A few words of what our fans have said

Ralph McLean BBC Radio Ulster

“Nobody honours the sound of classic outlaw country like Illegal Smile Ireland. They dig deep into those timeless songs and deliver the goods live with a panache that Prine himself would be proud of”

Sean Kelly, Director CQAF Belfast.

Barry Johnston and his band Illegal Smile Ireland have brought their John Prine tribute to the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (CQAF) on several occasions and each show has surpassed the previous in terms of the quality of the set and the huge audience response.
It is a ‘must see’ show for any fans of Prine. A well judged mix of Prine favourites and some deeper cuts all interspersed with informative background detail about the songs. The vocals and musicianship are simply outstanding and what you get are two hours of some of the greatest songs of the last fifty years played with tremendous skill and passion.
Sean Kelly, Director, CQAF Belfast.

Karen Mooney, Lisburn

“Illegal Smile’s ability to breathe life into the artistry and images depicted by the late great John Prine has brought comfort to Prine fans since his passing and introduced a new generation to the genius of his legacy. Songs that are tender, humourous and full of wisdom will always have an audience, primarily when performed by those with a reverence for the master himself. “

Peter Miller, Holywood

“As someone who was very fond of Illegal Smile when they only sang a few John Prine songs, I was keen to see how they would deal with a whole showload. The most important thing to strike me was that this band does not imitate – each member pays tribute to the man and his music, with absolute integrity, delivering each song in whatever way will do it the most justice. Why do we like John Prine? Primarily for his remarkable songs. Illegal Smile’s performance is appropriately respectful of these songs and, what’s more, does them justice.”

Brian Reilly
Midnight Sessions

“We were simply blown away, to put it mildly, by the musical quality and passion on show when Illegal Smile performed their John Prine Celebration Show live in Dublin’s Grand Social.
As a founding member of ‘Midnight Sessions’ I had invited a number of our group to attend and they all enjoyed what can only be called a tremendous show incorporating some of John Prine’s best known songs, all skillfully played.
We are looking forward to repeating the experience when ILLEGAL SMILE perform again in Whelans on Sunday 3rd April.

Dr Verity Peet, Manager, Portico of Ards.

Illegal Smile performed their John Prine show at our venue, the Portico of Ards in County Down, at the height of the pandemic. The live streamed event was professionally delivered with a great set of John’s songs providing a sincere tribute. An enjoyable show with skilful performances from all musicians – the duets featuring Ali Mooney were particularly memorable! Happy to recommend this band as they were a pleasure to work with.

Peter Donnelly, Killinchy.

John Prine songs are instantly recognisable the world over. Indeed it is the relatability of his soundscapes which demonstrate the genius of Prine; taking his listeners through Mid-Western soundscapes capturing the complexities and contradictions of the human condition, the mind, body and soul.
Prine’s brand of folk-infused country was appropriately tailored to his lyrical brilliance. Illegal Smile Ireland – with Barry Johnston at the helm – are Irish Prine enthusiasts, reciprocating Prine’s attachment to Ireland. They know the ‘JP Songbook’ by heart. This is most discernible with their on-stage interpretation and delivery of Prine’s quality back catalogue. Their outstanding musicianship shows them to capture and embody the Cult of Prine – simple, down-to-Earth authenticity which must be seen Live.

Rita Wyse Dublin.

I read an article in the Dublin Gazette about a band called lllegal Smile Ireland. They were due to do a gig in the Grand Social on January 30th which was their Dublin debut. I had seen them on The John Prine Fan Club website and they were very popular and that’s a global site! A lad called Brian Houston opened for them. Brian is a singer songwriter from Belfast and he was absolutely fabulous. Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better on came lllegal Smile fronted by Barry Johnston, Davy Neill on bass, Sam Davidson on lead and Michael Conway on drums. The band played 2 hours of John Prine’s greatest songs. We were stuck to our chairs in awe of their talent. And when they ended the night with John’s ‘Speed of the Sound of Loneliness’ followed by ‘Lake Marie’ the audience jumped to their feet and joined in. The standing ovation went on for around 5 minutes. I think we were probably heard in Tallaght that night! I left the show that night with a huge “Illegal Smile” and I’m sure those statues of the 2 ladies outside the Grand Social, the ones known to Dubliners as The Hags With The Bags, l’m sure they were smiling too. And now the great news is this amazing band are to play Whelans on Sunday 3rd April. Definitely a show not to be missed!

Brian Houston, Belfast.

Illegal smile Ireland. A heartfelt and authentic tribute to the legendary John Prine. Illegal Smile deliver two and a half hours of perfect prineisms and pristine performance. Much More than a tribute, Illegal Smile a homage worthy of the great man.

Illegal smile Ireland. A heartfelt and authentic tribute to the legendary John Prine. Illegal Smile deliver two and a half hours of perfect prineisms and pristine performance. Much More than a tribute, Illegal Smile a homage worthy of the great man.

Gordon Harkness, Crossgar

In November I went with some friends to Denvir’s Hotel, Downpatrick to see the John Prine tribute show by Illegal Smile. Being a huge Prine fan and having seen John perform a number of times I was keen to see this five piece band deliver. Ralph McLean, BBC Radio Ulster gave a short talk about John Prine’s life and songs before Illegal Smile came on stage. We were not disappointed in any way. Their act is a top class very polished performance with every musician on top of their game. Songs that stood out for me were Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, Hello In There and In Spite of Ourselves.Without question this is a class act and a fantastic show which I didn’t get enough of. We have booked Illegal Smile to play in our local pub The Corner Inn, Crossgar in July.

Geraldine Havlin, Co Donegal

We are one of those families that reared our children on John Prine. There is a John Prine song for every possible situation and over the years the children got to know the lyrics and the melodies and to love the man, just the way we did. When he died, on 7th April 2020 we were heartbroken. A very big part of our lives was over. We could no longer check the internet, often daily, to see if he had announced any concerts. We could no longer look forward to getting our bums down into the seats, thinking, “I will be experiencing my own kind of heaven for the next few hours”After John died the thought of a tribute night was simply not acceptable. The grief was to raw and the thought of hearing the words coming out of another body knowing that we would never hear them coming from John live again was to harrowing to contemplate. Then, through a series of miraculous events, I ended up going to see Illegal Smile Ireland in Omagh during October 2021.  I was entertained beautifully from start to finish. The musicianship is off the scale good. The respect for the man and his songwriting is heartwarming. But above all of this their dedication to preserving and championing all that we have left is a very beautiful thing.John Prine was writing songs from the 1960s to the 2020s and Illegal Smile captured the whole repertoire with some beautiful surprises. Lake Marie would be the most challenging Prine song to cover. I didn’t even dream that they would try it. I hoped they wouldn’t try it as I was sure that they could not do the guitar playing justice. I WAS WRONG. Not only did they try it, they sang it with such respect conviction and pure quality and the guitar playing left me wanting more….more and often.I have since seen Illegal Smile in the Grand Social, Dublin. Some trepidation sneaked it’s way into my head and I started to believe that Omagh was just a fluke. They couldn’t be as good as I had imagine. I WAS WRONG. My heart went home somewhat lighter. We have an unspeakably huge legacy of John Prine’s work. Illegal Smile brings it to us authentically, brilliantly and respectfully, from 1969 to 2020.You will remember everything, the guitars will be in tune, the past will come sneaking up on you and you will miss him….but everyone in the room will feel the same.  Go and enjoy them!!!!

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