Tag Archives: The Chieftains

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE CHIEFTAINS- ‘Celtic Harp’

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After 57 remarkable years as the world’s most influential and successful traditional Irish folk band, The Chieftains continue to explore new and unusual passageways for Irish music collaborating with some of modern music’s fastest rising artists, reinterpreting for old and new generations alike, what the music means today while hinting where it might lead tomorrow. Here on Celtic Harp they lead a tribute to the work of Edward Bunting with the Belfast Harp Orchestra.

The Chieftains are a traditional Irish band formed in Dublin in 1963, by Paddy Moloney, Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy. Their sound, which is almost entirely instrumental and largely built around uilleann pipes, has become synonymous with traditional Irish music and they are regarded as having helped popularise Irish music across the world. They have won six Grammys during their career and they were given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2002. Some music experts have credited The Chieftains with bringing traditional Irish music to a worldwide audience, so much so that the Irish government awarded them the honorary title of ‘Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors’ in 1989. The band’s name came from the book Death Of A Chieftain by Irish author John Montague. Assisted early on by Garech Browne, they signed with his company Claddagh Records. They needed financial success abroad, and succeeded in this, as within a few years their third album’s sleeve note section was printed in three languages.

Paddy Moloney came out of Ceoltóirí Chualann, a group of musicians who specialised in instrumentals, and sought to form a new band. They had their first rehearsals at Moloney’s house, with David Fallon and Martin Fay joining the original three. The group remained only semi-professional up until the 1970s and by then had achieved great success in Ireland and the United Kingdom. In 1973, their popularity began to spread to the United States when their previous albums were released there by Island Records. They received further acclaim when they worked on the Academy Award-winning soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon, which triggered their transition to the mainstream in the US. The group continued to release successful records throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and their work with Van Morrison in 1988 resulted in the critically acclaimed album Irish Heartbeat. They went on to collaborate with many other well-known musicians and singers; among them Pavarotti, the Rolling Stones, Sinéad O’Connor and Roger Daltrey.

In 2012, they celebrated their 50th anniversary with an ambitious album and tour. The album, Voice Of Ages, was produced by T-Bone Burnett and featured the Chieftains collaborating with many musicians including Bon Iver, Paolo Nutini and The Decemberists. It also included a collaboration with NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman playing the flute aboard the International Space Station as it orbited the earth.

The Chieftains- Kevin Conneff- Bodhrán, Vocals * Paddy Moloney- Uilleann Pipes, Tin-Whistle, Button Accordion, Bodhrán * Matt Molloy- Flute, Tin-Whistle *

Paddy Moloney is the band’s leader, and composes or arranges most of the band’s music. While the band’s members changed numerous times in the band’s early history, the membership solidified in 1979 when Matt Molloy replaced Michael Tubridy. From then until 2002, members included the current band of Paddy Moloney, Matt Molloy and Kevin Conneff and also Seán Keane (fiddle, tin whistle), Martin Fay (fiddle, bones) and Derek Bell (Irish harp, keyboard instruments, oboe). In 2002, Fay retired from active membership. In the same year, Bell died due to complications following a minor operation. Fay died on 14 November 2012. The band continue to play regularly around the world and are one of the headline acts at this years Liverpool Feis alongside such great and diverse acts as Shane MacGowan, Flogging Molly and The Undertones.

The Celtic Harp was released in 1993 and produced by head Chieftain Paddy Maloney. The Celtic Harp is essentially a showcase for the very talented harpist Derek Bell who handled all of the arrangements, as well as contributed harpsichord and tiompan to the proceedings. Fine solos from flute God Matt Malloy (‘Parting of Friends/Kerry Fling’), vocalist Kevin Conneff (‘Green Fields of America’), and pipe player Maloney (‘T’Aimse ‘Im Chodladh’) give the album a definite Chieftain feel, but The Celtic Harp belongs to Bell, who infuses each note with the subtlety and grace of a true master. Five of the tracks on this album were recorded in Frank Zappa’s home studio before he died with Kevin Conneff’s ‘The Green Fields of America’ being a personal favourite of his. Two months later, the album was completed in Windmill Lane Studios with The Belfast Harp Orchestra with whom they had played and recorded a very successful show in London’s Barbican Centre a few months previously. ‘The Celtic Harp’ won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Traditional Folk Album’ in 1994.

