Malojian live at the American Bar
A month of Sundays with Malojian…
Only Malojian could come up with such a brilliant quip for a series of Sunday afternoon gigs at the American Bar. A maestro when it comes to a poetic turn of phrase, Stevie Scullion deserves a gong for that one.
Sunday 8th September is the second of five Sunday afternoon sessions – all sold out, (except for one). Tickets are like gold dust for these intimate seated sessions upstairs at the American Bar.
Last Sunday, Mandy Bingham provided support. This week it’s another Lurgan lad – Andy McGibbon from The Bonnevilles doing a solo session. New, softer material is an alternative to the memorable, full on bluesy Bonnevilles sound. A beautiful touch is singing ‘Rebel Shrug’ with his daughter Lily. A cover of ‘The Mosquito Song’ by Queens of the Stone Age follows, and ‘The Ballad of Lurgan’ about the tricks our subconscious mind plays when it goes dark and you can’t find the happy memories.
McGibbon gives us a taster of what’s to come on the new solo album – out soon. I particularly liked the rousing ‘Starlings’. A song written for a film that never made the final cut gets song title of the day. It’s called ‘The Ballad of that Murdering Bastard Ed Millar’. Brilliant!
Stevie Scullion is a prolific songwriter. It’s as if there’s just so much music and words stacked up inside that head just queuing to come out (although I’m sure it’s not that simple, he just seems to make it look that way). The fifth full album is in its formative stages – a new sibling for ‘The Deer’s Cry’, ‘Southlands’, ‘This Is Nowhere’ and the wonderfully titled ‘Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home’.
He’s had the good fortune to work with some of his own personal heroes on those albums – Steve Albini (who produced for Nivana and the Pixies), Jon Thorne, Gerry Love from Teenage Fan Club and Grandaddy’s Jason Lyttle – artists and producers he’s admired for years are now working with him. That says it all!
‘The Deer’s Cry’ still has a special place in my heart, but today, we are mainly being introduced to the new material and Malojian sound, with a new band line up. There’s some polishing and fine tuning still to be done, but this is a receptive crowd, genuine fans and followers of Malojian since its “Cat Malojian” days.
Kick starting the session with ‘Walking Away’ – we are treated to a rendition of this one again at the very end. It looks set to become a staple Malojian favourite live. Second is ‘Salt’. I love the lyrics on this one with nods to domesticity. Who else can work spreading butter on bread into a song, and make it make sense. It reminds me a little of ‘Tea-Time Song’ on ‘The Deer’s Cry’.
I sometimes get the sense that Malojian’s songs are based on little vignettes, small moments from the ups and downs and mundane bits of everyday life that are juxtaposed in to artistic interpretation – such as ‘When the Thief Came In’, and one of my favourites from the afternoon, ‘Tsunduko’ (a Japanese word for the art of buying books and never reading them – just stacking them up beside the bed. We don’t have its equivalent in the English language. Stevie Scullion loves that smell of second hand books, buying them and never quite getting round to reading them. I buy that.
One of the busiest days for songwriters around the world was the day Trump got elected. November 8th, 2016 is etched in our mindset for the wrong reasons. There is a fool on the throne, he sings.
The loss of a good friend can be as sore of the loss of a loved one, and clearly Stevie Scullion was deeply affected by the death of his good friend and mentor, Kilkenny man Willie Meighan, who ran Rollercoaster Records (dubbed “The happiest little record shop in the world” by the Irish Times). He dedicates a song to his good friend, ‘Some New Bones’.
Stevie tells little anecdotes between songs and it makes him all the more endearing to us. At least six times he asks the audience ‘Are you all right?’ It feels like a genuine concern for our well being – he wants to know if we’re enjoying the set, if he’s doing all right? There is a gentle, self-effacing quality to the man, a humility that belies true talent.
We don’t get much from the back catalogue – just ‘The Ambulance Song’. There’s a new single coming out this week – recently written, about the fiasco that is Boris Johnson. I think it’s called ‘Dirt’. I may not have caught the title correctly, but Dirt works.
Finally, the last song is the first he played. ‘Walking Away’, back to the car, a soft autumn rain falls, and I think to myself, what a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon.