Keep it Country - Yee Haa!
  Country Music Northern Ireland
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Review by Hugh Duddy, CMNI, 17th November 2016 Any country music show by JMG Music Group is usually superb. James McGarrity deserves credit for bringing this and similar shows to audiences across Ireland and GB in a seemingly endless tour programme. So I went along to our local Theatre At The Mill in Newtownabbey last night to enjoy this latest offering. Cowboy Larry got the show rolling with Our House Is A Home (There’s Always A Fire In The Kitchen). This is one of my favourite songs - written by local man, the late great Maurice Soye and made famous the world over by Daniel O’Donnell. Larry followed with other favourites including Red River Rosie (a big hit for him) and Sing the Blues to Daddy. A great entertainer, full of craic and our MC for the night. The next guy is a legend in these parts. Billy McFarland has been entertaining us for over 50 years and more. I first saw him in the Flamingo, Ballymena in the 1960’s. He opened appropriately with Darling Let’s Turn Back The Years and followed up with great classics Take These Chains From My Heart and Blue Eyes Cryin’ in The Rain. But Billy is a wizard on the trumpet and it was the old Eddie Calvert number Oh Mein Papa which brought tears to the eyes of the audience. Billy recalled his first encounter with this song when he went to see Eddie Calvert in Belfast in the 1960’s. A beautiful rendition brilliantly performed by Billy. He finished off with Absent Friends, a tribute he says to some of his late friends including Gene Stewart and Walter Currie. Mick Flavin, all the way from Drumlish, was next up and in my opinion is one of the best singers in Ireland. We got The Old School Yard and Home To Donegal - both big hits for him and delivered with that effortless velvet voice in superb style. He followed with Choices, a lovely song about life which he says means a lot to him personally. Mick is of course renowned for some George Jones classics and he didn’t disappoint with He Stopped Loving Her Today. He rounded off the first half with Seven Spanish Angels and Wild Flowers. Those of you who watch Keep It Country TV (SKY 389, FREESAT 516, FREEVIEW 87) will be familiar with our next guest. Keelan is the teenage host of Keelans Country. Not only is he a great presenter he’s also a brilliant singer. This young man is a future star. His medleys of songs by the likes of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Hank Williams must make him unique among teenagers. He finished off with a beautiful rendition of Noreen Bawn sung in his own inimitable style. Wonderful music from a superbly talented teenager. Another guy with an easy-going style and effortless voice is Dungiven man Joe Moore. He has performed on stage in Nashville with the likes of Vince Gill and he showed why he enjoys such esteemed company. He tells me he’s heading back shortly to perform again in the USA. Joe is a big Merle Haggard fan and he performs songs such as Mama Tried magnificently. Among others we were treated to the Keith Whitley classic Don’t Close Your Eyes and the Alan Jackson hit Chattahoochee. Just make sure you come back from the USA Joe. The evening was rounded off by Boxcar Brian and this guy gets better every time I see him. A crystal clear voice and a great rapport with his audience makes him one of our most popular stars. Nobody does The Wabash Cannonball better and his singing of Big Tom’s, Goin’ Out The Way That You Came In sent the audience wild. The Scania 143, 40 Acres and Keep Her Lit concluded a brilliant night of country music. No show like this can be a success without great backing and Keltic Storm were magnificent. Well done to my friend Eamon Loughran on lead guitar. Top marks to James McGarrity and the JMG Musicgroup for another great show. If you get the chance to see one of these shows just go. You won’t be disappointed. Click here for further details and dates of the remaining shows. https://www.facebook.com/JMG-Music-Group-708765369210397/