Category Archives: Entertainment

A Night to Remember: Jim Corr and Liam Monagher in the Lisdoo, Dundalk

Just before Christmas, Dundalk was treated to a very special night of music in The Lisdoo in aid of the Louth Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The night was so lovely and enjoyable that it deserves further acknowledgement than just a handful of Instagram posts.

The bigger picture of the night was of course, raising awareness for mistreated animals and for raising funds for a worthy charity who work tirelessly to care for, treat, house, feed and rescue animals who need positive human intervention. A topic close to my own heart and indeed many hearts, as the venue was close to full. Such a positive and affirming act in itself!

Musically, the event was centred on Dundalk musicians, in particular those who are aligned with Irish traditional music- Jim Corr, Liam Monagher, Zoë Conway, John McIntyre and The Oriel Traditional Orchestra. If you were in any way interested in the music of our ancestry performed by professional, highly regarded and empathetic artists, you didn’t need a second invite to attend- for this was a once in a lifetime show.

Following a brief introduction from local broadcaster Harry Lee, The Oriel Traditional Orchestra opened the event. The orchestra performed pieces from the Oriel region which encompasses Louth, Meath, Monaghan and Armagh, arranged for orchestra. Their sound was as big as their number. They performed the sweetest melody on solo tin whistles to a hushed audience and they filled the room with the joyous sound of approximately sixty musicians in harmony. You couldn’t not be in awe of their collective passion and talent. At this point I will add that Zoë Conway and John McIntyre who played after Jim Corr and Liam Monagher, were fantastic. They’re a wonderful duo who compliment each other in a fantastic way, vocally and instrumentally. This blog is about Jim and Liam so I will not delay.

Succeeding the flurry of sixty-odd chairs getting packed away and guests’ tables getting pushed closer to the small-rise stage to fill the gap (no problem, I’m not shy! I very much would like to be closer to the artists I’m there to hear!), Jim Corr and violinist Liam Monagher sat on the edge of the stage very casually and chatted with Harry Lee. The friendship between Jim and Harry was obvious as Jim chatted about his sister Andrea’s newly published memoir and spoke about how much he enjoys the fact his son Brandon reads it to him in the evenings. Undoubtedly emotional and nostalgic for Jim, as his sister recounted stories and memories from her childhood right up until the time of publishing, many of which concerned their family while growing up. Harry turned to Liam and asked him to speak about his professional career as a violinist. Liam humbly revealed he has performed in prestigious venues including the Royal Albert Hall, London and Carneige Hall, New York. The pair have played together before, but this night was to be their debut public performance, one which Harry inquired, might be the beginning of a future project?

While Jim Corr needs little or no introduction due to the global success of The Corrs with his three sisters, he has always been a steady musician onstage, keeping an eye on each of his sisters in brotherly support and contributing to the formidable sound without drawing heaps of attention onto himself. I watched their performance in the O2 Dublin in 2016, each sister sibling cast adoring looks at their brother as they nervously returned to the Irish stage and I watched Jim acknowledge them and give a small and reassuring smile. Jim Corr is a pillar in terms of a live, performing musician and is a force of creative energy in the recording studio with an incredible wealth of knowledge concerning music production.

Liam Monagher also from Dundalk, began playing violin at the age of six and trained with the renowned violinist Ms. Patricia Treacy and also with Mr. Michael d’ Arcy at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin. As a solo violin performer, Liam has won many awards at Feis Ceol’s at Newry, Warrenpoint, Belfast and Sligo and also competed with success at Feis Ceol Dublin. As an orchestral musician, he has performed with numerous orchestra’s including the Orchestral Musicians of Northern Ireland, the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland (NYOI), the NYOI Camerata and the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland (CBOI). Throughout the years, he has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious music venue’s including Boston Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York and Chicago Symphony Hall. Most notably, he was leader of the CBOI in performances at the World Expo Shanghai, China, the Lincoln Centre, New York and the Royal Albert Hall, London. In addition, he has played in all the major venues in Ireland including the Helix, the National Concert Hall, the RDS, Dublin, the SSE Arena and the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. Although principally a classical violinist, Liam who has been described as an “accomplished and stylish player” has won awards at Fleadh Ceol Na hÉireann at county, provincial and national level, including two gold medals, under the tutelage of respected Dundalk musician, Brendan Gaughran. Throughout his career to date, he has had the opportunity to perform for many dignitaries including President of Ireland Mary Mc Allesse, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip to name but a few. In recent times, Liam’s musical career has taken a diverse twist, seeing him record and perform with some of Ireland’s most outstanding musicians including Lisa Hannigan, Jim Corr, Miss Paula Flynn and Brian Kennedy.

