Just popping up to share a very short clip of music I recorded this week: La Jolla.
I was inspired when I saw a video uploaded on Instagram by my friend @zingomoon who lives in America and recently visited the West Coast. La Jolla is one minute of music I created while watching her video.
You can find it on my Instagram page or you can just listen to the music on my SoundCloud.
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.
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?).
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.
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!
A big congratulations to my father Eddie Caffrey on his 40th year of broadcasting his Greenscene radio show on LMFM! He was presented with an award last night at the TLT Theatre in Drogheda by LMFM CEO, Michael Crawley.
My Dad has been involved in local radio his whole adult life, and is still presenting The Drive Monday-Fridays and The Greenscene on Saturday mornings on LMFM. I also remember the days when Dad hosted the popular Breakfast Show.
The Greenscene show started in 1978 on Radio Dundalk when Gavin Duffy (Gavin was breakfast show presenter) wanted to air a program on Saturday mornings dedicated to Irish music for bands of the time such as Thin Lizzy, The Boomtown Rats etc.
Later that year Boyneside Radio opened in Drogheda and Eddie and Gavin joined it at Donaghy’s Mill.
In 1979 Boyneside Radio decided to revive the idea and ‘borrowed’ the name “The Greenscene” from a Manx Radio show in the Isle of Man which played new releases of Irish music every Wednesday afternoon. It was decided to play a mix of ballads such as the Wolftones and the Dubliners with céilí country and old time songs. Ken Murray was the first presenter and Eddie Caffrey produced the show until Ken moved to even ‘greener’ pastures in 1982.
Eddie continues to present it to this very day and it remains ‘The North Easts Favourite Radio Show’!
I couldn’t be prouder of my Dad.
Listen on line lmfm.ie or between 95.5 and 96.5fm.
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 FalseDeceiver: 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.
It’s not often (never before actually) that I blog about my old band, Black Daisy, though I have mentioned in my bio that I was lead guitarist and backing vocalist for the all female rock band. If you’re a first-time reader on this blog, I parted ways from the band in early 2009. The band was formed by myself and LA Halvey from the ashes of a band we found ourselves in which formed in autumn 2002. That band was named Ali, yes we all hated the name, but we couldn’t think of anything better so we ran with it (it was hoped we would get Bono’s attention! pfffff, as if!). We had high hopes and we actually did a few very cool gigs (Mountjoy Prison Christmas party 2003, MTV’s Breaking Point, a couple of appearances on RTE’s You’re a Star). The band eventually burned out but myself and the singer still had faith and we continued writing, recording, auditioning musicians and gigging. We eventually found the other half of the band circa mid-2007 (Nicki Billings from Wicklow on rhythm guitar and Asta Mileriene from Lithuania on drums) and became the last incarnation of Black Daisy. Well, until I was out of the picture but that’s a different story.
So the reason I’m blogging is because on this day 10 years ago, Black Daisy independently released our debut EP “Disturbing New Fashion”. It was available through downloadmusic.ie and a small number of Irish HMV and record shops.
We recorded it in Donabate (Fastlane Studio) with producer Stephen Brett (now CEO of InMusik), who said our drummer Asta, was a “machine” (she actually was though! you’ll never find a drummer who was on the beat like her). We had a lot of fun recording it and it happened very quickly. His studio was really cool, at the time I was interested in production but it was all a massive mystery to me. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what DAW he used (probably Pro Tools) or anything like that but I remember how I felt and that’s always the important thing. We had such great giggles, I remember we all got on really well, Stephen was a lot of fun to work with, we felt at ease, he “got” us, he let us do what we wanted to do and he pushed us to try out new ideas. It was a cosy space to work in, not small but not massive. Perfect for us.
So before we went to studio and before we even started rehearsals, the songs were all demo-ed by myself. I had just discovered Apple’s Garageband and I put together all the tracks using drum loops, my recordings of guitars, basses and LAs vocals. We had lots of fun recording in my bedroom and at the time, we suddenly felt empowered with cheap recording gear. In fact I wrote “Disturbing New Fashion” by putting together a bunch of Apple drum loops, recording them onto my Boss Loop Station and overdubbing guitars and vox over and over. I wrote most of the lyrics too, inspired by a documentary about festivals- I remember they were talking in particular about Lollapalooza, and the phenomenon of people losing their **** in the pit at the gigs. How disturbed the audience seemed to the onlookers. I thought that was seriously cool, so that’s actually what the song’s about! I still have some of those demos knocking around, not the session files (I suffered a massive hard drive crash in 2010 and lost all my digital memories from Black Daisy- photos, music, videos- all gone to digital heaven), but I still have some of the stereo bounces on mini discs.
