The Clara Rose Band and Guests – Live LIVE Love
CD: 12 Songs, 62 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, Live Album, Contemporary Electric and Acoustic Blues
After the happy hangover of New Year’s Day, the va-va-voom of Valentine’s Day, and March 17, when everybody’s Irish, you know what we need? Easter, to counter winter’s doom and gloom for the rest of the year (or at least December). You know what we also need? The latest release from Dublin’s Clara Rose Band, along with some special guests. It’s called Live LIVE Love, (as in “live well” and “live album,” respectively). Performed on two stages at two locations (Arthur’s Blues and Jazz Club in Dublin and The Garage Theatre in Monaghan), it features over an hour of traditional and contemporary ensemble blues.
You’ll marvel at the musicianship of everyone involved, but as soon as you hear Clara Rose sing, you’ll think, “Whoa. . .” Is she Whitney Houston or even Bonnie Raitt? No, but listen as she launches into “Broken Woman Blues.” On nary a note does she let go of our heartstrings or our ears, and that final “blues,” with gorgeous harmony, will give you chills. Her speaking voice presents a husky brogue, but her singing sounds as if it hails somewhere from the southern US – Louisiana, maybe. On original numbers like the one I just mentioned, as well as covers like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball & Chain,” she and her fellows prove that there’s nothing like a mighty set of pipes to resurrect the lowest spirits.
Clara holds a Bachelor of Music from N.U.I Maynooth and also spent 2 years in the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance while gaining a Music Therapy Masters from The University of Limerick. She also spends half an hour each day polishing her All Ireland Medal for Sean-Nós singing. She’s a featured artist on the 2013 album release from Irish blues harmonica legend Don Baker, entitled My Songs, My Friends. Clara Rose features alongside Sinead O’ Connor, Finbar Furey, Mick Pyro, Liam O’ Maonlai, Brian Kennedy and Paddy Casey among others.
With our leading lady (vocals and guitar) are Darragh Slacke, Ed Deane, Darragh O’Kelly, James Delaney, Colm O’Hara, Bill Blackmore, Cathal Roche, Tony McManus, Garvan Gallagher, Kevin Malone, and Gavin Taylor.
Another great original tune (there are five out of twelve) is number three, “Throw the Dice.” It presents the more robust side of Clara Rose’s voice as opposed to the pained and yearning side. Everyone’s in top form here, especially Darragh O’Kelly on piano and Darragh Slacke on electric guitar. It combines a sizzling shredder solo and wry lyrics with a beat reminiscent of ragtime. Imagine it being played in a Dublin pub at the end of the 19th century. It wouldn’t be out of place. Neither would downing a pint of Guinness or hitting the dance floor – or both at once.
When it comes to female musicians, sometimes people focus on their looks and vocal prowess more than their instrumental skills, but Clara Rose delivers on all fronts. Witness how she powers through “Jolene,” turning an earnest plea into a borderline murder threat. Her softer side emerges on “Foxtrot Blues” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” before she exits the stage “Like a Rolling Stone.” Her vibe is one part whiskey, one part roses, and one part Gaelic grit.
What to make of Clara Rose’s latest? If you live the blues, you’ll love this live album!