Damien O’Kane Band
The Picturedrome, Holmfirth
18th September 2016
Nearly a year on from the release of his third solo album – ‘Areas Of High Traffic’ (LTW review here) – the Damien O’Kane Band are still finding time to get out and give the music a rare but very welcome chance to air in a live setting.
Commitments to the Kate Rusby cause (new album ‘Life In A Paper Boat’ imminent…) allow for few opportunities to get this band and the ‘Areas Of High Traffic’ music together and on the road. Criminal some might say, but more a case of the reality of being a busy gigging set of musicians. So thank someone somewhere, maybe the big man upstairs, for a window of opportunity for a short run of gigs with the Rusby new album gigs and Christmas gigs taking up much of the foreseeable future.
Although the folk theme is at the core, with electric guitar, keys and drums the set up looks more akin to a rock band. “I used to sit at home and play the banjo – Now I feel like a rock star” kids Mr O’Kane, who may have forsaken the Gallagher hairstyle mop of his slightly younger days, but remains sartorially splendid in dapper waistcoat although future use of shoes with flashing LED soles might have cause for the fashion police to be red alert. Aside his own acoustic and electric tenor guitar (almost rock and roll) the regular sidesmen of Stevie Byrnes on the acoustic and Stevie Iveson on the electric make up not quite a Quo-like guitar trio. Not just keys but left handed bass comes from Anthony Davies while Cormac Byrne batters a range of percussion, which possibly includes a bucket. They make an impressively big noise yet also deliver the necessary subtlety and finesse.
Not short on easy banter either – the common theme of migration, a subject close to the man’s heart, is strong and he’s quick to dedicate a couple of the songs to “all the lovers out there” (minus the deep Barry White bass tones). Aside the material from ‘Areas……’ the band dips into the back catalogue to yield several gems and allow Damien to deliver his stock in trade seeing him serenely plucking at the banjo – like the swan, all calm and tranquil above the surface but the fingers are flying like billy ho. The ‘Summer Hill’ debut album’s ‘Lough Erne Shore’ is a surprise addition although the banjo led ‘Mystery Inch’ set of tunes vies with the groove of ‘The Breaking Of Omagh Jail’ in the drive to become his signature piece, as well as showcasing his knack of adding a decent tune to a set of traditional lyric. The highlight though remains the gorgeous ‘Banks Of The Bann’ – another migration song, with Stevie Byrnes taking the Kate Rusby part on the chorus. When a six foot Irishman (now living in Glasgow) can play that part with aplomb you can see why they make up a crack band, why Damien describes his boys in glowing terms, and why and it’s hard to disagree. A perfect blend of the traditional with a contemporary gloss coating.
Damien’s website is at : https://damienokane.co.uk/
You can find some videos on YouTube here
Words and live photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive. He can be found on Facebook and his website is www.michaelainscoephotography.co.uk