Friday 27th July 2018, The Live Room Saltaire. The Live Room was very honoured with a visit from Coleraine born Barnsley resident Damien O’Kane & multi Grammy winner Ron Block for the first tour of their joint venture Banjophony. One of only 8 gigs and 2 festival appearances. Accompanying Damien and Ron were Kilkenny’s Steven Byrnes and from Dunblane bass and Moog player Duncan Lyall. Both Steven and Duncan now resident in Glasgow. A cracking night of predominantly tunes mainly featuring 2 banjos . Damien on 4 string and Ron on 5 combining the best of Irish and American banjo styles. A cracking night to enter The Live Room’s Summer break. Ron’s colleague in Union Station wrote this review of the Banjophony album:
‘Ron Block and Damien O’Kane have created something I have never heard. Even though these two banjos separated by miles of ocean are related, it has taken two people of common sensibilities to bring them so close. From my own first landing in Ireland, the banjo style I encountered left me spellbound and I just reckoned that’s where it would culminate into what Damien has made it, exact and toneful while still being the driving force it has always served itself to be. I have for many years been an over-served fan of collaboration and this collection brings forth the most pleasant factors and boils them down to a delightful tincture that would please anyone in search of something at the same time beautiful and wild. There are no boundaries here.
Damien’s sense of piston-like drive and Ron’s stately tone and string-bending accuracy mix to create a confluence of the perfect banjo. Yes I said “stately” about a banjo, but Ron Block is the only person I would ever say that about. I have worked alongside him for many years and have always enjoyed the way he can inspire a phrase. Damien is the perfect foil to draw him out with a left hook now and then before they both settle in for a series of notes perfectly carved into a statement. The other musicians, all distinct and respected, are aware of them but dance around them and give Ron and Damien the space to chase, harmonize, or counter each other throughout this experiment. It works. It all works. Listen to it and see if you agree with me.’
Jerry Douglas, June 2018.
Gig review and photos by Keith Belcher