Culture, Society and Popular Music; Country Music Playlist

This is a three track playlist of popular contemporary country music in Ireland right now.

1. Nathan Carter- Wagon Wheel (2012)

Originally written by Bob Dylan and made famous by Old Crow Medicine Show, Nathan Carter won the hearts of the nation with his cover of Wagon Wheel in 2012. Nathan Carter (23) brings his “nice boy” image with matching sound to local venues around the country causing a renewed interest in contemporary country music among young people. I personally wouldn’t be a fan but I respect his genuine love for country music and it’s traditions. Catchy tune and nice production in my opinion!

2. Sharon Shannon and Mundy- Galway Girl (2006)

This Mundy cover version is the 8th most popular song of all time in Ireland according to irishcharts.ie. “Galway Girl” was written by Steve Earle and Sharon Shannon played on the original version. Mundy’s version was also on the Bulmer’s ad in 2008. It is a love song. The lyrics tell of the singer’s reaction to a beautiful black haired woman he met in Galway. It is an instant toe-tapper with it’s sparkling, jangly mandolin introduction. It’s instantly recognisable. The song is extremely catchy and uplifting and it’s no surprise it was number one for 5 weeks in 2008. I personally love the mandolin and the energy in the drum performance.

3. Country Heroes- The Dance (2010)

According to the Ireland iTunes Top 20 Country Songs chart “The Dance” is the second most popular song in the country right now. This ballad comes from a tribute album to Garth Brooks, so it’s no surprise to me with Garth selling out 4 dates in Croke Park in the last week that this song is so popular right now. Lyrically the song is very moving, it’s about the pain of losing somebody special. The lyrics are so touching, it’s easy to see why so many people can relate to them. Personally I don’t like the production of this cover version, it sounds home-made with stiff programmed drums and virtual instruments. Garth’s original recording is much warmer and polished sounding, I will include it below.

Culture, Society and Popular Music; The Country Music Scene in Ireland

This is the first post in a weekly series of blogs relating to topics in the Culture, Society and Popular Music module I am studying this semester as part of my Music and Audio Production degree.

Country music is at the centre of attention of the media this week with Garth Brooks selling out 4 dates in Croke Park. Garth Brooks was a very popular artist in Ireland in the early 90′s and the announcement of his Croke Park gigs has caused huge excitement among his old and new fans. It’s been impossible to ignore the frenzy on social media and the fact that this is the first time ever that one artist has sold out so many shows in Croke Park in record time! This blog continues the discussion in class about the country music scene in Ireland.

I would like to begin by expressing my personal opinion of country music and its’ culture. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the genre as I find prolonged listening very boring and cheesey (the I, IV and V major chord progression, the vocal styles and the bland, basic drum beats)! To be quite honest, it generally doesn’t grab me inside. I can’t connect with the music and it doesn’t make me feel good. This is not ignorance or disrespect towards the genre at all. It’s a simple matter of personal taste.

On the other hand as a guitar player myself, I do genuinely really like the guitars in country music. I love fingerpicked acoustic guitars, twangy electric guitars (especially Fender Stratocasters!), pentatonic scales, bends and slides. I have absolute respect for country music guitar playing and acknowledge how skilled guitarists are. I love when these guitar elements combine with rock music, for example Metallicas’ “Mama Said” (country rock) is one of my all time favourite Metallica songs.

As I’m not a fan of the music itself, I have never really connected with country music culture. Growing up in a rural area in the early 90′s, I was aware of the line-dancing craze and of the dancing sessions in the local parochial hall- it seemed cheesey to me, even as a child! No one in my family was interested in country music or attending the dancing.

This picture reminds me of the image I had from my childhood of the locals line-dancing to "Achy Breaky Heart" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe"

This picture reminds me of the image I have from my childhood of the locals line-dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe”!

Fast forward to the present. About four times a year every year, I work with my father at country music gigs he organises in a country club venue in county Meath.

I should explain that my father is a DJ on a local radio station and presents a very popular show dedicated to céili country, old time songs and ballads. His playlists includes songs by artists such as the Wolftones and the Dubliners as well as local artists and musicians.

The gigs are very popular and usually sell out, drawing a large crowd usually of elderly and middle-aged people. The gig consists of a live band who plays all night with local singers (all these singers have recorded material played on the radio show regularly) and usually one or two bigger stars who are full-time musicians.

An old Facebook event screen shot of my fathers country music night.

An old Facebook event screen shot of my fathers country music night.

I usually do front of house- taking tickets, greeting the people as they come in, selling raffle tickets during the show and help out with loading of music gear. I usually end up chatting with the people and I’m always struck by their friendliness. I’ve noticed that the middle-aged folk tend to take the country music culture side more seriously than the older ones- dressing in cowboy boots, hats, leather jackets and denim shirts. It’s always an enjoyable night and although I can’t say I like every song I hear, I do enjoy the energy and sound of the live band!

