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If you’re in the neighborhood…

POSTED ON June 27th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Organizers of the upcoming conference in Tuam, Co. Galway, are hoping that visitors from the U.S. will drop by to listen to some of the talks in a packed program exploring the links between the West of Ireland and North America.

As reported in the Echo a few weeks ago, the late Gov. Hugh Carey, the man credited with saving New York City from financial ruin in the 1970s, will be discussed by scholar Terry Golway and at a later session genealogist Anne Rodda will detail the Brooklynite’s family roots in nearby Milltown.

“The Irish-American Link: People, Places and Culture” will be based at the Ard Ri Hotel from July 12-16.

Said Prof. Christian Kinealy of Drew University in New Jersey: “The County of Galway is ideally placed both physically and geographically to host this important conference, which will bring together local historians, academics, folklore experts, genealogists and all who are interested in learning more about the links between the West of Ireland and North America.”

Two locals who took opposites sides during the American Civil War will be among those discussed: Major Dick Dowling, considered a hero of Confederate Texas, and Col. Patrick Kelly, who was killed leading the North’s Irish Brigade in 1864. In all, there will be 28 lectures over the three weekend days, while the Thursday and the Monday will be given over to full-day heritage tours of West and East Galway. For more details and information about booking, go to www.irishamericanlink.com.

 

Keane’s ‘Dog’ is a winner on every track

POSTED ON June 27th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Champion accordionist James Keane was only 14 years old in 1962 when he co-founded the Castle Ceili Band with his brother Séan and their friend Mick O’Connor.  To see pictures of them from back in those days you’d scarcely believe they were allowed out of the house past dark, much less the fervency with which they lived traditional music.  But together, they made a near immediate impact on the trad community and attracted the respect of some of the best older players of the day.

“We fully understood what the real McCoy was,” Keane explained.  “John Brennan, John Kelly, Joe Ryan, Sonny Brogan, Bill Harte – these were people we knew.  Not only did we hold them up as heroes, but we also had the nerve to ask some of them to join our group.”

Over time, Keane would not only count Kelly, Ryan and Brennan as fellow Castle members, but the likes of Michael Tubridy, John Dwyer, Liam Rowsome, and Bridie Lafferty as well. “There were no passengers in that group,” Keane laughed, adding “we were always chasing down the new tunes and shaking the clay off them.”  The group’s taste in tune and arrangement was as much a part of their legend as their musicianship:  “When we played the ‘Foxhunter’s Reel’ at the Fleadh Cheoil in 1965, we absolutely ripped it and the people went crazy.  Because Séan collected it from Patsy Kelly for Breandán Breathnach, we were playing it long before anyone ever heard it outside Cree in County Clare.”

The Castle’s drive and vision for traditional music not only inspired dozens of Keane’s contemporaries, but it continues to influence present-day ceili bands like the Innisfree and Shannon Vale Ceili Bands in Ireland, and the Old Bay and Doon Ceili Bands in the U.S. (to name but a few).  But beyond the music, it’s the friendships and the memories that Keane forged in those early days – a special connectedness to music all over Ireland that few have – that is the stuff of legend.          It’s this legend that inspired Eamon McGiveney (at Angela Crotty’s suggestion) to invite Keane to speak at the Willie Clancy Week’s 40th Anniversary.  Called “Living in the Tradition: people, places and musical memories,” Keane’s talk, which will happen at the Miltown Malbay Community Centre on Thursday, July 12 at 2 p.m., will be one to remember and will most assuredly attract a powerful crowd. In addition to speaking, Keane (who now lives in NYC) will also be there to launch his new solo album, “Heir of the Dog.”  Dedicated to east Galway master Jack Coen and featuring Kathleen Boyle (of Cherish the Ladies) on piano, Eamon O’Leary on guitar and bouzouki and Tom English on bodhran, “Heir of the Dog” is a superior recording that explores Keane’s life in the music through his tunes, from those of his early days in the Castle all the way through to those of his more recent work with the group Fingal.

Keane’s playing here is outstanding and he delivers on every track.  Fans will notice that while he’s pulled back on the speed in places (a “more of a kitchen-style tempo,” he ex­plained), his characteristic fire can still be heard on reel tracks like the “The Ladies Panta-

­­lettes/…” and “Julia Delaney’s/….”

