This sold-out inaugural Celtic Connections 2017 Drygate gig was not short of politics on a monumental day States-side, however, this musical set from Hurray For The Riff Raff was voted a fine one.
The band’s bass player wore a T-shirt with the bold wording “Not My President” on it and free-thinking activist, Alynda Lee Segarra pleaded on behalf of her nation: “stick with us” before ending the show with an emotional and tearful version of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, accompanied lustily by the audience.
The sound mix was, disappointingly, not as sharp as it could have been in patches but the former freight train hopper, Segarra’s presence, in the main, made this irrelevant as her vocals were absorbing, both soulful in a Percy Sledge mould, or huskily rocky in turn.
Opener, Life to Save was outstanding with band in a chunking country groove Segarra immediately into her stride while the fractured, slightly Tex-Mex feel to Rican Beach proved a tasty sampler for the band’s new album, The Navigator, coming out in March.
Another new song, Hungry Ghost was a stormer. It’s all about, as Segarra has explained, “the beauty of safe and queer diy venues and parties, sanctuaries that will become more important in these grave and uncertain times”. It’s got the dark insistent bass undertones reminiscent of The National and Segarra almost growls the lyrics.
Look Out Mama, title the 2012 album, even without the fiddle is a upbeat and joyous, complete with yodeling though the lines, “Sister dear take me by the hand / and lead us all the way to the promised land” were written long before last year’s presidential election cast doubts on her hopes.
She’s not alone in being worried about the future but musically she’s fearless and talented, and her own way forward with her songs looks bright enough.
Pic – Eilís Boland