As mentioned in my opening paragraph, the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park have caused a frenzy on social media. My own Facebook feed was a mixture of excitement and annoyance.

Screen shot from my Facebook feed.

Excitement: screen shot from my Facebook feed.

Annoyance: another screen shot from my Facebook feed.

The opposite view: another screen shot from my Facebook feed.

I’ve noticed through posts on Facebook that the ticket sales itself was a big social event. Friends posted pictures of themselves q-ing and tagged their friends in them. These kind of posts got plenty of likes and comments, giving me the impression that this was actually a lot of fun for fans of Garth Brooks.

Q-ing to buy tickets was a positive social event.

Q-ing to buy tickets was a positive social event.

I have never in my life seen photos of people q-ing for tickets months and months before any event. Occasionally I might see a photograph of a ticket with an additional comment along the lines of “Got my ticket! Can’t wait till the show!” but never photos of smiley, happy people meeting and waiting in the cold to buy their tickets.

I was impressed with the community spirit at these social events when in class we saw fans looking out for each other. The fans seemed genuinely caring towards each other.

I haven’t seen any evidence of bad natured reports or derogatory comments through the media about Garth Brooks, his fans or country music in general. I have seen funny tweets and posts about the fact so many shows were added but these were good natured.

A good natured Facebook post by a fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website.

A good natured Facebook post by a fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website.

Musician Niall Breslin tweet

Musician Niall Breslin tweet.

Today FM’s Gift Grub incorporated Garth Brooks in a new satirical song on their show. The song itself is country music and the lyrics are humorous with mock Irish politicians singing about the Recession to and with a mock Garth Brooks.

My attention was drawn to an old Rich Hall interview about country music on Paul Merton’s Room 101 (I do take into account that this is a British not an Irish show). I thought Rich Hall made valid points about contemporary country music becoming more manufactured, overly produced and losing its’ traditions and values. The interview was funny and light hearted but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. I never considered that country music might be losing its’ roots and values.

My perception of country music hasn’t really changed with the recent coverage. For me it always was and still seems to be- you either love country music or you hate it! I for one am glad that the country music fan (who may sometimes only consider themselves general music fans) still has the passion and enthusiasm to q for tickets, support their country music hero, stick to their guns and be proud to call themselves a fan, especially after having to wait almost 20 years since his last Irish show. I think it’s great a new generation of fans have become passionate about country music. Even if I personally don’t like most of the songs I hear and the music itself is not quite as authentic as Johnny Cash, it still delivers relatable lyrical messages while showcases musicianship and songwriting. That to me is a healthy thing.

Photos: Between Horizons live at Fibber Magees 23-01-14

Hit “PLAY” \m/…

Jay Ruddy and Lauren Murphy

Jay Ruddy and Lauren Murphy

Shane Piper, Jay Ruddy , Lauren Murphy and Stephen Hughes

Shane Piper, Jay Ruddy , Lauren Murphy and Stephen Hughes

Lauren Murphy and Stephen Hughes

Lauren Murphy and Stephen Hughes

Shane Piper

Shane Piper

Exciting time are ahead for Between Horizons:

Philfest – Ireland have announced that they have added Between Horizons to the lineup at their alternative music festival which takes place in Co. Leitrim this June.

Very exciting!

Very exciting!

Hanging out with Lauren Murphy backstage at Fibbers

Hanging out with Lauren Murphy backstage at Fibbers \m/

Purchase Between Horizons debut E.P here: Between Horizons

Between Horizons Launch Debut E.P

Attention metal heads!!!

2014 starts with an almighty BANG! with the long-awaited independent release of Dundalk-based heavy metal band Between Horizons self-titled debut E.P. The band released their astounding three-track E.P of original music this afternoon through BandCamp.

https://betweenhorizons.bandcamp.com/

The four-piece band are fronted by vocalist Lauren Murphy who hails from Monaghan. Ms Murphy is no stranger to Ireland’s gigging scene with an impressive string of gigs ranging from rock, jazz, acoustic and beyond under her belt. Her vocal performances are always mind-blowing as she commands the full attention of her audience in any venue, large or small. Lauren successfully combines a unique elegance, power, emotion and flawless musicianship in every performance. She is also a passionate songwriter and eminently accustomed to the studio environment.

The artistically gifted Lauren Murphy

The Artist. The Rock Star. THE Lauren Murphy.

The band are local accomplished and seasoned musicians- Stephen Hughes (previously of Valediction) on guitar, Shane Piper on bass (User Illusion) and Jay Ruddy (Subjected Reality) on drums. The trio of musicians make a sheer wall of sound, an absolute force to be reckoned with!

