Live Review: Ciaran Lavery with Dustin Furlow at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 21st June 2018

By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It isn’t too often that I attend a seated show. As some of you know, Carrie is the singer/songwriter wonk on staff, not me. I’m used to standing in front of loud amps for whichever pop, rock or electronic gig I’ve chosen for the night. I felt pretty much out of my element, but perhaps this is me turning over a new leaf. Are laidback coffee shop gigs in my future? Have I ::cough:: gone soft? I’ll chew on that thought another time.

I arrived just as American Dustin Furlow began his set. He’s from Virginia Beach, pretty much on the opposite side of the state, but of course not as far as the Northern Irish headliner had to travel. Furlow is an award-winning singer/songwriter, billed as one of the most accomplished in Southeastern Virginia. Something that is nigh impossible to reproduce as other club shows is that gentle, priceless intimacy between artist and fan in a place like this. There’d be a sense of awkwardness in those clubs from both parties if a story like Furlow’s about his drunk on bourbon, shirtless father floating in water, the inspiration for ‘Cherokee Lake’, was told from the stage. And yet, when the story is told at Jammin’ Java, it is a touching tale.

Dustin Furlow Jammin Java 2018

I admit to writing off most singer/songwriters if the melodies and lyrics they offer are weak. What became clear through the two instrumentals in the set alone is that Furlow is a virtuoso on acoustic guitar, something rare and not applauded in popular music these days. Watching his fingers dance across the fretboard was pretty incredible, and this is coming from someone who gave up on guitar because remembering the chords was too hard. When he sang, a surprisingly soulful voice came out on songs like ‘Evergreen’ from his 2017 EP ‘Solo’ or a jaunty cover of the Lindsey Buckingham-centric Fleetwood Mac foot-stomper ‘Big Love’ to close out his set.

TGTF have had wonderful opportunities to cover Northern Ireland’s Ciaran Lavery the last few years, mostly around his appearances during SXSW 2016 and 2017. I wonder why the alt-folk troubadour from the village of Aghagallon isn’t a household name yet like Frank Turner. For me, there are two things that make Lavery stand out head and shoulders above everyone else: his emotional, honest lyrics delivered in a gorgeous Irish brogue. Pretension doesn’t exist in his songwriting, as each tune shows Lavery’s heart on his sleeve.

Ciaran Lavery Jammin Java 2018

Early on, he impressed with the rawness of social anxiety chronicled in ‘Shame’ on his 2013 debut LP ‘Not Nearly Dark’. This past spring, he released ‘Sweet Decay’, his third studio album; at this show, he described how writing with others and having to worry about their opinions as an uncomfortable situation. You couldn’t hear this at all in the a cappella version of the title track he delivered stood in front of us, all in white as a model of vulnerability with aplomb. Lavery’s piano cover of The National’s ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ was an unexpected triumph, finally making the song palatable to me. ‘Wicked Teeth’, a song about going to the dentist (allegedly!), comes across sweetly, revisiting the theme of vulnerability and combining it with love and desire.

Between songs, he seemed entirely relaxed, as if he was giving us a performance in his front room for his best mates. When he asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t from DC, an audience member yelled, “Dublin!” Lavery chided him with, “you know, I recently played there and with my whole band, you didn’t have to come this far!” Laughter. His story about his trip on Aer Lingus to the States and his difficulty in using their thin, tiny provided blanket was relatable to those of us who have attempted this during a transatlantic flight. Good-natured snufflings abounded. This is a down-to-earth guy with an honest heart and eager to talk to strangers in bars. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the North American towns he has left on his tour of our continent through the start of July, spend an evening being spellbound by him and his music. He plays tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

Ciaran Lavery Jammin Java 2018 2

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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