Jarrod Dickenson with support from Gentry Morris & Stephen Macartney
Saturday 15th February 2014 – Sunflower Public House, Belfast
Texan born, New York based songwriter Jarrod Dickenson has spent the last few years developing a love affair with Belfast. Back in 2011 he won the Belfast Nashville Songwriting Competition, winning the chance to play here. And he keeps coming back. With two sold out shows at Belfast’s Sunflower Bar last weekend it seems this appreciation goes both ways.
Support on the evening, in the quaint surroundings of the Sunflower Bar came from fellow American Gentry Morris alongside Stephen Macartney of Northern Ireland’s own Farriers. Morris delivered a set of songs from his past releases as well as a few from his upcoming album, on which he’s been working with Macartney. The duo, both wielding their acoustic guitars, seemed at ease in the intimate venue, playing through Morris’ quiet folk styled material including ‘Great Ghost Town’ and the lovely ‘Fools Gold’. Gentry attempted to weave his way into the saddest song of their set with a story about its origins during the three months he was separated from his wife by the Atlantic ocean. The prospects of this were cheered by one enthusiastic audience member, but this was taken in jest by both the audience and Morris. Nonetheless ‘Slow Decline’ contained plenty of the “misery and whiskey” Morris was aiming for, and went down well with the crowd.
Soon after Dickenson took to the stage alongside partner Claire Ward. The night saw Dickenson drawing from various releases including The Lonesome Traveller and his latest EP, Songs From Willow St, freshly released the week of the show. The set kicked off with love song, ‘Ain’t Waiting Any Longer’ and gathered momentum from there. The backing of Claire Ward filled out and added to each song, adding a tenderness to the love songs – a feeling that I’m sure was much enhanced during the previous show on Valentine’s Day.
Jarrod Dickenson showed off his penchant for storytelling with his set including songs such as the fisherman’s tale of ‘The Northern Sea’ and the rambler’s love song, ‘Rosalie’. The small size of the venue emanated a feeling of intimacy and familiarity to the show, while the down-to-earth attitude of the performers contributed to a friendly and laid back atmosphere. Throughout the night there were plenty of back and forths between performers and audience. Dickenson, with help from Claire did his best to understand some of the Northern Irish phrases thrown at him, even throwing out a few of his own. Ultimately he was enjoying the craic and intended to ‘keep ‘er lit’. This familiarity was only enhanced when Dickenson recorded the crowd singing Happy Birthday to his mother back home and the genuine amusement that ensued after a broken harmonica during his off-the-cuff encore of Hank William’s ‘Hey, Good Lookin”.
The night ended on a sad and tender moment with Dickenson speaking to the crowd about the passing of a friend, which he had only found out about the night before. This led into an emotional rendition of the beautiful ‘Seasons Change’, originally penned for Dickenson’s aging grandfather. The beauty and sadness of this moment would have escaped no one in the crowd.
This was a night of gorgeous folk music delivered by each of the performers. Jarrod Dickenson’s storytelling and warmth for the crowd was apparent throughout and ensured this was a night with a wonderful and intimate atmosphere.