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Feb 15 2012

Riding the Crest of the Rory Wave: An Interview with Daniel Gallagher

Published by under Interviews

Rory Gallagher Albums Remastered

News of Sony Music’s re-release of Rory Gallagher’s first six solo albums created quite a stir in the Rory fan community, with news flashes splashed across various magazines, e-zines, and blogs. Rory seems to be in the news a lot in recent years: from Slash stumping for Rory to get into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, to the release of various concert performances of Rory at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the German Rockpalast and German Beat Club, and to the well-received documentary by Ian Thuillier, Ghost Blues. We seem to be riding the crest of a very large wave of renewed interest in the Irish legend, and I for one intend to ride that wave for all its worth. I recently got the opportunity to interview Daniel Gallagher, Rory’s nephew and producer of the remastered albums for a small article I was doing for Rock Cellar Magazine. Below is the complete interview:

Riding the Crest of the Rory Wave

Shadowplays: Hi Daniel, thanks for taking time away from your busy schedule to answer a few questions about Sony’s re-release of Rory Gallagher’s first 6 solo albums. You had previously worked on the release of the “lost” album, “Notes from San Francisco” and also the Live at Montreux DVD’s. Was the Montreux 2-DVD your first foray into the “family business”?

Daniel Gallagher: Hi Milo it’s my pleasure. Yes my father asked me if I’d have a look at the Montreux tapes that Eagle Rock had borrowed from the Montreux Festivals archive and work out how a possible DVD might run. At the time I was touring with my old band but since we split in 2010 I’ve been working on all things Rory from the guitar books to Notes From San Francisco to Ghost Blues, etc.

Shadowplays: Those Montreux shows were dynamite. It was from watching Rory perform Shadow Play at Montreux that made me want to do my Shadowplays website. Such an incredible performance. You got to pick and choose which songs would make it on the 2-DVD release. That had to have been tough to do. I was curious as to why you chose the entire ’94 show for the second DVD? Despite Rory’s failing health I thought his ’94 performance was very strong. His voice just got bluesier don’t you think?

Rory Gallagher - Shadowplays - Montreux 1979
Rory at Montreux Jazz Festival, 1979

Daniel Gallagher: That version of Shadowplay is epic, I have no idea where Ted and Gerry get the energy to keep up with Rory. The Strat passing out and Rorys reaction to it are magic. When compiling that DVD I was a little hamstrung, I wanted to do the full 1975 show as I think the improvisation between the band is fantastic but the tapes were damaged so we could only use the 7 songs. I choose to put the full 1994 show as disc 2 as I felt Rory’s later performances hadn’t been documented and while he wasn’t as vibrant looking, as Irish Tour for instance, I felt his playing and spirit where really captivating. Also the jam with Béla Fleck I thought was a very special moment that should be shared.

Shadowplays: On that second dvd you also included some additional acoustic material from his earlier appearances at Montreux. During his 1975 visit to the Montreux Jazz festival, Rory also did a solo effort during the Friday “folk night”. Was this video available? It was also the night that he jammed with Larry Coryell, Steve Khan, Philipe Catherine, and John Martyn… and Claude Nobs on harp! Now that would have been something to see!

Daniel Gallagher: Yes I’ve heard of that folk night concert and have asked the Montreux archive if they have it but as yet I haven’t had any news. Rory was obviously having a good time that weekend as he also played with Albert King, which again, to get footage of that would be amazing.

Shadowplays: I liked the idea of releasing a Montreux audio CD too. I wish that the Rockpalast release had included an audio CD as well. Did you get to choose which songs were on the Montreux CD?

Daniel Gallagher: Yes I compiled that CD, I tried to vary it from the other live albums as best i could while also having a feel of a live set despite being from shows decades apart.

Shadowplays: So let’s talk about the new CD releases of Rory’s first six solo albums. How did the ball get rolling on this one?  Did you approach Sony or did Sony see the success of recent releases like Notes From San Francisco and approach you?

Daniel Gallagher: Sony approached us saying they’d like to do something with the albums such as updating the artwork as the previous releases had been available for 10-12 years and they felt it could do with some freshening up. I thought if they were keen to do something with the records again that they should go back to the original mixes as I felt it would be unfair to the fans to encourage them to buy the same CDs but with a few more pictures etc. I also knew there’d been a few ‘issues’ from fans regarding the remixed releases so I felt going back to the originals would hopefully please everyone.

Shadowplays: The entire RG catalogue had just this past year been reissued through EagleRock.  Why a second reissue in such a short amount of time?  Isn’t this overkill?

Daniel Gallagher: Eagle Rock are the label for the Americas, previously BMG and then SonyBMG had the rights but we felt they did little to promote Rory’s music and a lot of the albums weren’t readily available in the States, many not even up on iTunes. When we licensed the catalogue to Eagle they wanted to re-establish Rory’s albums in-store and online so we re-released the catalogue with them. These new re-issues with Sony are for the territories they have the license for such as Europe and Asia, where like I mentioned no work had been done on these albums for 12 years. So while all the press releases and reviews that fans may read come across as one thing, these are very separate releases for different countries or ‘markets’ as the labels like to call them.

