John Doyle is one of the most talented and innovative musicians to come out of Ireland in recent years. Now a resident of Asheville (North Carolina), John Doyle was born in 1971 in Dublin, Ireland, into an extended family of musicians and singers. He was playing professionally by the age of 16 when he and singer Susan McKeown joined to form The Chanting House, which later added the prodigious talents of Seamus Egan and Eileen Ivers to the group.
A few years later, John and Egan came together with John Williams, the wonderfully inventive accordion player from Chicago, talented fiddler Winifred Horan, and Waterford-born singer Karan Casey, to form the enormously influential band, Solas.
John’s powerful guitar playing provided the signature rhythmic backbone for the band, and his delicate and emotional finger-style playing and creative vocal harmonies can be heard on all Solas’ recordings for Shanachie Records. Solas performed to sold-out audiences around the world, appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, E-Town and World Cafe, and received three NAIRD awards and a Grammy nomination.
John composed music for the film Uncle Robert’s Footsteps and the play Down the Flats, and appears on the soundtracks for The Brothers McMullen, Soldier and PBS’s Out of Ireland. He has performed at scores of major festivals worldwide, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Washington Irish Festival, Milwaukee Irish Festival and major festivals in Denmark, Belgium, Brittany, England, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Ireland.
John is also a highly sought-after sideman and has recorded and/or toured with Liz Carroll, Eileen Ivers, Tim O’Brien and The Crossing, Frank McCourt, Linda Thompson, Kate Rusby, Mick Moloney, John Williams, Seamus Egan, Cathal McConnell, Kim Robertson, Brian Conway, Joannie Madden, James Keane, Joe McKenna, Karan Casey, Cathie Ryan and James Leva.
John’s much anticipated first solo recording, Evening Comes Early, was released on Shanachie Records in 2001, and his second solo CD Wayward Son was released in 2004 on Compass Records.
Widely hailed as the 1990s’ successors to Irish traditional legends Planxty and the Bothy Band, Dervish unite passion with virtuosity. The members of Dervish met as most Irish musicians do: as strangers in a bar. “I’m a farmer’s daughter,” says singer Cathy Jordan, “and someone else in the band is an architect’s son. Outside of music, we may have never met, but this is how Irish people have forged unlikely friendships for years, playing music together.”
“In Irish music, there are three elements: goltra, so sad it brings tears; geantra, so lively it makes you want to dance; suantra, so soothing you want to sleep. At a Dervish concert, you experience all three and it leaves you exhilarated!” explains Jordan.
Dervish in their original form were five musicians from the Northwest of Ireland who came together in 1989 to record an album of music, primarily, by local players. The album was released under the title `The Boys of Sligo’ after a reel from the recording. The five musicians involved -Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Martin McGinley, Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes- were inspired by the project and decided to develop the informal gathering into a working band.
Mandola-player Brian McDonagh saw a documentary about Whirling Dervishes and found the parallels between the devotional art form and Irish musicians similar. “Dervishes are usually a group of poor but spiritual people enraptured by music,”clarifies Jordan. “They spin around and become entranced by the music. As the spinning progresses, the dervishes reach a higher level of being. Similarly, in a traditional Irish session, people may meet for the first time through the common bond of music. As the night progresses, a euphoria builds and lifelong friendships ensue.” The name Dervish was meant to be an album, but it stuck as the band’s name.
The Sligo County band’s sound is characterized by Jordan’s distinctive voice combining with the compelling contrasts of the low-range bouzouki and high-range mandola and their powerful rhythmical backing of accordion and guitar. Fiddles, whistles, flute, bodhran, and harmonica round the band out for its full effect.
Over the following two years Dervish refined their craft as a formative band. The addition of Roscommon-born singer Cathy Jordan in 1991 and subsequent replacement of fiddle player Martin McGinley by Tyrone man and All Ireland Champion, Shane McAleer, gave the band a new dimension. Having found the right balance of creativity and dedication, Dervish released their legitimate first album Harmony Hill in 1992.
