Scorching sounds, supergroups and a celebration of Cajun and Creole music and food make this year's Open House Festival a hot date, says Damien Murray
Things are really hotting up for the start of the 9th Open House Festival, which kicks off on Wednesday with its usual cutting-edge programme featuring some of the most exciting bands in the Irish and American roots music scene.
For five full days, venues in the heart of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter will throb with live Bluegrass, Cajun, Punk-Blues and Irish Traditional bands, while a hot new addition to this year's event is ChilliFest - a three-day celebration of Cajun and Creole music and food based in the Festival Marquee in Custom House Square.
Space would not allow me to mention everyone who is appearing at this exciting festival, but highlights over the first three days (catch next week's column for details of the final two days) include the following artists.
In their first gig in Belfast in a decade and in their Open House debut, Irish/American outfit, Solas, who have been described by the LA Times as 'the best traditional band in the world', take Festival opening honours at the Black Box on Wednesday.
On Thursday, multicultural collective from Europe and America, Mozaik (featuring Planxty's Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny) - who play Irish and Balkan traditional music mixed with American old-timey - again prove that they are a real roots fusion supergroup at the Festival Marquee.
Over at the Black Box, The Earl Brothers make their first local appearance, bringing their jaggy rock 'n' roll attitude to songs about death, whiskey, chasing and losing women and also to the occasional honky tonk gospel number.
Next Friday, those young firebrands, The Pine Leaf Boys, are the attraction at McHugh's with the Old Crow Medicine Show and their tight, fast, edgy sound just a stone's throw away at the Marquee, while the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir returns to the Festival for a gig at the Black Box.
For full details of all festival events, visit www.openhouse festival.com
A top drawer artist appears at the Real Music Club in Belfast's Errigle Inn on Thursday when that lyrical genius and master of the guitar, Eric Taylor, makes a welcome return.
If you're not familiar with Taylor by name, you've probably heard his songs performed by people such as Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett as he has created a multitude of fans that are legends themselves in the singer/songwriter world.
His visit coincides with the release of his 6th album, Hollywood Pocketknife; a stunning collection of new songs and surprising covers from an artist hailed by critics as one of the world's greatest living songwriters.
Two other respected male singer/songwriters are also in action in Belfast this week when Dubliner, David Kitt, takes to the stage at the Empire Music Club on Sunday and Belfast's own Brian Houston appears at the same venue on Wednesday.
Following an appearance at The Cellar Bar, Draperstown tomorrow night, Kitts' Sunday gig marks his third visit to the Empire in the past year.
So, it appears that 'Kittser' - who was recently nominated for the Choice Music Prize while his album also made Q's Top 100 album list for 2006 - is continuing with his Belfast love affair.
Meanwhile, Houston winds up his successful UK Pearly Come Home Tour in support of his current single, The Days Of Pearly Spencer, at the Empire on Wednesday when he will perform with his full band.