Bert Griffin, the owner of the legendary Stags Head music pub in the heart of London's Camden Town, passed away two months to the day after he had delivered a moving eulogy for our mutual friend Tony Hobbs. Bert was a great catalyst for the Irish music scene in London for many years and made his pub a home-from-home for many touring Irish bands inc. Sharon Shannon, Altan, Arcady, Nomos, Four Men & A Dog, the Pogues and my own Alias outfit. R.I.P.
Another Autumn draws to a close and it's Knockroghery time again. This year the festival's Annie McNulty Award went to the Grehan Sisters who were a widely popular folk group in the 60s and 70s and who did much to care for traveller singer John 'Jacko' Riley toward the end of his short life and to preserve his hugely influential legacy since his untimely death. It is a great privilege to have been a fellow recipient of this award in the company of so many distinguished musicians/singers over the years inc. Cathy Jordan, John & Tim Lyons, Jimmy Crowley, Bob Davenport, Sean Garvey, Mick Moloney, Sarah & Rita Keane, Len Graham etc.
As the winter kicked in, I was both honoured and privileged to be asked to launch the Ennis Trad 22 festival. This festival which concentrates on instrumental and singing sessions in over 20 venues also featured CD launches galore inc. Sheila Garry and Mick Kinsella plus marvellous concerts by Lynched (direct from Jools Holland Show), Ulaid (feat. John McSherry), Beoga, the Bonneymen and the enigmatically unique Eoin Neff. All-in-all, a classic year for Ennis Trad.
As a consequence of recordings I was making for an album provisionally titled Freeborn (A Celebration Of Traveller Culture) I was asked to participate in a Poster Fish Promotions (see facebook) concert "Celebrating Traveller Music" at the Cobblestone in Dublin. This was a fantastic event, brilliantly performed and received. It was to be the first of many such concerts to which I would contribute over the following year.
The Christmas/New Year period found me in 'hermit' mode as I mostly remained at home researching and writing new material inc. a song RESPECT! written to mark the Carrickmines halting site tragic fire which claimed the lives of ten Travellers inc. five children. The only breaks I took from this writing hiatus were regular trips to Ennis to join in sessions with Siobhan Peoples, 'Blackie' O'Connell and Seanie Gorman. Seanie and his dear partner, Jose, kindly allowed me to set up mobile recording equipment in their front room where I recorded much of the RESPECT! song with Kilfenora K.T. and Siobhan.
By now my daughter, Georgia, was pregnant again so I spent much of the Spring and Summertime travelling between Cork and London to spend precious time with my family as little Matthew grew into an enchanting character. Toward the end of July, to the great delight of all concerned, his baby brother, Liam, was born. Two grandchildren, YIPPEEEE!
The All-Ireland Fleadh was held in Ennis in 2016. This is an event I wouldn't usually attend because of my dislike of very large crowds but, as it was being held in Ennis - my home from home - I spent a few days fleadhing if, for no other reason, to catch up with trad pals I might not bump into otherwise. Unlike the excerpts aired nightly on Fleadh TV (which are mostly staged) I didn't witness much great music at the Fleadh as the sessions were generally overcrowded and noisy. However, amazingly, one of the best I did hear was in Enzo's chipper on Parnell St. where they were offering free fish'n'chips to all who played - brilliant, particularly the young Derry lads who performed their dance routine to the Glasgow Reel. All this and REAL, handcut chips.
September saw the release of my latest album, RESPECT!, with all profit from sales to be donated to the two orphaned children of the Carrickmines disaster. We launched the CD at Dublin's Cobblestone at a Poster Fish night on Sept 16th and Cork's Spailpin Fanach on Oct 1st as part of the Cork Folk Festival. Both gigs went really well, especially the Cork launch despite my old pal and occasional collaborator, Dick Gaughan, needing to cancel due to ill health. My sincere thanks to all involved and here's wishing a speedy recovery and return to the stage by Mr. Gaughan - Get Well Dick, we love you.
The same week Coughlans on Douglas St. hosted their own mini-fest featuring many old friends inc. Ray Barron's 2-Time Polka, Mary Coughlan and the Voice Squad. The latter got my gig of the year and not just because they included a song of mine in their show. The Squad just seem to get better every time I hear them - truly delightful.
Over the next month I look forward once more to the S. Roscommon Singers Festival and the Ennis (Winter) Trad Fleadh. These are two events with which I continue to be involved and wholeheartedly recommend to anyone seeking real traditional music. Until next time - Hasta la huevos...
Cobblestone Sept '16
Daughter & grandkids
The Voice Squad