Both musicians, with their incredible respective achievements, talent and musical training show no hint of pomposity, in fact they showed albeit only briefly, slight nervousness as they were playing to a home audience on home turf. They opened with the serene Irish traditional air Lough Erin Shore, more famously known as Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore (Paul Brady and Dolores Keane). Corrs fans know the air very well as two versions of the tune bookend the album Forgiven, Not Forgotten (1995), and was still part of their White Light Tour set in 2016. Of course, this wasn’t exactly a typical Corrs audience, it was an audience of friends and family which is a different level of support, and enthusiasm is expressed in more reserved ways (That means I didn’t bring my hotel pillowcase with “Jim, you’re looking well!!!!” colourfully drawn with twenty Sharpies- who let the fangirl in?!). By reserved, I mean you could have heard a pin drop in the room as Jim took to the keys and effortlessly danced over them, his right hand providing beautiful ornaments to the melody while his left hand supported with his signature rich bass notes and chords. All eyes and all ears were on the duo. Jim played one round of the tune before giving Liam the very same assuring smile he gave his sisters in Dublin as he lifted his violin bow to join him. Liam’s 1802 Perry violin sounded rich, full and warm, perhaps one might argue that’s not an overly traditional tone for an Irish performance but we’re not here to discuss authenticity, innovation or tradition. We’re here to listen to two fine musicians play the music of their heritage. And I for one quite appreciate a rounded and smooth violin tone, it’s kinder to my ears. Liam’s vibrato is graceful, measured and in my view, appropriate, as he draws a gentle sweetness out of his instrument. His execution of the pitch slide in the second part of the melody evokes the spirit of the first recording on Forgiven, Not Forgotten and he imparts his own signature by adding extra ornaments throughout. The pair arrive at the tune’s crescendo and Jim nods to Liam, taking over the melody in the upper octave, his delicate performance bringing to mind stars twinkling in the night sky with the fairies or siogs dancing beneath. One more round of the tune with Liam and with mutual smiles, signalling an silent agreement that this was to be the final phrase. Broad smiles to rapturous applause and cheers from the audience, their rendition was very much enjoyed.

Liam took the centre stage for the next tune, Brian Boru’s March. Liam led the way with Jim watching intently and adding beautifully accompaniment with occasionally jazzy chords and mirroring the melody as if the two players were one. Jim looked visibly at ease during this performance, perhaps any nerves of playing the first number dissipated and the two seemed to be feeding off each other musically. Indeed the two were so well rehearsed that they could relax, catching the briefest of staccato notes in perfect synchronisation, to snap you awake just in case you were floating off with the dancing siogs! And indeed to pre-empt what was coming next. The two started a new tune immediately, in classic Corrs style (think the unabridged version of The Carraroe Jig that was on the Love to Love You maxi-CD which pops a jaunty Trout in the Bath in unison violin and right hand piano). Certainly a joy of life of its own, the surge of energy from both musicians was lifting and playfully, Jim played the very last phrase in unison with both his left hand and his right hand for dramatic effect! Class!

At this point in their set, I’m delighting in the opportunity to listen to the keyboard musicianship of Jim Corr in such close proximately and liveliness. Yes, we get a sense of his incredible talent particularly on the Forgiven, Not Forgotten and Home albums, we know he’s a brilliant player but we don’t really get to appreciate it fully as there is so much more excellent music going on around him. United, The Corrs are genius, there’s no doubt about it, they have a synergy unique to them and they’re all fantastic (and I would argue, underrated) musicians. But here in the Lisdoo, it’s just Jim and Liam. No drums, guitars and more going on, this is very stripped back and very live. Jim is not a show off, he’s too gentle and grounded to be, but he definitely deserves celebration. The fluidity of his playing, his choice of chord arrangement, his choice of volume velocity and the perfect execution of his performance would leave you open-mouthed. He’s a totally different player, but he’s got that same midas touch Thomas Bartlett of The Gloaming has. My only wish at this point is that I could physically see his hands but I’m too shy to get up and move my chair, even for one song.

Speaking of The Joy of Life, Liam introduces the next tune as it. Jim starts the tune slightly slower than he normally would with The Corrs (it’s better to be too slow than too fast) and Liam picks up on this and pushes ahead, encouraging Jim to pick up the pace. The best tunes sound easy to play but are actually quite the handful (I’ve tried this particular favourite myself but alas, it’s definitely best left to the professionals). The Trout in the Bath rushes in, and some super-enthusiastic soul in the back of the room screams his lungs out in appreciation. Jim stomps on an endearing piece of wood with a boundary microphone attached to it, placed on the ground underneath his keyboard, emulating a kick drum or perhaps, emulating the stomping of the ground at a session in full swing (at this point in my own sessions, I’m rolling off as much low-end as possible on the mixer and have already requested the players to kindly remove their shoes!). But you can’t beat Jim’s energy, the audience are clapping in time with his stomping. We get a momentary rest with Jim’s jazzy sustained chords underneath Liam’s energetic playing and then in classic Corrs style, Jim yells “one two three four!” with support from the audience. They’re elated. Another few rounds of the tune before a flashy finish of violin tremolo’s and a sweep of all the keys, finalised by a synchronised final home note.

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Liam Monagher and Jim Corr. Photo by Stephanie Caffrey 2019.

Jim takes the microphone to introduce the next piece of music, the theme song from the 1988 film Cinema Paradiso. I had forgotten all about that film, we watched it in school during our Leaving Cert year. According to Andrea Corr in her memoir, Jim has perfect pitch and I well believe her, but Jim admitted difficulty in learning this particular piece of music solely by ear and said he only recently obtained the sheet music for it. Talented and humble. He had no sheet music in front of him that night and he grinned “I hope I play it ok now, I’m under pressure!”. The piece is distinctly classical, a far cry from his fusion/Irish sound he is known for. But let’s remember that Jim Corr has been playing piano since he could reach the keys. His father Gerry, taught him (and all the girls) and Jim studied at the Royal Irish Academy too. He could have pursued a career in classical music if he chose so. And evidently from this performance, Jim didn’t let the piano fade in the dust after his commercial zenith with The Corrs, nor did he stop playing classical altogether. His performance was flawless. Liam joined him with an equally flawless rendition of the melody, sliding effortlessly between left hand positions- one of the many hallmarks of an accomplished classically-trained player. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end at the beauty of their sound. Truly it was a sound to behold. And I’m not into classical music at all, bizarre I know (call myself a music lover?).

