Sunday, August 18, 2013

Donna Dunne - Ireland's best kept secret... for now.

Traveling to Ireland on holiday, I had lots of anticipation for the country side, historical landmarks, and culture, but what I wasn't looking for that I found was the most alive bar district and music scene I have ever experienced. And I definitely wasn't expecting the local rock starlet Donna Dunne.

To digress a bit, nobody ever told me, "Hey Randy, you need to go to Dublin, you would love it there. It's an endless sea of pubs almost all with live music entertainment." Yes, I do feel my surroundings have let me down. I have partied in Memphis, Hollywood, Kansas City, Seattle, Nashville, and Austin with the best of 'em, but none was more fun than Dublin. With U2, The Cranberries, Thin Lizzy, Dave King (Flogging Molly) and a few others who hail from there, I should have suspected it was a vibrant scene, but I was still taken for the ride of my life. But this isn't a travel blog; this is about Donna Dunne.

Donna Dunne is someone I unearthed on the web as an Irish rockabilly act. She is very hot, she has instantly catchy songs (strangely very rare in the rockabilly revival world), a fantastic voice and she has a pretty polished couple of music videos. Since I love a good rockabilly show,  I was excited to see she had a gig the night after I got into town. What I saw live, though, was something different than I had seen online – it was intense, inspirational and highly intriguing.

In the heart of the Dublin Temple Bar district lies a rock pub that was filled wall to wall with patrons that should have been considered a dangerous fire hazard with eager fans. In the U.S., keeping the crowd dancing at full stamina until 1:30 A.M. on a school night requires you to be something very special, and I imagine it is the same in Ireland as well.

Rockabilly music, although very fun live and even more fun to play, usually does not translate well to a record, and I certainly gave up hope years ago that there will ever be another Stray Cats. Dunne's show didn't have the rockabilly essentials: no slap echo guitar, string bass, pompadour (or whiff as they call them in Ireland), cliche tattoos of the devil and juke boxes. No, Dunne and her band looked very original, modern, even, and only carried a slight nod to the 50's era of rock. Normally I wouldn't put much emphasis into image, but it seems to say a lot about what they are not. Donna Dunne is not a novelty act who should get a standing gig at the Elvis Presley Cafe in Memphis or the Flamingo in Las Vegas – she is an act dripping with potential for something much greater.

They came out swinging with her single Woman In Black, high energy with a dynamite gunslinger on the guitar who plays like Chuck Berry going through a pencil sharpener. Crowd responded accordingly because, it almost seems as if they all know the song, perhaps she is supported by her local radio stations.

The band almost reminded me of the 70's girl punk band The Runaways, only far more gifted musically. They are both intense and listenable, which can be a tricky combination. Maybe it is the culture Dunne comes from with the Irish and their sing-a-long tunes, but she knows how to craft an instantly catchy melody and the band knows how to rock that melody until the walls shake. The ensemble really gets into the music, particularly Donna, and when they do, it is very hard to stand still.

Donna Dunne, although original and different from what she may have already put out on the web, still wears her greatest influences on her sleeves: Elvis, Johnny Cash, and a host of other Sun Records icons. She likes to talk about her pilgrimage to Memphis where her music career took a drastic turn and she wanted bring those great performers back to life in her music. Can she be wrong to draw heavy influence from rock music still most treasured icons?

Don't get me wrong, she may be bursting with potential, but Donna Dunne is not a complete product. Although she has been performing for nearly a decade, her current band is still gelling together, and she has only discovered who she was musically a few years ago. Her first full length record comes out this month and she is still a self-managed artist with a new record contract. To say the least, the rocket ship is only now launching up the into atmosphere, but I am one who is certainly going to keep an eye on the journey. Hardly ever do I hitch my wagon to such a young talent, but I have a feeling about this one. In the U.S., rock music has to make a triumphant comeback sometime, and when it does, there is no foreseeable reason Donna Dunne can't make her presence known across the pond.

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