He’s also adjusted his sound, employing his box’s master “three block” voice, which gives him a more “open” tone than on previous recordings.

Keane’s choice of accompanists could not have been better.  O’Leary is one of the most tasteful backers in Irish music, and brings a relaxedness to tracks like the “Joys of Summer/…” reels or the “Slieve Russell/…” jigs that balances perfectly with Keane’s drive.  Boyle’s buoyant playing keeps Keane on a light but steady course, and blends perfectly with O’Leary when the two are playing together.  One of the album’s best examples of this is on “O’Carolan’s Dream,” where the two provide a brilliantly transcendent ambience over which Keane’s playing floats effortlessly.

With informative liner notes guided by the invisible hand of tune guru Don Meade and production by Greg Anderson, “Heir of the Dog” is a welcome return to form and one trad music lovers will want to look out for.

Ulysses at ‘Ulysses’

POSTED ON June 21st  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

 

Some Bloomsday happenings in the New York area were scheduled for last Friday, June 15, to stay within the working week. But the event hosted by Ulysses bar on Stone Street in Lower Manhattan was among those that stuck with the actual day, June 16. And it was rewarded with excellent weather and a large, enthusiast crowd packing the cobble-stoned space. Best-selling novelist Colum McCann helped emcee the now annual event and Irish Echo writers Larry Kirwan and Maura Mulligan were among those who read extracts from “Ulysses.” But the highlight, as always, was Aedin Moloney’s interpretation of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.

Actor Aedin Moloney channels Molly Bloom.

Novelist Kevin Holohan reads from James Joyce’s classic set on June 16, 1904.

Moley Ó Súillibheáin of Size2Shoes singing on Stone Street.

Minimalist ‘method’ results in brilliant ‘As It Happened’

POSTED ON June 21st  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

For many, the epitome of a great recording of traditional Irish music is one with a genuinely “live” feel.  Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon’s “I gCnoc Na Graí” (1985) and Matt Molloy’s first solo album (1976), for example, are two that achieve this.  Another current example, I feel, is the Irish Arts Center’s 2011 Christmas Album.  However, the most recent example is Micheál Ó Raghallaigh and Danny O’Mahony’s “As It Happened,” a superb recording that showcases two powerful, young musicians in an intriguingly personal context – Micheál Ó Raghallaigh’s kitchen.

Recorded live, with minimal gear and pretense, most will argue that what O’Mahony (who hosts a trad show on Radio Kerry) and Ó Raghallaigh have done isn’t exactly new.  After all, recording live, in the moment was always the expedient way of doing things.  But as technology developed, so did studio savvy and in the last 20 years we’ve seen musicians become extremely knowledgeable in how they use studio resources to explore and control their sound.  So what makes this album remarkable, then, is not that it was recorded live per se, but that O’Mahony and Ó Raghallaigh – two musicians who essentially grew up in studios – are part of a new generation of players that is pushing back and embracing a sophisticated but minimalist approach to recording Irish music in a way they feel suits their music.

Readers may already be familiar with a few from O’Mahony’s and Ó Raghallaigh’s minimalist cohort.  Micheál’s brother MacDara Ó Raghallaigh’s for example, came out with his album “Ego Trip” last year, a live, solo project recorded in front of an audience over the course of two evenings.  Then, there is Micheál’s work with Catherine McEvoy and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on “Comb Your Hair and Curl It” (2010), an album reviewed here in the Echo last year with appropriate fanfare by Earle Hitchner.

On “As It Happened,” O’Mahony calls the approach” “free-range recording,” a way of doing things that emphasizes the music itself, “as it happened,” with no editing or effects in post-production.   (Incidentally, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh – who seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to interesting, well conceived projects – was the recording engineer here and deserves high praise for the album’s balanced, clear sound.)

Putting the focus on tune, performance and musician interaction makes their approach to recording somewhat akin in spirit to Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s avant-garde “Dogme” method of filmmaking.  Outlined in their “Dogme 95 Manifesto” and codified in a set of rules called the “Vow of Chastity,” the Dogme method emphasized story, acting and theme over special effect and post-production modification.

