Meanwhile, back in Ireland, I could only make the opening night of the Frank Harte Weekend at the close of September but it was well worth the trip to Dublin to enjoy the company - even if only for one evening - of so many of the finest traditional singers in these islands. The programme for the Cork Folk Festival two weeks later was the best they've had in many years. One simply unforgettable moment was hearing my old pal and collaborator, Dick Gaughan, sing Bogie's Bonny Belle unaccompanied at the Singers Club. Dick is one of the few performers who invariably gets the hair on the back of my neck to stand to attention. Annie Armstrong, Siobhan Peoples, Blackie O'Connell and myself later played the final gig of the festival in the Crane Lane Theatre where we had the Cork launch of the Forgotten People CD. A fortnight later the South Roscommon Singers' Festival (incorporating the Annie McNulty Award) had great music and fun especially as it afforded another couple of late night sessions in the company of Lynched, the launch of a new live CD by the great Scottish diva, Chris Miles (inc. a lovely live recording of Reconciliation), not to mention my introduction to the delightful Helen Grehan (of the Grehan Sisters) whose songs blew me away and whose presentation (along with Gerry O'Daly) on the life of the great Traveller singer, John Reilly, was remarkable not least for the rare opportunity of hearing a tape of Reilly talk about his repertoire.
Back in Cork on Sunday night I played guitar with Mo O'Connor's blues band, The Motones as part of the Cork Jazz Festival and then, two nights later, mandolin (with Mo again) as part of an Acoustic Roots night in the Market Tavern. Annie and myself did an unaccompanied harmony duo gig for the Cork Singers Club at The Spailpin Fanach on Nov 2nd which was a most enjoyable evening marred only by the passing that week of our singing friend, Elaine Flannery, mother of noted Cork singer/songwriter Mick Flannery. We dedicated the night to Elaine and sang Reconciliation in her memory, R.I.P.
R.K. and Annie
The Elderly Bros.
Aodan, Mick & Eamon Coyne
The following week was the Ennis Traditional Fleadh - one of the high points of Ireland's musical calendar for some twenty years - and Ennis Trad 21 was up there with the best years inc. a wonderful night with the Coyne family during which we revisited the eclectic and often eccentric repertoire of the legendary Liverpool Ceili Band in the company of several visiting Liverpudlian musicians and singers (inc. fiddler Eamon Coyne and his crew who flew in from Boston) alongside such noted 'locals' as the wonderful singer Roisin White and box playing Clare stalwart, Mick Butler. The singing on both The Friday and Saturday sessions was of the highest order and, tho' I had to leave Ennis on the Sunday, I believe that the Farewell Singing Session went equally well - thanks to all involved for their contributions. Ennis 21 also featured the launch of the second Riches Of Clare compilation CD which includes a couple of tracks recorded live at the Ennis Museum featuring Conor Keane (box), Kevin Finnucane (fiddle), Sean O'Gorman (guitar) and myself. All-in-all a superb return from the ashes of a fleadh which would have been sorely missed. Here's to another twenty one years.