Category: Saint Patrick’s Day

Irish Singer-Songwriters Week, Vol 2: Women’s Voices
(A St. Paddy’s Day Who’s Who of Irish Coverfolk)

March 16th, 2010 — 10:41 pm

Sunday, we started off Irish Singer-Songwriter’s Week with a feature on Irishmen under 40 and a promise of more to come. Today, on the cusp of St. Patrick’s Day itself, we fulfill that promise in spades, with music of and from a full compliment of young Irish lasses, and – at post’s end – links to a full set of revived past features on U2, Sinead O’Connor, and Celtic Punk. Enjoy…and may the luck of the Irish be with ye!

    Sinéad Lohan seems to be an artist lost to time; my father knew the name, but her website address has been taken over by a “Quality Engineer at Apple Computer” named George. It doesn’t help that Lohan only recorded two albums, both before she turned 21, leaving the limelight before the turn of the century to focus on motherhood; rumors of a third album – supposedly recorded in 2004 and in production in 2007 – swirled around the fanbase in the last few years, but no such album seems to have emerged.
    But if the public has missed her, her musical peers have not: Lohan, whose 1995 debut was recorded at the tender age of 17, was first covered by Joan Baez two years afterwards, and the coverage continued well into the millennium. The perfect countrypop ballad Lohan makes of Dylan’s To Ramona, which appears on the last installment of the A Woman’s Heart series, is a fine showcase for her clear, emotive vocals; the two bonus tracks – the first a driving popfolk, the other languid and bluegrassy – speak exquisitely to the universality of her lyrics.

    Popfolk keyboardist Gemma Hayes, born in Tipperary in 1977 and now based in Dublin, is relatively well known in the indie crowd, thanks to multiple soundtrack appearances, plenty of love from European charts and stages, and the above collaboration with Norwegian electrofolkie Magnet, which appeared in the film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Her Sade cover, recorded in 2005 for the radio, is a lovely rough-cut slice of pensive singer-songwriter folk, reminiscent of Jonatha Brooke’s best and quietest work, sweetly transformed and beautiful with yearning; the gentle, pulsing Kate Bush cover – a triumph of interpretation that channels the best of Bush’s distinctive tones while retaining the restrained delicacy of Hayes’ natural delivery – is her most recent release, a 2009 holiday gift to the universe recorded live in Dublin.

    Wallis Bird is the youngest of today’s featured Irish Lasses; born in ’82, she works out of London, but we won’t hold that against her. New Boots, her sophomore release, has been out in Ireland since July, but it just hit the streets of mainland Europe on Monday; at first listen, with one or two softer exceptions, it’s a great high-production poprock romp, with wailing vocals, fast-paced, practically anthemic arrangements, and heavy drums and guitar, ideal for mainstream radioplay and a far cry from the folkworld. Still, her 2008 cover of Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough, originally recorded for an ad campaign for UK newsrag The Sun, comes off gleeful, jangly and rough, like an acoustic take from an Irish KT Tunstall, with a hint of whistle and squeezebox. Gorgeous.

    We reviewed Irish-born songstress Heidi Talbot ages ago, as a part of a feature on Compass Records, and featured both her Tom Waits cover and her Tim O’Brien cover from 2008 Indie Acoustic award-winning album In Love + Light in recent features on the gentlemen in question, so I’ll not dwell too much on her today, save to point out that this wonderful album has been in the CD changer in my car for ages, and it’s going to stay for ages, too. The aforementioned really are her best non-original works, but this Ink Spots cover is a great crooner’s ballad, if a bit warbly; her take on tradsong Bedlam Boys is delicious, too, and about as traditional as we’ll get today.

    As promised on Sunday, we close tonight’s set with a few recent works from Lisa Hannigan, who made her name as an essential companion to Damien Rice, but set out on her own in 2007 after being booted mid-tour due to ongoing tensions about the direction of their musical journey together. Courting Blues, a Bert Jansch cover, is the sole non-original on her debut solo album Sea Sew, and it’s a mystical, moody gem, with smooth, warm vocals floated upon cello squeaks and fluttery drums. Meanwhile, Hannigan’s cover of Disco classic Upside Down is nigh impossible to find in the States – send it along if you’ve got it! – so in its stead, I’ve included a favorite piece from her work with Rice which, while wildly different in tone, sits exceptionally well in the ears, and suits the month to boot.

    As a bonus: I don’t know much about classically-trained Irish cellist-turned-singer-songwriter Vyvienne Long, except that she has covered several indierock tunes, has also toured with Damien Rice as a string and piano player, and seems to have a knack for sparse, moody arrangements. Reportedly, her newest album dropped last week in Ireland, too. Mostly, though, I just couldn’t resist throwing this White Stripes cover in.

Previously on St. Patrick’s Day (all download links now LIVE and REVIVED!)