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Liam Monagher and Jim Corr performing Cinema Paradiso. Photograph by Stephanie Caffrey 2019.

Return to Fingall was performed next. Another one from The Corrs’ repertoire, Return to Fingall featured as a bonus track on the Japanese release of their fifth album, Home (2005). Why it wasn’t included on the Irish/UK releases baffles me as it’s a stunning tune. Originally a piping tune made famous by the great Séamus Ennis, it translates onto violin, tin whistle and piano beautifully. Delicate ornaments from Liam decorated the tune, putting his own stamp on it, he also emulated well through his choice of expression, how the tune might be played on the uilleann pipes. “Is that it?!” Jim yelled as Liam raised an eyebrow and shook his head mid-bow, “Oh yeah!” Jim grinned and seemed to remember by muscle memory the delicate piano solo that’s next. It was different to what we hear on Home, in fact there was a touch of Enya in Jim’s choice of harmony, perhaps a tip of the hat to the Donegal musical family that inspired his own. He ended the tune with another sweep of the keyboard but this time in key and with his foot on his sustain pedal. The audience were too polite to clap over the extended decay which made a beautiful and poignant chord, until it fully diminished.

The last tune to be performed was of course, Toss the Feathers. The Corrs’ staple. A big “aw” from the audience and an apology from Jim for “only” giving the crowd six songs (six perfect songs!). “Not too fast” said Jim as he launched in a mock high speed tempo, which made Liam laugh out loud and tease Jim. After a moment of inner contemplation, Jim decided on a tempo and Liam launched the reel with bells and whistles. Not wanting to slow down, Liam carried on and impressively executed the melody perfectly at that pace. Jim started stomping on the stomp box again and “yeeeeeow”s interspersed the audience clapping along. We’re used to hearing a massive production on this tune (drums, bass, tin whistle, guitars, the whole sheh-bang) but the momentum was carried by the two musicians. Jim varied up the accompaniment with his jazzy syncopated chords (I say “jazzy” but I don’t really mean stylistic jazz, I mean chords you might typically find in jazz), he showed groove is possible in Irish fusion with just two instruments. He smiled broadly as he executed his offbeats along with his constant floor stomping, music and groove just flows through him. And Liam kept up the whole way, never relenting or missing a note. The duo finished with a flamboyant ending, complete with a leg thrown up on the keyboard (!) and more rapid violin tremolos. Pure class. Sure I only lost my mind there and then.

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Go on ya good thing! Liam Monagher and Jim Corr performing Toss the Feathers. Photograph by Stephanie Caffrey 2019.

Myself and my mother highly enjoyed this wonderful night in the Lisdoo. We had such great craic, heard some truly stunning music and got to contribute to a wonderful local cause. If Jim and Liam were to perform again, we would be there in a heartbeat and we’d probably bring an army of fans with us too. The world could definitely do with a little more of Jim and Liam. Hup the lads! Love to love you both!

Love, Revenge, Fancy Shirts and High-Speed Ship Chases: Kern “The Left & The Leaving” Album Launch in the DC Music Club, Dublin, 17/10/19

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Kern 2019 photographed by John Wilde. Source: Kern on Facebook.

On Friday night, traditional-folk group Kern launched their second album The Left & The Leaving. Their debut album, False Deceiver was critically acclaimed when released in 2016 (see Tradconnect.com, Irish Music magazine, The Irish Echo, thebestofmusicandfilm.com and others) and Kern spent the better part of the next three years gigging their socks off. They’ve played many stages in Ireland and Europe: the Spirit Store in Dundalk, Temple Bar Tradfest, both recent Fleadh Cheoils in Drogheda, Milwaukee Irish Fest, Whelan’s, The Cobblestone, Vantastival, Culture Connections, Dingle, Germany to name but a few. Not only this but they kept their finger on the recording studio in the interim and released a “winter mix” of the single Short Term Thing and Till The Docklands Drown. I’ve attended a bunch of their Dublin/Louth gigs and have always been impressed by their thrilling live performances. Also, their sound translates excellently from studio to stage and back again. As a music producer, sound engineer and follower, I find both arenas equally enjoyable to listen to Kern in.

The Left & The Leaving was produced by Trevor Hutchinson, the founder member of Lúnasa. Mr Hutchinson also produced False Deceiver and performed double bass on both albums. The album artwork is a beautiful painting by Louth artist and illustrator Caoimhe McCarthy and inside there’s a handsome photograph of the band with their respective instruments, taken by Meath photographer, John Wilde. In keeping with False Deceiver, the comprehensive and interesting inner sleeve-notes are attractively presented.

