Not usually a venue associated with this type of evening, tonight the Water Rats became a fully table/seated venue for this "In The Round" ‘unplugged’ event, hosted by Alice Amel.
Sticking to the familiar ‘In The Round’ format, things kicked off with County Antrim born Johnny Brady. Johnny was probably the least well know artist in this songwriting group, Johnny is better known for his full band ‘Dance’ shows throughout Ireland, performing old and new covers, as well as his own up-tempo numbers, so it was with great expectation to see how he fared in this particular format. It took just a few second of his opening number, “Things Change” to know he can cut it! With excellent support from Davy Maguire on acoustic guitar, he proved he doesn’t need a 5 piece band to make an impression. On his turns he covered a couple of his more ‘Dance oriented’ numbers, including “Love Is All We Need” and “Just Dance”, with ease, bringing a different perspective to both songs. Johnny also performed a new love song, “Looking At You”, and on his final round closing number sang “Gift From Above”, with a vocal performance not a million miles away from Chris Stapleton. Johnny is very highly recommended as a singer and songwriter, and definitely one to see when he visits the UK.
Following Johnny in the rounds was Mairead Donnelly (more commonly just billed as Mairead). Mairead first appeared on the #TEAMw21 radar at the inaugural “Corn On The Cob” concert in Hertford towards the end of last year, and recently cemented her position as one of our ‘one’s to watch’ following her performance at Buckle and Boots last month. With the talented Tom Goble accompanying her on acoustic guitar, her opening song on her round was “When The Stars Align”, a co-write with Cormac Neeson. Next came “If You Loved Me Once”, which is currently being recorded as a duet with Johnny Brady. “Searching For Ghosts” gave Mairead the opportunity to really let go vocally. Audience participation came next with “Lately” – and one or two of us remembering the “Do you ever think of me” chorus, which we had learnt at Buckle and Boots. Her final song in her round was “Looking Glass”, which gets better every time we hear it. Mairead is firmly established as one of #TEAMw21 Music’s favourites, and we are certainly excited about the hopefully forthcoming EP.
Following Mairead was Liv Austen, a welcome regular to these songwriter sessions. Accompanied as usual by the wonderful Jon Wright, Liv is equally at home in this format as well as with a full band. Covering a few of her more well-known numbers, it gave the audience a chance for a sing-a-long! Opening with the ever popular “Don’t Regret A Single One” followed by “Want It More” and “Train Of Thought”, Liv had the crowd enthralled. More audience participation followed on the highly successful “The Next Time”. Liv’s rounds ended with the brand new single “Window Shopping”, which is certain to become another fan favourite, with its catchy pop/country rhythm and lyrics. Another excellent set from Liv as usual.
Last in the round was Steve Young. Steve is one of the most underrated singers on the UK Americana/Country scene, and one of the hardest working. Drawing exclusively from his brand new Pledge Campaign funded double CD “A Little North Of Nowhere”, Steve recounted tales from his days playing in backing bands at the venue when it was known as "The Splash Club", and how much more fun it was to now be centre stage. Opening with “The Great North Road”, a song about his life touring, and how it all starts from the road where he lives – The A1 (Great North Road). This was followed by “A Fools Dream” and then “Nurture”. . With only him and his guitar, Steve held an appreciative audience captive throughout his rounds. Steve is a wonderful storyteller and is quite different solo to his full production, full band shows. “Trembling Heart” followed, a song he had performed on Clare Balding’s Radio 2 show, “Good Morning Sunday” and then the catchy “Back To Mine” closed his round. “A Little North Of Nowhere” is an absolute must purchase double CD, especially the second disc, which offers a fantastic insight into Steve as a songwriter.
The evening finished with a “well-rehearsed /impromptu” version of “When You Say Nothing At All”, with everyone contributing at some point. Mairead stated that she would like to make this a regular quarterly event - if she does - we'll be there.