Between Horizons are relatively new to the Irish music scene having formed only 18 months ago but already have brought their tremendous metalcore sound to reputable venues including Whelans, Fibbers and The Brewery (Monaghan). The band have also played in various venues in Dundalk and Omagh.

Between Horizons energetic performances engage crowds

Between Horizons energetic performances engage crowds

Armed with their debut E.P and a whole new set of brand new material ready to go, Between Horizons are ready to raise roofs and blow minds, bringing a whole new side of heavy metal music to Irish audiences previously missing.

Between Horizon’s next gig is in the Dugout, Carrickmacross this Saturday night supporting acclaimed alternative metal band Words That Burn.

Get yourself to Carrick this weekend for one hell of a gig!!!

Get yourself to Carrick this weekend for one hell of a gig!!!

If you can’t for some unfathomable reason get to Carrick this weekend, make it your business to see Between Horizons next performance in Fibber’s, Dublin (Thursday 23rd of January).

For now wrap your ears around their E.P and for Heaven’s sake… PLAY IT LOUD!!!!!

Between Horizons Facebook band page: Between Horizons

Between Horizons Twitter: @Betweenhorizonz

Between Horizons Reverbnation: Between Horizons Music, Lyrics, Songs, and Videos.

Words That Burn Facebook band page: Words That Burn

Words That Burn Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/wordsthatburn

Thoughts On Closing 2013 and Some Ideas for 2014 :)

Wow, what a year it has been! 2013 was very, VERY good to me and I really feel I have grown and found myself (at least a little bit anyway!) with interesting experiences abroad, another great year at college and more musical adventures.

I always tend to feel a little sad on New Years Eve, I get a bit nostalgic and the passing of time grows ever on my mind! Today however, I do not feel one bit nostalgic- HOORAY! I’m looking forward to some great company tonight and a few drinks!

Party tonight!

Party tonight!

I’m looking forward to 2014, I plan to wrap a few loose ends musically and put out some sort of release by the end of the summer! I have my thoughts on this and I’m very excited. It’s more of a personal goal than anything, something I’ve always wanted to do…

Stick around and you will be kept posted :D

I’m ever grateful for a great year of friendship, love, health, family, education and music.

I wish all my friends and followers a great 2014 filled with blessings, positivity, creativity and good health. Have a rockin’ New Years Eve wherever you are!

Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters to everyone! Let’s celebrate the new galactic year! ;)

:)

:)

New Song: “Go Left”

Go Left

(Lyrics, music, performance, production and mix by Stephanie Caffrey, December 2013.)

Should I go left?
Should I go left?

Losing my path,
Losing my way.
Afraid to ask
Should I go left?
Longing to go,
Aching to stay.
Afraid to ask
Should I go left?

Should I go left?
Should I go left?

If I go what will I find?
Will I heal this heart of mine?
I’m looking for where I belong,
Searching deep for so long…

Oh, Happy Day!

Oh, happy day indeed! I’m very excited to announce that I have joined Gerry Simpson’s Augustinian Gospel Choir on a permanent basis!

The concerts last week in the Barbican theatre in Drogheda were very successful. It was a fantastic production and my inbox was full of messages from everyone who enjoyed the experience!

Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir. Photo by Colin Bell.

Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir. Photo by Colin Bell.

Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir band. Photo by Colin Bell.

Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir band. Photo by Colin Bell.

Yours truly on bass. Photo by Colin Bell.

Yours truly on bass. Photo by Colin Bell.

Augustinian Gospel Choir @ Barbican Centre 2013 – Images | Colin Bell.

Great review in the Drogheda Independent by Hubert Murphy.

Great review in the Drogheda Independent by Hubert Murphy.

‘Mindblowing’ night of music at the Barbican – Independent.ie

I enjoyed the concerts and rehearsals so much I couldn’t bear the thought of parting ways with the choir after the shows last weekend. I got such a lovely, friendly, positive energy every time I was around the members of the choir! Chancing my arm, I offered my services of alto vocals and my offer was greatly accepted with open arms! I attended my first rehearsal as an alto last Tuesday and there I received the warmest welcome from everyone.

I have been aching to take part in a music production for a long time, I’m so excited!

Today we performed at the Annual Mass for Road Traffic Accident Victim’s in the Augustinian Church, Drogheda. I was playing bass again alongside Alan Barton on drums, Gerry Simpson on piano, backing up the choir. It was a very beautiful and touching Mass.

I will be announcing further performances in the near future!

Myself and Gerry Simpson after the show :)

Myself and Gerry Simpson after the show last weekend in the Barbican theatre, Drogheda :)