The effect of the recording was immediate. Its artistry, musicianship and maturity won outstanding praise from the media placing Dervish to the forefront of the bands working on traditional Irish music. Substantial TV and radio exposure for the band and the album began to open all kind of doors.
Dervish soon became one of the most sought after acts for live performances and have continued to remain over the years. The demand led to the band touring continuously in many European countries throughout 1993 and performing at all the major folk festivals.
The enormous work load and the constant touring made it difficult for the band to work in the studio, but in 1994 their keenly awaited second album Playing with Fire was released. The high expectations for the recording were not only met, but surpassed. Reviewers and critics alike lauded praise for Playing with Fire, confirming Dervish status as the pre-eminent Irish traditional band. The album reached number 1 in the Irish Folk Music Charts and stayed on top for several months.
With their reputation firmly established, Dervish set their sights on the American market, signing a deal with the New York-based company Kells Music. The release of their two albums in the USA saw the demand for the band take off in dramatic terms. Performances at enormous festivals like Wolf Trap and San Francisco led to worldwide tours. Recognition for the band’s achievements followed with nominations and awards in a variety of Traditional/Folk polls including two in the IRMAs.
In August 1996 Dervish released their third album At the End of the Day, which won the Hot Press Trad/Folk Album of the Year award against mainstream legends like Christy Moore and Donald Lunny. In the same year the band performed a series of concerts in Hong Kong and Malaysia which opened the door to the Far Eastern market.
Dervish’s concert performances are a wide-range of tones and moods, from high energy tunes, played with fluidity and intuitiveness, to beautifully measured songs, from charming lyrics of life and love, to inspiring melodies. All the elements are drawn together by Cathy Jordan’s masterful stage-presence. Her stories to the songs, the interaction with the audience, draws people into the music in a way very few performers can achieve. All this can be found in their fourth album Live in Palma.
As the name implies, Live in Palma is a live recording of a scintillating performance in front of a captivated audience at Palma de Mallorca’s Teatro Principal in April 1997. This double album has been hailed by critics as one of the finest live traditional Irish recordings of our time. It furnishes the listener with an opportunity to savor the atmosphere (music, melodies and witty banter) which only a live recording can provide and Dervish have done it both masterfully and effortlessly: the decision to record just made a few hours before going on stage and a performance such that a minimal amount of studio time was required to put the finishing touches to a virtually flawless concert. This brilliant album has, for sure, something to do with the decision of the readers of Irish Music magazine to award Dervish with the Best Overall Trad/Folk Band of the Year 1997.
1998 was another grueling year for the group. It started with a six weeks coast to coast sell out tour of the USA and a first ever Irish tour that enjoyed considerable success. That year also saw slight reshuffle of the group with Shane McAleer taking a career break. Luckily, formidable replacement was found in Sligo’s own Séamus O’Dowd -a musician of high standing with a distinct Sligo style fiddle playing and incomparable guitar playing- further adding to the talents of the group. Just before the end of the year, the addition of fiddle player Tom Morrow -a native of Co. Leitrim and another All Ireland Champion- completed the line up of the band.
Their fifth album Midsummer’s Night was released in the early summer of 1999. Dervish searches high and low for new material, old melodies, and lesser-known lyrics. “It comes to us in different ways/em>,” explains Jordan. “Sometimes at a session an old man sings a tune we’ve never heard. We have a great rapport with the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin, where there are vast collections of the old manuscripts and the earliest recordings of Irish music. Sometimes we find things on TV, on the radio, or on records.” The search for material is simultaneously part of preserving history and making traditional music relevant to today.
