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Seamie O'Dowd

Venue: Hawkswell Theatre
Town: Sligo
Date: 1/4/16

A significant presence on the Irish music scene since his teens, Seamie's eclectic approach to his craft has seen him perform with a wide range of artists, from Dick Gaughan through Máirtín O'Connor and Christy Moore, a couple of stints with trad superheroes Dervish, among many. His contacts book must be the envy of most of his peers. In that light, then, what a brave decision to put himself in a solo spotlight, but, it has to be said, a move that paid handsome dividends for both himself and an audience that hung on his every note for the guts of three hours.

Put simply, this man is a genius, who mines many furrows, some simultaneously. Whether it be a total inversion of Dominic Behan's Crooked Jack from emigrant ballad to an angry tale of worker exploitation, replete with powerful guitar work, or a tender rendition of an air on fiddle, every note is laden with conviction and passion. Neither is he slow to showcase the work of others. Tony Reidy's human tale of roadbuilding in all weathers-Hard Hat( fitting, since Reidy is a civil engineer by profession!) is a lovely piece of work, while his reading of Thom Moore's Turn The Corner is pretty much definitive. It is however, when he seeks to move the native muse out of its comfort zone that we get a hint-the merest scintilla- of what goes on in O'Dowd's head.

A bottleneck based version of The Galway Shawl, constructed for a project with Rick Epping and Johnny McDonagh is incredible, all the more so for its segue into Leadbelly's Leaving Home Blues, leaving most of us present slackjawed in amazement. Following that, a reimagining of In A Big Country, which, stripped of its original bombast, acquires a new measure of intimacy. There were, of course, reels and jigs on guitar and fiddle, new airs of original provenance, and the evening's closing piece, an incendiary version of Going To My Home Town. The Hawkswell too should be applauded for their support of local talent in what was truly a fabulous gig. Mesmerising entirely.

Oliver P. Sweeney.

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