Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Hard to beat good Sunday session

Four Men and a Dog, Black Box, Belfast

"These Sunday afternoons should be keepers,” declared Four Men and a Dog mainstay Gino Lupari, who in between cracking wise, had just powered his band to a triumphant Out To Lunch Festival gig at the Black Box. Who could disagree?

The band are adept at warming up chilled audiences with a selection of reels, but they've developed a distinctive sound that covers a range of influences from country to world music. Key to this is the fluidity of Lupari's bodhran playing, which allows the rest of the band to stretch their own rhythmic skills, particularly with Kevin Doherty's percussive guitar to help ground them.

Doherty often provides the sweetness, with touching ballads such as Maybe Tonight. It's the different things they do that make this band special. Who else would attempt a version of James Joyces’s Ulysses redone as a samba, or kick in a bit of rockabilly with Boogie Shoes showing that they are among, other things, a damn fine little rock ‘n’ roll band.

Perhaps the most moving moment came with the weepy double fiddle lament, Song for PJ, executed exquisitely by Gerry O'Connor and Cathal Hayden, a fitting in memoriam to Neil Johnston, the former Belfast Telegraph journalist to whom the gig was dedicated, but always the band's default position was to hurl in another string busting reel.

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