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Irish Singer-Songwriters Week, Vol 1: Male Voices
(A St. Paddy’s Day Who’s Who of Irish Coverfolk)

March 14th, 2010 — 08:40 am

Previously on St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve covered Sinead O’Connor, U2, and Celtic Punk; there’s an autumnal feature from the 2008 ICONS Irish Music festival lurking in the archives, too, with coverfolk offerings from Solas, Luka Bloom, The Tannahill Weavers, and Alison Brown. In honor of the holiday, on Wednesday, March 17th, we will be reviving long-dead download links on all four of those older posts, so don’t forget to return on St. Pat’s Day itself for a full Irish breakfast of fine acoustic music.

But there’s certainly more to be found in the Irish music scene than the obvious cask-aged choices which have made it across the pond. This week, to broaden the base a bit, we turn our ears and hearts to the predominantly post-millennial coverfolk of a younger generation of under-40 solo singer-songwriters – some familiar, others new – who carry the rich blood and accents of the motherland in their hearts and their music.

The week’s offerings are nothing exhaustive, of course; with Ireland’s rich musical tradition, there’s entire blogs devoted to the stuff. Those interested in a more comprehensive look at the Irish music scene from the ground would do well to start with fan favorite 2 U I Bestow, whose host has introduced me to many fine acts from the Emerald Isle.

But you have to start somewhere, and as with any set, I’ve got my own preferences to offer up. So here’s a taste of the young Irish folk who tickle my fancy: we’ll cover the men today, and offer a set of female voices to follow later in the week.

    Born in Dublin in 1971, Mark Geary won a green card by lottery in the mid-nineties, moved to New York City, and soon found himself a regular at Sin É alongside Jeff Buckley and other rising stars. Despite his years in the states, however, Geary retains his connections to the motherland, most recently performing at the Whelans 20th Anniversary celebrations in order to promote his late 2009 live album Live Love Lost It – NYC. This U2 cover comes from the tripartite Irish radio cover compilation series Even Better Than The Real Thing; for more U2 covers from Irishmen and others, don’t forget to check out last year’s St Pat’s post.

    Damien Dempsey, born and raised in the Dublin suburbs, champions the plight of the Irish underclass through music that melds traditional Irish folktunes and other myriad influences with a contemporary, almost Celtic punk sensibility. His many appearances on the aforementioned in-studio cover compilation series are a bit raw for me, but his studio work seems much more stable; as evidence, this b-side take on Fly Me To The Moon balances the vocal mannerisms of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself with a ragged Irish singer-songwriter’s gleeful soul. Also highly recommended, if a bit more traditional: Dempsey’s 2008 all-covers release The Rocky Road.

    Platinum-selling Irish recording artist Declan O’Rourke slammed onto the scene post-millennium with an October 2004 debut Since Kyabram; since then, he’s played with Snow Patrol and Bic Runga on tour, opened for Bob Dylan, and found his work covered on two successive albums by Folk/Pop Scotswoman Eddi Reader. The U2 cover here is from Even Better Than The Real Thing, Vol. 3; Little Girl In Bloom is from a lovely tribute to fellow Irishman Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzie.

    Galway-raised, Malta-born Dubliner Adrian Crowley, cited by Ryan Adams in 2005 as “the best singer-songwriter that no one’s heard of”, is part of the new breed of indiefolk musicians, artists equally adept in the delicate world of lo-fi bedroom folk and the often strange realm of studio production, in which electronic elements and traditional instruments interact fluidly, and atmospheric tones reign supreme. This track, one of a full album’s worth of James Yorkston covers which accompanied the release of Yorkston’s When The Haar Rolls In, takes one of my favorite compositions and treats it with delicacy and respect.

    Glen Hansard turns forty in April, making him barely eligible for our list, but we’d be lost without him; well-known for his cinematic roles both recent (Once) and historical (The Commitments), the man is the only Irish-born artist to hold an Oscar for Best Song, and his work – as a solo artists and as a founding member of The Frames – has made him a staple of the Irish music scene for over two decades. The Dylan cover is a well known soundtrack take from 2007; the Van Morrison is a live WFUV in-studio take from the same year; the Pixies cover is from a 2002 live concert in the Czech Republic.

    We’ve featured multiple covers of and from Damien Rice in our time together, most notably when he channelled Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah for Leonard Cohen’s 2008 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; his version of U2′s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For features prominently in last year’s St. Patrick’s Day set. I’m planning on featuring his well-known long-time touring companion Lisa Hannigan on Wednesday when we turn our sights to Irish lasses, too. But who can resist his takes on Radiohead and Prince?

Cover Lay Down will return on Wednesday with a coverfolk set from some younger Irish lasses…and links to four full previous-years’ St. Patrick’s Day posts to boot!

1,840 comments » | Holiday Coverfolk, Saint Patrick's Day