So anyways, our preproduction was really important, we spent a lot of time as a band in our rehearsal space (Monster Music in Blanchardstown was the BEST place ever), going over each and every detail of the songs. We were very mindful of our limited recording time and wanted to maximise whatever time we had by sorting out the nitty gritty in rehearsals. It wasn’t always fun but we learned how to play as a band and we actually gelled really well during that time.
I was always happy with the finished product and I’m still proud of it. However my role with the band at this stage was on borrowed time, as I didn’t forsee the Eurovision fiasco at this point and I had every faith that the band was moving forward in a healthy way. We were playing great gigs on the back of RTE’s You’re a Star series 6, writing new songs and getting on like a house on fire. 6 short months later, it all would change.
I suppose it’s only fitting that 10 years on, I’m in the middle of my music masters. It all seems like a lifetime ago, I suppose it was. I’m ever the sentimentalist. Being in Black Daisy was a huge part of my life infact, it was my way of life. Everything revolved around the band- my jobs, work hours, my clothes, what I spent my money on, getting up and down to Dublin, countless hours on Myspace plugging the band. I even put college on hold in 2002, and never thought I would get there until I had my BCFE interview in 2009.
Part of me still thinks: I shouldn’t have bothered, I should have went straight to college in 2002, I should have spent more time focusing on an actual proper job, what’s to show for all the politics and drama anyway?
But then, I’d have never experienced so many cool things: the epic recording studios, the knowledgeable music producers, the experienced session musicians, gigging all over the country, the road trips, the late night sleepover giggles, the tense photo shoots, the fun video shoots, the nerve-wrecking radio interviews, the exciting TV shows, doing each other’s hair and makeup, swopping outfits, the car breakdowns halfways down the country, the parties, the clubbing in Cork city, going to Galway for the craic because the show was postponed 24 hours and we didn’t want to go home, the saucy jokes, the dodgey rehearsal rooms in Temple Bar, the serious songwriting sessions, the hunt for band members, the excited fans kissing my biker boots at gigs, the people dancing to our music, blowing away skeptical men with crossed arms at gigs, making our home demos and of course, the girls. I’ve probably forgotten half of the shenanigans. Feck, I’ve actually played the Ambassador in Dublin! So yeah, it was a good thing. It was a life experience and I wouldn’t understand band politics and musician’s emotions as well as I do now, only for it. Maybe it’ll stand to me when I produce a new band in the future or when I engineer my next gig or when I become a teacher.
There’s still one or two CDs knocking around on Discogs and eBay if you’re at all interested. I still think it sounds effing awesome and believe we were something unique. I also think we were a band at the wrong time of the industry, when everything was up in chaos and no-one dared (or cared) to invest in talent. The EP is no longer available on iTunes but the “Disturbing New Fashion” video (directed by Zoe Kavanagh) is still on YouTube if you want a quick peak.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Hey folks, as I’m in a super-generous mood today, I’ve decided to release my instrumental mix of my original song “Breathe” for free download on SoundCloud for a limited time! (See link above! grab, grab, grab!!!)
I composed and performed this music last year using my favourite DAW Logic Pro 9 and with the help of Keith Caffrey (the other half of my acoustic-rock duet Shock Sorrow- no relation!), lyrics and vocal melodies were added soon after. The full version was received really well amongst my friends and colleagues and even got played over-seas on a TKS Radio podcast in Canada, Manic Mondays hosted by Fallon Bowman (my vocal idol!) and Andrew “Draco” UnaSchulman. Draco reacted to the song extremely well and his comments were actually hallarious! He made me cry with laughter and Fallon herself made some really lovely, positive comments.
The original podcast can be found on YouTube: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKkqq0VtnUM]
I have uploaded an edited version that skips directly to the comments: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGjRldtOFno]
So enjoy the free download, this mix focuses on the instrumentation and I’ve included some backing vocals for good measure!
I do wish to release the rest of my chilled-electronic solo material in the very near future! Watch this space!