Folk column: So long, Hannigan

Folk and trad news by Greg McAteer.

I guess it was a question of when rather than if, but the announcement from Damien Rice that he was dissolving his vocal partnership with Lisa Hannigan was still a shock.

Possibly the most intriguing vocal pairing since Simon And Garfunkel, her mesmeric contribution to the onstage performance is not going to be possible to replace. By definition the new live Damien Rice experience will be a radically different one. That leaves it all to play for as far as Lisa is concerned, and after her recent contribution to The Cake Sale album she has certainly shown a willingness to branch out and take a risk.

Vocally she’s quite peerless. After the announcement there was a sense of breaths being held and a flap of A&R men could be imagined hopping up and down on the telegraph lines. Exciting times ahead, I should think.

Described by RTÉ as “the future of Irish music,” Slide have enjoyed a privileged position amongst young Irish bands, given the attention that has been expended on them by Music Network. So there’ll be some fairly close scrutiny as they release Overneath, their third album as part of Music Network’s Young Musicwide programme.

Overneath is the culmination of three years musical evolution that has seen the group grow from the original quartet of Daire Bracken (fiddle/guitar), Éamonn de Barra (piano/flute/bodhrán/whistle), Aogán Lynch (concertina/whistle) and Mick Broderick (bouzouki/mandolin) to encompass the vocal talents of Andrew Murray.

The eleven tracks on Overneath span a wide array of musical elements, including strings oriented tracks, traditional Irish tunes, new compositions and, due to the addition of Andrew Murray who has also taken vocal duties with De Danann, an increase in vocal tracks.

Overneath showcases the great chemistry between the band members and distils the vitality that their live performances have become known for.

Although their background is in traditional Irish music, an eclectic range of influences such as Chick Corea, Gil Evans, Steely Dan, Planxty and Radiohead are also jockeying for attention on some of their songs. This is not a band that fit neatly into descriptions of a traditional Irish ensemble. Writing contemporary tunes in the traditional style, Slide breathe oxygen into the traditional form.

There will be chances to see Slide perform selections from the new record on Friday 18 May in The Little Theatre Skerries, Tuesday 12 June as part of Éigse Festival in Carlow, Thursday 21 June as part of Clonmacnoise Arts and Music Festival in Athlone, and Saturday 14 July Dunamaise Arts Centre Portlaoise.

Farmer Jason and his only slightly less child-friendly alter ego Jason Ringenberg (probably better known for fronting Jason & The Scorchers, who almost singlehandedly invented cow-punk) will be making the only Irish stop-off on his European tour at Dundalk’s Spirit Store on Monday April 16 with an afternoon show for the kids and an evening of the real deal.

Imagine the most dissolute looking, inelegantly wasted, reprobate you can picture. Then make that character a truly prodigious musical talent and onstage powerhouse. OK, so now you have a good handle on Conway Savage, best known as keyboard player with Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.

Having joined the band for the Good Son tour in 1990, he has been a key member ever since, contributing to such celebrated albums as Murder Ballads, The Boatman’s Call and Abbattoir Blues. Through this time he has also carved out a career as a highly respected solo artist and has released several recordings over the last 15 years, from his debut EP, Eponymous (1993), to his collaboration with Australian singer/songwriter Suzie Higgie on Soon Will be Tomorrow (1998) to his first solo album proper Nothing Broken (2000) featuring Mick Harvey and Martyn Casey, to Wrong Man’s Hands (2004). Conway has worked with everyone you can think of from the Australian music scene including Robert Forster (The Go-Betweens) and David McComb (The Triffids).

Conway will be joined on this tour by members of Melbourne band The Stream; Amanda Fox (accordian) and Robert Tickner (guitar). The trio will be making the trip over having played the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in the UK which this year is curated by Dirty Three and will be playing in Cork’s Cypress Avenue on Wednesday May 2, Dublin’s Sugar Club the following night, Galway’s Roisin Dubh on Friday May 4, the Spirit Store on Saturday May 5 and Sunday May 6 sees them head north of the border for a gig in McHugh’s in Belfast.

Conway follows in the great tradition of musicians who take their inspiration from country music, and like his heroes Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Willie Nelson, has that rare ability to inhabit a song completely, making his live shows intimate and memorable. He is a singer with subtlety, emotion, respect and a deep understanding of the song, his accompaniments are in total sympathy with what he’s singing about. This quality is exemplified in his versions of Jim Yamouridis’ ‘The Cross’ and the traditional song ‘Fair and Tender Ladies’.

As the man himself tells it: “(with) ‘Fair And Tender Ladies’, any time I play a gig anywhere, I can play that and just close my eyes and know I’m gonna feel really good and set the scene for myself. It’s like breathing for me now to do that song, where you can let yourself stop thinking about being onstage.”

Busy as she is with her own career and gigging like a giggy thing, Linda Coogan has nonetheless been putting serious time and energy into organising a benefit night in aid of the Rape Crisis Centre. Going under the banner ‘An Acoustic Extravaganza’ the show takes place on May 30th in the Village on Dublin’s Camden Street the line-up for the evening will feature sets from Fiach, Mike Hanrahan, Leslie Dowdall, Out Of The West, Ronan O Snodaigh, Luan Parle, Linda herself and an unplugged performance by Aslan. There may be a few further additions to the bill before the night so keep an eye on the listings.

In these days of java scripts and flash animations it’s reassuring that some acts are perfectly happy with their ‘crappy’ – their description not mine – website. The Handsome Family’s lo-fi ethos stretches even to their online presence but it only reinforces a sense of warmth and real humanity that underpins everything they do. They’ve been covered by Christy Moore and Cerys Matthews, lauded by Greil Marcus as basically the best thing since the sliced pan and have been married (yes, to each other, no they’re not really called Handsome) for some 18 years with a recording career spanning the last dozen of those.

Last year’s Last Days Of Wonder only served to increase their standing, and recorded on a Mac in their garage over the course of a year, it suggests nothing of modernity.

Live, they keep it just as direct and they’ll be kicking off their European tour with a trot round Ireland beginning with The Limelight in Belfast on Wednesday April 25, the Spirit Store the following evening, The Crane Lane Theatre in Cork on Friday April 27, Galway’s Roisin Dubh on the Sunday and Whelan’s on Monday April 30.b

 

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