Shadowplays: Were the albums remastered from the original mixes, or are they the 1997/98/99 remixes? What about the gain on the new albums?  Many of the diehard faithfuls thought the re-releases were way too loud.

Daniel Gallagher: The albums are new masters of the original Polydor era mixes. I took the original 1/4 inch tapes to two separate mastering engineers. One specifically for vinyl mastering the other for CD and digital. I understand your point about the previous releases being very loud and that is not the case on these at all, the mastering engineers made a point that these weren’t going to be pushed to extreme for volume. 

Shadowplays: Glad to see the use of Digipaks instead of jewel cases on the CD release.   It allows for more “stuff” including more artwork and liner notes.  Are these the original liner notes, the 1999 re-releases, or new liner notes altogether?

Daniel Gallagher: Deuce has new liner notes by Donal for his insight on the songs, previously this was done by a friend of Rory’s and a record label A&R. For the Irish Tour ’74 liner notes I used the great Roy Hollingsworth article on Rory playing in Belfast when no-one else would as I felt it gave an insight as to what these gigs meant to people at the time. The other albums; Donal had already given all the information he knew about the record and individual songs so I felt these couldn’t be bettered and the Mick Rock notes for Live! In Europe are perfect and from the tour dates so should remain unchanged.

Shadowplays: Do the albums return to their original track sequencing and artwork?  I see that Deuce is back to it’s original ordering and the bonus track has been removed.  Good.  There is no better way to end that album than with Crest of a Wave.  (Besides … the bonus track “Persuasion” that had been used on the initial reissue was actually from the San Francisco sessions wasn’t it?)


Daniel Gallagher: Yes I felt it was important that the correct track sequencing was in place, I’m not sure what had happened on the previous releases (I was still in school!) but my whole idea for these releases was that they should be as close as is possible to Rory’s intention when originally released. Persuasion, when previously a bonus track, did come from the San Francisco Sessions, I think it was mixed without keyboards and less instrumentation to make it fit more with the Deuce three piece sound. Personally I felt, like you, that Crest Of A Wave should close the album and that Persuasion on Notes From San Francisco is how the song should be heard. I believe the other major track change is  Just A Little Bit returning to Irish Tour 74 from Tattoo.

Shadowplays: Do the rest of the bonus tracks match up with the proper albums, i.e are they from the same recording sessions as the albums they were added to? 

Daniel Gallagher: As for the other bonus tracks, Tucson, Arizona is from the Tattoo sessions. Back On My Stompin’ Ground and Just A Little Bit are soundcheck recordings from Irish Tour ’74, so are Stompin’ Ground and Treat Her Right on Blueprint. I believe the bonus tracks on Live In Europe and Rory Gallagher are from radio / studio sessions recorded around the time of each album.

Shadowplays: Speaking of bonus tracks, I’m curious why Cluney Blues was used on Against The Grain.  Although it’s from the same recording sessions, it was just a test song to get recording levels, why not use Lonesome Highway instead?

Daniel Gallagher: I don’t know the story for this as I wasn’t involved in those releases, though I do think Cluney Blues is a great number, it’s nice to hear Rory’s humour come through on record.

Shadowplays: Yes, Robin Sylvester, the original engineer for Against the Grain, said the he always tried to catch a bit of Rory banter and save it secretly on another track.

Daniel Gallagher: That’s the only draw back I noticed of the original mixes, on Deuce it doesn’t have Robin saying ‘Flawless!’ to Rory at the end of Crest Of A Wave, I love that moment but I imagine Rory might have thought it too self gratifying back in 1971.

Shadowplays: I like it too, but yeah Robin said that Rory always nixed that kind of stuff. When I persuaded Robin (a devout “vinylist”) into listening to the previous “Crest of a Wave” remix he was surprised and thrilled to hear his and Rory’s voice at the end of the song.

I’m glad to see the live albums return to their original titling: Irish Tour ’74 instead of Irish Tour, and Live! In Europe instead of “Live”. I had heard that the changes in the titles of the live albums on previous reissues were done because including the year “74” would make the Irish Tour album sound dated, and that including the phrase “In Europe” made Live! In Europe too provincial for the U.S market.

Daniel Gallagher: Sorry I’m not sure why they changed the titles maybe it was the labels idea but again I thought everything should return to the original release details.

Shadowplays: The vinyl addition will be released on February 20?  Will the bonus tracks be omitted?

Daniel Gallagher: Yes there won’t be bonus tracks on these, I felt that audio quality was more important than cramming the bonuses on the vinyl.

Shadowplays: I guess what us vinyl guys really want to know is, will the new vinyl releases sound just like our old lps but without all the fizz, crackle, and pops that have been acquired over the years?

