Rounding up a hefty month of activity. It’s not over yet. A visit from Gelb is always a welcome treat, so when he decided to spend his Easter week in Scranton, I was all for it.
It was an island of stability for him before he began his tour in Europe.
Scranton was his base to beat the lag from a long flight from Tucson.
A few nights in McCann’s Bar were had; merely to sample the black stuff, and a compulsory bag of scampi fries or two.
A delicacy round these parts, but unfound in the desert sands of Arizona.
A spin around the countryside was also on the cards, in the pouring rain of course.
Still had time to stop off at ancient burial grounds and pay our respects to the living and the dead.
A little bit of recording was also squeezed in, because why not.
Inching towards a construction of sorts, but not pushing it.
Tip tapping at it.
Whenever the feeling grabs.
And then he was off, to Zurich and beyond.
Then, I got the call to stand in for an ill guitarist for one of my favourite bands on the isle.
Jawbone are a bunch of Cork lads, and they play the best, most authentic pre-war blues I’ve heard anywhere on this island.
I felt a slight bit of pressure to fill these shoes, but I know the guys well, and luckily I had a vague knowledge of their extensive repertoire.
A couple of gigs with them, Omagh and Sligo.
Again in McCann’s Bar. But first, a quick-run through at my house.
And it was quick.
The yearn for Guinness was heavy on their minds after a long drive from Cork, so we hit the bar for a swift one before the show.
And then a few more during the show.
I tried my best to keep up, and knew what notes not to play and when not to play them.
I hung in there, and made it to the end. Sligo was similar, but with less Guinness involvement.
And then they hit the long road for another stretch of gigs while I bid them farewell and headed homeward.
Not much time to rest before I picked up Jolie Holland from the airport, fresh off the plane from Los Angeles.
She had a run of shows booked for Ireland, and kindly asked me to accompany her on guitar.
Of course I said yes.
About 15 years ago, one of her albums, ‘Esconfida’, changed the course of my life entirely.
When we got to Scranton, we jumped immediately into rehearsing.
When hunger struck, I served up a burnt black pizza.
Inedible, of course.
We hit McCann’s to catch the trad session, and Jolie got stuck right in there; taking out her viola, and joining in.
Such a joy to watch one of my favourite artists on the planet play with my favourite local musical wizards.
A guitar was thrown my way and I sat in for a bit.
Rehearsals and recording continued for the next couple of nights, right until midnight.
Then it was down the road to Kilkenny for a couple of gigs.
We decided to take the long road back to see the Wild West.
The world’s best travel companion, Jolie played DJ, introducing me to music I never heard before in my life, while also telling wonderful ghost stories.
We made a pitstop to visit the graveside of WB Yeats, and then back for more rehearsals and recording.
Songs were subconsciously forming, and started to seep out in various forms.
An improvised dirge, kicked off by a synth and viola drone… Not one but two songs about the moon… And some sprinklings were added for flavour to a slowly forming soundtrack.
On the second leg of the trip, we were joined by her partner, Ben Boye, who just flew in with his coffin sized synth.
A true gentleman with an infectious aura of calm.
The kind of person you wouldn’t mind being stuck in an elevator with.
No time for rehearsals with Ben, it was straight to a radio show at the Beeb.
The first time that we all played together was on air.
It turned out not too shabby!
Back to Scranton to introduce Ben to the trad gang at McCann’s.
Again, Jolie and I sat in on the session, but I was merely a listener, taking it all in.
A magical night with magical people.
The handful of people in the bar were treated that night.
Then it was off to Belfast to play a show in a church in sailortown.
This was the gig that glued the whole week together; a culmination of all the ingredients.
Everything aligned to make it a perfect gig.
Afterwards we hunted for tacos, and almost found them, in a Mexican-themed bar.
A little bit of tequila was the nightcap while we dined on the Belfast version of the taco.
Another fine evening.
Dropped them to the airport the next day, as they set off to Wales and Scotland for more shows.
I was gifted a great hat – and a bunch of apples.
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