When Jordan was asked to sing at Bob Dylan’s fiftieth birthday party in Dublin, musicians paid tribute by performing his songs. As a result, her choice, ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’ was added to Dervish’s repertoire and has become one of their most requested songs. In exploring other contemporary songs with folk sounds, the band discovered Cher’s ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ and Dire Strait’s ‘Brothers in Arms’ which sound perfectly at home in a traditional Irish treatment, and alongside Dervish’s modern arrangements of traditional tunes.
“It’s a funny thing, but Irish music is one of the oldest forms of music, yet it is influenced an awful lot by other things,” explains Jordan. “It evolves and evolves. Our sound is very recognizable because of the bouzouki and mandola. And though we have a modern style within the Irish context, you might not say it’s really modern because it blends in so well. But in actual fact there are a lot of modern influences in there.”
Eamon Murray from Randalstown, Co. Antrim is one of the most important young bodhrán players in Irish music. Described by Johnny McDonagh (De Dannan/Arcady) as “the future of bodhrán playing”, Eamon has held the All-Ireland Bodhrán title on four occasions.
Eamon has performed alongside many distinguished artists including Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and Liam O’Maonlai and was highly commended in the 2004 Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year competition.
Damien Stenson grew up in County Sligo (Ireland), an area with a rich folk music tradition. He is known for his extensive repertoire and flowing style of flute playing, developed by many years of constant musical activity.
He is featured on various albums including the compilation “Wooden Flute Obsession Vol. 2”, Oisín Mac Diarmada’s solo album “Ar an bhFidil”, together with a bodhrán album by Junior Davey. He is the flute player of renowned Irish traditional group Teada.
The Bothy Band evoked universal praise from audiences and critics alike. Siblings Micheal O Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, percussionist Donal Lunny, master piper Paddy Keenan, flute virtuoso Matt Molloy, and brilliant fiddler Kevin Burke stood at the very summit of Celtic music.
Eventually, the band members went their separate ways in 1979, joining celebrated groups like The Chieftains, Relativity, Nightnoise, Touchstone and Patrick Street.
Beoga (Irish word for ‘lively’) are an exciting young five piece from County Antrim who create a completely unique sound, with the dueling accordions of Seán Óg Graham and Damian McKee, superb bodhran playing from four times All-Ireland champion Eamon Murray, Liam Bradley’s jazzy piano, and singing and fiddle from acclaimed Limerick musician, Niamh Dunne.
Immediately embraced by press and fans alike, Beoga’s debut album, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ZIZ0QG?ieUTF8&tagmusidelmund-20&linkCodexm2&camp1789&creativeASINB000ZIZ0QG | A Lovely Madness, earned 9/10 in Ireland’s Hot Press, and was one of their Top Trad/Folk Albums of the year. Beoga released their subsequent album, Mischief, with then new vocalist Niamh Dunne, in 2007.
Over the last few years Beoga have performed at major Celtic and Folk festivals throughout Europe and the USA, including the Cambridge Folk Festival, the All-Ireland Fleadh, Dranouter Tender Boston, Kansas, and Milwaukee Irish Festivals, the Guinness Irish Christmas tour of Austria the Irish Folk Festival tour of Germany along with Solas and Kevin Burke, and the Irish Unplugged Tour of Holland with the Fureys and Davey Arthur.
In September 2007, Beoga performed live with the BBC Orchestra to a television audience of millions as part of the prestigious “Last Night Of The Proms”.
In 2009, Beoga released The Incident and toured the United States and Europe.
Born in Co. Roscommon in 1972, Alan Kelly grew up in a house steeped in traditional music and dance. His grandfather was a fiddler; his grandmother, a melodeon player; his father, Frank Kelly, a piano accordionist from Fourmilehouse in southern Roscommon.
Alan chose to follow in his fathers’ footsteps and learn the piano accordion. Very soon, Alan had forged his own inimitable style influenced mainly by his father Frank and local musicians such as Paddy Ryan, John Carlos, Patsy Hanly and Frank Jordan.
In his early music years, Alan went on to win All-Ireland titles on piano accordion and piano, and also with brother John in duets and neighbor and life long friend John Wynne in trios.
