DUNFANAGHY, DONEGAL, IRELAND - Call it ESP, telepathy or simply shared genetics, but the superb, seemingly effortless, sax-double bass harmonies of two teenagers at the 6th Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues Festival in west Donegal displayed ample evidence of that special, indefinable communication between twins.
Micheal and Conor Murray, twin 16-year-olds from the nearby Irish rural town of Falcarragh who play under the musical name, ‘MCJazz,’ not only featured in the young, enthusiastic ‘Errigal Groove Orchestra’ in the town square on sunny Saturday afternoon offering up creative renderings of Booker T. & the MG's and Stevie Wonder, but also as an excellent duet the following day in the sedate ambiance of The Workhouse, with dreamy, suave, orchestral-level renditions of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ and ‘Chameleon’ and Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Red Clay.’
Hundreds of people who listened to the five-day festival’s 48 artists and bands on varied stages found a surprise performer at the Oyster Bar in Chicago-born singer-songwriter Buddy Mondlock, whose work has been recorded by stellar artists such as Nanci Griffith and Art Garfunkel. Nashville-based Buddy, who released his latest CD, ‘The Edge of the World,’ earlier this year, later took part in a house concert at the Keadue home of fellow singer-songwriter, Ian Smith, whose four-piece band, Vintage, also played a host of classic numbers including Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street' at Ann Sweeney’s bar during the festival. The two guitarist-singers were accompanied by veteran Scotsman Benny Gallagher, of Gallagher & Lyle fame, at the intimate Sunday night performance.
‘Fast and furious’ was the most apt description for the dizzying performance of ‘Hickory Wind’ at the festival, with double bass, guitar, banjo and harmonica providing a whirlwind fusion of country, bluegrass & Irish influences, backed up by the able vocals of each group member.
And if that wasn’t enough to set one’s musical pulse throbbing, there was also the ever-lively Limavady Big Band on the square, the infectious New Orleans sounds of the Bourbon Swing Band in Arnolds’s Hotel and the eclectic six-piece, foot stomping, toe-tapping, fresh-from-this year’s-Electric Picnic, ‘Two Time Polka,’ from Cork who served up a menu ranging from Cajun to Venezuelan, with home-grown familiarity in the song entitled, ‘Brown Envelope,’ based, as the group’s CD sleeve notes says, “on the antics of our then government.”
While windy weather Sunday shifted some of Saturday’s sunshine, it had less success shifting music aficionados, with Patsy Dan’s bar packed to its age-old, oaken rafters for an early evening jamming session featuring the ‘Daylight Wobblies’ and assorted guests.
All in all, main festival sponsor, Fintan Moloney & Company, and festival organisers, Donald Craig and Sian McCann, should be much pleased.