Daniel Gallagher: I hope so! I used a great vinyl engineer (who did the mastering for the Notes From San Francisco vinyl) and the source is the same as Rory mastered from 40 years ago so bar slight EQ differences, that differing mastering engineers might hear, the vinyls should be skip free versions of your old collection.

Shadowplays: Will the remainder of the Rory catologue be reissued in this way?

Daniel Gallagher: The plan at present is to do the same with the Chrysalis released albums so Against The Grain through to Stage Struck. I need to investigate how much remixing went on and how different the original releases are from the 1998 reissues and whether Jinx should be added. I imagine Defender and Fresh Evidence are the same as the original release so I’m not sure if I’ll do these. I know a big issue (for myself as well) is the missing bridge vocals to Ain’t Too Good on Against The Grain and that will definitely be rectified.

Shadowplays: How close are you to reissuing the Taste material?

Daniel Gallagher: I’ve been chasing Universal (Polydor) to try and re-ignite the interest in a comprehensive Taste release with the albums re-mastered + bonus material. As I’m sure you’re bored of hearing I am trying everything to get the Isle Of Wight film made, Murray Lerner and I have come up with a concept for how we’d like to present it and have got very close to a workable fee for the DVD to be made. It’s only being held up by confirmation from a label that they want to finance and release it.

Shadowplays: That sounds very encouraging! For many of us, Taste at the Isle of Wight is the Holy Grail of Rory video and we’ve been clamoring for it for years. Murray has done numerous individual “Isle of Wight” documentaries including: Hendrix, Tull, and The Who, and most recently the Moody Blues and Leonard Cohen. How’s the quality of the Rory stuff? How much footage does he have? (I hear 7 tracks)

Rory Gallagher, Isle of Wight 1970

Daniel Gallagher: From what I’ve seen the Taste footage is great, Murray made an edit in 1995 so I’m sure the footage can be further enhanced since then as well. I don’t think he has the full hour and half set that Taste played on film but the edit I’ve seen has 7 tracks (you have good sources) but I’m hoping we can find more footage as he has a lot of tapes to go through.

Shadowplays: What else is on the Rory Horizon? Any more live material making its way its way an official release?

Daniel Gallagher: I recently dug out the Irish Tour multi tracks (from Cork City Hall) and found around 10 other tracks including an 11 minute version of Hands Off and the acoustic set that Rory did. I’d like to put together all this for maybe for a proper 40th Anniversary edition of the album for 2014.

Shadowplays: There are so many great soundboards of Rory’s shows. Any thoughts to streaming some of these live concerts through the website? Or selling hard copies via the official online store?

Daniel Gallagher: Yes I’ve been looking into building a site for all the other recordings / bootlegs etc to stream or download and Sony have just told me that they have a new platform called where we might host everything on a Rory myplay page. The advantage of this is that you can also order physical copies as well as download for those who prefer the physical format.

Shadowplays: These past few years have been a godsend for us Rory fanatics, with more CD’s and DVD’s coming out these past 4-5 years than in the previous ten before that. You’ve been a great help to Donal in getting more and more Rory content out there. I’d like to say thank-you for all that you’ve done, and thanks for taking the time to answers these questions.

Daniel Gallagher: My pleasure, it’s been very fun working on the releases and gives me a lot of pride seeing Rory’s music being so well received by everyone.

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Nov 11 2011

Take That Sinner Boy Home: An Interview with Barry Barnes

Published by under Interviews

Barry Barnes of Sinnerboy

They may not have been the very first band to pay homage to Irish legend Rory Gallagher, and they certainly won’t be the last, but Barry Barnes and Sinnerboy are regarded by many of the Gallagher faithful to be the ultimate in tribute bands. Rory’s brother and longtime manager, Donal Gallagher has called them his “favorite boy band”, and considers them “the definitive Rory Gallagher outfit.” One of the few bands that play all Rory all the time, they were Donal’s choice to play the first London tribute to Rory Gallagher at the Irish Arts Centre in Hammersmith in 2003.
For Barry Barnes, the singer, guitarist and driving force for Sinnerboy, it is all about keeping the memory of the late, great Irish legend alive. He first saw Rory Gallagher live with his band Taste in 1969 and has been a fan ever since. “Rory walks in, plugs his Stratocaster into the Vox — and, well, it changed my life really. It was magnificent, absolutely magnificent, and I’ve been a total fan ever since.”
After Rory’s death in 1995, Barry resolved to keep the Irishman’s memory alive by playing his music wherever and whenever he could. His band has played all over the world, and his annual tribute show in England is the longest running Rory Gallagher tribute festival in the world. Recently I had a chance to ask Barry about his life on the road, and his unceasing promotion of Rory’s music.

Take That Sinner Boy Home

Shadowplays: Barry, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. You’ve recently reformed the band. How’s the new line-up coming along?