EDWARD BUNTING

Edward Bunting was born in February 1773 at Armagh, the youngest of the three children of a mining engineer at Dungannon colliery in Coalisland. In 1782 he went to live with his organist brother Anthony in Drogheda, continuing his musical education. In 1784 he moved to Belfast as apprentice to William Ware, organist at St Anne’s. There he rapidly demonstrated his musical talent, becoming deputy organist, and, although still a boy, coached many of Ware’s adult pupils.

Bunting lodged for the next thirty-five years in Donegall Street with the McCracken family. In 1792 a festival of the last of the great Irish harpers was held in Belfast in the Assembly Rooms (later Northern Bank), and Bunting was given the task of copying their music which he eventually published in three volumes. In the early years of the nineteenth century Bunting promoted several successful series of concerts in the town. St Anne’s was the only church in Belfast at that time with an organ, but in 1806 a second Presbyterian Church was built (demolished 1964) and, contrary to the usual practice in Presbyterian churches, an organ was installed. Bunting was appointed as the church’s organist. It was here that in 1813 he organised a great music festival at which a large portion of Messiah was performed for the first time in Belfast. In 1819 he married and moved with his wife to Dublin. He was organist at St Stephen’s, and later also a partner in a music warehouse. In 1827 he secured a well-paid position as organist at St George’s.

Although he was an intimate of the major figures in the Society of United Irishmen of the period, Henry Joy McCracken, Thomas Russell and Wolff Tone, Bunting avoided political entanglements. Without Bunting’s work our knowledge of tunes and techniques would be immeasurably poorer. Bunting’s own musical abilities were considerable. In 1795, on Wolfe Tone’s last night in Ireland, his rendition of ‘The parting of friends’ reduced Mrs Tone to tears. On 21 December 1843, mounting the stairs at home, he suffered a heart attack and died within an hour. He is buried at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin.

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THE HARP – NATIONAL EMBLEM OF IRELAND

The harp is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world and also the national emblem of Ireland.

It is believed the harp was introduced to pre-Christian Europe by the Phoenicians who brought it over from Egypt as one of their international trading goods. The oldest surviving Celtic harps date back to the 15th century but the music of the harp has been an important emblem to Ireland since the 10th century.

In the days of the old chieftains harpists were held in high regard. Stories were often told to the music of the harp and it encompassed the spirit of the country. Harpists used to travel the country of Ireland performing their folk songs and stories for the public.

The most famous of these was the blind harpist, Turlough O’Carolan. His compositions are still popular today through the work of groups like The Chieftains and Planxty.

In the 16th century the music of the harp was seen as such a threat that The British Crown attempted to crush the Irish Spirit by ordering all harps to be burnt and all harpists executed. It was almost 200 years before the music of the harp was freely enjoyed in Ireland once again.

In 1792, a festival was set up in an attempt to bring back the almost extinct tradition of the harp. Only 10 harpists attended. A young organist named Edward Bunting was hired to notate the harp music at the festival.

Bunting’s transcripts are the oldest records of traditional Celtic harp music in existence as it was the tradition to hand down the music orally through the generations. Sadly, with the harp being banned for so long, most of the music was lost.

Today the image of the harp as a national symbol of Ireland is almost as well recognised as the shamrock. It appears on the Irish Euro coins and is the logo for Guinness, considered by many to be Ireland’s national drink.

The Chieftains  WebSite  Facebook  LastFM  YouTube

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’

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The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

dubs

The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

dubliners

In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

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The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost and hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

ALBUM REVIEW: UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS- ‘Get The Folk Out’ (2014)

Italian celtic folk n’ roll from Büsti Grandi (Craggy Island)

Uncle Bard And The Bastards- 'Get The Folk Out!' (2014)

Long, long, long before hordes of Polish workers settled in Ireland it was the turn of the Italians who flocked to the dear auld sod. High wages, plenty of regular masses and the, now long deceased, ‘celtic tiger’ promised good opportunities for all that came. Among those Italians were members and friends of the band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards. With good mates in Ireland they saved the money and began to visit them regularly. Here’s how they put it

“Anyway, during those years we started collecting money and traveling once a month to Ireland, to meet old friends living there and spending the weekends rambling around and enjoying Irish music, culture and people. 

Day by day we found there what we were searching for in our entire life, something that would change us forever. That’s how we fell in love with Irish music and how we learned it”

So in 2007 the boys got together and with just a handful of songs set out on the path that would lead them all over Europe playing with not just the celtic-punk scene’s best bands but also some of the traditional scene’s as well. From dingy wee pub backrooms to rock festivals to mountain huts the bands brand of Italian celtic-punk has gone down an absolute storm everywhere they have set foot.