Young Louth traditional-folk group Alfi opened for Kern in the DC Music Club, Dublin. The trio consists of Fiachra Meek (uilleann pipes/vocal/low whistle), Alannah Thornburgh (harp/vocal) and Ryan McAuley (banjo/vocal). They played a charming set from their debut EP Wolves in the Woods which combines American old-time and traditional Irish music. They displayed fine musicianship with stellar performances on each instrument respectively, a fantastic vocal blend- particularly the male harmony on The Drink Song, well-researched notes on their tune and song sources and engaging banter between tunes. I worked with Fiachra during the final year of my undergraduate degree, pestering him to join me in the studio as I tried out various microphones and combinations on his uilleann pipes, quizzing him on how to the pipes make sound and dropping in on pre-production sessions with his then-band Na Tonnta, for our 3-track studio production. The last time I saw him was at a post-studio session dinner in the student apartment block, where he and a fellow band member tried to open a coconut with the tiniest hammer you ever saw. One hour, a scratched floor and a marvellous vegetarian curry later, the band collapsed in hearty laughs and I actually can’t remember if they did crack that coconut or not. Fiachra carries forward his witty humour into Alfi and I’m very interested to follow this promising young band’s career.

Following Alfi, Kern arrived onstage to a rapturous applause with very special guest- Mr Dónal Lunny. Dónal launched The Left and The Leaving with light-hearted commentary and much praise, citing his favourite as Drowsyman’s Hornpipe/Martin Young’s Polka. SJ McArdle (guitar/vocal), Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes/low whistle/vocal) and Barry Kieran (fiddle) along with Mr Lunny (bouzouki) played a joyous set of tunes. Off the bat, the amount of practice and thought that went into the set was obvious- tight performance, intricate and unexpected pauses, superb energy and purest passion and joy. The four beamed at each other constantly throughout.

Kern continued their set after Dónal took a polite bow and settled into the audience for a deserved drink. It was immediately apparent that the fans Kern worked so hard to attract would not be disappointed with their new material. Their new songs clearly excellently crafted, sounded like a perfect continuation from those on False Deceiver: Powerful, energetic strumming and expert dexterous fingerpicking from SJ which at times was so gentle, he hardly seemed to be touching his guitar strings at all, yet each note rang through clear as a bell. More husky vocals telling stories of Irish days past, joked by SJ as mostly having maritime themes. Despite the giddy laughter concerning extra-fancy shirts that magically blag you communion faster in Mass, tales of high-speed ship chases and what not, SJ sings beautiful songs of a serious nature- Irish emigration, the Famine, the wars and hard-working class Irish heroes. Kern’s way of combining Irish tunes into their songs is certainly distinctive and works very well. Brendan and Barry each weave gorgeous melodies around SJ’s vocal, adding an extra layer of emotional essence. If you’re too enthralled by the music to listen to the lyrics, you’ll not be in left in the dark of the subject matter. Barry’s light-handed vibrato will tug at your heartstrings while Brendan’s lilting chanter can convey a graceful joy.

Kern’s new tunes are equally impressive. Clearly innovators who have a deep respect for the tradition and players, the lads unleashed new compositions of their own. Barry’s Somers March/Daragh Patrick’s is quite frankly a masterpiece. I was blown away. His march, named after the group’s stay in Germany, is delicate and sweet while the jig, named after his godson, is a bundle of joy. Both tunes, separately or combined could easily feature in a movie soundtrack, they’re that cinematic. Brendan’s Martin Young’s polka, part of the Drowsyman’s Hornpipe/Martin Young’s Polka set is such a cheerful tune and instant toe tapper also. Brendan dedicated the tune to the memory of fellow piper Martin Young. Staying within the locality, Bonny Light Horseman, heralded as “Drogheda’s National Anthem” roused a chorus of voices, filling the venue. And speaking of innovation within the tradition, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Kern’s magnificent stops and starts within Russian Reels and The New Jigs. Tasteful, dramatic and intelligent, the lads kept the audience on their toes.

All in all, the old Louth tunes and songs, and the new regional-inspired material are clearly safe in the hands of Kern. The album launch was a visible and audible success and several early listens of The Left & The Leaving indicate that this album too will be a staple in my playlist of Louth coastal beach walks.

Hup the lads! Well done and many congrats to you! Onwards to this new season in Kern’s career, we can only listen in delight.

Kern’s newly launched official website: https://kernmusic.com/

Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kernband/

Purchase The Left &The Leaving on iTunes: https://music.apple.com/ie/album/the-left-and-the-leaving/1482957996

Alfi Bandcamp: https://alfi.bandcamp.com/

 

Gig Review: Kern at Richmond Fort, Drogheda

Last Friday saw a belter of a night of music in Richmond Fort in Millmount Cultural Quarter, Drogheda.  Louth traditional musicians Kern, with support from Drogheda singer-songwriter Gene Carolan, showcased local, contemporary talent in the new music venue which holds much promise for future, intimate gigs in the town.

Source: https://twitter.com/Hawthorns_Andy/status/989559096469868544

A performance space which was neither too big nor too small for both, Richmond Fort is a delightful room to enjoy music in. The small upstairs room was cosy, bright and comfortable while boasting a high ceiling which carried the sound adequately. A professional sound set up surrounded by thoughtful and considered lighting made for a delightful setting in which to enjoy the music.

Gene Carolan opened the night, delivering a showcase of original songs which reflected his life experiences to date while looking brightly to the future of Drogheda, the town hosting this years Fleadh. Usually flanked by his brothers on stage, Gene carried a big show solo with his intricate fingerpicking guitar skills which seamlessly blended into his songs. His charming personality warmed the audience and his honesty and authenticity leaves no doubt that Gene has a long, sparkling musical career ahead of him.