Although O’Mahony and Ó Raghallaigh allude to a philosophical element in their liner notes, they’re neither didactic nor dogmatic about their “method.”  The magic really lies in the idea that there are two smart, relaxed musicians playing tunes together that have a healthy breath and swing.   New York-based uilleann piper Ivan Goff, a longtime musical comrade of O’Mahony and Ó Raghallaigh’s who has insight into this minimalist approach, is correct to point out that “when you have two players of the caliber of Micheál and Danny and the resources to record in a relaxed and familiar environment, not only is a live and spontaneous feel more possible but the listener can sense the personal connection between two players.”

Ultimately, this is a brilliant recording.  O’Mahony explained that he and Ó Raghallaigh never approached playing together as a note for note thing, rather that they always search for something new in their music.   “The album,” he explained, “is about my musical friendship with Micheál.  We’ve played together on and off over a long time.  He’s open to fun – in the music or out, and I was drawn to that.  The music follows that line as well – we very much play off one another and have the craic off one another.”

“As It Happened” will be launched at

Willie Clancy Week.  However, it can

be purchased or downloaded right now

through Danny O’Mahony’s website at www.dannyomahony.com.

 

Hanzard sings with passion, grit of great Irish balladeers

POSTED ON June 21st  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Once upon a time a musician from Dublin dropped out of school to busk on the streets of his city. The next few chapters of his story are full of great success in songwriting, musical performance, film and theatre. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about Glen Hansard – the front man of Irish rock group, the Frames, who later went on to form folk-rock duo, the Swell Season with Marketa Irglova.  Together, Irglova and Hansard composed and performed all the original songs in the 2006 musical film “Once,” one of which won the 2007 Academy Award for best original song (which led to the Broadway musical that recently received 8 Tony Awards).

So there’s a little background about Glen – impressive to say the least. But what will really knock your socks off is if you watch him in action.  Just a few weeks ago he graced the stage at the Living Room, a small music club on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and treated the audience to a musical moment of a lifetime when Bono joined him on stage to belt out one heck of a version of “The Auld Triangle.” It’s on YouTube. Look it up when you have the time and you’ll see why Glen Hansard is 100 percent deserving of all of his success and more.

I just loved watching Glen deliver such a knockout version of “The Auld Triangle.” He sings with all the passion and grit of the great Irish balladeers. But Hansard’s focus and his greatest gift is crafting original songs, and lately he’s been doing it right here in New York City.  Just last week he released his debut solo album, “Rhythm and Repose,” which he recorded over the last year and a half while living in the West Village. With 11 tracks, Hansard conveys warmth and raw emotion in each one of them. Known for his honesty in his songwriting, the majority of the songs on “Rhythm and Repose” are about Glen’s relationships, and there’s a warmth in his voice that make many of the songs sound like intimate conversations between two friends. While the album is a beauty from start to finish, for me the highlights included one of the more rhythmic songs on the album, “Love Don’t Keep Me Waiting” and a moving song of encouragement, “Song of Good Hope.”  Glen will be sharing songs from “Rhythm and Repose” in NYC on 6/28 at Le Poisson Rouge and 6/29 at the Beacon Theatre.

For some Irish sounds around town this week check out the Narrowbacks at Murty’s in Pearl River, NY on 6/22, Niamh Parsons at An Beal Bocht Café in the Bronx on 6/23, and the Connecticut Irish festival featuring the Screaming Orphans, the Mickey Finns, Celtic Cross, McLean Avenue Band and more, 6/23 & 6/24 in North Haven, CT.

 

Scott prefers ‘free-thinking, free-moving’ internationals

POSTED ON June 21st  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Michael Fassbender says it was his portrayal of Bobby Sands – the Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer, who led the 1981 hunger strike in a Northern Irish prison, in the bio-picture “Hunger” – that first put him on the radar of his “Prometheus” director Ridley Scott. Co-starring “Monster” Oscar winner Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace, who played “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” anti-hero in the Swedish version, “Prometheus” is a science-fiction flick about a late 21st century crew traveling through the cosmos on a quest to find the origins of human life. Fassbender plays a highly intelligent android who serves as a butler and maintenance man on the spaceship.

