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Getting it together in the country
Rejoice! From Carlow to Castlebar to Athboy, it's festival time on the folk calendar.
Greg McAteer, 06 Jul 2006
Seems like you can’t own a country house in Ireland without throwing it open to a motley rabble of beer-swilling sunburnt bowsies – and that’s just the musicians. Coming fast on the heels of the Streets Of London charity concert at Castlebar’s Turlough House is the announcement by Blackstairs Opera that they’ll be promoting an evening of traditional music on Sunday 9th July with a concert in the verdant surroundings of Borris House, Borris, Co. Carlow.
The line-up features a mix of musicians from Ireland and Scotland with Ireland being represented by David Power and Tony MacMahon, while Scotland field Scots Gaelic singers from Uist, Margaret Callan, Gillebrìde & Mary MacMillan.
The event runs at the same time as the Carlow Fleadh which this year features headline appearances from Kila and Dervish, so there was always going to be a vibrancy about the place. With the main gigs taking place in the Music Factory (which is more used to hosting Doves and Pete Doherty), the more sedate environs of Borris House should provide an alternative for those who might like a more chilled take on their trad.
Opera and traditional music have more in common than first appears. A lot of songs in the traditional repertoire date back to the same era as the classic operas and they often deal with similar themes - love, death, war, mourning and carousing – albeit with traditional song taking a blunter and less melodramatic viewpoint.
The Midlands Music Festival also rolls into view before the month is out at yet another country house venue, this time in the grounds of Ballinlough Castle near Athboy. I was in Athboy Post Office recently (don’t ask) and there was much gabbling about the recent Garden Party there, with the general consensus being that it had been great for the area and that the only people objecting were “blow-ins from Dublin”. Oh the delicious irony of it! Anyway there’s certainly a fair bit of excitement locally as the line-up for Midlands is choc-a-bloc with acts that people have grown up with as well as some acts that will be an unknown quantity outside of country and Americana circles. One of the treats in store is an appearance by the Hacienda Brothers, who cooked up a storm at the Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots festival a couple of years back. This time round they’ll emerge blinking into the daylight, having been holed up in the studio in Tuscon, Arizona where they’ve just completed their second album What’s Wrong With Right, working once again with legendary writer/producer Dan Penn. Led by Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez, both highly regarded in their own right, and who put the band together after jamming at a birthday party for the man who was to become their manager, the band has a stonkin’ sound mixing country, honky-tonk and stripped back old-school R&B and with some incendiary instrumentalists in the band they should set the night ablaze at Ballinlough Castle.