Source: https://twitter.com/genecarolan?lang=en

Kern, a trio of musicians from south, mid and north Louth respectively, SJ McArdle (lead vocal, guitars, harmonica), Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes, whistles and backing vocal) and Barry Kieran (fiddle and floor stomper/fire-out-putter!) are the counties’ gem in contemporary folk and traditional music. Opening with the first two tracks from their debut album False Deceiver produced by Trevor Hutchinson, one can see instantly why their record was so well received. Executed so well on the stage, one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the CD and the live performance! A testament to their first class musical talents and the production of the album which in both settings sound full, warm and beautifully thought-out. Ale saw fiddle player Barry take the solo with the beautifully charming The Ale is Dear Scottish reel later accompanied by Brendan on the low whistle and SJ on acoustic guitar. The nuances of Barry’s fiddle playing so clearly audible in the perfect room, I couldn’t help by gaze in awe at his tasteful dexterity. The sudden break into the faster Teampall An Ghleanntain hits you right in the solar plexus followed by Crooked Road to Dublin, a delight to hear so early in the set as it sets the tone for the entire show.

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Savage gig tonight from Louth musicians @bandkern in Drogheda

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SJ’s years of being a singer-songwriter in his own right, took him around Europe with multiple recordings under his belt. A natural front-man, his ad-libbed jokes and natural dry wit between songs left the room laughing hysterically.  With the sudden realisation that most of the songs in their current repertoire are marine-themed, SJ made light-hearted banter about the coincidence while pointing out the true issues at hand, such as the sorrows of Irish emigration, love and loss. The town of Drogheda has a rich history of Irish maritime, my own great-grandfather worked on the port so it was a delight to hear a local group pay tribute to such an important part of our hertitage.

Buy the single here: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/album/till-the-docklands-drown-single/1259502612

The group’s set has expanded since the last time I caught them, in Dublin’s infamous Cobblestone pub and venue. New jig sets, reel sets, new songs and sounds hint at what the band’s sophomore album will sound like. With each musician offering so much variety and creativity to the collective sound, backing vocals, harmonica, various whistles and last but not least, a growing number of guitars (acoustic and electric) and a plethora of pedals to boot/Converse (SJ even worked in live looping with absolute precision and perfection), it’s obvious that the possibilities for the future of Kern are endless! It’s refreshing to catch such an innovative band with traditional values at it’s heart and it’s wonderful that the musical heritage of Louth is being honoured in such a beautiful way.

Hup lads! Can’t wait for the next one! Here’s hoping there’ll be more of the like in Richmond Fort!

Buy False Deceiver on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/album/false-deceiver/1077962411

 

My Names A, Your Names Zed… New Music from El Grey

For the creators and for the fans, active listeners or passive listeners, music has the power to move us all incredibly deeply. Sometimes we’re right here- in the moment and sometimes we’re floating in a sea of sounds- we blissfully lose ourselves for a tiny while.

And sometimes we’re both- Here and There.

The latest release My Names A, Your Names Zed from El Grey is exactly that.

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My Names A, Your Names Zed

If you’re already a fan of El Grey you’ll come to expect haunting, stunning and breathtaking vocal performances as standard. You’ll also expect crunchy beats mixed with a wash of synths and gentle acoustic guitars. You’ll also be aware that her music is deeply personal to her and each song is a little piece of her soul, committed to record.

Take all that you already know about El Grey and put a little twist on it. You won’t find this track anything like her previous release El Grey, but you will find her distinctive, trademark vocals affirming her ardent passion right here. Glistening synthy motifs bounce over and back a sound world of luscious piano playing and looped, reverberant vocals. Instantly you’re taken by the hand of El Grey herself into the infinite cosmos. If you haven’t gotten goosebumps multiple times within the first 60 seconds then you’re not ready for the journey she wishes to bring you on.

Hypnotic yet deeply grounding, her chanting vocal pulls you right into the centre. Looped over and over with additional harmonies, her voice guides the way- “Grab a coat, find a home”. While the chant gives way to a choir of swirly, angelic vocal expressions, we’re lifted further into the heavens, soaring high, looking for Home.

The mood changes somewhat after this point. You’ll hear a male voice enter- another new sound for El Grey. You’ll know that there’s something very special going on here- something very deep and very personal. In absolute contrast to what we’ve been listening to, she sings in her native tongue- and it works brilliantly. Switching languages in one song is a new and brave move for El Grey for she has something personal to say-revealing another dimension of herself and affirming her spirituality though her music.

El Grey

For me the most poignant lyric comes in around the 7-minute mark- “It’s just one heartbeat away from you” with echoes of “one” bouncing around, underpinning it. The music producer in me loves that line. The sentiment in me loves it too. It’s a line I’d hang on to for dear life.

This recording is 100% live and one take only. There was no pre-production. There was no doctoring this up in post-production either. The barest moments of extraneous sounds pop in and out here and there but these are not faults. Such sounds tickle my imagination and for me, they add to the soundscape. The piece in its entirety has a completely natural feel and I’m certain the musicians lost themselves in this performances-lost themselves to find a little something on the way back.

You could use a multitude of words to describe this track (atmospheric, holy, meditative, serene, gripping, stunning, special…) and you could find a multitude of situations to enjoy it in – at home with a candle, on a long, night-drive home, walking around a busy city- for it’s completely immersive and completely El Grey.

