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Folk column: winter wonderful
Festival season may be over, but November promises a slew of fantastic gigs.
Greg McAteer, 14 Nov 2005
It’s been a great year for folk festivals. But with summer over, the live scene is finally winding down a little. That’s not to say that the coming months don’t hold their share of thrills. There’s plenty to excite folk fans this winter. You just have to know where to look.
The wonderful Kieran Goss, for instance, will be performing songs from his stunning new album, Blue Sky Sunrise, at Cork’s Opera House, November 23. According to the rumour mill, acclaimed Nashville native Kimmie Rhodes will be guest of honour at the concert.
A real highlight this winter will be the new album from the Quebec sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle (who charmed a packed Vicar Street in Dublin recently).
The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, features a snow-scape on its cover and traditional yule songs from Quebec. If it is as accomplished as their current release, the French lanuage La Vache Qui Pleure, then it promises to be a delight.
Also touring Ireland in November will be John Prine. His short trek around the country opens for business with a show in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on November 6.
He’ll be brightening up Belfast the following evening, with a concert in the Waterfront Hall, before making his way to Derry, where he’ll be performing at the Milennium Forum, November 9.
The following evening finds our boy onstage at Glor, Ennis. The tour culminates in Galway Town Hall, November 12.
Fans will have high expectations of these gigs. Although the album, Fair & Square, has been out for a while, this will be the first chance to see the songs live.
Amazingly, this is the first album he has produced himself. Coming almost nine years after its predecessor, the record sounds like the work of a perfectionist
He puts it reassuringly bluntly himself. “It was just time,” he says in his understated way. “I had a bunch of songs. I’d started recording 'em, and it turns out, I liked ‘em pretty well. So, now, I get to get ‘em all just the way I like ‘em. And then I get to let ‘em go out to meet the world.”
The album mixes songs about human relationships with some dry social and political commentary.
Prine is joined on a couple of numbers by Alison Krauss and alt-country princess Mindy Smith. It will be interesting to see how the album’s mix of electric guitar and wheezing Hammond organ translates in a live setting. For Prine, the song always comes first, so there’ll be no let-downs.
Lovers of quality country and American roots music will now find it easier to get their hands on the goods as Martin Goldsmith, of Cooking Vinyl, has launched a new imprint, Essential Music, and secured licencing deals with a number of American labels. His goal is to bring the likes of the Peasall Sisters and Bobby Bare this side of the Atlantic.
Having laid up at home in Sligo for a couple of weeks of hard earned rest after their third US tour this year, Dervish hit the road again for a slew of dates around Northern England and a stop off in London on November 10th.
In Belfast recently for a show at the Queen’s Festival, the Sligo six-piece recorded some songs for BBC TV’s forthcoming Blackstaff Sessions. The series will also feature Kieran Goss, Christie Hennessy and others.
Now, they are planning a return to the studio, to work on material for the follow up to 2003’s groundbreaking Spirit album.
The band are hoping to release the record next summer. Things promise to be busy between now and then.
Gráda continue their travels around the country, with gigs in Barry’s Public House in Grange, Co. Sligo on November 17th, Kilteel Hall, Naas, Kildare the next night and a Saturday night in Glór Irish Centre, Ennis on November 19.
The following weekend sees them visit An Creaggan Visitor Centre, Creggan, Omagh, Tyrone on the Friday, November 25 and the Stables, Mullingar on the Saturday night.
On Sunday, they start a three week residency in the Cobblestone Bar, in Dublin’s Smithfield. They will play afternoon shows on this and the following two Sundays.
December 23 sees the band visit musicians’ favourite, Campbell's Tavern, Cloughanover, Headford, Co. Galway.
Some of these venues are on the small side and likely to be shoehorning the punters in. Best, then, to get the tickets early.
Never one to stay long in the same place, Frankie Gavin has announced touring plans with a new four piece band. Alongside Gavin, the ensemble will feature old musical sparring-partner Carl Hession on keyboards, Tim Edey on guitar and Michelle Lally on vocals.
The four-piece will be supplemented, when the occasion arises, by a string quartet who’ll play the classical arrangements, written by Carl Hession.
We’re also likely to see some comamando-style gigs, featuring a stripped-back line-up of Gavin and Edey.
Altan head off to Holland in mid-November. But before doing so, they will play a one-off concert on November 10 for West Cork Music.
Perversely, it’ll probably be easier for them to get to Holland than to Bantry. As they say themselves, however, a visit to West Cork is always worth the trip.
Elsewhere, Emer Mayock’s excellent radio series, The Wider Embrace, comes to an end on RTE 1 over the next few Friday nights. We can only hope that the mysterious powers-that-be in Donnybrook will give the green light to another outing before too long.