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The darling buds of Mayo

The charms of Westport are already well known: the golden sands of Silver Strand; a pint of plain in Matt Molloy's; the sunset over Clew Bay... To this we must add the upcoming Westport Music Festival in the grounds of Westport House, which takes place on June 23 and 24.

It's a brave move to declare your festival open for business in the same year when such venerable behemoths of the live calendar as Slane and Oxegen have folded their collective tents and decided to sit this one out.

Yet even Ollie Cromwell might have been tempted to check out this patch of the Connacht coastline if he had seen the impressive bill of fare on offer in the Mayo town this month.

Ray Davies gives the festival the rock 'n' roll icon it needs as a headliner, and anyone who saw the former Kinks frontman reduce the Grand Canal Theatre to a hushed awe last year will be licking their lips at another chapter from the master storyteller.

Everyone from Luke Kelly (the surviving Dubliners are also on the bill), to Kirsty MacColl to Big Star have reinterpreted his songs and it's no surprise that his dedicated followers have never gone out fashion; The Kinks' music was also an integral part of the narrative of Irish author Keith Cullen's novel God Save The Village Green, which was inspired by The Kinks are the Village Green Appreciation Society album.

And it's great to see Mayo embracing an act who had a hit singing about voracious transvestite gigolos!

Close behind in the "we-are-not-worthy" rock-genius stakes is Nick Lowe, a man who was at the controls when punk rock was hothoused, having produced 'New Rose' by The Damned in 1976 -- said to be the first-ever punk single -- not to mention helming the first flurry of game-changing albums by Elvis Costello & the Attractions, who returned the compliment by covering Lowe's signature tune '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding' decades before a sozzled Bill Murray serenaded Scarlett Johansson in the wee small hours of the morning in a Tokyo karaoke bar in Lost in Translation.

Lowe, of course, is no stranger to this island, havingplayed a knockout gig at Dublin's Vicar St in February -- his lugubrious voice never sounding better, and of course there were those Olympia shows in the company of Ry Cooder in 2009.

His songwriting too remains top drawer -- check out 'I Read A Lot' from last year's album The Old Magic.

Lloyd Cole is a mere novice compared with these guys, but amazingly it's now 28 years since he released one of the greatest debut albums of all time in Rattlesnakes.

Completing the circle, Lloyd once name-checked Scarlett Johansson on his album Antidepressant -- so can we expect Bill Murray to drunkenly belt out 'Lost Weekend' in his next movie? And will the bookshops of Westport be stocking Norman Mailer's catalogue for the duration of Cole's stay?

Someone who will feel right at home in Westport will be Mike Scott, who brings The Waterboys back to the province which so inspired him on the Fisherman's Blues album.

The Celtic soul brother has lately been putting music to the poetry of Yeats, so expect songs about normally graceful swans behaving bang out of order, not to mention greasy tills being furtively fumbled in a pagan place.

The ubiquitous Jools Holland and Seasick Steve will also be big draws.

The sizeable Irish contingent on the bill will also please those yearning to see the best local talent: Ireland's queen of rockabilly, Imelda May, gets her boom boom; The Chieftains are celebrating an astonishing 50 years in the music biz; and Damien Dempsey will be summoning the spirit of Luke Kelly.

Staying with local heroes, David Kitt will be bigging up romance; the reformed Horslips will be taking old folk-rockers down memory lane; Devlins frontman Colin Devlin will be doing his solo thing; and Hothouse Flowers will be lauding the smell of fresh-cut grass.

Mundy will be wishing it was July; Briana Corrigan will be renting A House for the day; Duke Special will be doing his music hall thing; The Undertones will be singing about an ocean called Julie beside the Atlantic Ocean.

The Lost Brothers will get found; Jerry Fish will make a swim for it; the Electric Penguins will be emperors just for one day; Bronagh Gallagher will be batting off questions about Tarantino; and Katie Kim will confirm her indie cool status.

It's time to go West.

The Westport Festival is on Saturday, June 23, and Sunday, June 24. www.westportfestival.com


Indo Review