Enjoy the music here: My Names a, Your Names Zed – EP by El Grey on iTunes

El Grey: My Names A, Your Names Zed – Music on Google Play

el-F# | El Grey

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El Grey perform tonight at the Hot Spot Music Club, Greystones in support for Oxfam Ireland alongside bands Calm State, Woodlark and Retrofix. More info: El Grey, Calm State, Woodlark, RetroFix play for Oxfam

 

 

Bring on the Night- The Corrs Dazzling Homecoming Gig, Dublin 28-01-16

As I write this, five days and 21 hours have passed since the Corrs made their truly glorious return to the Point Depot (called the 3Arena nowadays), Dublin. The brilliant buzz still hasn’t faded and from I see from fans Instagram accounts, it’s not going anywhere fast!

We always said it was going to happen yet last summer out of the blue 😉 the Corrs announced they were returning to music after a 10-year break. The gig: BBC Radio 2 Live in London’s Hyde Park. Their new single Bring on the Night followed shortly and after an abundance of teaser video clips and photos taken by all Corr siblings and their producer, John Shanks from the studio (Ananda Entertainment, Hollywood and Metropolis, London), their new album White Light was released in Ireland and the UK along with a string of tour dates. Two Irish dates, the Point, Dublin and the Odyssey, Belfast were included to conclude the mini-tour.

Fast forward to the 28th of January, 2016. We wake with a bolt and get to Dublin armed with raincoats, hats, scarves and nibbles. My dear friend Anne had travelled from Berlin, Germany just for this day- we met on a Corrs fan website some 16 years ago and have kept in touch ever since, meeting every few years in both countries. This was to be the most perfect day we could ever spend together- finally experiencing the Corrs music live with each other!

We arrive at the Point in the wind and rain to find a handful of hard-Corr fans already waiting, huddled in the arches. Hailing from Portugal, Brazil and Scotland, they greet us warmly, smiling broadly with excitement. It was only 2:30pm but they were there since 8am! We all watch our phones eagerly, checking Instagram and Twitter for any posts from the Corrs- only to be teased with a snap of Caroline sitting triumphantly behind her drum kit, arms raised in the air and wearing a winning smile, all under a magnificent white light in the venue. We get giddy and beg for time for pass by quicker!

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#Dublin #whitelighttour

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Thankfully time did indeed pass us by swiftly and we found ourselves smack-bang in the middle of the front row! We can’t believe our luck- everyone who made it early and braved the cold weather was the front row.

The Shires burst onto the stage after a short introduction from their band- who I have to say were rock-solid. Drummer Ollie Harding particularly impressed me with his heavy yet steady playing. The Shires delivered an upbeat, cheerful and entertaining set, warming up the crowd perfectly for the Corrs.

An hour later, after a frantic yet systematic set up for the Corrs, the lights dimmed, a haunting bass drone fades in and the crowd erupted in roaring applause and cheers of excitement. The thunderous drumming that is undoubtedly Caroline Corr solo fills the arena and all we see on the side screens are her silhouette on a white background- the much-anticipated introduction we’ve all been waiting for and heard so much about, absolutely knocked our socks off!

Suddenly the curtain goes up and we see Caroline belting her kit with all her might, completely focussed and seemingly unaware of the spotlight. We’re already jumping in delight at this treat and the next thing, the entire band are revealed standing in the middle of the stage- Andrea is beaming with her beautiful smile, she looks like she’s breathing heavily in excitement, Jim is to her left looking cool and collected with his rockstar shades and brilliant green electric guitar while Sharon stands tall to Andrea’s right, clutching her violin, smiling somewhat nervously. Anto Drennan on guitar and Keith Duffy on bass stand either side of Caroline- not Corrs by name but certainly are family for both have been in the band from the beginning and are recognised and loved by the fans.

Opening with I Do What I Like, the leading track of White Light, Andrea danced her way to her microphone, still smiling, looking adorable in her tiny ballerina flats. She looked everyone in the front row right in the eyes and I felt as if she were an old friend. I had the pleasure of being at Lansdowne Road 1999 and the Point 2004 but I was nowhere near the front! This was the first time in my life I was seeing Andrea up close and personal! She has an incredible stage presence and I’m not talking about the type of awe that surrounds Sting or the sheer force of power that’s James Hetfield of Metallica (all concerts I’ve sung my heart out to), it’s a totally different presence. Here is an incredibly talented singer and tin whistle player who’s very much a icon in pop music yet she has a sweet sensitive nature on stage. Maybe it’s the way she dances like a tiny fairy, maybe it’s her aura or energy or the way her dark brown eyes look straight into your soul while she’s singing- perhaps it’s all of the above combined with the fact she’s got her feet planted on the ground. Andrea Corr impressed me immensely as a musician and as a human being.

Of course it’s not entirely all about Andrea! Jim has been a hero for me throughout the years- I was inspired by his musical diversity and creativity- playing various different instruments on all the studio albums and live. You name it, Jim Corr plays it. He’s also big into music production- the mics, the desks and all the gear. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Jim personally about the Corrs production style on their second studio album Talk on Corners (1997) just over a year ago and I could have listened to him for hours. Seeing him for absolute real in the Point was a dream come true for my fan-self. Effortlessly cool while providing backing vocals and rockin’ out on guitar, he provided big-brotherly support to his sisters who all looked at him adoringly at some point or another throughout the show. Still the rock and clearly the (unofficial) band leader, Jim swopped between electric and acoustic guitars and jumped onto keyboards throughout the set.

Surprising us with their second song, Give me a Reason was somewhat unexpected- mind you, a very pleasant surprise! Anthemic melodies and driving drums, the crowd sang their hearts out. Andrea looked lost of words after each song as the crowd literally screamed in sheer adoration up at the band. Keith Duffy never once stopped smiling behind Jim.