Barry Barnes: My pleasure! The band’s coming on really well, we’ve been doing a full day each week at Nick’s place in Wales. We’re going out to Ireland the week before the first gig and staying at a friend’s empty house in Co. Donegal where we’re going to set the gear up and rehearse solidly to really tighten things up.

Shadowplays: I understand Nick Skelson is on bass and Jon Clayton on drums. They were both members of “Nunz with Gunz”. Has “Nunz” disbanded then? Or are the boys double dipping?


Barry Barnes: Well the boys seem to have suspended all activity with ‘Nunz’ at the moment, but that’s not to say the band’s defunct – I’ll have to ask them!

Shadowplays: With the new rhythm section, has Sinnerboy’s sound changed a bit? Jon’s old band, Brutal Deluxe, was a heavy, heavy metal band. Will Sinnerboy have a heavier sound? A “Top Priority” Rory sound?

Barry Barnes: Yeah I think that’s bound to happen with a drummer like Jonny but Sinnerboy has always had a ‘heavier’ edge whoever was playing with me which is probably because I’m a bit of a rocker myself at heart. I do have to pull Jonny back from his double bass drum pedals though!!

Shadowplays: Speaking of lineup changes, One of the topics of discussion in any Rory fan group is what everyone’s favorite Rory lineup is. Obviously any lineup with Rory is good, but what’s your favorite lineup and why?

Barry Barnes: That’s a tough one, each lineup produced it’s own magical moments but I have a soft spot for the Ted McKenna era, the memories of Rory running onto the stage, plugging in and belting out ‘Shinkicker’ are really strong. I think as far as creativity in Rory’s playing goes the 75-78 period always leaves me gob-smacked!

Shadowplays: Sinnerboy has also undergone several lineup changes. You, Steve Richardson and Dave Burns were the original lineup? When did Steve Tansley come on board?

Barry Barnes: About 2005/6 he was a friend of Daves’ already so a natural replacement when Steve Richardson left.

Shadowplays: Barry, the splitting up of Sinnerboy took us by surprise. Did you see it coming? Steve and Dave have joined up with Tony Dowler. Steve was with Tony Dowler before, wasn’t he? Back in the old Bill Baileys days?

Barry Barnes: Yeah it took me by surprise too! I was heartbroken at first because I thought I may have to stop – Finding a replacement for one musician would be hard enough but both at once? It was a real body blow, but fortunately for me Nick and Jonny saved the day and now all I can think of is the future, and how lucky I am to be able to keep going onwards and upwards!

Shadowplays: Was the split mainly a financial decision? I imagine it’s hard to make a living as a tribute band, particularly a Rory Gallagher tribute band home based in England. Much easier as a Cream, Zep, or Hendrix tribute band, don’t you think?

Barry Barnes: I don’t really know what motivated their decision, but what you say is very true – lots of miles, lots of discomfort, lots of time away from loved ones and for very little financial reward – I see the tribute bands to the more populist groups making really good livings but I don’t envy them – I’ve got the best job!

Shadowplays: Do members of most tribute bands have day jobs? Or play in other bands? Do you have a second career as well? I saw something about Barry Barnes Photography.

Barry Barnes: I was a still life and fashion photographer for 35 years and enjoyed that career but Rory’s death really shook me and I wanted desperately to keep him in people’s minds, you could say Rory’s passing galvanized me into changing EVERYTHING!
My Rory Career is all I do now – I play grueling solo tours too, hours and hours on the road on my own, setting up equipment, and sleeping where I can. It’s a tough life especially when you’ve driven hundreds of miles to a gig, then set up and sound-checked, sometimes all I want to do is go to bed but then the Rory fans arrive and I’m in my own little heaven!

shadowplays: So why Rory, Barry? Why put in all the long hours and hard work and little pay to play the music of a man that most have forgotten?

Barry Barnes: Good question! But easily answered, it’s not to do with hardship, or finances or anything more than I absolutely adore what I do and I absolutely adore Rory and his music! – when I look at the pleasure on the audiences faces as they remember Rory always thrills me – It’s all worth it!

shadowplays: I first started doing the Shadowplays website because I just couldn’t believe how many had forgotten Rory. I just wanted to smack them upside the head and say, “How could you forget this?” And then there was the media and supposed “blues experts” who would parade out your usual suspects: Clapton, Page, Beck, etc. when talking about the Blues Revival, but never a word about Rory. Did it grate on your nerves as much as mine?

Barry Barnes: Ha! Now you’re talking my language Milo! It makes me so angry! I picked up a guitar magazine at Nick’s from 2008 – it said on the cover ‘Top ten greats of slide guitar’ you can guess the rest of the story! Of course the players mentioned were all great players indeed – and I was very pleased to see Tampa Red come out on top but an article in a respected guitar magazine entitled top ten greats of slide guitar with no mention of Rory Gallagher? Come on guys!

