You may already know the effecting voice of Lisa Loughrey from her work with The Mariannes. Tonight she is launching her debut solo single ‘Coming Up’ in Dublin 8’s venerable live music pub, Arthur’s. There's a significant crowd in the intimate upstairs room waiting patiently for Loughrey’s mournful lilt. At the bar members of The Mariannes command the best view in the house.
She introduces opening act Ross Breen as a “fellow lily”, instructing the grumbling Dubliners to “shut it”. Breen is “one of the best male voices on the scene”. “One of!” she emphasizes, with a diplomatic nod to the crowd at the bar. Breen does indeed have a fine silky voice and he croons languidly over fingerpicked jazz chords on his telecaster, and a stompbox. His inventive use of a chorus effect on his vocals for the choruses makes him stand out among the myriad singer songwriters of Dublin.
Loughrey takes to the stage with a four piece band on guitar, drums, keys and upright bass. The music has more of a country feel than her previous work. ‘I Let Go’ starts as a solo number with Loughrey and her acoustic guitar under the spotlight before the band join in after the first verse. Her voice brings to mind the great Irish singers like Mary Coughlan, Dolores Keane, and The Black Family.
The backing is bare and unadorned, keeping the focus on the song and the powerful voice driving it. She switches to bouzouki for ‘Sadhbh’, a folky number based on legend of Fionn MacCool. ‘The Swallows’, inspired by an attack on a swallows nest by a magpie, could sit comfortably on an updated A Woman’s Heart. She disperses a round of porter to the band before ‘Fare Thee Well’.
A loungey Twin Peaks style number follows. There's a bluesy Leadbelly feel to the song but interpreted by Angelo Badalamenti. Together with her guitarist/arranger Nathan, Loughrey songs a soulful stripped back cover of Sheryl Crowe’s ‘Are You Strong Enough To Be My Man?’. ‘Stuck With You’ is introduced as a Hank Williams type song. It's a lolloping country tune. Ross Breen joins in on ukulele and sings the second verse.
The single she's launching, ‘Coming Up’, is written from the perspective of ‘Sonny' from the song made famous in these parts by Mary Black . She leads an impromptu rendition of the folk classic before breaking into the new song. The harmonies on the chorus are melancholic and beautiful. It's clear why it was chosen as the lead single. It is unusual to see musicians so young playing music so traditional but it is heartening to know that the music we grew up with has not died out.