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Hugo Duncan: Classic track to keep Voice of Ireland star Jim firmly in the public eye

Star men: Jim Devine
Star men: Jim Devine
Barry Kirwan with dad Dominic

By Hugo Duncan

When Jim Devine found himself a participant in The Voice of Ireland singing competition on RTE some seven years ago, he little thought that it would be a first stepping-stone to a full-time career in music.

But not long after taking part in the competition, Jim launched his own band and ever since then he has made steady progress in the country dancing sphere.

One of the main reasons for his emergence as a leading country act is the fact that he has adhered to a rigid recording policy which has stood him in good stead.

Songs such as Leighann Loves to Dance, We're Here to Stay, A Girl Like You, Saw You Running and Baby Baby were to keep Jim, who hails from Douglas Bridge in Co Tyrone, in the national spotlight.

Now, he will shortly be releasing Rainy Days and Stormy Nights - a familiar country song that is widely regarded as a classic.

He has been very busy in Brian Kerrigan's studio in Letterkenny lately and tells me that he is delighted with the finished product.

"I am very fond of the number and that's the main reason that I recorded it," Jim says.

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"I also plan to release another single in the not-too-distant future which will focus on the showband era.

"But, for now, it's one step at a time. I am looking forward to getting to work on promoting Rainy Days and Stormy Nights in the weeks ahead.

"But I certainly hope that the title of the song is not going to reflect the weather conditions that we have."

Nor is Jim the only singer from the west of the province who is about to release a new single.

Barry Kirwan, Jim's neighbour from just down the road in Omagh, is also due to bring out a new album shortly.

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Barry Kirwan with dad Dominic

He has been down in the Jonathan Owens studios in Moate finalising work on this, and not surprisingly he is hoping that it helps to enhance his image.

"I think it's very important to maintain a recording output, as this helps to keep any singer in the public eye. Every singer feels that he or she is just one hit away from taking a big step up in their career, and I suppose I am no exception," says Barry.

Singing is obviously in his genes, as his father, Dominic, has been among the foremost singers in this country for many years and is currently getting back into the swing of things again, having undergone a hip replacement operation.

He is expected to join Barry on stage at Lola's in the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh tonight for what should prove to be a lively dance show.

"My father is still totally committed to the entertainment business and he is obviously happy to be resuming performing," says Barry.

When Jim and Barry were in the BBC studios in Belfast on Tuesday, they were joined by an unexpected visitor.

I received a text during the programme from talented Scottish musician Brandon McPhee, who had just arrived in Belfast prior to heading to a recording session on Wednesday to lay down a single with the renowned Foster and Allen.

When Brandon texted me, I told him to drop by the studio, which he duly did, and he entertained listeners with his version of Ring of Fire.

Would you believe it, there must be an epidemic of recording at this very moment, because Brandon confirmed to me that he is over in this part of the world to lay down a new single.

I said to him when the programme was over: "After learning that yourself, Jim and Barry are all currently recording, I'm glad to know that I am not going to be left behind as I am putting the finishing touches to a new album.

"It's definitely a case of if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

Grandchildren's idea gives me a sinking feeling ...

It’s not often that I relish a trip to Cork, but in a way, I am rather relieved to be making the journey this weekend.

And that’s because the alternative is too frightening for me to contemplate.

My grandchildren — Jake, Katy Sue, Elly Mae and Molly Jay — are particularly keen that I should accompany them to Castle Archdale in Fermanagh... to jet-ski!

Now, I am game for most things in life, but I draw the line at jet-skiing.

The very thought of attempting to hold on to the skis sends a shiver up my spine and helps to form visions of me floundering in the water.

I have explained this to my grandchildren, but naturally they are reluctant to take my “excuse” on board.

“Let’s put it like this,” I told them. “I would rather take a long drive than a long dive!”

RJ may be gone, but he will never be forgotten

It was with a heavy heart that I attended the funeral on Sunday of one of the best musicians with whom I have ever had the pleasure of working.

RJ Catterson was not just a superb drummer. He was also a larger-than-life character who was very much the heartbeat of the community in the Castlederg area.

I recall appearing at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with RJ on drums, back in 1974, with my then band The Tallmen.

Those were great days. My song Dear God was at No 1 in the Irish charts, work was plentiful and there was a great rapport within the band.

RJ was very much at the heart of this because he loved life and lived it to the full. He worked with a number of bands, always bringing his own inimitable playing style to them and underlining his talent.

In his time, he appeared with the Claxton Showband, Brendan Quinn, Hugh McClean and the Mighty Avons and Philomena and the Dawnbreakers. All spoke highly of him. Modest and unassuming, he let his musicianship do the talking.

As well as being a popular figure on the entertainment scene, he was extremely active in the community and took a big interest in football.

Fr Colm O’Doherty perhaps put his popularity into context when he said at the funeral Mass that, in the 14 years he had been ministering in St Francis of Assisi Church, Drumnabey near Castlederg, RJ’s was the biggest funeral he had seen.

RJ, whose funeral was attended by people from all sections of the community, which showed the respect in which he was held, took his lead from the saying, ‘Music acts like a magic key to which even the most tightly closed hearts open’.

To his wife, Kathleen, and family, I extend my sincere sympathy.

He may well be gone, but he certainly won’t be forgotten by those of us who were privileged to have known him.

Belfast Telegraph

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