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Hugo Duncan: You can't slow a workin' man like Mike Denver down as he prepares to release a new single

Mike Denver
Mike Denver
Cliona Hagan

By Hugo Duncan

When Mike Denver was seeking out a new single to record, he could well have taken a look in the mirror. And this is because Workin' Man, written by Donegal man Jodie Gallagher, aptly describes Mike's own lifestyle.

It is doubtful if there is a busier artiste on the Irish country scene, which Mike has graced for the past 15 years.

His travels take him not only all over Ireland, but to countries such as England, Scotland, Spain and Portugal on a regular basis.

He has been to all four countries this year and will log quite a few thousand more miles between now and the end of the year.

I shared the stage with Mike at a concert last night and he was just reflecting on his workload.

"I'm happiest when I am busiest," he told me. "I love doing concerts, but equally I enjoy playing at dances.

"I think that there is still a great enthusiasm for country music here in Ireland and I believe we are fortunate to have a number of home-grown, top-class artistes, who are leading the way in keeping the flag flying."

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Mike and his band may have been on a considerable journey to date, but there is no indication that they will call a halt to their travels anytime soon.

"We enjoy playing and we look upon every engagement as a new challenge. We are always trying to update our programme and introduce new elements. We appreciate the support we receive from people and we like to think that we can repay this," adds Mike.

He has already had considerable success in the recording sphere, but Workin' Man, which he recorded under the Sharpe Music label, looks set to be a big success. It will also be the title of his new CD, which is due for release next month.

"It's a question of nothing ventured, nothing gained," explains Mike. "Sometimes, you don't know what impact a song will have, but fortunately, on this occasion, Workin' Man seems to be triggering a very favourable reaction and that is encouraging from our perspective."

I well remember Mike starting out way back at the start of the Noughties and since then he has gone from strength to strength.

While he manages to generate a tremendous atmosphere at his dances, he can also hold a concert audience in the palm of his hand.

Known for his energy and charisma, he has built up a very loyal fan-base to which distance is no object when it comes to travelling to see him perform.

He was in his usual lively form last night and when I told him my own itinerary spanning next weekend he said: "Sure, there's no point in you making me out to be an exceptionally busy man, Hugo, given that you're just as busy yourself!"

I must say I will certainly be finding myself in different locations over the course of next weekend.

I had been telling Mike that, after performing at his concert in the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh next Thursday night, I will on Friday be jetting out to link up with Nathan Carter's Country Music Extravaganza in Torremolinos.

Nathan's show promises to be quite an occasion, as he has a host of well-known names performing at his event, including Dominic Kirwan, Cliona Hagan and Steven Smyth.

I have been part of the week-long event for some years now and I must say I thoroughly enjoy what is a feast of country music at its best.

With such a broad spectrum of guests and the entertainment virtually non-stop, it can be quite hectic, but I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Then I will head home on Saturday and that evening I will join Curtis Magee for his show in the Post Inn, Drumquin.

Curtis is a Strabane man, like myself, and has certainly come to the fore in country music circles over the course of recent years. He is a very talented entertainer and has built up quite a following.

Newcomer Jamie is hitting right note with country fans

Make a note of the name Jamie Donnelly. This talented 19-year-old, who hails from Strabane, is creating waves with her new single, Catfish John, which appears to be enjoying considerable airplay just now.

During the course of recent weeks, I have received requests to play the song after I had initially given it an airing and I was very happy to do so.

Mind you, it's not often that I am prevailed upon to play relatively unknown artistes, but Jamie appears to have special appeal. And even at this stage, I believe that she is destined to pursue in music.

She is currently studying for a degree in music at Queen's University Belfast and, given her enthusiasm and dedication, she looks more than capable of achieving this.

She is already cutting her teeth as a performer by playing at local venues at weekends and, by all accounts, she is creating a very good impression in this connection.

As well as being a fine singer, she is also a proficient guitarist and her winning ways could help to see her career as a performer blossom.

"I have always been interested in music from I was very young and I must say that I am thrilled to have this new single out," Jamie tells me. "I was hoping against hope that it might get some sort of notice, but I'm over the moon with the reaction to date.

"This has encouraged me greatly and I intend to commit myself even further to carving out a career for myself.

"Music is my passion and always has been."

Galway boy Matthew sure to be North West success

It has been quite some time since I last had the pleasure of performing in the Drummond Hotel, Ballykelly, but I will be going there tonight to appear at what should prove a very enjoyable concert.

Highlighting the proceedings will be the appearance of Matthew O'Donnell, a very talented young man from Galway, and his band.

Together, they have been making inroads in the country dancing scene and they will get the opportunity tonight to win new fans in the North West.

Matthew's record, Johnny and Sally, has certainly been creating an impact and gives an indication of the singing qualities of the 22-year-old.

It is always encouraging to see fresh talent emerging and with Big Chief from The Indians showband (alias Raymond Kelly, from Castlerock) also on the bill, there will certainly be some lively singing.

Local girl Shannon Murphy will also be getting another opportunity to display her singing talents.

I understand that Shannon has quite a following in the area and doubtless she can expect a warm reception.

She is one of a number of younger female singers who are beginning to make progress in the country music sphere and I would encourage them all to give maximum commitment to their roles.

I will also be performing a few songs myself and I am looking forward to having a rapport with the audience.

Tonight will not just be an occasion for sitting and listening, as there will be a facility for dancing.

In the past, the Drummond Hotel has hosted many successful country shows and tonight's should prove no exception.

There will be an interval raffle with the proceeds going to the Sperrin Cancer Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.

The doors will open at 7.15pm and the show will commence at 8pm.

Intending patrons can just pay at the door.

Come early in case you miss any of the craic!

Beauty set to take over from Beast

I will be away from my usual daily role with BBC Radio Ulster on Friday next, as I will be heading out to Torremolinos to take part in Nathan Carter's week-long county music extravaganza in the sun.

It promises to be quite an occasion and something that I am really looking forward to.

That leaves the big question to be answered: who's going to mind the house (Broadcasting House, that is) while I am away?

The answer is that Lisa McHugh will be spinning the discs in my absence, as well as answering your queries.

I know that she will be more than capable in this role and, of course, she has already gained considerable experience as a country music performer.

Mind you, I was a bit taken aback when one insider said to me: "So, we're going to have Beauty instead of the Beast, then."

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