The band delivered hit after hit- Forgiven Not Forgotten, Bring on the Night, What Can I Do and Radio before settling down into a relaxed set which saw Caroline rise from her kit and take a seat at the front, right between Andrea and Jim. Known for being the shy Corr, she looked rather nervous taking her place on her cajon drum box. It can’t have been easy to step up into the front-line of camera-phones and strange faces when you’re used to the security a huge drum-kit! No need for her to be nervous, she took up band leadership, driving the group with expertise percussive skills on cajon, bodhran and shaker.

Starting with a beautiful medley of Lough Erin Shore/Joy of Life/Trout in the Bath, the Corrs prove they still very much value their traditional Irish roots and are still top-class! The sound was exquisite. Simple, serene and traditional. Next up 1996 hit Runaway proved to be still the fans favourite when the audience actually sang louder than the Corrs themselves! The look of pure astonishment on Andrea’s face was priceless! Played beautifully, still in unplugged-style Runaway was the song of the night. A couple of songs from the new album, Stay and Ellis Island fit perfectly into the set. Andrea strummed her ukulele to Stay– clearly this is a personal favourite of the band’s (there are two versions on White Light, the band opting for the more wholesome, slow-tempo version for the show. Ellis Island was visually enhanced with spectacular yet poignant graphics on the big screens. A song about emigration and full of sorrow, the band absolutely nailed it live. The audience were visibly moved as the voices around me hushed and drank in the emotion.

A moment of comic relief during the next song, Buachaill On Eirne as Andrea momentarily drew a blank on the opening lyrics. She stopped in her tracks, clearly mortified and burst into a fit of giggles, looking at her siblings for support. Everyone onstage giggled and helped her remember the Irish lyrics. Andrea couldn’t apologise enough to the audience (who thought she was being hopelessly adorable!) for her first ever blank moment on stage and voiced she hoped her old Irish teacher wasn’t attending the gig tonight!

Another total surprise for us was the following song Love to Love You, another 1996 gem. I think it was around this point in the show that I thought that this wasn’t like a reunion gig at all, more so the next stage of the Corrs music career. To be truthful the Corrs never broke up in the first place!

With Caroline back behind the kit, Andrea introduced the band one by one and the gig went back into full tilt with up-tempo Talk on Corners favourites Only When I Sleep, Queen of Hollywood and their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. Seamlessly fitting in to the set Kiss of Life was vocally stunning. For me, one of the top songs off the new album and without a doubt one of my absolute favourite Corrs songs, Kiss of Life soared and took us all to a special place.

Bringing up the tempo again for I Never Loved You Anyway and So Young, the band brought the roof down and left the crowd begging for more.

After a brief teaser of a disappearance, the Corrs returned once more with electrifying performances of White Light, Breathless and Toss the Feathers. It was all over too soon yet the band played for a full 2 hours!

The house lights came on, the finality of the gig being over dawned on us and we exited the arena in an absolute daze! The Corrs were back, sounding amazing and clearly in top form! We left the Point Depot talking excitedly, a bag full of merchandise under our arms, giggling at the lads walking in front of us back to the city centre singing Runaway at the tops of the voices! It was truly the best homecoming the Corrs could have wished for- a huge crowd but with an intimate feel, the Corrs are still our favourite after all these years.

In case you haven’t heard the good news, the Corrs are playing again this summer- the Cork Marquee, June 9th. Tickets go on sale this Thursday (a full week after the Dublin gig! Good timing or what?!). You can be sure to find myself and Anne at the front again!

See you there!

Preview, buy and download songs from the album White Light, including I Do What I Like, Bring On the NightWhite Light and many more. Buy the album for €10.99. Songs start at €1.29. White Light by The Corrs on iTunes

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Stand Together :)

Let’s stand together.

Let music join us all.

Join us tomorrow night for our FREE CONCERT at 8pm to raise funds for the ‘Save The Dominican Church Fund’.

I promise you it will be a memorable show.

Special concert tomorrow night!
Special concert tomorrow night!
Drogheda Independent Feb 2015
Drogheda Independent Feb 2015
Drogheda Independent January 2015
Drogheda Independent January 2015

Exquisite Performance Of Original Music by El Grey at the Spirit Store, 09-08-14

Last night I finally got to see El Grey live! I have been waiting for an ideal opportunity to hear the voice of El Grey herself live for a long time and last nights performance at the Lockup Big Day Out gig in the Spirit Store, Dundalk, did not disappoint.

It was one of those gigs where you felt like the singer was singing only to you. One of those gigs where the hairs on your arms stand on end. One of those gigs that literally takes your breath away. And such gigs are rare.

I was in awe of El Greys voice- her vocal is powerful, expressive, delicate, haunting and strong- all at the same time. Her range is astounding and her style is unique. A voice you will never forget once you’ve heard it.

I watched her performance in absolute delight, superbly skilled in acoustic guitar- flawlessly, effortlessly fingerpicking- a natural player. During her performance she seems to enter another state of consciousness- a higher state of mind- her voice expressing her deepest emotions through soaring notes, beautiful on-sets and releases- a very dreamy sound world. A talented musician, she also plays the ukulele with a grace I’ve never seen before- no tacky jokey jingle-jangle here- her unique guitar fingerpicking style translates beautifully onto her charming little instrument.

Accompanied by Chris Topher on percussion and live electronic MIDI sequencing, her music takes on another dimension. Chris programs percussive loops using a MIDI interface and laptop. He also plays a large djembe while playing basslines with his toes! He trades El Greys acoustic guitar and ukulele throughout the set.

