“Troubadour” CD/DVD review
Very nice review from PJ Curtis – broadcaster, record producer, music historian, lecturer & author.
The album is a well paced mix of folk, blues and self-penned songs. Your performances are really excellent (as are those from the backing musicians). You are confident in every way and overall you present yourself as a mature musician who has paid his dues and has nothing to prove here except deliver what you do best… perform your wide range of music with great presence, great style and with great taste.
I do now believe that your version of ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ is the DEFINITIVE version…and I’ve heard a few. In my book it’s a stunning performance and arrangement (worthy of a single release I would suggest).
Other highlights…Bye Bye Johnny/ I Wonder/ Alberta…and Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore are all gems…and The Peace Within ROCKS!! Shades of Elvis and Scotty’s Sun Records period. Love it!!
So take a bow Barry…. you’ve produced an excellent double collection that should find an audience and gain you new fans. You’ve come a long way since your Dublin days…and have earned your spurs along the road. Long may your creative juices flow!!
Review of live concert with Mick Taylor
Dongen (Holland) – Ex-Stone Mick Taylor is a real diesel engine for the blues
by Willem Jongeneelen for the Brabants Dagblad
The 21st season of the Blues Promotion Dongen got off to a great start. “De Gouden Leeuw”[the venue – translated means the Golden Lion] consisted yesterday of 20 golden blues fingers, property of the Irish blues singer Barry McCabe (ex-Albatross) and the English guitarist Michael Kevin Taylor, better known as Mick who used to play with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and The Rolling Stones.
Some of the audience could hardly believe it – a genuine member of The Stones playing in a club in Dongen. To ask him why he left the Stones is one of the silliest questions you could ask him. Because for the past 30 odd years he’s been active on other fronts and able to play exactly the style of music he feels like playing – and in his characteristic style of long but interesting solos. His style/music is timeless and forever. Plus, he can live a normal lifestyle. He can walk the streets, have a beer and play wherever/whenever he feels like it. Somehow I don’t see his mates Keith & Mick doing that, without at least ten security people and the ensuing circus that goes with it!
No, leaving The Stones after having made seven albums with them in the early seventies seems to me to be the best decision the now slightly-heavier man ever made. In Dongen, the man who’s played with Little Feat, Mike Oldfield, Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan blended himself in nicely with the slightly Celtic and more Rock leanings of his part time-companion and friend Barry McCabe. In turn the duo played their songs, not because of any egos but because the music matters most to these two men. McCabe is clearly the better rocker of the two but Taylor is the real blues engine of the machine.
It didn’t matter if it was a sort of gospel boogie from the John Mayall time, a cover from Robert Johnson from the 1920’s or Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell (which included the subtle inclusion of a few bars from Layla from Derek & The Dominos), when Taylor got going on the slide he hit some real high points. Honky Tonk Women got the best reaction, one of The Stones’ songs that would never have sounded the way it did if Taylor hadn’t played on it. McCabe played the role of Mick Jagger for the occasion and the couple of hundred fans in Dongen played the role of the singalong crowd in the Feyenoord stadium. The most interesting songs were the longer, slow ones, where the band members knew where they were going but didn’t know where it was going to end. The Golden Lion slowly became a sauna as the show progressed but still that didn’t stop the many fans waiting around to get an autograph long after the show had finished.
Review of live concert in Barry’s Hometown Virginia
by Leah McDwyer for the Cavan Echo
Barry McCabe returns home to Virginia for gig
Legendary singer Barry McCabe returned to his hometown of Virginia to play a Christmas gig. McCabe, an experienced, highly-respected guitarist is renowned for pioneering the Celtic Blues genre.
He appeared on December 21st in the Riverfront Hotel in Virginia along with his special guest, Pat McManus. The songs performed were varied versions of classic blues/rock songs and also several of the songs off Barry’s own albums.
McCabe invited Pat McManus to play in the show because he knows that many local people who enjoy blues-rock have seen both himself and Pat play separately but never together.
Barry’s performance was excellent. There was a great energy in the concert that was well received by the audience. He also added some stylish moves into the show and the chemistry between himself and McManus was incredible. They had a kind of musical banter through their guitars throughout the show.