“We met, first of all, in 2008. [Scott] invited me to his office. He had seen ‘Hunger.’ He sees everything and still has that passion for films out there, like ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’  I remember him telling me about that at the time and so you get the offer and you think: ‘Oh, my God, this is amazing.  I have to go home and really start working and get prepared,’” the 35-year-old German-born Irishman told reporters during a recent press conference in Paris.

Fassbender, who was raised in Killarney, Co. Kerry, said he approached the role in the Hollywood blockbuster “Prometheus” much the way he did his characters in the well-received independent films “A Dangerous Method,” “Jane Eyre” and “Shame,” and popular TV projects “Hex” and “Band of Brothers.”

“I really believe in preparing, preparing, preparing, so when I come on set I can allow things to happen, but have an idea of where I’m going with it. It was just a lot of fun,” the “X-Men: First Class” actor said of “Prometheus.”

“I was pretty nervous the first day,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what to expect and then it just became like play, really. And although we were both very serious about the work, it was a joy. No idea was stupid until we tried it and put it on the floor and took a look at it. If it worked, it worked. If it didn’t, it didn’t,” he explained. “But what is really impressive about Ridley and watching him work is you have 350 people on a set and each department has got to come and bring their top game to set and seeing somebody have an involvement and instilling passion in each of those departments is pretty amazing to witness and to have that precision in each department, to have the imagination and enthusiasm and energy, that’s what makes him a master. You have to be a ringmaster especially with something that size and magnitude.”

Asked if he looked at any of Scott’s previous sci-fi classics before he started shooting “Prometheus,” Fassbender replied: “I didn’t watch any of the ‘Aliens’ films before this.

“I’ve seen them all before,” he went on. “But for some reason, I decided not revisit them just before filming. We had some other ideas. I did watch ‘Blade Runner,’ funnily enough. There was something in the replicants that I thought was kind of interesting, particularly Sean Young’s character.”

The actor said he also found inspiration for David’s voice and movements in characters from the films “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Servant” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” as well as the style of Olympic diver Greg Louganis.

“Just certain images and people come to mind,” he said about breathing life into his robotic alter-ego. “[I wanted to] bring something totally different to it. I didn’t want to be influenced by what those guys had done in the earlier ‘Alien’ films.”

Scott, who was sitting beside Fassbender, Rapace and Theron at the press conference, said he hired the international stars because they are “free-thinking, free-moving artists, who think on their feet.”

Fassbender returned the compliment, noting Scott has a talent for capturing special, intangible interactions between actors on screen.

“We try and capture moments in cinema and you don’t know how they come. … A lot of directors don’t see it brewing in the atmosphere. … But Ridley is very attuned to it. So he’s like, ‘We’ve got to go now.’ He sees something happening within the actors and that something special is about to happen,” Fassbender observed.

 

“Prometheus” is in theaters now.

 

 

World-class faculty aids Catskills’ success

POSTED ON June 13th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Dan Gurney is one of the artists releasing a CD at next month’s Catskills Irish Arts Week.

This year marks the 18th annual Catskills Irish Arts Week, one of the country’s finest celebrations of Irish music and culture.  “The Catskills,” or CIAW for short, has become legendary in traditional Irish music circles.

Paul Keating (the week’s dynamo director) and I recently sat down and talked about CIAW’s past, present and future.  He explained that the week began as a one-day festival in Schoharie County, N.Y.  In those early years, the roadhouses and resorts in nearby East Durham were where festival-goers went for good, after-hours craic.  Three years in, the festival was invited to set up shop in East Durham, where it developed into the prestigious teaching week it has now become.

CIAW takes very much after the annual Willie Clancy week in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, in that classes are offered in the mornings and afternoons, lectures occur daily (this year’s schedule includes Matt Cranitch talking about Seamus Creagh, Fintan Vallely talking about the second edition of his “Companion to Irish Traditional Music” and Na Píobairí Uilleann’s executive director Gabe McKeon), CD and book launches happen regularly (Cathal McConnell’s new book “I Have Traveled This Country” will launch there, as will the new albums of Dylan Foley, Dan Gurney, Caitlinn NicGabhann, Catherine McEvoy and Dermot Byrne), concerts and céilithe take place nightly, and there are all the sessions one can handle.  The week comes to a close with a day-long festival named after legendary New York fiddler Andy McGann, where all the instructors (and then some) perform.  It’s a grand event.

