Reviews for “Mooney’s Blues”
(Chrysamis Records 2022)
Review by Irish Times Fri Oct 28 2022
Mooney’s Blues – Contemporary, authentic, self-deprecating rhythm and blues
“Dubliner Nigel Mooney’s tunes offer meticulous attention to musical detail and soar above imitators and revivalists”
What right has a middle-class boy from Dublin got to sing the blues? There is no doubting the enduring appeal of mid-20th-century African-American music, of hep language and honking horns, of swinging grooves and flattened sevenths, but what has that got to do with anything in 21st-century Ireland? Guitarist and songwriter Nigel Mooney answers the question incisively in his liner note, and decisively in the music, on his enjoyable fourth album.
Founder and front man of the pioneering Gripewater Blues Band back in the early 1980s, Mooney has spent a lifetime swimming in the warm waters of the Mississippi and he knows his blues. But what raises the songwriting here above that of the imitators and revivalists is the contemporary references, the self-deprecating humour, and the authentic situations and emotions in his lyrics.
Mooney’s productions are also characterised by a meticulous attention to musical detail, and the cast of jazz grandees assembled here, including saxophonists Jean Toussaint, Michael Buckley and Brendan Doyle, backing vocals from Memphis diva Deborah Swiney, string arrangements from the great Fiachra Trench, not to mention Mooney’s own classy quartet, all add up to an hour of high-quality music that will delight those who need a fresh shot of old school rhythm and blues. And Mooney’s tunes, particularly the meta-blues of the title track, evince an awareness of all these contradictions that somehow make it all alright.
Review by Denis Goodbody, Roots Musings, Dublin City FM
Nigel Mooney’s latest release – ‘Mooney’s Blues’ – brings together several threads from his 40 year musical journey, a journey that saw him graduate from Chicago blues to more complex and intricate stylings. The result is a virtuoso jazz/blues hybrid style that, many would say, entitles him to a place in the Irish music pantheon left vacant by the likes of Louis Stewart and Rory Gallagher.
Nigel’s easy-going demeanour, off and on the stage, has won him fans, colleagues and collaborators from across the jazz and blues world and he draws on these connections to create an album that is as authentically of the Mississippi as it is uniquely Mooney.
The list of collaborators and co-conspirators on Mooney’s Blues is remarkable, though it represents a fraction of the musicians Nigel has connected with on his trips to Memphis, Clarksdale and other parts of the Delta.
Among those who took part in the recording were: tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint, ex-Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers; trumpeter Ben Cauley, ex-Bar-Kays/Otis Redding band; tenor saxophonist Lannie McMillan, ex-Ike Turner and Buddy Guy; and ex-Al Green chanteuses Deborah Swiney and Carolyn Chatman. While the American blues and soul contingent played their part, many other musicians from closer to home contributed to the recording – including Michael Buckley, Johnny Taylor and Scott Flanigan and featuring string arrangements by Fiachra Trench. The resulting album is a confluence of the Liffey and the Mississippi that, over its ten original compositions and two cover versions, meanders between Saturday night dives and lazy Sunday morning coffee on the stoop.
Like its predecessors ‘The Bohemian Mooney’ and ‘All My Love’s In Vain’, ‘Mooney’s Blues’ is an album you’ll return to again and again and, each time you do, you’ll find something new in it to smile about.
Though it’s definitely Nigel Mooney’s album, Nigel is a confident enough bandleader to know when to let others step into the light. This is particularly apparent in the vocals where he seamlessly moves from lead vocal to part of the chorus and back again, as and when it suits the song.
Across a very varied collection of songs, his influences, inspirations and heroes are more than evident, but there’s never a hint of mimicry. Instead this is the sound of a man with good taste, a rich artistic palette and a remarkable gift. It’s all in there, from the rock and blues influences of his childhood – Clapton, Peter Green, Buddy Guy and BB King – to the fretboard feats of his mentors and stage mates – Georgie Fame, Louis Stewart, Larry Coryell and more. The cherry on this rich cake, is Nigel’s love of songcraft – the word play, wit and humour, alongside the emotion, the energy and the storytelling.
Nigel Mooney is a born showman. In secondary school, he managed to prolong a school concert past curfew by playing “Amhrán na bhFiann” in the style of Jimi Hendrix, knowing the teachers wouldn’t dare interrupt The National Anthem.
Not long after leaving school, Nigel was a feature of Ireland’s musical landscape. His early bands, such as ‘The Gripewater Blues Band’, played to packed, weekly residencies in various venues around Dublin’s city centre. As well as performing in a wide variety of bands, quintets, quartets, trios and duos, Nigel has shared the stage with many great names, including support slots with BB King and Dr. John.
While he can be found performing around greater Dublin from time to time, album releases are rare enough to be classed major events!
His seemingly effortless yet highly accomplished guitar style, accompanied by his relaxed, expressive tenor vocals, are as much at home at the centre of a big band as they are in a trio. Whether it’s a stadium or a smoky basement, the only two things that matter are the music and his connection with the audience. Over the years, his audiences have included many luminaries who have sought him out and asked to play with him. This has led to highly enjoyable and fulfilling collaborations with the likes of Larry Coryell and Georgie Fame, with the latter appearing on Nigel’s previous album ‘The Bohemian Mooney’.
Nigel’s love for his medium results in playing that brings together all the sophistication inherent in the word Jazz, with a welcoming accessibility that gives his music broad appeal without compromise.
Reviews for “All My Love’s In Vain
The Clare People, 12th July, 2005. *****
Unquestionably, Mooney’s work on this offering isn’t in vain. This is a tour-de-force of an Irish jazz/blues album, showcasing the Wicklow man’s innovative guitar playing and unique vocalising. Six of the nine tracks here are self-penned, showcasing Mooney’s superb song-writing talent. The other three comprise an instrumental “Boulavogue” and two knockout versions of Robert Johnson classics, “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” and “Love In Vain”. Effortless vocals, reminiscent of Mel Torme, Nina Simone and Chet Baker, fit snugly over a tight four-piece band sound. “All My Love’s In Vain” can stand up favourably with anything that has come out of Memphis, New Orleans or Chicago in recent times. A gem.
The Sunday Tribune, 5th June, 2005. ****
It has taken guitarist Nigel Mooney about 20 years to get around to his debut album, but the wait has not been in vain. Mooney has been one of the seminal figures of Irish blues since his Gripewater Blues Band pioneered the current live scene at places like J.J. Smyth’s. But even those who know him well are being blown away by this impressive collection of original songs, sung with real feeling, and played with real style by a group that includes Myles Drennan on keyboards, and a guest appearance by Richie Buckley.