Barry said that he found the whole experience of returning home to play very satisfying.
His background in music is vast – he has played with many great musicians all over the world, including a stint as a support act to Rory Gallagher on his last European tour.
Just last summer he and his band played with ZZ Top and Status Quo at a major festival in Paris. Barry’s song “One Of These Days” has been hailed as one of the top six blues songs ever written. His air of professionalism was especially noted at the Paris performance.
“The festival in Paris is very big and very well organised,” said Barry. “I walked on stage a few minutes early, as I like to check the equipment right up until we start playing. The stage manager panicked and kept telling me I should have been in my dressing room. We told him it would be fine. We started playing at three minutes to ten and finished up at exactly three minutes to eleven.
The stage manager gave us a big grin and a thumbs-up and said he had never seen anything like it before!”
When asked about how he came to combine traditional Irish music with blues, he explained that it happened almost by accident when he was working with Davy Spillane – an excellent traditional musician, who has played in Riverdance. The drive to marry the two genres was indulged and so Celtic Blues was born. “I suppose a lot of Irish rock musicians do still tend to think within the traditional scale.”
Barry has recently released a new album called “Beyond The Tears”. This album is very special as it features three other excellent musicians, Mark Feltham (Rory Gallagher Band), Johnny Fean (Horslips) and Pat McManus (Mama’s Boys).
The album is a wonderful piece of work. It is very organic and nurtured. There are traditional Celtic elements at the edges of the very powerful blues riffs. It’s a very easy album to fall in love with.
Review of “Beyond The Tears”
by P.L. Miller for the Gatewood Journal
Barry McCabe’s newest offering Beyond the Tears once again treats us to his knack for pulling wildly diverse musical influences into a cohesive work of art. The blues guitar we’ve come to expect is there, as is the Celtic folk element that surfaced most noticeably in The Peace Within. But the new disc adds subtle shadings of other genres as well; there’s much more to Barry’s music than his love for blues and his Irish roots.
Beyond the Tears is in the tradition of what we used to call a “concept album” back in the ’70s. The theme woven around the songs here is that of the quintessential misunderstood outsider, personified by “Johnny”; he is, as Barry explains in the liner notes, “the part of society and ourselves we’d rather not know about.” There’s plenty said within this set of songs about the travails of life and about how prone anyone can be to downheartedness under the right circumstances. But overall it’s a positive theme, urging us to look beyond the immediate happenings and come out the other side better and stronger.
The disc kicks off with a classic Chuck Berry riff on the Dave Edmunds-style number, “Johnny Nobody.” It’s hard to imagine anyone else being able to bring off a rocker like this while incorporating lyrics that deal with serious philosophical issues like the power of positive/negative thinking on one’s reality, but Barry handles it in understated style without ever sounding pretentious or preachy about it.
Strong Peter Green influences are evident on “In the Dead of Night” as well as “Trouble,” and both are good solid tracks with moody guitar riffs that stick in the brain long after the disc has stopped. The Celtic factor comes to the front on the instrumentals “Catch Me If You Can,” “Arthur” (my personal favorite) and “The Sunset Waltz.” There’s only one cover tune this time around (Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love”) which fits in surprisingly well with the rest of the tracks as well as giving us the opportunity to notice that Barry’s not just another guitarist – he can pull off beautiful vocals too.
The remaining tracks are more straightforward accessible rock that will likely appeal to a broad range of listeners. “Rollin’” picks up the pace on the second half of the disc; it’s a freight train of a song reminiscent of some of Rory Gallagher’s high-energy numbers like “Just Hit Town.” And if the radio industry ever develops aesthetic sensibilities, the Claptonesque “I Wonder” will be all over the airwaves.
One commendable thing about Barry McCabe is that even though he’s clearly a masterful solo musician, he appreciates the nuances of ensemble playing. He’s assembled a congenial group of musician friends and acquaintances to work with him on this recording, most of whom just happen to have a solid pedigree with one band or another (in this instance, Pat McManus, Horslips’ Johnny Fean, and Mark Feltham from Rory Gallagher’s band). This is in stark contrast to most solo guitarists whose egos take over the show in long, self-indulgent leads while other musicians are on the recording merely for back-up or window-dressing. You’ll hear excellent guitar solos on Barry’s discs, but they’re always tasteful and appropriate for the context; the songs are never just a showcase for his licks.