Determined to become a full time musician Alan moved to Galway in 1993 where he quickly became part of the thriving traditional music scene, forging an excellent reputation for himself.
In 1994 he landed a part in the Druid Theatre’s award winning production of Vincent Woods’ ‘At the black pigs Dyke’ and spent the next 12 months performing in Dublin, Galway, Glasgow, Toronto and Sydney. He also toured with Druid’s and Vincent Woods production of ‘The Yellow Bittern’ in 1995.
Back in Galway, Alan decided to concentrate on his debut solo album and in 1997 he released Out of the Blue (BBM 001) on his own label Blackbox Music. Co-produced by Alan and Steve Cooney and featuring a host of Ireland’s top musicians, the album received ecstatic reviews from the critics, earned him a ‘Best Newcomer’ award from Irish Music Magazine and launched Alan on his solo career.
Extensive touring ensued, especially in the United States of America and Canada where ‘Out of the Blue’ was released on the Kells label.
However, it wasn’t long before theatre beckoned again and towards the end of 1997, Alan was invited by New York’s awarding winning avant-garde theatre company Mabou Mines to join their production of Peter and Wendy in Los Angeles and has since performed with them in New Haven (’98) San Francisco (’99) Dublin Theatre Festival in 1999 and New York 2002.
Also, in 1997, he was invited to become a member of the house band for Sibin, a weekly music program for TG4, performing with artists such as Matt Molloy, Sean Keane, Cathy Ryan, Kieran Goss, Mick Hanley, Sean Tyrell, Arty McGlynn and Nollaig Casey.
During January 1999 Alan toured with Music Network’s “Best of Irish” nation-wide tour alongside Michael McGoldrick, Karen Casey and Cathal Hayden playing to full houses all over the country. In the same year he also featured on Michael McGoldrick’s groundbreaking album ‘Fused‘ and continues to tour regularly with this band appearing at festivals such as Lorient 1999, Celtic Connections 2000 and Cambridge 2001 as well as many others.
In 2000, Alan released his second solo album Mosaic (TARACD4011) with a concert at the Galway Arts Festival featuring an 8 piece band with a line-up which included guitarist, Arty McGlynn, saxophonist, Richie Buckley, trumpeter, Danial Healy and Sean Smyth on fiddle. Produced by guitarist Arty McGlynn, Mosaic features many new compositions from both Alan and Arty, as well as traditional music from Scotland, Finland and, of course, Ireland.
Alan Kelly and the Mosaic Band quickly established itself as one of the hottest live acts on the Irish scene with its exciting blend of traditional, salsa and jazz rhythms, and propelled Alan onto the World Music stage.
Also in 2000 he worked with the award winning Lyric Theatre in Belfast for their production of Brian Friel’s “Wonderful Tennessee.
Alan’s other recording credits include appearances on Niamh Parsons’s Loosely Connected in 1992, Michael McGoldrick’s Morning Rory in 1996 and Fused in 2000, and Sean Keane’s Seansongs in 2002. He guested with Lunasa on their Irish tour promoting their album Otherworld and also collaborated with Alison Brown, the Grammy award winning banjo player on her Irish tour in 2001. During July 2002 Alan toured with Ireland’s legendary De Danann in Canada.
Alan’s most recent recording project has seen him return to his Roscommon roots for a duet album with his brother John. The album titled Fourmilehouse (BBM 2003) is traditional music served straight up, with no need for studio sweeteners or sleight of hand.
Today Alan is credited with single-handedly reviving the piano accordion in Irish traditional music.
Aine Minogue has been studying and playing the harp since she was 12 years old. Her albums feature ethereal vocal and instrumental Irish and Scottish traditional music as well as original compositions full of Irish mysticism.
Born in Borrisokane, County Tipperary, Ireland, to a large musical family, Áine was introduced to all types of music and instruments at an early age. She has toured extensively as a harp player, composed soundtracks for television and has several solo recordings, in addition to her numerous collaborations. Aine currently lives in the United States of America.
