No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast
15th December 2016

A generous man is Mr McGinn. He gets his own show in No Alibis after several joint shows and immediately arranges to share the gig with Na Leanai.

Most readers will know Matt’s backstory. A very talented singer songwriter who has been on the scene in Belfast and beyond for several years. He has a back catalogue of at least two full albums and has worked with a host of other talented artists such as Malojian, Ben Glover, and recently Bridget O’Neill.

Formerly based in Belfast now returned to his hometown of Hilltown.

Matt McGinn and Na Lenai

Na Leanai are Sorcha Turnbull, Eimear Keane, Ryanne and Fra Sands, two sisters and four cousins, work that out yourself. Second generation Sands Family.

There are a number of connections between the artists, Matt and Fra are cousins, Matt produced the Na Leanai debut album, Na Leanai play on Matt’s recent single. They are all from South Down.

Na Leanai opened with four songs and a couple of tunes. They could be described as a folk/traditional band, four voices, two guitars, fiddle, whistle, and percussion.

Songs range from a nice version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to ‘Woman Of No Place’ – a Barry Kerr song about the singer Maggie Barry – with a couple of covers and a promising self-penned one from Eimear. The strength of the band really lies in their vocal harmonies. Isn’t there something special about family harmonies? It’s hard not to be cheered up by a Na Leanai gig.

After a short break, or being honest slightly too long a break, McGinn takes to the floor – no stage – it’s a bookshop. Matt plays a mix of songs from the recent ‘Latter Day Sinner’ album and new songs he is working on.

Highlights include I’m Not Looking Down Anymore’, We’re Fine’ and the lovely ‘You Have’. ‘Your Dreams’ turned into a tragic tale of ill fitting jeans for an alternative chorus by Malojian’s Steven Scullion.

Matt is up there with the best of the singer-songwriters on the local scene or indeed further afield. He has a strong stage presence, tasty guitar work and has now developed a fine collection of strong self-written or co-written songs.

What makes him stand out for me is his voice. He really has an excellent voice which has a great range and both power and gentleness. Matt tells us he is working on a project with an artist from a number of areas throughout the world who are experiencing conflict. Should be interesting.

Encore time. Matt invites Na Leanai back up. A nice version of Luka Bloom’s ‘You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time’, with soaring vocal from Matt and great fiddle from Ryanne.

Then it’s Christmas Song time, including ‘O Holy Night’, nice singing from Eimear. The inevitable ‘Fairytale Of New York’ to finish.

A nice gig, two good acts and No Alibis’ home-made mince pies, you couldn’t beat it. Well, maybe the raffle result could have been better.

Na Leanai play the Out to Lunch Festival on Friday 13th January in The Black Box, Belfast while Matt plays numerous gigs in the New Year including the last three Fridays in January at The John Hewitt, Belfast.

As Matt says himself; all well worth getting up off the couch for.