Mike McGoldrick,
Eamonn Coyne,
John Joe Kelly
& Ed Boyd,
with Des Hurley
at the Sheepscar Club,
Leeds, England
(4 February 2005)

What a prospect -- musicians of this calibre so close to home. Great venue too -- a newly refurbished function room in a pub, with tabled seating round a small dance area/stage. The sound set-up was excellent and offered great detail.

All the musicians were on top form: Mike McGoldrick (who's in constant demand by the likes of Capercaillie, Kate Rusby, Karan Casey and many others) played reeds and uillean pipes. Salsa Celtica's Eamonn Coyne played tenor banjo. (McGoldrick regards him the finest banjo player in the world, and who's to argue with his assessment?) Two of Flook's finest were also on hand: Ed Boyd on acoustic guitar and John Joe Kelly on bodhran -- possibly the UK's greatest rhythm section. Leeds musician Des Hurley guested on fiddle for the last few sets, and made a fine contribution with lyrical, precise playing. And it was thanks to Des (of Leeds Irish Music Project) that these musicians were assembled here tonight.

Eamonn Coyne's presence made for a really different feel to the gig -- the last time I saw McGoldrick. Boyd and Kelly as a trio. These four musicians seemed to warm up as they settled into the gig. The first half of the set included some excellent material, including "Whistling Reels," "Connaught Reels," "Waterman's," "Lough Mountain" and "Jutland." There was a wealth of lyrical detail in McGoldrick's flute and whistle playing, and the combination with Coyne's wonderfully detailed (and very laidback!) banjo playing was sensational. Add to that the steam train rhythm section of Kelly and Boyd (these two musicians seem to have a psychic connection with McGoldrick's playing), and the effect was perfect.

The second half of the gig featured wonderful McGoldrick tunes such as "Trip to Herve's," "Whalley Range," "My Mind Will Never Be Easy/Rory's Slip Jig" and the ever-excellent "Dub Reel," which allowed Kelly to let loose with his legendary bodhran solo. McGoldrick played uillean pipes just once on a sublimely uplifting dance set. An absolute gig highlight was a blistering banjo led set called "Tunes There and Back Again." The vibe that kicked in as Coyne played faster and faster was STUNNING!!! This one had a fantastic old time American feel to it -- beautiful!

Being with musicians of Irish descent always ensures good craic, so we took the opportunity to chat to Mike, Eamonn, John Joe and his sister, musician Grace Kelly, who'd come along to enjoy the music. Grace, a SUPERB whistle player, is putting the finishing tweaks to her own debut solo album (McGoldrick guests on one track for her). McGoldrick and Coyne waxed lyrical about a Celtic Connections gig they'd taken part in a couple of weeks earlier -- Transatlantic Sessions - with musicians like Mindy Smith, Alison Brown, Karen Matheson, Bruce Molsky and Dick Gaughan. To say that both musicians had been 100 percent inspired by the gig would be an understatement! McGoldrick's next album, his much-anticipated follow up to Fused, is shaping up nicely; he's aiming for an April release (let's hope so!) and the album promises to be one of the most eclectic offerings of this year -- embracing the broadest musical palette.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 5 March 2005