Live Music Preview: Kilkenny Roots Festival & Southern Gothic Festival Cork

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This is becoming a bit of an annual thing. My preview post of this weekends Kilkenny Roots Festival and the Southern Gothic Festival. Probably the two premier americana/roots festivals in Ireland. It is a pity they are happening the same weekend. Still depending on your tastes, there is plenty of choice and even no reason why you cannot do the two if you wanted to. Both festivals have a line-up that includes artists that rarely feature in Irish gig listings. So if you like this music, get out there this weekend, explore and enjoy.

Kilkenny Roots Festival

Where: Kilkenny; various venues
When: 2nd – 5th May
Cost: Varies From FREE – €15
Website: Kilkenny Roots

The Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots (now just shortened to the Kilkenny Roots Festival) is the principle alt-country and americana festival in Ireland. The festival has maintained it’s high quality throughout the years. The quality of musicians appearing at this years festival suggest whoever is booking the festival has their ears pointed west as the Roots festival seems to have a knack of finding artists just before they get big. It’s no different this year. Also this year the festival is embracing the new mobile world with a helpful app (Android here and iPhone here). The festival have also put together a nice Soundcloud playlist to get you in the mood. The line-up and gig times of the festival can be found here. Also if you get down early, keep an eye out for the printed listings guide, a very handy resource.

Sturgill Simpson
Having received a lot of plaudits recently, the Roots festival have done well to have Sturgill appearing. With a voice that would remind you of country giants, such as George Jones and melodies that draw on classic country styles, you might think his music is more of the same. When you start to listen to the words and hear about turtles, drugs and more, you realise something is different. His album ‘High Top Mountain’ is a blend of all these things and definitely worth a listen.

Aoife O’Donovan
Something completely different now. you might not recognise the name, but you surely will recognise the voice. Aoife is the lead singer with Crooked Still and was the vocalist on very enjoyable The Goat Rodeo Sessions with Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan. Having released her début album recently, (‘Fossils’), Aoife is bringing her gentle, soulful, americana sound to Kilkenny for two gigs over the weekend.

Full Tonne Kidd
I don’t know much about this band. They hail from Glasgow, this is their first appearance at the Roots Festival and they produce great country-soul blues rock and nearly everything in between. Having listened to their sounds on their Soundcloud page, this is one group I will be checking out over the weekend.

The Eskies
Not long ago the band hosted a very successful  ‘Pay What You Want’ gig. Now The Eskies are heading to Kilkenny for (I think) the first time. From what I have heard, well worth catching their gypsy americana melodies live.

Also playing that readers of Eirecana will be familiar with are The Needables, The Midnight Union Band, Hidden Highways, John Blek and The Rats and in a more acoustic setting, John O’Connor & Anna Mitchell showcasing new material from Anna’s solo work. All worth checking out.


 Where: Cork; Crane Lane theatre and various venues
 When: 2nd – 5th May
 Cost: FREE
 Website: Southern Gothic Cork

On a parallel to the Kilkenny festival, though without the same sponsorship, the Southern Gothic festival in Cork which is in its fifth year still manages to assemble a very intriguing line-up, all for free.

With a stronger emphasis on the blues side of the country genre and featuring artists of genres such as country-soul, hillbilly punk, and post-punk, the festival still packs a punch. You might not have heard of many of the line-up but there is great music playing around Cork this Bank Holiday Weekend to to be found.

Mark Mulcahy
Appearing at both the Kilkenny Roots Festival and at the Southern Gothic Festival, Mark Mulcahy has a busy few days in Ireland next week. His recent release ‘Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You’ was his first album in eight years and it is full of that lovely, summery americana-pop that he does so effortlessly. He plays Kilkenny Saturday and Sunday and two shows in Cork on Monday.

Farewell J.R.
With the voice reminiscent of Bon Ivor, Nick Rayner as vocalist and founder of Farewell J.R. has created a haunting melody format that instantly draws you in. Farewell J.R. releases their ep ‘Health’ last year. The group are following that up with another ep ‘And Still’ just released a few weeks ago. Stirring and ethereal says it all.

J.D. Wilkes And The Dirt Daubers
And now for a type of group that the festival excels at booking. Led by author/musician J.D. Wilkes, J.D. Wilkes & The Daubers are a straight-up old timey group. Their latest release however has the band plugged in and turned up to eleven. ‘Wild Moon’ is all growls, sweaty, delta blues rock. One to catch.

There are plenty more playing in Cork over the weekend so if you are not in Kilkenny, check it out. If you are lucky to live near both or are just dedicated to the music, then do both. So that’s it, if you don’t have some new favourite artists after this weekend, then there’s no hope!


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