In 2012 she released an album of Irish lullabies titled Close Your Eyes, Love.
Brian Finnegan is a renowned tin whistle and flute player from Armagh, Ireland. He is one of the most technically inventive and imaginative of flute and whistle players to have emerged from Ireland in recent years. Brian’s well-recognized abilities in traditional Irish music are often blended with folk music from other traditions.
He was a founder member of Upstairs in a Tent. He later formed the hugely popular, ground-breaking Celtic band Flook. Flook recorded three highly acclaimed studio albums, Flatfish, Rubai and Haven. Their album Rubai was voted Folk Album of the Year and Brian was voted Male Musician of the Year by LiveIreland.com and the Irish American News. Collecting awards and a huge fan base wherever they toured, Flook were crowned BBC Band Of The Year 2006. They disbanded in 2008.
Brian Finnegan traveled and toured through India and Eastern Europe. This experience had a deep and profound effect on his talent as a composer, hinted at early on with the release of his first CD,‘When The Party’s Over’ in 1993. In 2008 he was commissioned by The Sage Centre in Newcastle Upon Tyne to compose a piece for the opening of ‘The Eighth Bridge’, a major art installation across the river Tyne.
He has toured and recorded with many artists including Cara Dillon, Kate Rusby, and Russian group Aquarium. Celtic Connections 28 premiered his northern big band, The Singing Tree; thirteen performers, musicians, singers, poets and dancers, all from the northern counties of Ireland.
In 2010 he toured the West Coast of the United States and Ireland with guitarist William Coulter. Brian and William met at the Boxwood flute camp in Nova Scotia during the summer of 2008, where both were teaching. A concert was in the works and the musicians enjoyed playing together so much they talked about the possibility of touring as a duo.
Brian’s album, ‘The Ravishing Genius Of Bones’ was released in March 2010 and coincided with the formation of his new quartet called Kan. The band includes guitarist Ian Stephenson and drummer Jim Goodwin and fiddler Aidan O’Rourke.
Celtic music and beatbox beats come together in a fascinating album titled CyberTrad. Multi-instrumentalist Matthew Olwell uses several types of flutes to deliver a mix of Irish and Breton traditional pieces, along with original compositions backed by body and vocal percussion.
Although the combination is uncommon, the result is very satisfactory. Celtic music goes well with frame drums and hand percussion and the talented Shodekeh Talifero does a fabulous job with his beatbox and vocal rhythms.
Matthew Olwell grew up listening to music on a boombox radio. The mix included his parents’ wide-ranging tape collection, as well as radio programs like National Public Radio’s Celtic music show The Thistle and Shamrock.
His father, Patrick Olwell is a renowned Irish flute maker and both his parents and brother played flute, so there were always musicians around. The Olwell family was active in the United States’ East Coast Irish music scene, regularly attending the Washington D.C. Irish Festival and Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia.
This splendid music community gave Matthew an appreciation for many folk traditions, including Canada’s Quebecois, old time, and Cajun music. Through this festival scene, Matthew met Eileen Carson-Schatz and The Fiddle Puppet Dancers at Augusta, and ultimately joined the later incarnation of that group, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. From 1994 to 2004 Matthew performed with Footworks, touring internationally, situating him on a pathway to a career in music and dance.
The lineup on CyberTrad includes Matthew Olwell on wooden and bamboo flutes, vocals, cornamuse and bodhran; Shodekeh Talifero on human beatbox, vocal percussion and panpipes; Aimee Curl on vocals and upright bass; Simon Lepage, the bass player of famed Quebecois band Matapat; Aimee Curl on vocals and upright bass; Jaige Trudel on cello, and Joey Abarta on uilleann pipes.
Cybertrad is a superb alchemy of flutes from the Celtic regions and the contemporary human beatbox tradition.