JJ Gilmour & Friends: Songwriters' Circle

Posted on Sunday 14th August 2016 12:00 by FreckFest

This is a song of mine that Kenny Rogers recorded. Seven years on and I’m still waiting on him releasing it….” JJ Gilmour was in terrific form on Friday night, full of the patter and lapping up the laughs between the songs. “I’m thinking of giving it to Dolly Parton or Tammy Wynette instead.” “Tammy Wynette’s deid!” shouts someone out of the darkness, and quick as a flash Jinky responds. “I thought she’d lost a bit of weight!” This is classic Jinky; rapid-fire patter followed by a heart-felt song of love and loss. A brilliant songwriter with a terrific voice and a great way with his audience, he has the golden touch and, as self-deprecating as he may be, he knows it. He’s quickly becoming something of a national treasure to those of us in the know. Just ask any of the sell-out crowd, or the dozens left without tickets and on our waiting list.


  (c) Alistair Mulhearn


Friday’s show was a wee bit different and a more than a wee bit special. Billed as a Songwriters’ Circle, the gig also featured the talents of local songwriters Sean C Kennedy and Josh Fraser and thrillingly, what followed was even greater than the sum of their collective parts. The show was in two distinct halves. For the first section, the three acts, augmented by Jinky’s long-standing keyboard player Phil Kane, took it in turns to play one of their songs to the audience, with the occasional harmonised backing vocal and guitar line from the other two added as embellishment. It was loose and slightly ragged – not even the performers really knew what to expect as each song unraveled, which of course only added to the show.


How long have I got for the first half?” asked Jinky at the soundcheck. “Josh and Sean’ll do 3 or 4 songs each and I’ll do 6…..5 if you want me off quicker!” “At 4 minutes a song and allowing for your patter, Jinky,” we replied, “that’s about an hour and a half.” We weren’t far wrong with that guess. As the show meandered to the break, it was clear it was going to be something of an epic. One classic song followed another. The gaps between the songs were longer than the songs themselves. There was humour a-plenty as Jinky poked fun at his young charges on either side of him, but he was generous in his praise for both. “Not since Biffy Clyro and the Trashcan Sinatras has Ayrshire produced acts of genuine talent. These boys,” he said, with a sweep of his hand, “have got it all.”  And they do.


Sean was keen to play new material, including new single Legacy, which in acoustic form becomes a whole different song; less beat-driven with more emphasis on the minor-key melodies. Likewise, Josh played a couple of never-before aired songs, equally as contemporary and tune-packed as his ‘signature’ song Fallen which has all the hallmarks of a future radio hit. Trust me.  


For the second half, Jinky returned with piano-playing Phil, the fall-guy and target of much of his vicious humour, and ran through a set heavy on his greatest songs. Dancin’ Shoes, written about George Best and the catalyst for a best-selling, long-running theatre show in Belfast had the HAC as quiet as I’d ever heard it. The Unhappiest Man (“I’ve tried to write happy songs, I really have!”) has the rare effect of being both melancholic and uplifting at the same time. Me And You closes the show, as it always does, with some well-placed audience participation. For the encore, Jinky brings Sean and Josh back out for a thrilling version of Jenny Fly and then he’s off….sort of. In typical Jinky fashion, he’s spotted a young girl in the audience who attended one of his recent songwriting workshops in Ardrossan, and he invites her up to close the show with one of her own compositions. It’s totally off the cuff and unplanned, just as most of the night has been. The perfect end to a brilliant night. 

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