Hey baby it’s the Opera House sell-out guitar men

Hey you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow

Kick off your shoes and throw 'em on the floor,

Dance in the kitchen ‘til morning light,

Louisiana Saturday night

This opener to the White Horse Guitar Club’s sell-out Cork Opera House concert set the high-tempo tone from which there was no going back. What a way to spend a Thursday night in winter.

The lads from up the road done good, done very good indeed.

Another 20-plus songs later, mostly from the ‘Back Country’ of Appalachia, and you left for home with an extra pep in your step after another Ballincollig Winter Music Festival success.

Confidence may have been a bit muted initially and there may have been one of two harmony blips but from a ‘see what happens’ meeting in the Ballincollig pub seven years ago, to packing the rafters at Cork Opera House, this has been some ride and everyone in the theatre was climbing on board.

Credit to the part-time pickers and ‘brotherhood of the road’ the effort that went into this gig must have been testing, but when you love what you do... well it shows.

From Western swing dance tunes like ‘Stay All Night’ to Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Darkest Hour’ and a brilliant version of The Road Hammers ‘Mud’... Just when I thought life couldn't get no gooder, out of the woods come a real good looker, this was feelgood music at its best with beautiful controlled harmonies on Emmylou Harris’ ‘If I Needed You’.

The Oak Ridge Boys’ ‘Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight’, with the sweet support of a female (and family) backing trio of Áine Whelan (yes, that Cork treasure), Keeva O’Mahony and Aoibheann Carey-Philpott, received a big reaction, but some of my favourites on the night were a haunting version of Willie O’Winsbury, the traditional Scottish ballad that dates from at least 1775, and sung so well by Anthony Cotter, with backing vocals by Joe Carey, Wow, wow, wow; the country-style singing of bassist Liam Óg FitzGerald; the picking (and infectious smile) of Joe Philpott on National guitar, and harmonica playing of band ‘leader’ Joe Carey.

The introduction of American piano virtuoso David Syme, known for his “living-room concerts”, held in his Beara Peninsula home, was a fantastic addition as was the Carrigtwohill Gospel Choir for ‘Wide River’ and ‘Paradise’.

Eleven male voices and eleven g-strings belting out ‘This Train’ - gave us one sexy sound. This was Americana that’s hard to trump.

And to finish on an even higher note... ‘Driving My Life Away’, co-written and recorded by Eddie Rabbitt… Ooh, I'm drivin' my life away, lookin' for a better way.

There was no better way to spend a night out.

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