Joan Shelley – Top 5


This list is of my top 5 singer-songwriters who are still actively touring and writing music. Though it’s hard for me to not talk of my favourites from the 60s and 70s, I think it’s crucial to shine light on songwriters who are making great stuff nowadays, in what is a very crowded field/room/stage. These are North American folks who are skilled writers of melody and lyric, and who (I think) carry on the spirit of American country and acoustic guitar music.

1. Doug Paisley
Why not start with a Canadian! (One of two who made my top 5.) Following in a long line of great Canadian singer-songwriters (Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, it goes on..). I can’t explain the country/southern accent, but his voice cuts through, honest and effortless. Garth Hudson from The Band joins him on his record Constant Companion.

His song ‘No One But You’ from Constant Companion

2. Elephant Micah
Elephant Micah, a.k.a. Joe O’Connell, is out of Bloomington, Indiana. He has made nearly 20 records, of varying levels of fidelity and experimentation, but with an instinct for songwriting that is constant. Gorgeous and understated vocal delivery and tone. His guitar playing can be sweet and bright or gritty and screeching, making his music interesting from all sorts of angles.

The song ‘My Cousin’s King’ from Louder Than Thou

3. The Weather Station
The Weather Station is Tamara Lindeman, another Canadian for the list, and a stand out for me over the last few years. In her short, efficient songs, she whispers sweet, evocative and wandering melodies. Not only is she an excellent guitar player but she plays the banjo in such an easy, plunking, shimmering way (so far from the aggressive three-finger pop-bluegrass stuff) that it heals my heart a little.

The song ‘Everything I saw’ from All of It Was Mine

4. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
A prolific one, BPB, and if you don’t know him already you should. Johnny Cash covered one of his songs, if that helps anyone else get on board. His voice in songwriting is satisfyingly twisted and dark, and he is at the top of my list of male singers alive today. Also from my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, he’s been a big influence on how I approach songwriting.

His song ‘Horses’ from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music

5. Steve Gunn
Last one: Steve Gunn is primarily a guitarist, and a great one. But add his soulful and gritty voice to his driving, rhythmic guitar and you end up with one of those: “totally new, yet satisfyingly familiar” situations. He’s based out of Brooklyn, NY and his first album Time Off could sustain you for a whole summer, and many summers to come. He has another great record on the way.

His song ‘Lurker’ from Time Off

Joan Shelley plays The Sullane Sessions at Briery Gap Theatre, Macroom on May 24th with Katie Kim

Sullane Sessions Programme
May 24th Katie Kim with Joan Shelley
June 13th Oliver Cole
July 25th Daniel Martin Moore & Guests
Aug 23rd John Blek & The Rats

with more shows to be announced

Tickets for all gigs are €10 and can be purchased in advance from Briery Gap Box Office on 026-41793. For information and updates, check out


Joan Shelley Tour Dates
May 21- Galway, Ireland @ Roisin Dubh
May 22- Kilkee, Ireland @ Greyhound Bar
May 24- Macroom, Ireland @ Briery Gap Theatre
May 25- Clonakilty, Ireland @ DeBarras
May 27- Wexford, Ireland @ The Sky & The Ground
May 28- Cork, Ireland @ Gulpd
May 29- Dublin, Ireland

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About Noise

Cork music since 2010
Millroom 2,
3rd Floor,
Thompson House,
MacCurtain Street,
Cork City,
Conor O'Toole
Graham Lynch