It was a packed Garrison that welcomed “Ireland’s number one country singer”, Mick Flavin and his band, ably supported by Caithness’s own Manson Grant and the Dynamos for a matinee show.
It seemed the combination of two high profile bands rather than solo acts or duos had brought Shetland’s Country Music fans out in force even on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
Flavin has been on the road for 27 years and music has taken him places and meant he has met people he would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise.
I managed to chat to Flavin in the dressing room before hand when he spoke of growing up in a farming background in Longford, Southern Ireland.
One of his tasks as a child was to fetch the water from the well when he would use the bucket on top of his head to amplify his singing. His father was an exponent of the Sean-nós tradition of unaccompanied singing but Flavin’s first love was country music – Hank Williams, Tex Ritter and Charley Pride, among his favourites.
He has sung at the Grand Ole Orphy in Nashville, Tennessee, to audiences of 4,000. But his biggest audiences, I remind him, were probably in The big Austrialian Country Music festival.
Flavin is quite open about the problem he had with drink many years ago which left him needing hospital treatment several times. He hasn’t had a drink for 28 years.
Both his sons were born profoundly deaf and he has seen modern technology benefit their lives, and has had time to appreciate his grand children who have thankfully no such problems. He’s a very down-to-earth character, as he comes across on stage, and we have a good craic. He certainly doesn’t look or act like a 64-year-old.
A little while later I find myself sitting in the stalls next to, Jimmy Amooty and his wife (he tells me the name’s origins are from Auchtermuchty in Fife). He worked with Flavin as a “chippy’s mate” when he was employed as a carpenter before turning professional.
He lives two-and-a-half miles from Mick in Ireland and was even in Shetland last time Mick played. “Are you a big fan then?” I ask him. “No I just know him!” Is his jokey reply.
First on are a red jacketed Manson Grant and the Dynamos, no strangers to Shetland at one time. Manson, 80, confesses its 25 years since they were first here – and he had hair. The trio have taken under their wing a young wizard of an accordionist Brandon McPhee who did some amazing fingerwork on The Dark Island and the Bluebell Polka.
During the polka, the rows of seats of the Garisson were rocking, as his fingers at times were a blur with movement. The band had a tight sound and a set full of crowd pleasers well embellished with three part harmonies.
Now for Flavin who was very magnanimous to Manson and Co.
There’s a good selection of songs from an obviously a seasoned group of musicians with a slick delivery. I couldn’t but help noticing the hole worn away on Mick’s guitar just below the aperture by his plectrum, that’s a lot of strumming.
There’s not too much sentimentality to the songs, and some nice lines “as he walked the straight and narrow, he collided with her heart”. There’s the obligatory Galway Girl and various members of the band are highlighted I particularly liked the drummer singing The Best Part of the Day is the Night, when the band is swinging.
Flavin has a rich voice with quite deep resonance which is delivered with genuine emotion, he went down very well with all present and folk had indeed been “travlin’ to Flavin”.