Despite dwelling in the thick of mainstream French Quarter tourist draws, the Kerry Irish Pub is more cozy local music den than tourist trap.
The pub has performers scheduled most nights with many traditional Irish acts among them. That’s what seemed to be on offer just the other night when I dropped by, too. From the back of the long, narrow room I could hear a guitar giving way to what I thought was a bodhrán, the traditional Irish drum with its distinctive, galloping beat.
It just sounded that way, however. In fact it proved to be a telling trick from the man on stage, Danny Burns.
The singer/songwriter was performing solo on the Kerry’s tiny stage, and at the crescendo of this particular song he whipped his much-worn, hole-pocked acoustic guitar into such a frenzy that it indeed sounded like a bodhrán in action. This was Danny Burns all over. A native of Donegal, Ireland, and now well rooted in New Orleans, his music can be by turns traditional or of-the-moment contemporary. He’s a roots rocker with a brogue and a sound that argues for a closer listen.
I was first clued-in to Danny Burns by a friend who pointed me to his new body of work, a forthcoming album called “Off the Grid” (the album isn’t out yet, but you can hear it online here). My friend had described him as an Irish songwriter, and I’ll admit that, at first, I expected something closer to a folk act. So I was surprised (and impressed) from the first track on. Reflective yet still rollicking, articulate and original though accessible and at turns downright catchy, his sound struck me as something like a harder-rocking Jackson Browne mixed with perhaps a Celtic version of Anders Osborne.
These “Off the Grid” tracks are polished and sound well produced, but of course seeing Danny Burns perform live and solo at the Kerry the other night was a different experience. Here, it’s just the man, the guitar and the mic (and the tip bucket. . .there’s no cover charge at the Kerry). His treatment of a few eclectic covers was revealing – like Richard Thompson’s "Beeswing" and the Pogues’ “A Pair of Brown Eyes”. They told a story of his influences. But what I enjoyed most was hearing the original material I’d gotten to know already from his recordings, here stripped down to their essence, revved up with the intensity you need to hold a pub’s attention by yourself and put out there in the easy, intimate setting of the Kerry. His songs are filled with hope, disappointment, defiance, yearning and fulfillment, and each one seems to take you on a little ride as it goes.
Danny Burns is in the midst of a solo acoustic series at Kerry Irish Pub that began this past weekend, with the show I happened to catch. It continues this Friday, July 1, and also on the following Friday, July 8, and again for a Sunday show on July 17. He has more gigs booked this month, including a show at the Hi-Ho Lounge, on July 30 that will feature his full band. Check his show schedule for details and updates.
Kerry Irish Pub
331 Decatur St., New Orleans, 504-527-5954