Highlight of the weekend was LADIES IN THE BLUES, a spectacular, opening night stage production, featuring four female singers and a cracking band of blues’ sidemen performing songs written and recorded by women in the history of the blues.
It features Flo McSweeney, one of Ireland’s best known female vocalists who has worked with cutting edge rock, blues and jazz bands in the past; Emma Nicolai, a singer/songwriter who aides from recording and performing her own music, is also a session singer with some well known bands; Jhil Quinn, who fronts her own Rhythm and Roots Band and is the third generation in a family of singers and performers and Clara Rose, a well known blues, rock and folk performer who has recorded best selling albums of her own compositions.
The show got its first public showing to a sell out crowd in Bray’s Mermaid Theatre on Saturday night.
Backing them is a line up of four of Ireland’s finest blues’ sidemen, Ed Deane on Guitar, James Delaney on keyboards, Garvan Gallagher on bass and Kevin Malone, drums, who, between them have played with Frankie Miller, Donovan, Dana Gillespie, Shane McGowan, Henry McCullough, Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, Chuck Berry, Steve Earle, Jackson Browne, The Fleadh Cowboys, Mary Black Band and Don Baker’s Blues Band, to name a few.
A show of two halves, it features towering solo performances of blues’ classics like ‘Natural Woman’, ‘Georgia On My Mind’, ‘I Put a Spell on You’, ‘Black Coffee’, ‘St James’ Infirmary’ and ‘Cry Me a River’, as well as composite numbers where all four singers brought their very distinct talents to the game, in attitude and harmonies.
Flo McSweeney is the classic blues ballad singer who gave us renditions of favourites by Billie Holliday and Julie London; the smouldering Emma Nicolai was an uncanny Nina Simone, Clara rose took the songs of Janis Joplin and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and owned them while Jhil Quinn mined the archives of the blues, reviving the pioneering songs of Mamie Smith, Memphis Minnie and other pioneers. In between, we got Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Ethel Walters and Aretha Franklin and a whole host of others as backdrop bios were lowered, backstage, reflecting the background and impact of these ladies in turning the blues from a dive bar entertainment to a new art form for theatres and concert halls.
I could see this show travelling. Don’t forget, you read it here, first.