Matt McGinn + Andy Lucas, Fallen Angels Club/Star Folk Club, The Admiral Bar, Glasgow, 20th March 2018

Ireland’s Matt McGinn is well aware that any appearance of his in Glasgow is bound to cause some confusion, the city being the birthplace of the late songwriter of the same name, famous for having appeared with Bob Dylan at Carnegie Hall in the sixties. Straight off, McGinn asked if anyone wanted a refund declaring that at least one punter had returned tickets once they realised that it wasn’t the legendary Calton songsmith, returned from the grave, who was appearing tonight. He needn’t have worried as the folk who were attending this long established folk club tonight were all well aware of the Irishman’s growing reputation, bolstered with the release of his third album, ‘The End Of The Common Man.’

The album formed the bulk of the material Mcginn preformed tonight, his strong presence and sharp wit along with able accompaniment from fiddler David Lombardi allowing the songs to stand tall stripped of the album’s band arrangements. Kicking off with the title song McGinn flew through the first four numbers from the disc, decrying the destructive forces of the big money companies on ‘End Of The Common Man’, portraying Belfast street politics on ‘The Right Name‘ and setting out the plight of a man turned to crime on ‘Marianne,’ the latter being almost like a Western cowboy ballad with Lombardi’s lonesome fiddle replacing the plaintive Theremin throb of the recorded version.  There was a brief respite from the targets of McGinn’s anger as he explained he thought he needed an unrequited love song to leaven the album giving us ‘Somewhere To Run To.’

The album was revisited throughout the set. The rousing ‘Trump’ (guess who that’s about) had the audience roaring with delight while the tale of Joseph Medicine Crow, the last chief of the Crow Native American tribe was given a powerful delivery.  ‘Overlanders,’ a song about émigrés to Nova Scotia was a tender ballad and McGinn returned to Irish politics with ‘Outsinner’ asking the audience if we were aware of the scandal over the renewable heating incentive which he then explained with a great deal of humour. From his previous album we got the fragile ‘Lie’ and the tremendous ‘Darkest Before The Day‘ with McGinn admitting that he wishes he could hear Dick Gaughan sing it at least once. A couple of new songs were rolled out, ‘Refugees’ and a co-write with Ben Glover (part of McGinn’s Lessons Of War project) which recalled the Troubles.

Despite just one rehearsal fiddler Lombardi complemented McGinn’s songs excellently adding a fine Celtic atmosphere to several of the songs, elsewhere able to ride the horn riffs of the album. McGinn meanwhile proved himself an excellent songwriter, singer and guitarist and there were moments tonight when one felt that he is almost an Irish equivalent of blue Rose Code’s Ross Wilson.  An encore was demanded and an excitable ‘Latter Day Sinner’  was followed by a cover of Luka Bloom’s ‘You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time,’ a perfect choice to end on allowing Lombardi’s playing to shine on the jig and reel like ending.

There was a short opening set from Andy Lucas, a much in demand keyboard player who tinkles the ivories for Blue Rose Code and Roddy Hart’s Lonesome fire among others while also releasing his own albums.  He certainly has an ear for melody with his first song, ‘Pills For Thrills,’ reminiscent of Paul McCartney and Gerry Rafferty while ‘Rain’ ran the gamut from up tempo pop to wistful romance in the space of a few verses. Our favourite was the satirical ‘Money’ which would give Randy Newman a run for his money as Lucas skewered the nouveau rich with a rich sense of sardonic humour.

Author: Paul Kerr

Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.

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