Back in 2012 after the release of their first album ‘Drinking Not Thinking’ they set out on a busking tour of Ireland, Wales and England  joining local musicians singing old-time stories on street corners. Returning home they were joined by world renowned Irish folk musician Luca Crespi who added uilleann pipes, tin whistle and the Irish flute to the bands repertoire. ‘Up The Bastards’ EP followed last year which brings us nicely up to date with the recently released album ‘Get The Folk Out!’.

The band members are Guido Domingo- vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán Lorenzo Testa- tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals, spoons Luca Crespi- tin whistle, uilleann pipes, Irish flute Silvano Ancellotti- electric and acoustic guitar, coarse vocals Uncle Bard- bass guitar, lamenting vocals and Francesco Fabris on drums. Lorenzo is the band’s main songwriter but most of the group have also written a song or two and all contributed to the songwriting process.

UncleBardTheDirtyBastards - Live pic

(from left to right): LUCA, LORENZO, FRANCESCO, GUIDO, SILVANO, ROB ‘Uncle Bard’.

The album is in fact a masterpiece. It straddles nicely both Irish trad and celtic-punk and easily fits into both genre’s. The addition of uilleann pipes moves the bands sound into something quite incredible. From the very start of the album as soon as ‘The Road’ kicks in with tin whistle and vocals soon joined by a whole host of Irish instruments showing that Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards surely know their onions. The following ‘Black Sheep’ is a bit more celtic-punk and more reminiscent of the Molly’s or The Tossers.

Normally we would try to give you a real feel for the album by going through all the tracks and giving you a wee description of each one but there’s not much point with this as it would just say “absolutely fecking brilliant” after each track title. As hard as it is to pick a few standout tracks on this amazing album ‘Green Shamrock Shore’, is one of them, about the death of the celtic tiger and the beginning of the end of Ireland’s boom years and sadly the end of Rob’s time in Ireland. A track laced with sadness but sung in that pint in the air way that fills both yer heart and yer ears. Even more incredible than the high standard of the music is that its mostly their own work too. Only two tracks are covers ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and the Man In Black’s ‘Ring Of Fire’, both of which are suitably twisted and turned by the band into something new and fresh and as far away from bog standard covers as could be possible without changing both the words AND the tune! Influences abound from Planxty to The Chieftains to the aforementioned Tossers and Flogging Molly but Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards are pretty well unique in the Euro celtic-punk scene and deserve to be fecking huge worldwide. Hopefully this album will achieve that. ‘Blue Velvet Glove’ showcases Luca and his haunting expertly played pipes. The songs last only two or three minutes each but there’s so much going on its hard for this reviewer to keep up. ‘The Rambling Bhoys’ is typical of the album with a lovely tune, clear and well sung vocals with lyrics you can easily understand.

‘Skedaddle’ is another great example, fast- slow- fast- slow the perfect song for having a breather and catching your breathe on the dance floor in between going nuts, spilling yer pint and bashing into people. ‘I Only Got One Pint’ is another Uncle Bards classic as is the following ‘Off In The Jacks’. The album ends with ‘Be’ the longest track on the album and begins with just vocals and mandolin before the band kick in and fill the air with the swirling sound of brilliantly played slow tempo Irish folk.

Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards

With fifteen songs that come in at just under a hour, the CD also comes in a very nice digipak with a whopping 16 page booklet including the song lyrics, pictures of every band member and some excellent liner notes containing introductions to all the songs. Do yourself a favour and fork out the bit extra hard earned for the CD copy of the album, you’ll not be disappointed.

Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards

Been playing this on repeat and from that very first moment it stills sounds as fresh as it did on that very first play. From the first few bars I realised I had come across something special. This is already my celtic-punk album of the year and I doubt they’ll be one better along anytime soon. The boys have an extraordinary feel for playing Irish music and I can honestly say I have never heard a non-Irish band sound so authentically Irish. I will be playing this for a long time yet and i simply cannot recommend enough that you get yer mitts on this album. If you don’t think it is “absolutely fecking brilliant” as well then you really have no place coming here!

So there they are, seven years and counting… still roving, still playing. And surely we can be grateful… too old to stop now!

Discography

Drinking Not Thinking – 2011, Up the Bastards! EP – 2013, Get The Folk Out! – 2014

Contact The Band 

Facebook  WebSite  Twitter  ReverbNation they have some pretty amazing videos too over at YouTube

Buy The Album

Compact Disc- From The Band  Download- Amazon  iTunes  

the ever always excellent Spanish blog ‘Celtic Folk Punk And More’ also wrote a review of the album here.

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