Dan Walsh – Live on Floodgate
Independent – October 22, 2021
Recorded in his hometown of Stafford before the initial lockdown, is Live At The Floodgate Dan Walsh& # 39; s first live album. Using a seemingly effortless claw hammer technique, he shows mastery and understanding of the banjo and its supposed limits and an uncanny ability to uncover its untapped possibilities.
Walsh begins with On the Border, a new series of tunes, demonstrating that speed isn't the only tool available to a Jobb banjo player. It starts as a slow and thoughtful melody and builds up into a skillful gallop that literally bubbles towards a livelier finale while always keeping the melody. This is followed by “Still a Town,” a song he wrote about the sad demise of the high street in many of our cities. With such a strong and personable voice, I can hear it becoming the standard; his instrumental accompaniment is perfect and also adds to the melancholy of the lyric. Another song follows, a reprise of his rendition of “The Suilin,” a traditional Irish song that he heard for the first time when he was four, a reminder that Irish music drew him to the banjo first. Originally released on his 2017 album "Verging on the Perpendicular", it remains as attractive as ever.
Back to the instrumental, Walsh polishes “Plan B”, a set from his trio album with Ciaran Algar and Nic Zuppardi. While he sounds darker and more frugal without the extra violin and mandolin, the percussive nature of his playing style gets a more open presence. This justifies a switch to guitar and a reprise of the 1991 B-side "At Least Pretend" by Saw Doctors, which he covered for the first time in a band setting in 2012. Here it works in the jazzy blues format like a palate cleaner and a reminder of how his skillful playing extends to the guitar. For “Late Night Drive”, however, it goes straight back to the breakneck banjo. Then, from the Appalachians, he takes us with "Whiplash Reel" into the foothills of the Himalayas, his banjo imitates the sitar and plays a raga that has kept the audience in suspense since 2015.
And yes, you recognize the next track – a Waterboys song, "Calliope House"; here it goes into a melody from Walsh's own "Tuesday Night Session". It is from two singing favorites, "Darkness Descends" and "Only Way to Go", the mood and styles remain in constant rotation and shape his vocal strengths again. Time for a new number with "Moonshine 68" which, what sounds like a few extra digits, sneaks into a bluegrass pounding as it dances across the available space. Hear and be amazed.
He has been playing “Jack Crawford” live for some time, this is the first appearance on record and a highlight of the album, on which the spirit of his performance shines through. His sensitive song "The Song Always Stays" has him back on the guitar. Inspired by the experience of playing a gig for Scottish singer Glen Mason at a nursing home in Surrey, it serves as a great reminder of how transformative music can be, evoking memories and bringing comfort and reassurance. But, as always, Walsh doesn't make you think too long about his words because he then brings out his amazing cover of Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al," a stunning showstopper that replicates the entire song, including slap bass, and that all on his six-string guitar. With all his banjo playing, I fear that he should never remove this from his repertoire.
There is a sense of relaxation now as the show appears to be coming to an end with the start of "Joxer's Set". However, through the gears of its banjo, it accelerates so quickly that it becomes a happy wad of clay. Can't you play that fast? Is that it? But since it's a live album, of course, there has to be an encore. Walsh cleverly tries not to outdo himself, and it's Lester Flatt's lovable “Sleep with One Eye Open” that ends with a call-and-response chorus that sends everyone home happy to bed.
Live recording can sometimes be a filler, a gap between studio recordings. This is definitely not the case as it is considered both an introduction for anyone unfamiliar with Walsh and the biggest hit for those who are already fans. The joy and joy that Walsh exudes at this live performance is impressive. Live at the Floodgate captures the magic and glamor of Walsh at its best.
Order live at The Floodgate: https://www.danwalshbanjo.co.uk/Albums/live-at-the-floodgate/
Dan is now on tour, details here: https://www.danwalshbanjo.co.uk/dan-walsh-banjo-gigs/