Overall, Beyond the Tears is a fine effort from an extremely dedicated and talented musician. Listeners who appreciate solid guitar work, subtly introspective lyrics, and an eclectic blend of musical styles should enjoy this disc.
The CD is available at CD Baby and Barry’s website is www.barrymccabe.com.
Concert Review – Rory Gallagher Festival, Ballyshannon
by Diane Drummond from Richmond, Virginia, USA
June 2-6, 2005
My colleague, Susan, who is a new fan of Barry and Rory, and I flew out of Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, USA; we landed in Newark Airport for about an hour, and then boarded our flight to Dublin. Airport security in the US was not much trouble.
We arrived in Dublin bright and early on Friday, June 3, after a night on the plane, with no sleep! Took the Airlink bus to the center of Dublin, to catch the 10:00 AM bus to Bundoran in County Donegal, about 4 miles from Ballyshannon. We were wondering aloud if we were standing in the correct queue, so a pleasant Irish woman started talking to us, assuring us that we were in the correct queue and answering all our questions about where she lived, etc. Everyone we met in Ireland was so pleasant and ready to converse with us! We arrived in Bundoran, found The Grand Central Hotel right in the middle of the town, and gratefully collapsed in our respective rooms! But there was no rest for the weary, as it was soon time to meet Barry and then the Backstagers at Owen Roe’s Pub next to the Rory Gallagher Place. Barry, being the sweetheart that he is, piled us into The Van and drove all of us to Ballyshannon, after a fun time meeting the entire band at their hotel in Bundoran…
An aside here for those who have not been to the Rory Festival: Bundoran is a wonderful place to stay. The only drawback, if you don’t have a car and don’t want to pay a taxi, is depending on the bus to take you to Ballyshannon. During the weekdays, the buses run regularly. However, on Sunday, the bus schedule is greatly reduced to about one bus every 3 hours or so. We were lucky enough to find friends with a car or a van who drove us back and forth a few times.
Despite the light rain on that Friday night, we had a blast walking to the Rory Gallagher Place behind Barry. Every few yards or so, a young man or two would come up to Barry and greet him like an old friend, and Barry would, of course, stop and talk with them for a few minutes! We felt as though we were in Barry’s “entourage” and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves! We finally got to the Rory Gallagher Place and met the Backstagers who were there – Leiv and his wife, John, Tilde, Bep, and the very brave and kind Ray, who was on crutches due to breaking his ankle recently. We sat down in Owen Roe’s for a few drinks and a lot of chatting. We left when the live band began to play, way too loud for such a small room. We walked up the street to the pub/b & b where Bep was staying and talked for awhile there, then walked up the hill to Dorrian’s Hotel where Barry and the band would be playing late Saturday night.
Dorrian’s bar was large and elegant, so we moved some tables together for our group, which now included all of the band and their girlfriends. I talked with Ron, the drummer. Susan and I had been without sleep for 48 hours by this time (very early Saturday morning) and were finally fading, so we left the group when Ray very kindly offered to drive us back to Bundoran in his Mercedes! It seemed that Susan and I stayed on Eastern Daylight Savings Time the whole trip, so we stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning because it was only 11 PM at night back on the East Coast of the States!
Saturday, Susan explored the beach and the coastline near our hotel before we went into Ballyshannon to explore and listen to music. We picked up our tickets for The Band of Friends concert that evening at the newly christened Rory Gallagher Theater, formerly the Abbey Theater. We went into Dorrian’s Hotel and met the Norway contingent of Backstagers as well as a very friendly and interesting couple from England. Later, Susan and I went to the theater early so that we could save a row of seats for the Backstagers. The concert was very good. Susan took a great photo of the Band of Friends onstage, playing Rory’s music under the most beautiful color poster of Rory that I have ever seen. They ended with Rory’s “A Million Miles Away.” All of us were grooving to the music, but Leiv outshone us all with his enthusiastic “air guitar” playing! What a blast it was to be part of this uninhibited group of music fans!
