Grateful Fred has put on some pretty impressive gigs in his time but last night he took the biscuit and put the cherry on the cake at the Cafe D'Art in Formby. What was the nature of this achievement? Well, it was a major coup in securing the only appearance in England, on her current mini-tour, by the sensational Brigid Mae Power, whose recently- released, eponymously-titled album has received rave reviews from critics in both the specialist music press and national daily newspapers. Reviewers have called Brigid's album a "masterpiece", and I, for one, would not disagree.
Brigid's album is released on the legendary Tompkins Square Record label of San Francisco, which is run by "record man's record man" Josh Rosenthal, who also released Ryley Walker's debut album [ indeed Brigid has played a number of shows with the equally brilliant Ryley].
Brigid was born in London but moved to Galway when she was twelve. She recorded her first album in a church and some influential bloggers in Ireland brought her music to the attention of Josh Rosenthal, which led to him signing her.
Brigid is an extraordinary talent. What is so striking about is her voice, which quite unlike any other I have heard and which she uses as an instrument, in much the same way that the late Tim Buckley did . In fact, when I asked Brigid about her influences, her immediate response was to name Tim. I think that she was quite impressed that I had actually seen him perform live!
Opening the evening was the excellent Gary Maginnis, who had previously appeared at Grateful Fred's in June, with his band The Like, supporting The Corn Potato String Band. Tonight Gary appeared solo and gave us acoustic versions of several of the songs from his EP, Ghost Town Blues, including "Blood", "The Way I'm Thinking", "Long Way Home" and the harrowing "Streets Of Belfast". Gary also sang his new single "This Far At All", which was released today. Gary is fine songwriter and performer, whose EP and single are definitely worth checking out.
After a short break, Brigid took to the "stage" in the Cafe D'Art's gallery, which she likened to an airliner cabin .Brigid usually plays guitar, piano, harmonium and accordion but as there was no piano available, she said that she would include some "old songs".
For me, one of the highlights of Brigid's new album is the opening track "It's Clearing Now", which I first heard on an "Uncut" magazine sampler CD. I was blown away by this stunning piece of music and immediately bought the album. Tonight's stripped down live version, with Brigid's voice and guitar was simply mesmerising, eight minutes of pure bliss, which sent a shiver down my spine.
Brigid performed three more brilliant songs from the album, "How You Feel"; the forthcoming single " I Left Myself For A While" and "the impossibly hard to sing", harmonium-accompanied "Let Me Hold You Through This".
Of the "old songs" we were treated to stunning versions of two traditional songs, "As I Roved Out" [which Brigid learned from Planxty] and a gorgeous "My Lagan Love"[on which she played accordion].
For a richly-deserved encore, Brigid finished off a most memorable evening with the relatively uptempo and upbeat "I Don't Know How To Do This".
Thanks to Grateful Fred for organising this superb event, it was a real privilege to be there to witness a very special performance by this unique artist, Brigid Mae Power.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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