Traditional Irish Music
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In the liner notes to their debut album ‘The Birds Never Cease’ Liam Merriman & Eoin O’Meachair set out some background to the recording. They say “we decided to focus on songs and song melodies, and create an album that blends both new and older folk material. There has always been a great connection between Irish audiences and the art of song as portrayed by many of our singers and songwriters including Christy Moore, Maura O'Connell, and the late Liam Clancy and Christie Hennessy. One of the central aims of the project was to build on this connection by adding our own work to the canon of Irish folk songs. In terms of musical arrangements we are proud to take a lead from one of the many approaches pioneered by Irish folk icons Planxty, incorporating instrumental moments within the songs. This touches on the essence of our album, Liam's acoustic guitar and folk singing infused with Eoin's traditional playing of banjo, whistle and mandolin.”
Eoin O’Meachair will be best known for his work with Caladh Nua. However his connection and collaborations with Liam goes back many years. “We originally met as members of traditional Irish folk group Sile na Gig and went on to form Caladh, a trio with guitarist Steve Haberlain”, he said when we spoke to him.
“We worked folk residencies in Waterford and the South East and undertook overseas performances as well. As is often the case we gradually moved on to different projects, Steve emigrating to work on the English folk scene, Liam began recording solo albums and I founded Caladh Nua in 2009. A few years passed and I settled in Waterford city, which has a vibrant arts scene, and a good tradition of live folk music. We linked up again on the live circuit and the idea for the "The Birds Never Cease" began to form.
Liam says : “In the earlier incarnations it was always evident that our playing complimented each other and I was writing songs in an Irish folk style. Eoin, as a multi-instrumentalist raised in the Irish tradition, was the perfect collaborator to bring out the Irish identity infused in the work. This latest chapter of our journey began on the local folk scene and brought us all the way to Nashville.”
They chose to record the album at TJ Tunes in Nashville, the home of folk recording in Tennessee, with guitarist / producer Thomm Jutz. Artists like Nanci Griffith, Maura O'Connell, Marty Stuart and John Prine have all passed through the doors of this creative hub. Eoin says that “Thomm is a natural arranger with a terrific work ethic, and it is a studio where the song is placed at the centre of the creative recording process. Thomm's great love and knowledge of Irish folk music and of traditional American roots music made him the perfect choice as musical director and producer.”
They spent a considerable amount of time on Skype, planning and discussing the arrangements, after submitting demos of the material to Thomm. He recommended as their guest musicians, high calibre folk players like double bassist Mark Fain (Ry Cooder Band, Bruce Hornsby), Justin Moses on fiddle and 5 string banjo (Ricky Skaggs, Sierra Hull) and percussionist Lynn Williams (John Hiatt, The Wallflowers). “As folk and bluegrass players they displayed a deep understanding of our music which comes from the same root”, he says.
“Their individual input was considered and meticulously played, to enhance our core sound in an understated fashion. Their style of playing supported the Irish identity within each track, fulfilling our aims, ambitions and objective of recording an album of modern Irish contemporary and traditional folk music.”
“The album does aim to add support to the song side of the tradition” Eoin says. “Vocal groups in the style of The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners and The Pogues may be in shorter supply today than those following in the steps of the likes of The Chieftains, Altan and De Dannan. By going with songs and melodies, we hope, on this occasion, to highlight the song side of the tradition over the pure instrumental album.”
“One of the challenges for artists making records at the moment is getting the material heard on the National and global airwaves. While Radió na Gaeltachta champions traditional music and contemporary songs "as Gaeilge", it can be difficult to find a platform for contemporary Irish folk songs in a traditional style sung in the English language. Without the 'PR Machine' behind you and the support of a major label, it is a difficult task to reach your potential audience. National radio airplay can be a significant boost to a working musician's chance of earning a meaningful living versus a mediocre one.”
They took the name from a “line on track 6 on the album ‘Streams Of Bunclody’, a beautiful old Irish folk song both lyrically and melodically. It was only later that we noticed a number of birds nesting among the verses here and there: shearwaters, falcons, ravens, magpies and rooks always help to enhance the imagery of symbolism of the folk genre.
There are 14 tracks on the album bookended by two original songs, Dead Man's Trail and Postcards From Home. The opening track is rooted in folk imagery of hillside and dale, magpies, silver and gold, gypsy moons and the scent of woodbine. It is an allegorical tale about the never ending journey of the troubadour or nomadic wanderer. The Heather Blazing / Darling Girl is an instrumental offering which takes two vintage Irish song melodies (Boolavogue and The Darling Girl From Clare) and rearranges them in a way that brings out an Appalachian / bluegrass feel while holding on firmly to its Irish roots. Postcards From Home closes the album with a gentle and poetic anthem drawn from the spirit of the Irish landscape and the individual's connection to one's homeland.
This album will be launched at 7pm, Wednesday 23rd September in St.Patrick's Gateway Centre, Patrick Street, Waterford.
The album is available for purchase from their website www.liamandeoin.com
You can also download it from iTunes by clicking on the logo below
For Broadcasters that are part of our Download Centre it is FREE to Download. Follow the link below and ensure that you are signed in to Tradconnect.
Liam Merriman - Vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán
Eoin O'Meachair - Tenor banjo, mandolin, whistles, mandola, vocals
Thomm Jutz - Acoustic guitar, vocals
Mark Fain - Double bass
Lynn Willians - Percussion
Justin Moses 5 string banjo, fiddle
Recorded :Thomm Jutz
Recorded and mixed : Tj Tunes, Nashville
Mastered : Yes Master, Nashville
Artwork, design & duplication : Disc & Print, Waterford
Photography : Colm Henry
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