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On the beat with Robert Nichols; . WIldCatS Of kIlkenny, MIddleSbROUgh tOWn hall. gILL LANDRY, WESTGARTH SOCIAL CLUB.

LAST week was the final curtain for Middlesbrough Town Hall before the builders move in and transform the buildings into a real hub for the town.

It certainly was a great way to bow out with two shows from performers that have gone that extra mile.

On Saturday night, wild rover Mike McGrother, lead fiddle for the Wildcats Of Kilkenny, had walked the walk as well as talked the talk with an epic trek back to his family roots all the way across England and Ireland. A couple of nights before, a lady with five decades in the business brought out her hits and her memories for an evening with Lulu.

What entirely fitting finales they were for a venue that means so much to all ages and will once again become a central point for the town and beyond.

Mike McGrother was marking the 25th year of Wildcats Of Kilkenny by walking 500 miles in the footsteps James McGrother on his emigration from Carrickmacross. It was a long march raising funds for Finlay Cooper Fund and a chance for Mike to feel like he was meeting and paying tribute to the ancestors. On Friday there was another artist making a lengthy journey. Gill Landry, former singer and guitarist of Old Crow Medicine Show was so far away from his home in the deep south of USA that he hadn't seen a familiar face in five weeks. Imagine that! With a battered looking vintage guitar and his rich, deep burring vocals Gill entertained the Westgarth 2 crowd with both his songs and the intriguing tales between.

Country, folk, bluegrass, delta blues and even ragtime are all Gill's stock in trade. It was Americana with the settings and context explained for the British audience. Many of Gill's songs and indeed stories were taken from his expeditions living in a van around USA. Travelling way into the back of beyond he would often bump into an old eccentric wanderer and then make camp with him.

There was some darker material, notably murder ballads, but also a song written for his brother after his wife left him. Unlike Glenn Campbell, it is obvious that Gill has no time for the town of Albuquerque.

Wildcats Kilkenny headline final at Middlesbrough Hall before it for refurbishment Gill demonstrated some gorgeous finger picking guitar playing to match the deep velvet of his vocals. In fact he snapped a string midway through his final song of his encore, Cochineal Blues, an old ragtime number from his street busking days. Determined to continue, Gill borrowed a guitar and started up again from where he was so rudely interrupted. What a pro. He continued playing for a couple more songs, he said it could accompany us going to the bar or while we got ready to leave. Yet no-one was moving anywhere until the final note from a spellbinding performance. I hope that he returns soon and that then Gill Landry will feel he is amongst a room full of friendly old familiar faces.

- Robert Nichols @rob_fmttm

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| Wildcats Of Kilkenny headline the final gig at Middlesbrough Town Hall before it closes for refurbishment

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Apr 15, 2016
Words:527
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