Shadowplays: Rory’s old sound engineer, Robin Sylvester, talked about how great that slide was, how it could make paint blister! At the end of “Crest of a Wave” you can just make out Robin remarking, “flawless”! And don’t get me started on Guitarist Magazine! A while back they did the top 50 greatest guitar tones of all time. Rory checked in at 31. 31!! Slash was in the top ten for crying out loud! How are the young folk suppose to find Rory if the media and musos don’t name check him?

Barry Barnes: It always surprises me when they do – it’s mostly down to listening to their parents bringing them up on Rory.

Shadowplays: So let’s talk about how YOU first found out about Rory. You first saw Rory and Taste at the Manchester Free Trade in ’69. How did you hear of Taste? Through your brother? Isn’t he a big blues fan?

Barry Barnes: I wanted to buy the album everybody was talking about, it was the debut album by Led Zeppelin, You couldn’t buy records like that in many shops in those days, in Manchester you could buy them at ‘Rare Records’ a shop in the city centre. So with my hard saved 15 shillings (about 1 Euro) I walked into the store – and they didn’t have the record! As a 17 year old 15 shillings was hard to come by so I spent it on an album because I liked the cover – it was ‘On the Boards’ and is now the album which if I was given the choice of ONE record only to listen to forever, it’s that one! Later that year I went to see taste play the Free Trade Hall – I was disappointed when I walked in that he didn’t play with great big amplifiers, Just a small Vox on a kitchen chair – but my disappointment went when he plugged in – and my life changed big time!

It was my brother who first got me into the blues – I love him for that!

Shadowplays: How many times did you get to see Rory? Did you ever meet him?

Barry Barnes: I saw him 20 times which I thought was a lot until I started meeting people on our tours that have seen him hundreds of times! No, sadly I never met the man, I was too shy!

Shadowplays: When did you first pick up the guitar? What kind of bands were you in? When did you form Sinnerboy?

Barry Barnes in his youth

Barry Barnes: My dad bought me a guitar for my 16th Birthday – a Watkins Rapier 33 – I loved that guitar, I used to play in local rock bands playing the music of the day, Hendrix, Cream, Purple, Free etc, and of course I’ve always played the music of my hero! I formed Sinnerboy in 2000 (One of my better decisions!)

Shadowplays: You played your first tribute to the man, at the Pomona in Gorton, Manchester in 1996, a year after Rory’s death. So this wasn’t Sinnerboy’s first gig? Who played?

Barry Barnes: No, Sinnerboy was four years away then – I played with my band ‘Fat Cat Bobby’ with my friend Paul Westwell on harmonica who still jams with Sinnerboy occasionally, the rest of the people that played were other guys from local bands who I bullied into coming along and playing for free – we were just jamming Rory really, but it was great!

Shadowplays: I understand Rory’s brother Donal heard about it and left a message for you to get in touch. Do you remember what you and Donal talked about?

Barry Barnes: Not really, I was so shocked that Rory Gallagher’s Brother had phoned me I think I just talked total bollocks!

Shadowplays: This started a long line of English Tributes to Rory Gallagher, mostly at the Dukinfield Town Hall but also at the “Boardwalk” in Sheffield and at Hammersmith among others. Who was involved in organizing these tributes, and how supportive was Donal?

Barry Barnes: Help has come and gone at the tributes but I’ve always been supported by two mighty men – I’ve already mentioned Paul Westwell, who has always been there, (and who built the famous giant Strat) and then there has always been Dave Warner, a lovely man and a tireless campaigner for Rory! Donal has always been hugely supportive and has helped in numerous ways over the years, he’s a great guy and a great support.

Shadowplays: The second tribute was at the Flint St. Social Club, I think, followed by several years at Dukinfield Town Hall, then to the Boardwalk in Sheffield in 2004, then back to Dukinfield. Have I got the chronology right?

Barry Barnes: You’re spot on with the chronology, Milo, but you’ve missed out the last three years – ‘The World Famous Cavern Club’ in Liverpool!

Cavern Club Promo

Shadowplays: Yes, the Cavern Club! You moved the tribute there in ’08. This year’s tribute at the Cavern Club is coming up this Saturday. Have you gotten your mod clothes ready or will you be going tarten? Along with your band,Sinnerboy, this year’s tribute at the Cavern will also have Against the Grain from Scotland and Top Priority, a tribute band from Liverpool. What about the early days, Barry. Back in the late ’90’s, during the first few tribute gigs at the Dukinfield Town Hall, what other bands joined you on stage?