A duet clearly in control of their sound and production, El Grey uses the Boss vocal processor for hands-on control of her reverb and delay effects. Her long reverb tails and massive echoes are her trademark and her vocal processor is used to great effect. She clearly understands what she’s doing and doesn’t cloud her sound in a foggy, confusing mist of unnecessary decay. The overall sound is minimal and focussed- and believe me, anything but boring. The 45-minute set included all original songs except one Nirvana cover which was played in absolute El Grey style- she really made it her own.

It’s very clear there’s a super talent here. No wonder she has being going from strength to strength in the last year- winning an EP recorded with United Records and mastered in the world-famous Abbey Road Studios in London in 2013. Her 3-track self-titled debut EP was released 2014. The EP has been given airplay on a number of radio shows in Ireland and beyond, including Dan Hegarty’s The Alternative (2FM), Near FM Sessions (Near FM), and CSM – leading alternative show by Aleksandra Kaczkowska on Polish National Radio ‘3’ (Trojka Polskie Radio). Also El Grey’s recently become the Finalist of the Big Break All Ireland Music Competition organised by Hot Press Magazine (Top Five 2014).

It was very exciting for me personally to get to meet the duet after the gig, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit starstruck- when you follow an artists music online for some time that you really admire, you just can’t help but feel in awe, especially after such an amazing gig! I have to say, both Chris and El Grey are absolutely stunning people- they have such a genuinely beautiful energy and spirit, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had met them before! El Grey is very giggly and light-hearted, taking my camera and posing for hilarious selfies, I genuinely laughed this morning looking back on my photos!

Before I share some of my photos of the gig, get yourself a copy of the beautifully recorded EP on their Bandcamp here: El Grey.

Watch her official music videos and special behind the scenes footage of her EP here: el grey – YouTube.

Like the official band page on Facebook for regular updates and further information: el grey.

I hope you enjoy her music as much as I do.

El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14

Love and light.

I’m VERY Excited!!!

EXCITED is not the word! Jumping around the house, bouncing from room to room, ready to burst from anticipation might be slightly more accurate!!!

Emigrate just posted an album teaser video minutes ago on their Facebook page and it sounds HOT!!! Silent So Long is due to be released in October.

Emigrate is the solo project of Richard Kruspe- the lead guitarist of German industrial metal giants Rammstein (my favourite band), unlike the songs of Rammstein, Kruspe sings in English. Kruspe is my HERO and his previous solo album simply titled Emigrate, (released in 2007) blew my mind.

Richard Kruspe: source: https://www.facebook.com/Emigrate/photos/pb.143125545697938.-2207520000.1406215052./761008073909679/?type=1&theater
Richard Kruspe: source: Emigrate official Facebook page.

It’s not entirely clear who’s producing Silent So Long, whether Jacob Hellner (Emigrate, Rammstein, Apocalyptica) is involved, though there is a photo of Kruspe with Ben Grosse (previously Sevendust, Disturbed, Marilyn Manson, Breaking Benjamin, Depeche Mode and more) and from what I gather from the Facebook photos, Sascha Moser is programming and editing again.

It’s all very exciting!!!!!!!! The album is available for pre-order on Amazon: Silent So Long: Amazon.de: Musik.

My personal favourite, Richard Kruspe, Till Lindemann stands under the shower of sparks and Oliver Riedel in the O2, Dublin, 27/02/12. Copyright Stephanie Caffrey 2012.
My personal favourite, Richard Kruspe, Till Lindemann stands under the shower of sparks and Oliver Riedel in the O2, Dublin, 27/02/12. Copyright Stephanie Caffrey 2012.

Words That Burn Release New Single “Before The Fall”

Attention metal heads! Dundalk-based metallers Words That Burn released their new single “Before The Fall” via BandCamp over the weekend. And it kicks serious ass.

For me personally, the song brings the likes of Primordial to mind. The excellent production showcases the band as a mature and highly-polished unit with plenty of edge and energy expertly performed. Catchy guitar hooks, tight as hell bass and drums, excellent lyrics and a savage vocal performance make this latest release the bands finest output to date. I love the fabulous contrasting middle eight for the well-considered, layered vocal harmonies- the lower register of Ronan’s vocal gets me every time.

Download the song at the link here: BEFORE THE FALL | Words That Burn. Name your price! It’s free if you want it to be!

The accompanying video was released this evening on YouTube- excellent work! Check it out below:

 

Their previous album Praey is also available on BandCamp to download- name your price: PRAEY | Words That Burn. Also awesome merch is available here: Home / Words That Burn Shop.

The band’s next major gig is at PhilFest 2014 in Fibbers, Parnell St, Dublin (Sunday the 29th of June)- a 2-day heavy metal event with a fantastic lineup for a mere €5 per day- you’d be bonkers to miss it!

Get liking Words That Burn on Facebook.

Get following @words_that_burn on Twitter.

Rock out!!! \m/

WTB

Irish Maritime Festival 2014 :)

Join us this Sunday (June 15th) in Drogheda at The Irish Maritime Festival 2014 – Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir- we will be singing our hearts out and giving it all we’ve got at 1pm at the Ballast Sound Stage!

Come along, clap along, sing along- you will be uplifted and you will be feeling HAPPY! 😀

Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir
Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir
Sunday 15th of June 2014
Sunday 15th of June 2014