Hugo Duncan: How modest Gerry Guthrie became one of country's top showmen
When Gerry Guthrie decided that he would like to go on the road and front his own band, he knew he was taking a gamble.
The Ballina singer had been enjoying a successful career as a solo artiste - and that's hardly surprising, given that he is an accomplished guitarist, as well as being a fine singer.
It was some six years ago that Gerry left the comfort zone of his home environment to spread his musical wings, but he could not quite have anticipated the level of success that he would enjoy.
Today, the modest and unassuming Gerry is regarded as one of the most polished and professional showmen on the country dancing circuit, in particular.
And right now he is looking forward to releasing a new album in the near future, which he hopes will prove the perfect follow-up to his hugely successful Did She Mention My Name?, which has helped to bring his talents to a much wider audience.
It's the consistently high quality of Gerry's recordings which have helped to keep him in the limelight, and that's not surprising. Numbers such as The Old Guitar, A New Moon Over My Shoulder, Secondhand Heart, Lefty Was Right After All and The Lucky Horseshoe not only underline Gerry's vocal talents, but underscore his status as a top-flight performer.
"I have always been interested in music, but when I first went on the road with my band as a full-time musician, I admit I was a little intimidated. But I gradually became acclimatised to the travelling and the pressures of performing," explains Gerry.
"Now, I would not change my lifestyle for anything. We're coming to the close of what has been an exceptionally busy summer, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the recording studio."
It was earlier this year that Gerry found himself participating in another musical project when he was part of the Patsy Cline Music and Memories tour, which proved such a success and which featured the popular Sandy Kelly in the role of Patsy.
"Sandy is a wonderful singer, and I must say it was a great experience to have been part of that tour," says Gerry.
"The reaction of audience Hugo Duncan: How modest Gerry Guthrie became one of country's top showmens was superb, and I came to appreciate that there are many facets to country music."
Gerry's talents have been recognised via a string of honours that have come his way. Four years ago, he received the best country musician award at a prestigious country music event, and then in 2015 he took the performer of the year accolade at the Irish Farmer's Journal annual Country Music Awards.
"While it's great to have received honours such as these, I get most satisfaction from seeing people enjoying themselves at the dances at which we play," explains Gerry.
"We particularly like playing in Ulster, where I am happy to say that we appear to have quite a number of followers."
He is very much in demand to perform, along with his band, at the increasingly popular country dancing weekend events which are held across the country throughout the year, and it's no surprise to learn that Gerry hosts his own weekend, to which his followers invariably flock.
Meanwhile, Brendan Shine, Patrick Feeney, Ally Harron and Marian Curry and the Country Features, Florence and Robbie, along with numerous other local acts, will be among the guests on my BBC Radio Ulster outside broadcast, which comes from Kesh today.
It's very much a country music rendezvous as part of the annual Kesh Carnival, so it should be a lively occasion.
Marty gives up day job as his music hits the right notes
For someone who does not, perhaps, regard himself as a mainstream country singer, Marty Mone has been doing rather well for himself of late.
It was the huge success of his Hit The Diff number that projected Marty on to the national stage - and he has never looked back.
He never imagined having to forego his role as an agricultural contractor in order to concentrate on entertainment, but that's just how things have panned out.
It's hardly surprising, given his background, that Marty's music generally tends to be influenced by tractors, ploughing championships, machinery and animals, yet this appears to be the secret of success.
The Castleblayney man has created his own niche on the Irish country scene, to such an extent that any new record release is always eagerly anticipated.
This is the situation right now as his new CD is out and includes several self-penned songs, as well as other material.
"I enjoy the challenge of songwriting. Sometimes, it's difficult to marry this with performing, given the travel that is involved, but I am happy to confirm we have been very busy over the summer," says Marty.
"I am obviously delighted with the success of Hit The Diff, which has given such a lift to my career in music, and I am very grateful."
Marty has already performed with considerable success in England and Scotland, and is set to break new ground on the continent later in the year.
Meanwhile, Brendan Shine is all set to support Michael English on his forthcoming concert tour. Brendan has been part of the country music scene for some 40 years, and for the best part of his career he enjoyed huge popularity in England, where he was a regular visitor with his band.
He had massive success with songs such as Where Did You Meet Her? Do You Want Your Auld Lobby Washed Down? and Catch Me If You Can. Right now, he is going stronger than ever.
You can't keep a good man down!
Daniels rolls in with an all-star cast for show at Millennium Forum
Roly Daniels has been a long-time favourite in this country after coming here from his native India.
For many years, he fronted the Nevada Showband, along with female vocalist Kelley, before switching to the country sphere, where he was to achieve even more success.
Right now, Roly is in the throes of an Irish tour that will take him to the Allingham Arms Hotel, Bundoran tonight and to the Millennium Forum in Derry tomorrow night.
Roly, of course, had huge success with singles such as Hello Darlin’, Funny Face, Part of Me and Mr Jones, and he certainly appears to have retained his considerable stage presence.
He will be accompanied on stage tonight and tomorrow night by Shawn Cuddy, Caitlin and Joe Moore.
Joe, who hails from the north west, is still proving hugely popular everywhere he appears, while Shawn continues to front his own band.
He spends a considerable time performing in England, where he has enjoyed a high level of popularity.
Meanwhile, Declan Nerney and his band will be the big attraction at the Mourne Country Hotel in Newry tomorrow night.
It is some time since Declan has performed at this venue, and the red carpet will certainly be rolled out for him.
Declan will shortly be hosting his annual Hooley in the Sun, and he will also be joining Mike Denver at a special show in Drumlish Festival marquee.