Good ol’ country music on the rise once more

You will know by now – or if you don’t, you mustn’t pay much attention to my weekly ramblings – that I am a great follower of Irish country music, and I particularly like Mike Denver and his band, of which of course Sean ‘Bozo’ Moran, from Castlerea, is the long-time and very popular drummer.

I have told you before of great nights jiving at the Race Dance in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon, to Mike and the boys, and it would remind you of the old carnival days (and nights) when literally hundreds upon hundreds of dancers would take to the maple floors of the marquees, which magically would spring up all over the country in every town, village and crossroads during the summer months.

Then, sadly the more sophisticated discos took over (although I had many a good nights crack in the forerunner of them all, Miss Ellie’s in the Royal) and I suppose the show bands bit the dust.

And, in truth, I never thought we would see the day when bands and their superstar lead singers would once again be pulling in the crowds to venues, including marquees all over the country.

Well, thankfully, it has happened once again. Last Friday night week, it was great to see that Dublin 4 and RTÉ finally recognised the unbelievable rise in popularity of good ‘ol’ country music’, by devoting a large section of The Late Late Show to showcasing the talents of several Irish country singers, both male and female.

Among the many stars on show were the new King of Country, Nathan Carter, and the new Queen, Lisa McHugh, but for me, it was the old stagers, Big Tom and Philomena Begley, who really stole the show, and it was great to see Big Tom in such good form, even though, as he said himself, he was only “about 55 per cent”.

He sang his huge local hit, Four Roads to Glenamaddy, and to be fair to him he sounded as good as ever, and practically every one on the show acknowledged that himself and the late Larry Cunningham paved the way for all the new kids on the block to reap the present rewards, and that without the efforts and hard work of Tom, Larry and others, might not have been there at all. I’m told that 1.3 million viewers tuned in to that Late Late Show, which brought it into Toy Show numbers, so it’s fairly safe to say that it will be done again in the near future.

And for the moment, it’s pretty obvious that country music is back on top of the heap – no doubt, because fashions come and go, it may all change further down the line, but as of now, get out the cowboy hats, and the jeans, and the boots, and head for one of the many country music venues that are cropping up all over the place, and have yourself a good ‘Old Country Jamboree’!

Tell them I sent you! Before I leave the subject of bands and music, back in the old days Ballintubber (the Roscommon One, not the Mayo one!) was home to two of Ireland’s top show bands, The Premier Aces and the Rhythm Stars.

And I ran into Sylvie one of the Treacy Brothers, who backbones the Rhythm Stars, a couple of weeks ago, and in view of the return of such bands as Ray Lynam and the Hillbillies, and Gina and the Champions, I asked him if there was any likelihood of a comeback by the Ballintubber band.

And the good news for all their followers is that he didn’t rule it out! I’m not saying it will definitely happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely – watch this space.

Finally the Government takes action on crime

Changing subjects entirely and, this Monday morning, the national papers are full of the news, that the gardaí are launching a high-profile operation aimed at tackling high-volume crimes, like burglaries, and putting the perpetrators of such crimes behind bars.

All right-minded people would applaud such a venture and hope it strikes a major blow against the gangs who are roaming the country, and robbing it blind.

After years of downgrading Garda resources, and closing some 140 Garda stations round the country, thereby making it easier for the robbers to do their dirty deeds, and make successful getaways, it seems that at last, the Government are supplying the finance to upgrade the gardaí into a well-equipped modern crime-fighting force.

A major investment in IT and a new upgraded fleet of vehicles will play a big part in the success of the new anti-crime initiative, but on the basis that prevention is better that the cure, you’d have to wonder why the situation was allowed to get so much out of hand.

It is all the result of a short-sighted policy by this Government, and in order to save a few bob, law and order has been sacrificed, and many hundreds of our citizens have suffered – some of them so grievously that they may never recover. Let’s hope for all our sakes, that this new initiative is a roaring success.

Rural Ireland is a joy – without crime

Living in rural Ireland, when no one is out robbing it, is one of life’s great joys. Yesterday, (Sunday) as myself and my wife, Carol, were out for our almost daily walk, we wondered about the amazingly mild weather we were experiencing on November 1, and the irrefutable evidence that our season’s are definitely changing – seemingly for the better.

We take our walk up a small country road – you could almost call it a boreens – and, as we walked along, we could see loads and loads of blackberries in full bloom (maybe that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean), while there were various wild flowers still alive long after they should have died off.

At home, Carol tells me that her roses (the ones the pup Hope hasn’t knocked over, as she plays her football) have come out for a second or maybe even a third time, so whether it’s that global warming or not, nature is certainly going through unusual changes, and it looks like a white Christmas is a complete non-runner.

Till next week. Bye for now.