A tri­umph for Billy Roche and his red gui­tar

New Ross Standard - - NEWS -

A re­view by Jackie Hay­den IT WAS stand­ing room only when Billy Roche brought his neat band and his red gui­tar to the Wex­ford Arts Cen­tre. A small num­ber of re­cent gigs had sug­gested that Billy’s suc­cesses as a writer and play­wright had been the mu­sic scene’s loss, so this Red Gui­tar Tour gives us a chance to make up for lost time.

Roche’s unique style not only stems from his ex­pres­sive singing voice but his open-tun­ing gui­tar tech­nique en­ables him to blend tra­di­tional folk el­e­ments with touches of six­ties/sev­en­ties psychedelia and east­ern over­tones.

Added to his al­ready es­tab­lished deft way with words he has now cre­ated a body of finely wrought songs that held the au­di­ence spell­bound through­out.

Billy was aided and abet­ted by long-term Roach B and side­kick Mike Od­lum on bass and key­boards, and com­par­a­tive new­bie Pete McCam­ley on per­cus­sion and any­thing else that came to hand, in­clud­ing a klaxon, a har­mon­ica and a flute, and when the voices of all three com­bined they made a stir­ring whole.

As you might ex­pect, Billy’s wit and some in­ter-band ban­ter added to the gai­ety of the oc­ca­sion, as did some chat about the lat­est foot­ball scores.

But there was also much se­ri­ous work to be done. ‘Ju­lia’ has a del­i­cate sev­en­ties prog-folk feel to it, while the mur­der bal­lad ‘ Three Lovely Ladies’ was de­liv­ered with ap­pro­pri­ate aplomb and just a lit­tle men­ace. ‘On The Run’ had echoes of Mike Heron’ of In­cred­i­ble String Band fame, ‘Lost’ is a plain­tive song that evoked mem­o­ries of Al Ste­wart and ben­e­fit­ted from Od­lum’s sub­tle pi­ano con­tri­bu­tions, and ‘Yearn­ing’ left space for that dron­ing open-tun­ing gui­tar style too. But when Billy de­liv­ered a solo ‘I Thought I Heard The Robin Sing’ it was so de­li­ciously sweet it needed noth­ing ex­tra. The up­tempo ‘ That’s All Right When You’re Young’ had a fuller band sound that clearly ap­pealed to the Wex­ford Arts cen­tre au­di­ence, while Napoleon’ and ‘ Dead Man’s Shoe’s were laced with dif­fer­ent kinds of fore­bod­ing. All in all, this was a good-hu­mored night that never lost sight of the qual­ity of the songs and mu­si­cian­ship on of­fer.

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