On Friday the 26th of June, contemporary country bluegrass band No Oil Paintings launched their self titled E.P. with style on the Belfast Barge.
The novelty of attending a gig on a boat caused much excitement and there was a genuine feeling of anticipation prevalent throughout the night.
The night began with Gleo-Beam, moniker of harpist and singer Nieve Carberry. A skilled harpist who played trad music with a folksy twist, Nieve performed to a really engaged crowd from the offset. The boat was completely crowded with a large group of people sitting down on the floor in front of the stage, relaxing and enjoy the music and atmosphere. Having a smooth melodic voice with a sweet tone, she accompanied her songs with rhythmic chords. With an affable stage manner and funny rapport with the audience, Nieve set’s was also beautiful, particularly the final ten minute song ‘King Clogher‘, a tune she had written about a fishing town in County Louth that her family loved. It was an evocative, image inducing song which, despite its length, held the audience’s attention throughout.
Next up was American singer songwriter Chris Wilson. A dear friend of the members of No Oil Paintings, Wilson was clearly delighted to have been invited to play at the E.P. launch while in Northern Ireland. Starting his set off with a really well received joke, he soon became more serious putting everything into his performance. With a voice that ranged from breathy and soft a la John Mayer to strong and powerful, Wilson played an acoustic set of stirring tunes with genuine emotion. Similar in sound to James Blake and Damien Rice, he played slightly melancholic, soulful acoustic tunes, ending his solo set with a rousing number before inviting the No Oil Paintings fellows on stage with him to play a lively folksy song with a slow building rhythm.
Lonesome George followed. The experimental trad/ska/calypso band started off with a cover of a french song by Tryo. Starting off with a cheery whistle, which lead into an upbeat ska song sang entirely in french, the tune caused much movement in the crowd, who responded enthusiastically to the band. Lead singer and guitarist Joe had such an enthusiastic and genuine stage presence, and a very infectious smile.
Lonesome George looked as unique onstage as they sounded, with a medley of motley musicians including a fiddler, guitarist, double bassist and a bodhran player. Their multifarious mix evidently enables the band to experiment across a wide range of genres and influences and they proved that this method works well for them. Following the first tune was the appropriately entitled ‘Variety is the Spice of Life’, a trad tune layered with calypso.
It was followed by a song with a more bluesy feel, ending in a lively instrumental outro which smoothly ran into a trio of high powered reels which had the whole crowd dancing and attempting irish dancing. Fiddler Dessie was particularly impressive during the reels, his fingers flying unbelievably quickly across his instrument, showcasing evident flair in his craft. Diversifying the set once more, the band played a carribean sound called ‘Coco Town’ which was a joyful upbeat number, followed by an acoustic tune to finish. The set was incredibly uplifting and had the whole barge moving.
The crowd was sufficiently pumped by the time No Oil Paintings was due to play. Introduced onstage in humourous style by the magnificient Katie Richardson of Goldie Fawn, No Oil Paintings took to the front to raucous applause.
A dynamic quintet, the five piece band consists of banjo player Sean Doone, fiddler Bronagh Broderick, drummer George Sloan, Bassist James Doone and Dobro player Chris Kelly. All five of them showcased significant vocal talents both individually and collectively throughout their set. And what a set it was! Chris Kelly took centre stage and was an incredibly lively and magnetic frontman, dancing, making jokes with the crowd and confidently calling out to them as he introduced each new song. With a country/folk/ bluegrass sound, the group brought lots of different genres to their music, and their set really felt like a collaborative effort between a series of talented musicians from different backgrounds.
Kicking off their act with the very lively folksy ‘Dance Tune’, which had a great rythym throughout and caused much movement from the excited crowd, No Oil Paintings then went into ‘Night Like This’ a country/ bluegrass tune with greek undertones. This was followed by ‘Orphans Lullaby’ which had the crowd singing back at the band. Allowing the band to change pace, ‘Lonesome Blue Whale Blues‘ followed, being lead in vocals by Sean Doone, it was an bluesy country song which showcased excellent harmonising.
Although most of the songs vocals were led by Chris Kelly, the band alternated to give each member the spotlight, and each one had impressive vocal skills, particularly Bronagh Broderick, who led a cover of ‘Hell on Heels’ which was followed by an affecting rendition of her own song, a power ballad country song called ‘Secrets‘. A rapid rendition cover of ‘Sweet Babies Arms‘, was next followed by a cover, ‘Raise Hell’ both of which caused the crowd to go mad, jumping around and singing along.
Next song ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ a lively and upbeat tune with plenty of great banjo playing. A cover of country song ‘Ole Joe Clark’ followed, and the set was finished witha cover of ‘Rake‘. The crowd, who had been joining in, clapping along, heckling and jumping about were ecstatic and clapped and cheered wildly, demanding “One More Tune”. No Oil Paintings obliged them by breaking into one of their best known tunes, ‘Exodus‘. Animated and Exciting, No Oil Paintings are very talented musicians who put on one hell of a show! Una Mackle, GiggingNI.com. Photos by Julianne Rouquette.