After the Band of Friends concert, it was down the hill to Dorrian’s Hotel, to eagerly await Barry and the Band’s performance! Our group seemed to be the first to arrive at the ballroom, so we took up residence at the side of the stage and continued our conversations with our group and with other fans that arrived later. A young tribute band played first, and they were pretty good, but we were restless to hear Barry play! Finally, the announcer came onstage and said “The legend has returned to Ballyshannon”, and Barry and the Band jogged up onstage. After years of listening to Barry’s CDs, here I was, standing right in front of the stage, next to Bep, with Barry about 8 feet away from us, and I was hearing his incomparable voice ABSOLUTELY LIVE! And the audience really DID go wild! Barry’s powerful, evocative voice, accompanied tightly by Sean’s bass, Frankie’s keyboard, Ron’s drums, and Francis’ pipes, were incredibly moving. Every once in awhile, I’d catch Barry’s eye and he would smile that engaging smile of his as he sang and played – I was in heaven!…Singing along with Barry to “Fine, Fine, Fine”…groovin’ to “Oh Well” and “Istanbul Blues”…Every member of the band was so good! I have a special place in my heart for uilleann pipers, and Francis has a place of honor there. I have never heard the pipes rock like Francis played them – he was amazing! The highlight of the show was when Barry took up the acoustic guitar and Francis took up the low whistle, and they played “The Emigrant,” dedicated to Rory. Even the fired-up, dancing crowd hushed to listen to this hauntingly beautiful song. And, despite the stoned guy who kept getting onstage until I thought Francis would deck him (Bep dragged the guy offstage once before the security guy showed up), the whole performance was fabulous! The guys came back onstage for a rousing encore of “The Peace Within,” then the show ended and we said good night to our friends and headed back to our hotel…
Sunday June 5
Barry was scheduled to play at 5:30 PM at the Rory Gallagher Place, so we took a taxi into Ballyshannon in the afternoon to do some sightseeing and shopping. It was a beautiful day, no jacket required. We drifted along the streets with the crowd, finally landing at the Rory Gallagher Place and Owen Roe’s Pub, where we met Barry and talked for a bit, took photos, and bought t-shirts. We ran into some of the Backstagers and some Irish blokes, and talked for a while. A tribute band, Laundromat, started playing at 5:30, so we had to wait awhile for Barry and the guys. Then the announcer came onstage and announced Barry and the band, and they bounded onstage! I couldn’t believe it – they were even better Sunday than the day before! Bep, Susan and I stood right at the edge of the stage so no one obstructed our view of the band! Almost all the songs were different from the songs they played the night before, but again, Barry and Francis stunned the crowd into awed silence with “The Emigrant.” And I was singing along with Barry when they played one of my favorites, “Full Moon on Main Street.” The Rory Gallagher Place was packed with dancing, clapping people enjoying Barry and the guys! When they ended the performance, the people clamored for more, so finally Barry and the band ran back onstage and played “The Peace Within.” Barry really surprised me when he said they would play their version of a traditional Irish song titled “The Homes of Donegal” for the wonderful people of County Donegal who honor Rory with this festival every year. And Barry and the band played and sang the best version I have heard of this great traditional song! Bep, Dorien and I, along with others, swayed to the music and sang along with the crowd and Barry. What a poignant, perfect ending to the festival!
Monday & Tuesday June 6 & 7
Susan and I had to hurry back to Bundoran, so we didn’t have time to say goodbye, as we would have liked. Monday morning, early, we were taking the bus back to Dublin. Luckily, when we arrived at the Ballyshannon bus station early Monday morning, we met Bep there. Two young men with guitars sang “A Million Miles Away” while we waited for the bus. There is so much of Rory there, especially around the Festival time. Our trip home (after staying Monday night at the gorgeous Marine Hotel outside Dublin) was, as they say, uneventful, and was quite pleasant. We were impressed with the sophisticated and efficient security measures at the Dublin Airport; they were much better than those we encountered at Dulles and Newark. We were looking forward to developing the photos of our trip and of Barry and the band, to once again savor each enchanted moment!