The week’s success is due, in great measure, to its large, world-class faculty.  CIAW has an unusually expansive teaching staff, and Keating boasts of counting the likes of old-style concertina player Dymphna O’Sullivan, fiddler Mick Conneely, singer Michael Black (of the famous Black family of singers) and set dance teacher Padraig McEneany among this year’s names.  The international reputation of CIAW’s instructors has helped attract people from all over the United States, Canada, and overseas.

The week’s success is also aided by the spirit of camaraderie it inspires.  The environment is non-competitive and nurturing.  At the seemingly innumerable sessions, for example, young people sit alongside top musicians; they learn the music and make lifelong bonds with real people as well as with their heritage – it’s the kind of experience that brings people back year after year.

 

But like so many music and culture weeks across the country, CIAW still needs support from the community at large.  Diminished arts funding from granting organizations combined with a lagging economy threaten to conspire against even the most noble of efforts (especially if these efforts include bringing artists in from overseas).  Help support the week by attending the public concerts and attending the Andy McGann Festival on July 21.  It’s great music, and it’s important that the outlets that present it are properly looked after!

Speaking of great music, fiddle player Matt Mancuso and singer and guitarist Patsy O’Brien (both of the Cathy Ryan Band) have released a marvelous new album called “Road Work” that uses a diverse array of stylistic influences to breathe fresh creative air into well-trod classics.

Half the album’s tracks are purely instrumental and are very much about Mancuso’s fiddle playing.  Mancuso is a daring and adroit player who has an adventurous approach to ornamentation and variation, which is especially apparent on tracks like “Kincora Jigs” (which ends in a soaring version of “Seanamhac Tube Station”) and “Dumphy’s Wing” (which has some fiddle passages one might call “insane”).  O’Brien’s role isn’t to be overlooked, however.  A handy guitarist with a sophisticated harmonic and stylistic palette, he adds a jazzy flair to many of these tracks and matches Mancuso’s energy well.

The songs, however, are where O’Brien shines.  His is a confident and smooth voice that conveys a charming intimacy.  For this album, O’Brien has selected a handful of rather conspicuous numbers that showcase his voice well.  But instead of running roughshod through these well-worn songs (as you’ve doubtless heard others do many times before), he transforms them.  For example, his hip arrangement of “Rocky Road to Dublin” (which is a slip jig) slips into a waltz-like feel at times, whereas “Black is the Color” receives a jazzy, almost bossa nova treatment.  Further, the classic “I Know My Love” is bookended by a shimmery, impressionistic riff that sets a plaintive tone, while the darker and harder “Madam I’m a Darlin’,” which features Mancuso’s smart fiddle accompaniment, has a vibe that would appeal equally to country/Americana and Irish traditional audiences.

Ultimately, “Road Work” is an excellent album from a pair of high level players who very clearly share a kindred stylistic bond.

For more information go on the 2012 Catskills Irish Arts Week, which takes place from July 15-21, go to http://www.catskillsirishartsweek.org

Kearns’s ‘Wilderness’ finds poetry in concrete

POSTED ON June 13th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Stephen Jangro and Cristina Torres star in “In the Wilderness.”

 

“In the Wilderness” * Written By John Kearns * Directed by Richard P. Butler * Starring Stephen Jangro and Cristina Torres * The Theatres at 45 Bleecker St. (between Lafayette and Mott), NYC * Remaining dates, Thursday, June 14 at 10 p.m. and Sunday, June 17 at 2 p.m.

From the moment the girls of St. Philomena’s high school begin to “conversate,” as one of them later puts it, we are transported to the South Bronx. The hip thrusts, the exaggerated hand gestures channeling rap videos, the dialogue, all hit just the right note and reassure the audience that it is in safe hands to be led through the concrete jungle depicted in the play “In the Wilderness.”

The author knows his territory. John Kearns, playwright and novelist, taught in the South Bronx in the 1980s, the period in which the play is set.

In reality, the crack epidemic has peaked but this area, sitting on affluent Manhattan’s doorstep, still encompasses the poorest zip code in the U.S.

