11 July 2018

McLain Family Band (USA) tour off to a great start

Thanks to John Nyhan for this report of the first two shows in a historic tour by a historic band:

After a successful tour of Denmark the McLain Family Band have got off to a great start to their Irish tour. On Monday night (9 July) the Dungarvan Singers Club was packed to the rafters.

The McLains were great for their part of the show. The audience were treated to great singing from the Appalachian tradition, both as a group and solo. They mixed their set with traditional ballads, songs from the Carter Family, gospel, classic bluegrass, and original material. There were many highlights, but Ruth McLain's a cappella version of the 'House carpenter', not alone was wonderful, but was so appropriate for a singers club. The band made us feel as if we were right there in their homestead in Kentucky.

As it was a singers club, there was also great participation from the floor. Great singing from (to mention but a few) Ann Mulqueen, Alice Fitzgerald, Robbie O'Connell, Sean Feehan, Ria Drohan, and Danny Moriarty, and a great version of 'The banks of the Bann' from MC and organiser of the Club Joe Power. The melody of 'The banks of the Bann' is the same as the hymn/ gospel song 'Be Thou my vision', which captivated the McLains. What an amazing experience to hear the Appalachian and Irish songs at the same session. There were even a few sung as Gaeilge. Raymond McLain thought he had gone to Heaven. Thanks to Joe Power, the audience, and participants for making it a magical night. Long may it continue.

On Tuesday (10th) the McLains put on another great show, at Steamboat Music Shop, Steamboat Quay, Limerick. There was extra hot picking at this show with great banjo playing from Daxson Lewis. Alice and Ruth McLain excelled on bass and mandolin. Al White covered all the instruments - guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo - and Raymond McLain played more than one instrument, but he mainly played what can only be described as outstanding fiddle. Every member of the band sang solo and harmony. Again they gave the great feeling of listening to them on the front porch of their home in Kentucky.

An extra treat was Denis Ryan (of the Brock McGuire trad Irish band) joining the McLains on accordion for 'Blue moon of Kentucky' and 'The Wabash Cannonball'. Also great singing by the Ryan Sisters when they joined the band. What an amazing night.

A special thanks to Mark Ryan, manager of Steamboat Music, for hosting the show. Also to the wonderful audience, without whom these events would not happen.

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