Anthony Toner has been described as ‘John Prine meets James Taylor – in a second hand book shop’. His single ‘Sailortown’ grabbed the attention of radio listeners in Northern Ireland in 2010, and his music has held public attention ever since. The song was an utterly contemporary, clear-eyed depiction of a doomed teenage romance - set against the backdrop of Belfast’s fabled Sailortown neighbourhood, now undergoing all kinds of transformations.
‘The walls in the city have a lot to say, about the UVF and the IRA,’ its young narrator says, ‘but these walls say nothing about who I am, when I’m singing in the garden at the Rotterdam, doing Brown Eyed Girl and Whiskey In The Jar.’
Anthony was a journalist for 17 years, and held down a part time job as a guitarist and singer in a dance band, travelling and gigging all over the country. Those unique skills have been instrumental in propelling him forward with the release of his latest album, A Light Below the Door – it’s peppered with superb guitar playing, catchy melodies and some of the finest lyrics to come out of Northern Ireland.
The album is the fourth collection from this accomplished writer - his first album Eventually gained a great response from critics and DJs, but the success of ‘Sailortown’ propelled his second collection, A Sky for Every Dayinto the spotlight – and deservedly so. The album picked up major reviews and sales, thanks to ‘Sailortown’ and the equally radio-friendly single ‘Marion, That’s All Right’.
His third album The Duke of Oklahoma & Other Stories marked a step forward in every sense – and took as its subject material the inevitable failings of the heart, but also urban decay, dormitory towns, flirting by e-mail, drinking and jumping off rooftops.
That year, in addition to building a growing fanbase in Northern Ireland, he shared the stage with Nanci Griffith and Guy Clark in Nashville, and showcased in a special gig at Austin’s South by South West. Along the way he has played a week of shows at Grand Central Station in New York and had his song ‘Well Well Well’ used as the musical backdrop to the Northern Ireland TV weather bulletin for an extended period.
He’s also developing a strong following in Canada, having performed regularly in Quebec as well as in Toronto and Vancouver. His live performances always feature entertaining stories from the road, peerless guitar playing and thought-provoking songs that stay with you on the way home.