Barry Barnes: ‘The Jed Thomas Band’ was a big part of it then, Jed and the same boys are still treading the boards too – lovely guys and great musicians, then there was my special friends from Germany ‘Brute Force and Ignorance, Dave McHugh and Aftertaste, The Bill Baileys, and I used to put bands together out of all the local musicians to play special Rory songs, one year we did the ‘Rory Gallagher Big Band’ – Me, Paul (Harmonica) Paul Minshull (Piano) Denis Brennen and Frantzl Gerd-Albers (Drums) John Berry (Bass) Sara Nadin and Graham Attwood (Horns) John Brett and Steve Ernshaw (Guitars) and Chris Waite on vocals – we filled the stage that night, two drum kits too!!

Shadowplays: I imagine you’ve seen your fair share of Rory tribute bands come and go over the years. Not many have flied the Rory flag as many years as you though. Who stands out in your mind as both friend and supporter of the cause? When you first started playing the tributes, who was there before you and who remains there still?

Barry Barnes: Markus Kerkeling and his band ‘Brute Force and Ignorance’ from Germany were the band that convinced me that it could be done! That you really could play Rory authentically and not just interpret the songs your way. Up until that time there was only Jed and Dave McHugh who I knew were playing Rory and they also were really great at it but for me Brute Force were the band to take notice of, and what does it tell you when I say that all those guys, Jed, Dave and Markus are still at it, lots of other Rory bands have come and gone but the original guys are still there – and still fantastic!

Shadowplays: It tells me that Rory could instill a fierce loyalty in his fans. That some may use his music as a stepping stone to further their own careers, but others play his material out of sheer love of the man and his music. What are your fondest memories of the Dukinfield shows?

Barry Barnes: Always the big audiences – and the smiles on their faces!

Shadowplays: Sinnerboy also makes the trek to the festivals in Ireland — Ballyshannon, Belfast, Cork. Did you play any of the gigs Tony Moore would organize around Cork back in the early days? Any idea what Tony is up to nowadays?

Barry Barnes: Oh yeah we’d all cram into a little bar in Co. Cork called ‘The Meeting Place’ it was tiny and there seemed to be hundreds of us there! But we all got in and supported each other, it was great! Tony is not as up front on the Rory scene now – he played the biggest part of all in getting us all together, just about the most influential man on the Rory Tribute scene! He now plays his guitar in an Irish traditional band – I must ring him soon and catch up!

Shadowplays: The big draw now is in Ballyshannon. Barry O’Neill has turned that festival into a huge to do. Has some of the Rory-ness been lost on the way though? I read stories about some of the younger crowd casting a bit of a dark cloud over the proceedings. Or is it just the normal headaches associated with the bigger crowds?

Barry Barnes: Absolutely – it’s the same at all festivals, it does attract some kids who are not really interested in the music but that does not detract from the festival itself – and in no way has it lost ANY of how you put it ‘Rory-ness’ on the contrary, as with Tony Moore before him Barry picked up the baton in Ireland and has created a unique event in honour of Rory, I cannot praise him and his team enough for what they have done in Rory’s memory.

Shadowplays: It’s important for the youth to be involved in it, not just us old geezers. Rory’s music needs to stay fresh, don’t you think?

Barry Barnes: That’s one of my favourite things that has happened – there are lots of young bands that have got together not because they saw Rory, because they were too young, but because they saw Sinnerboy! How proud do you think I am of that?

Shadowplays: Did you play with former mates, Steve and Dave at Ballyshannon this year, as a final encore? Tony Dowler played too, didn’t he?

Barry Barnes: Yeah we played three great gigs – a real fitting ending to our partnership. They played some gigs with Tony too, The Hellhounds are a great band!

Shadowplays: With the dissolution of Sinnerboy, you started doing more solo acoustic shows to fill the Rory void, or had you always scheduled in a lot of solo acoustic work?

Barry Barnes: It was way before the dissolution of Sinnerboy, Milo – the old guys didn’t want to play so many gigs with me and I had to do something to keep paying the rent and it was either learn how to do it solo or….GET A JOB! (Horror) I love it now!

Shadowplays: Last October you came out with an acoustic album simply titled, “Rory”. Well that says it all, doesn’t it? Tell us about the album. How long was it in the making? Who guested? Where was it recorded?

Barry Barnes solo album

Barry Barnes: Mostly in Athens, plus two live tracks from Dublin and two studio tracks in England (and woof woof in Limerick!) It took longer than it should to mix because the studio in Athens had to close down after I recorded it, but I’m happy with the end result, My great friend Manos Kampouris plays some stunning guitar on it and I’m joined by Paul Westwell on a couple of tracks and Tracy Smith, O.B Mclaughlin and Dave Burns help out on ‘Barley and Grape Rag’ I’m really proud of the album (Available from Unashamed plug there!

Shadowplays: A well deserved plug! Interesting that many of the tracks were done in Athens. Greece has a surprisingly large number of Rory Gallagher fans. Rory only ever did two shows there, yet they occupy a huge slice of the demographics on the official Rory Gallagher Facebook page. About one fourth of all RG Facebook fans are from Greece. In fact, the city of Athens alone has more RG Facebook followers than any other country. Sounds like a country with excellent musical “Taste”. How do they treat you over there?

