Other Voices day two - review

The second night of the festival saw four singer-songwriters take the stage, including James Vincent McMorrow and Lisa Hannigan

To singer-songwriters, the terrain ahead must often appear crowded, and the second night of Other Voices saw four such practitioners in turn take the stage: two Irishmen, who both switched first from guitar to the piano; then two women, each of whom placed their music in fuller settings. So an evening of symmetry. And still a box of Quality Street passed around the audience of 90-odd souls in the church of St James in Dingle, Country Kerry, between these turns.

This part of the world has long specialised in the likes of Mick Flannery, from Blarney in nearby Country Cork, a figure who – and as the gathering's host, Philip King, later joked – doesn't say much, other than through his songs. A stonemason by trade, there is a chiselled seriousness to his work that also sounds in debt to a great deal of Americana. It made for an intense and moving beginning to the evening. (Rather brilliantly, his Wikipedia page explains that Flannery "tends to socialise with his fellow stonemasons instead of with other singer-songwriters. They prefer to talk about sex instead of music…. he has admitted: 'I'm a dour bollocks. I wouldn't be the life and soul of any party.'")

Other Voices: James Vincent McMorrow
James Vincent McMorrow at Other Voices. Photograph: James Goulden Photograph: James Goulden/Other Voices

In something more closely resembling a celebratory mood was James Vincent McMorrow, an Other Voices veteran whose debut album Early in the Morning has been one of the slowburn successes of the last two years. But rather than cherrypick from that, the Dubliner marked the 10th anniversary of the festival by playing songs performed by previous attendees. So, first, Love is a Losing Game, by which to remember Amy Winehouse, who came to Other Voices five years ago. (The story is told that when she arrived at Kerry airport, she was met by a concerned taxi driver who asked: "But where's your mammy?"). Then Two by Ryan Adams and Higher Love by Stevie Winwood, both sung in McMorrow's keening voice so reminiscent of early Neil Young, the latter at the piano, the chords chopped out starkly; and finally, Bloodbuzz Ohio by the National, a brooding slice of rock'n'roll rendered into something more fragile and no less affecting.

Other Voices: Cold Specks
Cold Specks at Other Voices. Photograph: James Goulden Photograph: James Goulden/Other Voices

For many, the surprise of the evening was Cold Specks, aka the 23-year old Canadian Al Spx. Like Flannery, she is a confessed fan of Tom Waits, but she also channels something deeper, bringing to mind Gillian Welch vocally, and beyond her that lineage which can be traced back to the most tangled and dusty country blues. She sang from an armchair in the middle of the stage, her guitar complemented by a band featuring a bassist-cum-cellist and a sax player with a miraculous collection of horns. They were survivors of a session in one of Dingle's very many pubs the previous evening where, as Spx said, she witnessed the most extraordinary impromptu singing and harmonising (in part, courtesy of last night's performers in St James's, Little Green Cars). And in tribute to that tradition and to others, she now inserted an a cappella burst of Peace in the Valley into her own mesmeric performance.

(One footnote: when Cold Specks was picked up at the airport, it will now be told, she was met by a bemused taxi driver, who was under the impression that the arriving Ryanair flight was bringing her Coldplay.)

Concluding the second night of Other Voices was Lisa Hannigan, looking striking in an emerald dress, another regular at the festival: she first came nine years ago and described it now as a "musical wintercamp". A former member of Damien Rice's band, the 30-year old with her deft band can switch from the gentlest songs to a track like Knots, from her recent album Passengers, on which she genuinely rocked out with her banjo. So much so that she then had to joke about her perspiring armpits, in keeping with the now unbuttoned atmosphere of the church. And from there to the beautiful, witty Safe Travels (Don't Die), the sort of song that you can imagine Iris DeMent singing, and which Hannigan introduced by saying: "We'll do this one because it's full of good tips for life … and I feel safety is not … top of the list in Dingle."

After which, the enraptured audience poured happily into the night.


Caspar Llewellyn Smith

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Other Voices: 'Dingle is the Vegas of the west of Ireland' – video

Dylan Haskins talks to singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, a veteran of Other Voices, about what the festival means to her – and the gift she received from actor Aidan Gillen at this year's event

04, Dec, 2011 @3:12 PM

Article image
Other Voices: 'It's vital that the Irish music scene has something like this' – video

A review of day three of the festival, with Guardian music editor Caspar Llewellyn Smith, Dylan Haskins and James Vincent McMorrow

04, Dec, 2011 @6:26 PM

Article image
'The music and language of Ireland are rich and alive here' – Other Voices audio

Philip King, the man behind the Other Voices festival, talks to accordion player Brendan Begley about why Co Kerry is the place for him and how he learned to speak English from watching TV

05, Dec, 2011 @7:01 PM

Article image
Other Voices day three - review

The third night of the festival brought some real rock, a troubadour, a collaboration involving Cherry Ghost and Edwyn Collins on top form

Caspar Llewellyn Smith

04, Dec, 2011 @4:55 PM

Article image
The many sounds of Other Voices – video

On day two of the festival Guardian music editor Caspar Llewellyn Smith looks forward to a varied programme of music, and Dylan Haskins talks to up and coming Irish band Little Green Cars

03, Dec, 2011 @2:17 PM

Article image
Edwyn Collins, Aidan Gillen and Frank Turner at Other Voices – video

Dylan Haskins talks to Edwyn Collins, Aidan Gillen and Frank Turner, as the 10th Other Voices festival draws to a close

05, Dec, 2011 @7:40 PM

Article image
Wild Beasts and Spiritualized at Other Voices festival – have your say

Open thread: We're streaming gigs from Wild Beasts and Spiritualized at the Other voices festival tonight – here's the place to have a chat about it with Observer pop critic Kitty Empire

Open thread

04, Dec, 2011 @9:02 PM

Article image
Other Voices day four – review

Caspar Llewellyn Smith: The final night of the the festival saw supporting roles for Ben Howard and SBTRKT, but Wild Beasts and Spiritualized both shone as the principal attractions

Caspar Llewellyn Smith

06, Dec, 2011 @3:35 PM

Article image
Other Voices: 'Artists sense a musicality here ... it's a very powerful place' – audio

Guardian music editor Caspar Llewellyn Smith talks to Philip King, founder of the Other Voices festival, about the musical allure of the westernmost point in Europe

Caspar Llewellyn Smith

03, Dec, 2011 @12:42 PM

Article image
Other Voices 2013: the final festival lineup revealed
Headliners Patty Griffin, Mogwai and John Grant joined by the likes of Lulu James, Asgeir and David Gray

Guardian music

27, Nov, 2013 @11:23 AM