Kearns’s play is running as a fundraiser for a Bronx charity the Mercy Center and as part of a theater festival created to use theater for social activism: Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, now in its fourth year.Under those circumstances, you might expect something worthy but dull. Fear not, if you plan to attend one of the two remaining performances in this short run.

In making its point, the play is fast paced and witty—like the streetwise kids Paul Logan (Stephen Jangro) has come to teach. Within his first year on the job his lofty goal of saving his 100 charges has been reduced to a desire to make a difference to one. Sensitive Carmen Marquez (Cristina Torres) shows real talent as a writer and Mr. Logan is happy to give her extra tuition.

Maybe too happy. ‘”Who is saving whom?” the play asks and, ultimately, Can anyone be saved?”

The play likens Mr. Logan’s labors to those of Sisyphus, the character in Greek mythology forced to roll a boulder up a hill… and then to start over, unrelentingly. Other characters, including Carmen, have soliloquies in which they, too, see themselves as Sisyphus.

Spoiler alert: one of the last times we see Carmen she expresses in her soliloquy the temptation to let the boulder go. Mr. Logan and the audience both are just as swiftly let down in the play’s abrupt ending. It’s unsatisfying, yet somehow apt.

Back at the bottom, like Sisyphus, Mr. Logan ends the play with the question, “What do I do now?”  And the audience can almost hear Samuel Beckett answer, “You must go on”.

Unlike Beckett, Kearns has a light touch, so it’s a playful trip to a serious conclusion. The writing flirts with the scenario of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine,” as Carmen and Mr. Logan, just eight years her senior, describe showing each other their poems. They don’t cross the line, but Carmen underscores it with perfect lip-biting, lid-batting, bursting enthusiasm, as when she asks: “You saw my similes?!”

Student Tawana (Nirayl Wilcox) and teacher Bill Thorpe (Edward Raube-Wilson) also stood out among generally excellent actors.

Hannah Timmons’s character, Ms. Farrell, it should be said, was jarring and distracting in several respects, especially in a poorly directed scene where the adults in the school inexplicably yell at a distressed child.

This pivotal scene where we learn that Carmen has begun skipping school is way overdone by Mr. Logan and Ms. Farrell. And it concludes without exploring why Carmen had a mystery doctor’s visit in a play that has unwanted pregnancy as a drumbeat.

Still, the off-notes do not overwhelm a play that is more entertaining, and more worthy, than most Broadway shows.

 

Shilelagh fans lay down the Law

POSTED ON June 13th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

The members of Shilelagh Law with Connolly's owner Bernie Reilly.

In the Spring of 2001 I was working as in intern at WFUV radio for their Sunday Irish music program, Ceol na nGael. I spent my Sunday afternoons talking to listeners on the phone, answering their questions, fielding their requests, and sometimes just chatting about Irish music. But that Spring a whole new category of calls started coming in – it was the Shilelagh Law Hot line. The phones lines were flooded with calls from burly sounding guys with heavy New York accents asking me “When are you going to play Shilelagh Law?” As I scrambled to pick up calls, I admit that half of me wanted to smash the phone against the wall, but the other half couldn’t wait to go see them play live and experience for myself what this band was all about.

So that’s just what I did. The night I saw the band play live for the first time I was floored. I remember getting back to my dorm room in the wee hours of the morning and writing them an email to let them know just how much their music and their energy impressed me. I learned A couple of things that Spring – that Shilelagh Law fans are crazy, loyal, and full of passion for Irish music and New York City, and that I was one of them.

In a recent conversation with the band’s lead singer Rich Popovic, I found out that I wasn’t the only one getting pressure from Shilelagh Law fans. Supporters of Shilelagh Law have been asking the band for a live recording for years, and they have finally gotten it with the release of “Shilelagh Law Live at Connolly’s.” It’s a 19 track disc that was recorded over three nights at a venue that has a long history of supporting the band, Connolly’s Klub 45 room in Midtown Manhattan. And as if packing hundreds of Shilelagh Law fans into their favorite venue for three nights of music wouldn’t generate enough excitement, the band decided to orchestrate the recording during the most magical and celebratory time in NYC – the Christmas Season.