Barry Barnes: What? Greece is my second home! I love the Greek people, It’s my favourite place in the world! I have many, many friends there and get there as often as I can, I’ve even got a Greek version of Sinnerboy! Manos Koutsakis and Manos Deloitis play with me on Drums and bass there – and I’ll be back next year!

Shadowplays: Well, I had a feeling Sinnerboy would go over well there. Your solo album is a mixture of Rory covers and Rory-covered Blues standards. I think the only blues song on the album not performed at one time or another by Rory is Son House’s “Death Letter Blues”. Why Death Letter Blues?

Barry Barnes: Because it goes to the darkest region of the soul, that song IS the blues – nothing scares me or moves me like THAT song. I hope it doesn’t sound pretentious but I often just go into a trance when that song is working correctly – transported to another place – I’m talking bollocks again aren’t I?

Shadowplays: Not at all. I remember reading an interview of Rory where he talked about how Robert Johnson’s music scared him, that he was just that good. Rory’s choice of tunes from these blues legends was atypical, diverging from what the modern blues guitarists would include in their repertoire. Do you have any favorites, besides the included Death Letter Blues that Rory didn’t cover that you would have liked to have seen him cover?

Barry Barnes: He played so many concerts and so many acoustic spots that probably nobody knows everything he played – I would have liked him to cover some Bukka White!

Barry Barnes
Barry Barnes © naamanus

Shadowplays: Bukka White and that resonator! He played it so good and loud, like an electric guitar! Rory mentioned listening to him on the US Armed Services radio when he was growing up, but I can’t think of any Bukka White songs on the Rory bootleg recordings I have. One of the things that marked Rory’s take on the old Blues tunes was how he made them his own. One only has to listen to songs like Bullfrog Blues, Messin’ with the Kid, or Out on the Western Plain to see how Rory made them his own, to the point that it’s now Rory’s version that people cover. Do you have particular favorites from his covers?

Barry Barnes: My favourite would be ‘Empire State Express’ It’s Rory and Son House so it’s got to be a hit with me!

Shadowplays: Empire State Express — from his album “Fresh Evidence”. He recorded it on St. Patrick’s Day in one take, sitting in the drum booth using the drum mikes. I often wonder what the blues “purists” think of how Rory made these songs his own. I imagine there’s those who don’t want those old songs to stray very much from the original.

Barry Barnes: I think that is exactly what the blues is – interpretation. The early blues men were just taking what they had heard being chanted by their parents in the cotton fields (Much of it in African languages) and then translated into vocal lines and guitar riffs, then Muddy Waters invented electricity! If there are those who don’t want those old songs to stray very much from the original I feel sorry for them, they are missing out on so much!

If you just ape the old record, then it’s a one-dimensional thing. I try to adapt and interpret the songs at the same time. It’s good to capture the original feeling, but there’s no point in doing it just verbatim. I know certain guys who do that and it doesn’t get them anywhere. But then some ultra-purists feel you shouldn’t tamper with these songs or even attempt them. I think it’s one way of keeping the music alive and bringing it another step forward.”– Rory Gallagher

Barry Barnes: Well there you go – even Rory agrees!

Shadowplays: Who are your favorite blues musicians past and present?

Barry Barnes: My personal favourites – Son House, Bukka White, Tampa Red, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon, Bessie Smith, Sonny Terry and Brownie MgHee.

Shadowplays: Mark Feltham said once that as much as he liked listening to Rory play those old blues numbers, what he really liked was hearing him play his own songs. What are your favorite Rory songs, both to listen to, and play yourself?

Barry Barnes: I’ve always loved playing Moonchild and Hot Coals, and I couldn’t single out any favourite Rory songs, Maybe Tattood Lady would be my all – time favourite – I love Wicked Sadie, she makes me laugh because she gets raided by the police and the chief ends up wearing her nickers on his head – priceless!!

Shadowplays: I love the way Rory changed that song up through the years – adding the flamenco intro, and that chukka-chukka muting of chords (if that makes any sense!!) On your solo album you’ve done a nice acoustic version of Moonchild. That is something I love to hear: acoustic renditions of electric songs. Are you familiar with the Belgian guitarist Jacques Stotzem? Jacques talked about trying ” to catch the original spirit [of a Rory song] and perform it on acoustic guitar. Not playing it note for note but getting the emotion and energy right.

Barry Barnes: You mean Jacques does the same thing as me? I don’t know him, you must introduce me, that’s exactly what I think!
I’ve just looked him up on Youtube – Bloody Hell he’s amazing!!

Shadowplays: Maybe one day Jacques will play at the Ballyshannon festival. He’s done quite a few Rory songs, accompanied by female singer, Géraldine Jonet, and he’s told me he would love to play at the festival. Of course, Rory playing one of his own electric songs acoustically can’t be beat. I loved it when Rory appeared on Irish TV in 1977 and played “Secret Agent” acoustically. MTV use to have a program called, “Unplugged,” back in the late 80’s. Rory would have blown them away.

