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Westmeath Examiner

Vinny Baker and Tennessee Breakdown Country Band

by Olga Aughey

Mullingar"s Tennessee Breakdown restart their Winter Sunday afternoon country music gig in the Greville Arms Hotel, Mullingar on Sunday, November 16 from 4-6pm.

The gig runs every second Sunday in the same time slot, and if last year"s gigs are anything to go by, you are advised to come early as there was a full house every time.

The band are back with a two hour set of non-stop up-tempo American country music and feature classic country from the greats like Merle Haggard, George Jones, Buck Owens, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and also songs from all the best of contemporary American Country artists, Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder, George Strait, Brad Paisley, Dan Tyminsky, and Mark O"Connor and The Nashville Cats.

The band"s music is based around the instrumentation of the band to a large degree and playing this style of Country depends on a high level of musical ability, which is not unlike the way in which Bluegrass music is played. Basically, it features all the players in the band on solos, with all solos completely improvised, varying greatly from gig to gig.

Vinny Baker of VeeBee Studios, one of the lead vocalists and guitarists of the band says 'Anyone who has made derogatory comments about country music should take a trip to the band"s gig in the Greville, and have their minds changed about country music being "simple minded music". This is certainly not so in the case of the music of Tennessee Breakdown.'

Vinny was looking for a band capable of playing this type of music for a long time, but players of the calibre of the Tennessee Breakdown members proved not easy to find, so when Des Doherty called to talk about the possibility of getting a top class country band together, Vinny jumped at the idea and a few weeks later the now Tennessee Breakdown Band met at Vinny Baker"s VeeBee Recording Studio in Mullingar to rehearse.

That was two years ago and now the Tennessee Breakdown line-up consists of Des Doherty on piano and keyboards, Jimmy Horan on bass, Marty Monaghan on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Pete Mulkearns on fiddle and multi-instrumental, Vinny Baker on lead guitar and vocals, Barry Coffey on steel guitar and Claude Whelan on drums.

Des "Doc" Doherty, who was a member of Joe Dolan"s original Drifters Showband, and later The Times, is, without question, one of the finest piano players in the country. His playing brings elements of country, blues and jazz to the band.

Although Doc"s previous musical history would be steeped in rock, he was always a country player and is now using that to devastating effect with the band. Doc"s playing covers the honky tonk style of Floyd Kramer but also combines solos more associated with jazz than with country, which somehow seems to fit so well in the Tennessee Breakdown music.

Jimmy Horan on bass is also an ex-member of Joe Dolan"s original Drifters and The Times. Jimmy"s bass playing is the foundation of the band"s sound and only Jimmy could hold the "bottom end" down as brilliantly as he does.

Jimmy"s playing goes from straight basic playing to intricate jazzy playing and proves why at the height of the Showband era he was considered to be one of the best bass players in the country, which still stands to this day.

Marty Monaghan is the bands lead singer and acoustic guitarist and according to Marty"s fans "a legend"!

He sings country like no other and has a clear, powerful and musical voice and his acoustic guitar is an important part of the Tennessee Breakdown sound. Marty is also a member of the very popular Mullingar band Limited Company, along with Des Doherty and Jimmy Horan, in which he covers many musical styles but he reserves his pure country music for Tennessee Breakdown. He comes from a very musical family from The Downs, Mullingar and has been involved with music all his life.

Pete Mulkearns is the band"s fiddler and general multi-instrumentalist, and is equally proficient on fiddle, mandolin, mandocaster and lead guitar.

Pete has been an avid country music fan all his life.

Pete"s early excursions into music consisted of stints with the very popular Tammy and The Texans Showband, The New Smokeys, Joe O"Hehir and The Crystals, and as a solo artist also.

Vinny Baker of VeeBee Recording Studio in the Downs, plays lead guitar and is one of the lead vocalists of the band.

Vinny will always insist that he is a guitarist first and vocalist second, and it is guitar that has been his lifelong love and passion. Some of the very first music he ever learned to play was country music although he wasn"t aware of the country music tag at the time. He has played with several of Ireland"s top bands and has shared the stage with Doc and Jimmy for many years with the Times. He also played with Bluegrass fiddle legend George Kaye and in recent years has toured with Liam Lawton and has worked with Brian Kennedy and Moya Brennan.

Tennessee Breakdown is a major outlet now for Vinny"s music and along with his Bluegrass Trio, "Bending the Strings" (with five-string banjo virtuoso Martin Cooney, and piano wiz Moyra Fraser).

Barry Coffey, who is the main man in local band Whiskey River Band, divides his musical time between that and being pedal steel and lead guitarist number two with Tennessee Breakdown.

Barry is a country music expert and all the band look to Barry for new material to play. He is into all things country and is one of the most proficient all round country players around.

Barry runs his Whiskey River Band very well and caters for all occasions, but when he straps on his Fender Telecaster or sits behind his Sho" Bud pedal steel he takes no prisoners and will play only real country music.

Barry also has a great love for the home of country music and along with his fellow Breakdown buddies, Vinny and Claude, he makes regular trips to Nashville Tennessee, making it a priority to check out as much of the new contemporary artists as he can.

Claude Whelan is the Tennessee Breakdown drummer and is possibly the most important man in the band.

Claude"s job is imperative to the band and with his rock steady tempos and imaginative drumming. Claude plays with Barry in their own band, Whiskey River Band.

So make sure to catch all the boys in the Tennessee Breakdown Band this Sunday, November 16 between 4 and 6pm for the ultimate country experience.

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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006