"The Jig Is Up"
Wow!! 2014: a hectic year. Spent most of the winter writing & recording, playing great sessions with The Elderly Brothers (+ Mick Coyne & John Lyons), Lowell Levinger (Hi Banana) and Siobhan Blackie & Seanie at FaFa's in Ennis, a lovely sunny summer inc. great Willie Clancy & Carrick-On-Bannow festivals & our 'private' festive weekend at Ted Murphy's in Thomastown. I finally completed the Forgotten People album of songs telling stories of 19th century Irish emigration to Canada. I launched the CD at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in Alberta at the beginning of August with Niamh Parsons, Siobhan Peoples & Paddy Keenan, all of whom feature on the album.
Gigs in Edmonton included an amazing concert, "The Jig Is Up" (see pic below) with Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Lunasa and the Sharon Shannon Trio all playing together on stage - if anyone out there has a video or recording of this concert I would truly love a copy as it was one of the greatest musical sessions in which I have ever participated - when we all played together it was close-as-dammit to the "Celtic Orchestra" sound which Edmonton director, Terry Wickham, had asked me to create along the lines of the Sunday afternoon Ceilis at the Tonder Festival in Denmark which he had previously seen me organise.
Other collaborations in Edmonton included onstage jam sessions (which their programme describes as "workshops") with Imelda May, Hudson Taylor, Tony Joe White, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Masters Of Hawaiian Music, Jake Shimabukuro etc. The hospitality Green Area was abuzz with old friendships being renewed, new ones being made & lots of plans for future collaborations. It was great to catch up with so many old friends inc. Albert Lee, Roy Rogers, Los Lobos, Maria Dunn, Baka Beyond, the great Edmonton House Band plus, of course, Shannon Johnson, James Keelaghan & Jez Lowe who had all contributed to Forgotten People. The only downside of the whole joyful festival was not being able to contact my local fiddler pal, Tony Michael, despite efforts by both the festival & myself... if anyone out there has contact with Tony please ask him to get in touch (as anyone else who so wishes may do) by leaving a message via the Contact section in the menu toolbar above.
Hospitality with Paddy, Siobhan & the I.T. man
One plan hatched in Edmonton was to write a song with the Hudson Taylor brothers for the Tonder festival in Denmark at which both their band & myself were due to appear at the end of August. This 40th Anniversary year of Tonder had an air of sadness for the end of a wonderful era due to the resignation of Tonder director, Carsten Panduro, who had started & built the festival over 40 years into being one of the world's finest music festivals. Regardless of this sad undercurrent, this was one of the best Tonders I have seen in 25 years & a fitting sendoff for Carsten & his lovely partner, Anni. The Hudson Taylor crew & myself were working on our new song right up until we took the stage together at the final night's party where it was received with such enthusism that the guys asked me back on stage to play guitar with them, which I duly did & thoroughly enjoyed. For anyone who hasn't yet experienced this truly wonderful young Dublin band - do so while you can - these guys have soaked up the influences of all that's good in folk & popular music going back decades before they were even born. Their fabulous harmonies remind me one minute of the Everly Brothers, then Lennon & McCartney or Simon & Garfunkel and the energy they put out brings to mind those iconic clips of the young Beatles live at the Cavern.
Another Dublin group who impressed the hell out of everyone was Lynched, a vocal quartet who accompany their gorgeous harmonies with uilleann pipes, concertina, fiddle & guitar. Their material is mostly traditional with a deliciously dark humourous slant, all delivered in a subtle, moody performance with lots of light & shade. So many of the so-called 'trad-based' Irish groups I have seen recently play non-stop full-on hectic jigs'n'reels sets with an unremitting, in-your-face bass drum beat which frankly, I find boring & undermines the appeal and gravitas of the music. By comparison, the thoughtful, good humoured arrangements of Lynched were a real breath of fresh air. My good friend, the outstanding traditional traveller singer, Tommy MacCarthy, who accompanied me to Tonder, joined Lynched on stage as their guest to great effect & the delight of the audience. Tommy & myself had a session with the Lynched crew right up 'til the moment (3.30a.m.) when our 'pilot' arrived to take us to the airport! Hated to leave you guys, let's do it again soon.
The good news regarding Tonder is that, as long as the good Lord's willin' & the creek don't rise, it will definitely continue despite any rumours to the contrary. Some of the headliners for 2015 have already been announced & it looks likely to continue to be a wonderful event. Tonder is rated by most musicians I know as one of the two or three finest music parties on the planet - up there with Canada's Edmonton & the New Orleans Jazz Heritage. Long may it run.
Some closet yodeler
Outdoor stage Tonder