mobile phone owners and excellent tunes were a joy to witness. His songs might have been less well-known than some of McCarthy's, but everyone there soon wanted to know more of them. Many of his songs are witty, funny story songs, which all worked extremely well in the intimate setting.

To conclude the session all three artistes converged on the stage for some very obviously impromptu offerings. They had the crowd screaming for more with spirited renditions of "My Sweet Lord" and the big finale, the Beatles hit "I Saw Her Standing There."

As with so many great concerts, this was the silver lining from a very black cloud. Declan Sinnott and his wife Kathy had a son who suffers from autism and Kathy has had to fight the Irish government for years to secure proper education programmes for him and others with similar problems. As a final resort she has decided to stand in the government elections and the concert was to raise funds for her campaign.

FM Productions (Frank & Mick), who brought this concert to fruition, had previously presented Christy Moore at the same venue and are committed to re-vitalizing the live music diet of this part of Ireland.

As people chatted with these very real "superstars," one person likened it to the old sessions held in the upstairs rooms of pubs back in the '60s, except that the participants this time were very accomplished professionals.

I believe that this performance was the closest we will come to those magical Greenwich Village days when the likes of Dylan, Baez and Farina would have played in a session.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 30 May 2002