Review by Pat Byrne
I can't believe a week has gone by since Jim and I took a run down to Balloch to see The Moonshiners play on The Maid of the Loch (1st November, 2009). It was a fantastic gig, great music, wonderful atmosphere and, unsurpisingly, a sell out. It was a really special event and a perfect opportunity to catch up with my cousins from Argyll and Bute, also Moonshiners fans. In particular we wanted to check out the band's new lineup.
Still in the saddle are:
Phil Sakerski - Banjo, Dobro & Vocals, Jimmy Moon - Double Bass & Vocals, John McAleese - Vocals and Guitar
Gemma Donald - Fiddle & Vocals, Gemma, an multi-award winning fiddler, was discovered by The Moonshiners when they played in her homeland at the Shetland Folk Festival last Autumn.
Laura Beth Salter- Mandolin & Vocals, another gifted young musician, was playing her second gig with the band, and her love of Bluegrass shines out through her mandolin playing.
It was a bit of a wild night when we arrived in Balloch and we thought that we might not make the gig as the old road to the Loch was flooded, fortunately there is now another route via Lomond Shores. Phil had put me right regarding my notion that the boat would sail, albeit it has no engine, just as well, because it was tricky enough mastering the gangway. Nonethless, we made it and were welcomed on board by lots of friendly faces including, Janie, Phil's wife, who had worked hard in organising the gig.
Hot on our tails my cousins Gaynor and Lorna arrived with their partners Donald and George. I had not seen them for a long time so it was wonderful to catch up, however, our big chat took place during the interval when we were treated to a fabulous buffet. I was delighted to get a cup of tea a well as sandwiches, sausage rolls and strawberry tarts!!
However, the main thing was the music and it was awesome. The Moonshiners were in excellent form and the audience lapped up the performance - as they dipped into the pot of Bluegrass favourites (such as songs by Earl Scruggs). We heard some of the numbers John has made his own including Freeborn Man and Muddy Waters and Jimmy almost broke our hearts with Merle Haggard's 'I'll break out again tonight'.
We loved the Western Swing, and Phil's banjo playing on Ragtime Annie fairly hit the spot. 'Pickin in Holland' was another fantastic instrumental. It's so entertaining to watch a multi-talented line up perform, Phil has a lovely relaxed style of singing and seems to change instruments like the rest of us change our clothes. The girls also did some singing and we heard Laura-Beth's sweet tones when she sang her mother's favourite, 'Across the Great Divide', a Nanci Griffith number, and Gemma belted out 'The World's Biggest Fool' will her usual aplomb.
If I had to choose, I think my favourite number was Ervin Rouse's 'Orange Blossom Special' - it was amazing. Altogether it was a memorable gig: the harmonies, the banter, the songs, the playing and the vocals were all marvellous. We simply loved seeing The Moonshiners in action once again.
You can catch them soon performing at Partick Folk Club on 27th November, 2009
Laura-Beth also plays with The Shee - you can vote for them as they have been nominated for a Scots Trad Music Award in the category of up and coming bands.