The Peace Of A Fire-Eater
An interview with Rob Musters for Dagblad De Stem (Holland)
After three live CDs with the famous Irish blues-rock band Albatross, Barry McCabe has rediscovered his Irish roots. On his first studio album, the Celtic bluesman puts a strong dash of Irish into his blues. “England has always tried to ban the Irish language, that’s why there is so much melancholy and fighting spirit in our songs.”
“Rory Gallagher was in bad condition at the end of his exuberant blues life. We opened up for him in Paradiso, just before his death, and I was shocked by his physical condition. That made me think. I lived, just like him, from day to day, travelled with my band from hotel to hotel and also liked a Guinness or an Irish whiskey,” says Barry McCabe with a laugh.
The slim and trim singer/guitarist from the rural village Virginia in Ireland spent half his life in hotels and stood on just about every stage in Europe with his band Albatross. The death of Irish blues phenomenon Rory Gallagher in 1995 caused a turning point in the life of McCabe.
“I didn’t want to end the same way as Rory. After twenty years of playing non-stop I was looking instinctively for the peace of the Irish countryside. The Albatross period was being wound down. I didn’t do anything, didn’t touch my guitar and didn’t even listen to music anymore,” says the singer.
“After a while I found that I wanted to put more of myself into the music. I re-discovered my Irish roots. My lyrics became more personal and I started to mix my blues songs with traditional Irish music. Blues is Irish. The melancholic feeling and the resistance against bad conditions under which you live connect the two music styles. To really capture the folk atmosphere properly I asked Davy Spillane’s help.”
The result of McCabe’s efforts can be heard on his new CD “The Peace Within.” Now working under his own name, the composer has made an atmospheric and original album. The CD is filled with heavy rockers, like the title song itself, touching blues songs such as “One Of These Days,” and ballads with an Irish feel to them, which are all being mixed with the blues by McCabe in a natural way.
The contribution of Uilleann pipes player Davy Spillane was invaluable for the album. Spillane played before with artists such as Bryan Adams, Steve Winwood, Van Morrison and Kate Bush.
Barry: “Davy knows exactly what a song needs. His ideas are right straight away. You don’t have to change anything. He’s a thorough musician. Davy has always been busy with traditional music. However, in the latter years he has gotten more and more interested in the blues, whereas for me it was the other way around. I’m getting more interested in the folk element of music. Actually our roads cross each other on this album.”
At first Barry didn’t think much of old Celtic songs. McCabe: “I grew up with the radio. In the countryside there was, except for live concerts, no other musical source. The whole day you heard nothing else but folk music. As a child it didn’t do much to me. Thanks to the modern radio DJ P.J. Curtis I heard rock ‘n’ roll for the first time on the Irish national channel. I was sold and immediately built my own guitar out of cardboard. When I heard the album “Live in Europe” from Rory Gallagher I was definitely hooked on the blues. At first I thought it was rather strange music, but I kept listening to it as it sounded special to my ears. That was the kind of music I wanted to play.”
At high school Barry founded his first band. Inspired by the famous Fleetwood Mac song from Peter Green, McCabe picked the name Albatross for the band. For twenty years this blues band from Barry McCabe stood on numerous stages throughout Europe. The band was famous for their loud blues-rock concerts, through which Barry got everybody’s attention because of his flaming guitar work. The band released three live CDs. Two years ago, however, the music from Barry’s younger years reared its head.
McCabe: “Even if I’m on tour a lot, of course I stay Irish. We are quite proud of our land and our culture because, as a nation, we had to fight against repressors such as the Normans and the English. The English even tried to ban the Irish language. That has only led to the fact that we think our native language and the songs that come along with it are very important. Because of this suppression there is a lot of fighting spirit and melancholy in the lyrics.”
The recent peace talks in Northern Ireland don’t leave the Irish blues man cold. McCabe: “I’m very happy about it and optimistic. On my CD I also refer to a solution, without wanting to tell people what to do. The only way to stop the fighting is to find inner peace. I don’t give any answers. Everyone has to find peace in his or her own soul. I think now there’s a big chance to come to a good peace agreement. I didn’t pick the title “The Peace Within” for nothing.”