Review: Benny Gallagher + Jim Byrne and The Blackwoods

Photo: jim byrne and dinny. I've spent plenty of good nights at The Fraser Centre in Milngavie, where the unforgettable Erne Parkin invited Jim Byrne to play on numerous occasions. Jim was back last year at Parkin's Place, a gig dedicated to Erne's memory and continuing his work in raising money for the Suzy Fund. ?In September, 2010 Jim also supported the wonderful bluesman Hans Theessink at the venue for the Milngavie Book and Art Festival. ?

In the same year he played at a concert in Blackheath Halls, where Benny Gallagher was headlining. That was a fantastic night so he was very much looking forward to supporting Benny at the Milngavie Folk Club. So was I ? and we weren't disappointed.

I've never seen the Fraser Centre busier. ?I went along with my friend Frances and thankfully we were on the guest list as when we arrived there was a long queue right out onto the street. ?Jim and Dinny (the lone Blackwood available that night) had been busy rehearsing for the performance and had worked out a very entertaining and varied show. ?They played songs from both Jim's previous CD's, 'On These Dark Nights' and 'Every Day is Sunshine', as well as from his new album The Innocent.

Old favourites went down well, including: 'Come Dance with Me' and 'The Handle's Broken On My Cup', both with lovely harmonies. ?Then Dinny sang the beautiful ballad, 'Tenderness' followed by a more up beat Carter Family Number 'Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes', accompanied by her autoharp and Jim playing the Carter Scratch style on guitar.

The crowd were very receptive and clearly having a great time. They took no time in picking up the chorus of 'Sweeter Than A Rose', a song I particularly enjoy. ?'When I Bit Into That Apple' was really beautiful and 'Fancy Wooden Box' with some great finger-pickin' guitar, the last number, left the audience pleasingly warmed up for Benny Gallagher.

Photo: benny gallagher. Apart from the fantastic songs, one of the things I enjoy about Benny's gigs are all his interesting anecdotes from his days with McGuinness Flint and Gallagher and Lyle. ?But that?s not to say that Benny is living in the past; he brings us right up to date with news that Ronnie Lane's 'Slim Chance Band', with whom he also played, are "reformed and unrepentant" and on tour once again.

Despite his tremendous success and achievements, Benny is in no way blas? and remains impressed by the talent of the wonderful musicians he has met and played with along the way. ?He talked of the abilities of the wonderful Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudrup, who wrote That's Alright Mamma' for Elvis Presley and he remembers well how thrilling it was when Don Williams had a No 1 Country Hit with 'Stay Young', composed by Benny and his partner Graham Lyle.

It's fantastic to see that the duo's songwriting abilities continue to have impact and more recently their song ?Tusitala? was winner of the competition The Great Tapestry of Scotland. ?The song represents the Robert Louis Stevenson panel of the tapestry and Benny explained that Tusitala was the native name given to Stevenson when he visited Samoa.

Benny sang the song, which is a great choice, and absolutely beautiful. (An album will be released in association with The Great Tapestry Of Scotland which is currently being stitched and which will go on exhibition in 2013.)

He also sang a number of very upbeat numbers such as 'How Come' and I particularly enjoyed the very mellow 'Keep The Candle Burning' as well as the uplifting 'Stay Young', with all the audience joining in the chorus. ?Benny sang 'Among the Birks', with a lot of emotion, the sad and melodic 'The First Leaves of Autumn', covered by The Fureys, and 'The Runaway', also sung by Elkie Brooks, which really had the audience roused.

Despite having a cold, Benny had the audience in the palm of his hand and left them with little doubt that he is a songwriter of the highest calibre and a charismatic performer. ?The big hits have lost none of their magic and the crowd nearly brought the house down joining in 'Heart On My Sleeve', 'Breakaway' and 'I Wanna Stay With You.'

There's no doubt that it will be a full house again next time Benny Gallagher is back in Milngavie or Glasgow.

Review - Pat Byrne, November, 2012
Milngavie Folk Club

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