ENNISCORTHY SINGS THE BLUES
As the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ heralded its arrival with Enniscorthy’s annual Blackstairs Blues Festival, the melancholy strains of the blues wafted from our many hostelries, drinking establishments and inns in what has been one of the most fruitful festivals for the town to date.
Sponsored by Heineken Ireland along with Wexford County Council, Catty Town, Enniscorthy Guardian, Enniscorthy Credit Union and many others, this is one of our longest running festivals. Now in its 23rd year it is rivalled only by the Enniscorthy Strawberry Fair and continues to bring fantastic local and international musical talents to our town as well as their many loyal and dedicated followers.
Festival organisers Ibar Carty, Mairead Ennis and John Murphy put a comprehensive programme together for this year’s Festival of 29 free live gigs taking place in 13 different venues around the town with well-known musicians from many parts of the globe including the United States and the UK as well as many parts of Ireland, and they can be well pleased with the results. To say that the town was rocking would be an understatement.
All types and forms of Blues were heard and enjoyed over the three days, from country blues, delta and piedmont to the more urban varieties of Chicago and West Coast and even some swamp blues from a variety of gifted artists like Clive Barnes, Pistol Pete Wearn, Eric Bell Trio, Jackie McAuley Trio, Hod Rod Hearse, Stonecold Hobos, Heavy Weather, Kick the Bucket and Benny Blue and the Hangovers.
My own particular favourites were the classy duo Malkum & Chris who kicked off the festival at Enniscorthy Library on Thursday evening last and the Quigley, Finn Band who raised the roof at a jam-packed Holohans on Saturday night.
Malkum & Chris have been playing together and delighting audiences since 1969 with their own special brand of delta and piedmont and last Saturday they hosted a blues workshop at Enniscorthy Castle. The veteran bluesmen on harmonica and steel guitar are musicians and entertainers with stories to match their music which I could have listened to all night along.
These two really have ‘got the Blues’ and have played with the best in the business and have the stories to prove it. I loved their lyrics and the way they interacted with the audiences and really seemed to be enjoying themselves and having a good time. They weren’t just singing the songs they were living them and most properly already have!
Singing drummer Jim Finn from Sydney, Australia and Dublin blues rock guitar legend Gerry Quigley simply owned Holohans on Saturday night as they belted out a captivating collection of powerful blues music entrancing the packed house and leaving them begging for more. What could be better than that!
The 23rd festival has been a huge success and well done to everyone involved. Our pubs and restaurants were full to capacity, the air pulsated with marvellous music and there was a general aura of excitement and enjoyment on our streets. Whatever about singing the blues, Enniscorthy certainly wasn’t feeling the blues last weekend.
Gerry Quigley & Jim Finn Band at Holohans. Malkum Gibson and Chris Kleeman at Enniscorthy Library.