Live music review: White Horse Guitar Club at the Cork Opera House

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

Kick off your shoes and throw ‘em on the floor”

This opener to the White Horse Guitar Club’s sold-out Cork Opera House concert set the high-tempo tone from which there was no going back.

Joe Carey, proprietor of The White Horse, and member of the venue’s Guitar Club.

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 success for the Ballincollig Winter Music Festival.

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 for the group and everyone in the theatre was climbing on board.

The crowd lapped up everything from Western swing dance tunes like ‘Stay All Night’ to Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Darkest Hour’ and a brilliant version of the Road Hammers’ ‘Mud’, all the way to the beautiful controlled harmonies on Emmylou Harris’s ‘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, Keeva O’Mahony and Aoibheann Carey-Philpott, received a big reaction.

My favourites on the night included a haunting version of ‘Willie O’Winsbury’, the traditional Scottish ballad that dates from at least 1775, and sung so well by Anthony Cotter.

Other highlights were the country-style singing of bassist Liam Óg FitzGerald; the picking (and infectious smile) of Joe Philpott on National guitar, and the 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’. There was no better way to spend a night out.

- Ballincollig Winter Music festival continues tonight with Jerry Douglas, with support from Moonshine; while Sunday features Tim O’Brien and Jan Fabricius

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