Traditional Irish Music
It’s funny what catches your eye these days, especially when it comes to the online presentation of music. Crag Road are a new group that have recently released a debut video to announce their arrival. It’s refreshing to see artists bring that little extra bit of creative flair to their online presentation. Online traditional videos have in the main suffered in the quality department. This is correcting itself of late and Crag Road’s debut shows what dual cameras some laid back music and some tasty editing can achieve. While Crag Road will no doubt consider it to be just part of what they do, to others it adds an extra touch to some great music and it shows that a little extra effort goes a long way in creating a better sense of what the group are about.
Crag Road consists of Eoin O’ Neill on bouzouki, Quentin Cooper on guitar, banjo and fiddle, Aoibheann Queally on concertina and singer and bodhrán player Nóirin Lynch. Eoin O’ Neill and Quentin Cooper have a bit of a track record of appearing in videos that bring that little extra to the table. Ger Hoyne’s Looking for Love and The Ceili Bandits Rain & Snow were two standout videos over the last year or so.
We spoke to their bodhrán player Nóirin Lynch about how they came together and the music they play. She explains that as a group they have been playing music together for a while at local sessions including the renowned Brogans in Ennis. “We discovered that we all enjoyed playing steady tunes together” she says, "mixed with the occasional song. We found a style, or maybe a mix of instruments, that seems to bring out a sweetness in these well-known tunes. Chatting one evening about how nice it was to be able to really relax and ‘hear’ the tunes this way, we decided to record a few tracks together.”
The Crag Road Facebook page refers to something ‘interesting and fresh’ so we ask how this is achieved and how will it set Crag Road apart. “Every time a different group of musicians play a tune together, they bring something new. As Crag Road, I think we have found a balance of simplicity and respect for the music that seems to be a pleasure both for us and for those listening. There is a relaxed confidence playing together that sees Aoibheann bring concertina to a song, or has Quentin play his 1930’s Gibson guitar for a concertina tune. Bouzouki and bodhrán back softly, offering a canvas as opposed to a rigid frame for the notes, leaving space for the tune to breathe. We think that this is music for people who want to listen to traditional music. Like a good session, we want to open the circle so listeners share in the warmth of the tune or song.”
"The unrehearsed tune combined with the great listeners, dancers and singers in Brogans creates some truly special moments that we think are worth sharing".
I refer to “pure trad” as a possible description of what they will be playing and Nóirin quickly picks up on it stating that defining such a description would prove difficult. She goes on to explain “that it’s impossible to keep human character out of music, especially if you want to play music from your soul. So it’s always a mix. What matters is respect for the people who taught us and for the music we share. The four of us in Crag Road love to play well known traditional tunes in a simple, clean way so that the tune is not over-ornamented and the backing remains soft and supportive. Is that pure trad? We bring instruments together in a way that sounds fresh and interesting and our songs are contemporary Irish tales of love, family and hope. Perhaps that counts as a different genre? Whatever the genre, it’s a happy time for us to be playing these lovely tunes together as a group. We would like to share that with people in venues where people can listen to music in comfort and feel part of what we are creating.”
As artists Crag Road are more concerned with being true to the music in the knowledge that from that, everything else flows. In their debut video I see artistic merit but to them it’s just a natural part of the process in this modern age. “The focus is on playing music we love” Noirin explains, “and sharing that with the listener in such a way that they feel part of the experience, not merely observers. There is a warmth and simplicity that we hope is inviting and encouraging. We want to share with the listener our love for the music we are lucky enough to play, and we hope we’ll get the chance this year to travel and do just that.”
Their inspiration comes from the occasion, the togetherness and the moments of magic that come when all the stars align and everything works. They create a different history and musical experience together and have really enjoyed playing at the various sessions this year. “The unrehearsed tune combined with the great listeners, dancers and singers in Brogans creates some truly special moments that we think are worth sharing. Crag Road is a celebration of that spirit, an invitation for the listener to pull up a chair and join us in enjoying the beautiful tradition that we are lucky enough to be part of.”
There is always something interesting in picking up on new groups and following their path of musical exploration. The tradition is a constant stream of new ensembles, duets and trios, each with distinctive identities. Crag Road will be one to watch in 2014 and we will look out for their new album. Nóirin confirms that they have recorded some songs and tunes together and hope to have the album available around March 2014. They also have a Facebook Page ( Crag Road ) to keep people informed.
Luka Bloom has asked Crag Road to be his special guest along with Yvonne Casey for his concert in Glór in Ennis on March 6th. This will be a must-attend-evening with tracks from new albums by Luka, Yvonne and of course a first outing for Crag Road.
Tickets for the concert can be purchased at http://purchase.tickets.com
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