Popovic gave me some insight into how the CD was made. During the planning stage Rich and the rest of the band, Denis & Kevin McCarthy, Terrence Brennan, and Steve Gardner, decided which songs they would perform over the three nights at Connolly’s – not an easy task for a group that has accumulated so many hits during their fifteen years playing together. Then came the fun part when both long-time and new fans gathered to provide the special ingredients: the chorus of voices singing along, the clinking glasses, and the thunders of cheers, all the sounds that add to the spirit and energy of a live Shilelagh Law performance. When all was said and done, the band had a lot of raw audio to revisit, but in an effort to provide an accurate representation of what an audience would hear at a live show, the band decided there would be limited post-production work. When Popovic spoke about creating a live feel on the album he admitted “it’s not gonna be perfect, but the energy will be great.

The end result is CD is packed with the most rousing recordings of fan favorites like “When New York Was Irish,” “Fields of Athnry/Moonshiner,” and “Songs to Sing.” Mixed in with their fierce performances of popular pub songs, are some tender original tunes such as their well loved 9/11 song, “Christmas in New York,” and the beautifully written “Pubs, Pints, and Open Doors” – a song that Popovic was moved to write after experiencing the warmth and hospitality of Ireland. “Shilelagh Law Live at Connolly’s” is a collection of traditional and original songs, songs about New York and about Ireland, songs about music and friendship, but what is evident on every track is that these guys are New Yorkers who love their city and the music of their Ancestors, and that they have some serious fans.

For the live Shilelagh Law experience head to Yonkers to see them play at Rory Dolans on June 15th, or pick up Shillelagh Law Live at Connolly’s on their website halfthebottle.com.

For more Irish sounds around town this week check out Flogging Molly on 6/14 at the Paramount in Huntington and Mary Courtney at Tir na Nog in Trenton, N.J., on 6/15.

 

Hometown heroes to star in Irish 2000

POSTED ON May 23rd  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Hair of the Dog’s 10th album is “Liam Left the Lights on Again.”

For two days in mid -September the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa, N.Y., will host the 16th annual Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival.  Ranked one of the top five Irish Festivals in the United States, the 2012 Irish 2000 line- up features big names like Ashley MacIsaac, the Makem and Spain Brothers, and Enter the Haggis.  It’s a thrill that New York State is home to such an affair, and while festival goers will likely marvel over the fast fiddle playing of Ashley MacIsaac and revel in the Irish folk sounds of the Makem and Spain Brothers, I suspect that a lot of the excitement will surround Hair of The Dog, hometown heroes who just recently released their 10th (and what many fans are saying is their best) album, “Liam Left the Lights on Again.”

Hair of The Dog, a sextet based in Upstate New York, has been playing together since 1993. Though they classify themselves as a Celtic folk/rock band, the musical resumes of the members include everything from studying at Boston’s famed Berklee School of Music to playing with the ‘50s style rock band Sha Na Na and performing with Marshall Crenshaw and Gene Clark of The Byrds. Some of the band members played Irish music in their previous lives – bassist and vocalist Rick Bedrosian was a member of The McKrells & Donnybrook Fair, bodhran/ guitar player and vocalist Mike DeAngelis and banjo player John Haggerty played with the popular Irish band, The Porters.  Despite their varied musical pasts, when the six men came together to play Irish music in 1993 they definitely found something that worked.

With their Celtic Rock status in mind, I spun “Liam Left the Lights On Again” for the first time the other day. While I was anticipating a loud, wild, freight train kind of a sound, what I heard was quite different. With their original twists on traditional songs like “Handsome Molly” and “Three Drunken Maidens,” a couple of well-written original tunes, and a nod to Van Morrison with a solid rendition of “Into the Mystic,” the album in its entirety is simply a delight to listen to. I love the strong folk influence that shines through on the album, and their inclusion of “The Rolling Waves,” a pretty jig that really showcases the band’s ability play traditional Irish tunes. After 19 years together, “Liam Left the Light On Again” is a wonderful culmination of the band members’ varied musical pasts, and their inclination towards the music of Ireland. Well done, lads!

You can catch a set by Hair of the Dog if you’re up in East Durham this weekend for the Memorial Day Weekend Irish Festival. Also this week, check out Morning Star at Tir na Nog in NYC on May 25th and Finbar Furey at Joe’s Pub in NYC on May 29th.

 

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