Barry Barnes: Oh yeah, I’m working it into the acoustic set now – so many songs and so little time!

Shadowplays: What Rory songs would you have liked to hear Rory play unplugged? Certainly Moonchild and I Fall Apart come to mind, and you’ve done both of those on your solo album. I Fall Apart is such an emotional song, don’t you think. Those crashing of chords near the end is almost a pathos.

Barry Barnes: Well the whole point of me playing some of the songs as I do, with just strummed guitar chords, is because they are so well written that they stand up as great songs even without the solos, drums etc. Also I think that the songs from later in his career leaned towards “acoustic-ness” anyway, stuff like Seven Days or Seems to Me ring out acoustically to me (And I love all the later stuff as much as the earlier)

Shadowplays: Your work with Sinnerboy has also given you a chance to play with some great musicians such as Pat McManus of Mama’s Boys, Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash. Andy was a big fan of Rory’s? I remember reading an article about a big Finnish festival and Rory and Lou, and Wishbone Ash’s original bassist, Martin Turner are jamming away at a pre-festival gig . I wonder whether Andy ever got up on stage with him. Talk about your double guitars!

Barry Barnes: You could have knocked me down with a feather! Andy stood at the side of the stage and watched my whole acoustic set and then said “I don’t know how the f…k you can do that Barry – I’d be terrified!” ha, he was lovely, and so great to play with – a real pro, just like Pat who I love dearly. I can’t remember Andy saying he’d Jammed with Rory or not but he really loved playing the stuff with me – we had a great time!

Barry with Ted and Gerry

Shadowplays: And you also got to play with Rory’s bandmates? Can you tell me the circumstances, how it went, etc? That had to send chills down your spine. Own up, Barry, did you think for one brief, shining moment that you were seeing what Rory saw all those years ago?

Barry Barnes: Twickenham, London at a charity concert – Gerry, Ted, Lou and me and I thought I was going to shit myself! But they were very kind and we ended up having a great jam – and yes, I closed my eyes and bathed in it – milked it as much as I could – made sure it was ingrained in my memory forever – a fantastic moment I’ll never forget.

Shadowplays: Did you get to talk a bit with Gerry and the band about their playing with Rory? Any stories you remember?

Barry Barnes: Lots, mostly told to me by Lou (Who is now unfortunately very sick) mostly about high spirits involving the band but always respectful when talking about Rory. A great one was Ted packing his trousers in his suitcase, having the case taken to the airport then having no trousers to wear and Gerry buying him a pair three sizes too small – I wish I could have seen that!

Shadowplays: What about your own band? You’ve been on the road with Sinnerboy for 15 years now. What’s your favorite memories from your life on the road?

Barry Barnes: It would take me a week to write them all down! Awesome gigs at The Ulster Hall (Belfast) Torreperroghil (Spain) Thessaloniki and Athens, Duky Town Hall, Ballyshannon, Temple bar Music Centre (Dublin) and hundreds of others, eating fish and drinking wine in Greece with wonderful friends, Talking about Rory Gallagher to all the fantastic people I’ve met along the way.

Shadowplays: Can you see doing these tributes another 15 years? How are the hands holding up? Eric Clapton said that he could play just as well as the old days, it just takes a lot longer to warm up now.

Barry Barnes: Yep, I’m 60 next year so I think I can safely say I’ll still be here at 75! My fingers are stiffer and not as fast as I used to be (I was never very fast) but I still love every note!

Shadowplays: Irish poet, Louis de Paor once said that, “maybe he [Rory] never fully realized how much he and his music meant to us all and that he was gone before we had a chance to tell him.” What has Rory and his music meant to you, Barry? What would you tell him?

Barry Barnes: I’d tell him I love him, that he has been my life and I wish he was a bit easier to copy!

Shadowplays: Barry, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I appreciate all you’ve done to promote Rory’s music. Here’s to 15 more years of Sinnerboy!

Barry Barnes: We can do another one in 2026, when we can talk about the Madison Square garden gig and the Rory concert I played on the moon!





It’s Saturday night at the Cavern Club and despite the recent departure of his old band mates, Barry Barnes is once again hosting the longest running Rory Gallagher tribute festival. Tune-up gigs in Ireland have gone well for the new Sinnerboy, with new band mates Nick Skelson and Jonny Brutal assimilating well Barry’s extensive catalogue of Rory tunes. Hopefully one day Barry Barnes and Sinnerboy will come to your hometown and play the music of Rory Gallagher with as much passion and love as you’ll ever see. I think you’ll agree with me that you’ll want to “take this sinner boy home” with you. He’ll definitely do you no harm, and most assuredly do you a wealth of good.

Sinner Boy










(Sinner Boy, words and lyrics by Rory Gallagher)


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