Traditional Irish Music
Welcome to the Tradconnect Official Album Launch series. For members and readers this series of articles will introduce you to a new traditional album for the first time. We are working with artists to bring a little bit more excitement to the “online launch”. The first time that artists share a track from a new recording with their audience is important and we are delighted to bring these new exclusive tracks to you.
Skipper’s Alley is the self titled debut release by Dublin band Skipper’s Alley. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work for this 7 piece band. We have been following their progress since they released an EP last year and spoke to them again about the process of recording this debut. They said that the recording process itself was a huge, but rewarding learning curve involving eight long days in the studio. ‘As it was a live recording, we had to get used to being cordoned off and not being able to see one another. Other things like learning to trust a headphone mix over the natural sounds in the room proved a little bit difficult at first. In all, though, the process had its tough days but nothing that impacted too negatively on the music’.
In our conversation with Macdara Yeates he said that ‘Working with Trevor Hutchinson was a real treat. Outside of his deep understanding of music and the recorded format, he has a perfect sense of the rhythms of the studio day, as well as knowing how to manage time and stress. If ever he feels like we’re getting tired or going round in circles on a particular track, he moves on with a view to revisit it at a later stage. His method serves to get the best possible performances out of his musicians and his experience really stands to him.’
Working out arrangements for a 7 piece band can be tricky. A lot of their writing process begins with improvisation, where someone starts a tune and people join in playing the first thing that comes into their heads, according to Macdara who is both a bodhrán and guitar player with the band.
‘That freedom’ he said ‘can be liberating and often produces some of our best stuff. You can however also produce a lot of messy and unkempt material, especially with seven different voices all fighting to be heard. That’s where a dictaphone comes in handy. The very privilege of being able to review what you’re playing provides the kind of clarity you don’t get in a practice room. By listening back and scrutinising the material, we can take a 20-minute improvised jam session and edit it into a concise, measured 4 or 5-minute set.’
Here is track 10 off the album called ‘Peggy on the Settle’
Macdara goes on to say that ‘As far as mixing is concerned, I know Trevor had a good few head-scratching moments over the course of the recording. With so many atmospheric parts and counter melodies, a mix can often seem really cluttered and muddy, so much so you’d be inclined to cut out certain lines. That said, it was usually just a case of deciding which parts had the most impact and letting them take the lead. Once that was established, each of the mixes really started to come to life.’
We asked Macdara to pick a couple of favourite tracks, which is always difficult. ‘Well, speaking for myself,' he said, 'some of the more off-kilter tracks like Buachaillín Deas Óg Mé and Conor Tully’s have a particular resonance with me. The others might feel differently, but I think we wanted to make an album that could be both precise and measured in places as well as wild and visceral in others and I think these tracks best capture that idea. That said, some of the softer, sparser pieces like Boys, From Home and Fáinne Geal an Lae are definitely up there. There’s a certain juxtaposition between these tracks and the livelier ones that I think we’re all quite proud of.'
The band members are John Flynn, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, Eilís Lavelle, Ultan O'Brien, Macdara Yeates, Fionnán Mac Gabhann and Paddy Cummins
To hear the full album click the Bandcamp logo below
You can also visit www.skippersalley.ie for more information.
Produced by : Trevor Hutchinson
Mastered by : Tim Martin
Artwork by : Ste Murray
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