DERVISH – The Great Irish Songbook (Rounder Records)

The Great Irish SongbookDervish release The Great Irish Songbook on April 12th. I don’t really need to say very much more to persuade anyone to give this a listen. But, since that would be a rather short review, I will do.

The Band – Dervish have been playing Irish traditional music for nearly thirty years – in festivals as large as Rock In Rio (to an estimated quarter of a million people) or sessions as small as those in Sligo pubs where they still enjoy playing. They have a line-up which includes some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians, fronted by one of the country’s best-known singers in Cathy Jordan. They’re renowned for live performances, dazzling sets of tunes and stunning interpretations of traditional songs.

The Music – Where would you start in choosing thirteen songs for an album called The Great Irish Songbook? How about ‘The Rambling Irishman’, ‘There’s Whiskey In The Jar’ and ‘Molly Malone’? These are the first three tracks on the album – all of them, I suspect, not only familiar to fans of Irish music but to anyone who has even a passing interest in listening to any kind music. Nor does the selection go downhill thereafter. Given the nature of this album, it’s probably worth listing the other tracks: ‘The Galway Shawl’, ‘She Moved Through the Fair’, ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’, ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, ‘On Raglan Road’, ‘Donal Og’, ‘The Fields Of Athenry’, ‘The May Morning Dew’, ‘The West Coast Of Clare’, finishing with (really, despite the Scottish claims to the song, what else would you chose?) ‘The Parting Glass’.

The Guests – The publicity for the album says “In assembling their line-up of featured guests, Dervish reached out to the many artists with whom they’ve bonded over a shared passion for Irish folk, then called on each musician to select their most cherished song within the genre. Recorded mainly at The Magic Room in Sligo, the finished product finds each collaborator imbuing the album with their own distinct sensibilities while lovingly upholding the time-honored character of the songs.” The guests on this album are a fine set of singers and players in their own right. They include: Steve Earle, Rhiannon Giddens, Vince Gill, Brendan Gleeson, Imelda May, Andrea Corr, Jamey Johnson, Kate Rusby, The Steeldrivers, Abigail Washburn, David Gray. They build on Dervish’s sound and, as Shakespeare might have it, their “friendship makes us fresh”.

I’ve enjoyed listening to this album, initially superficially but then much more closely. Firstly I’ve listened to the musicianship and the fresh approach to songs I’ve known for a while and, secondly, I realised I didn’t really know the history to many of these songs and have spent time researching them with the album playing at the same time. Some are newer than I’d realised, some much older. All give an insight into the history of Ireland, its music and, in some cases, its poetry.

If you’re well versed in the Irish tradition, this is a great album for hearing some different takes on songs – the video link below, for example, takes you to ‘The West Coast Of Clare’ and features David Gray. If you want to introduce yourself or someone else to The Great Irish Songbook, it’s a pretty good starting point.

Mike Wistow

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Artists’ website: https://www.dervish.ie

‘The West Coast Of Clare’:

Dervish announce The Great Irish Songbook

Dervish

As one of the world’s most renowned and imaginative interpreters of Irish folk music, Dervish have devoted the last three decades to gently reinventing the traditional songs of their homeland. On their debut release for Rounder Records, the Sligo-based band join up with over a dozen luminaries across an eclectic range of genres.

Featuring guests Steve Earle, Rhiannon Giddens, Vince Gill, Brendan Gleeson, Jamey Johnson, Kate Rusby, The SteelDrivers, Abigail Washburn and others, The Great Irish Songbook both preserves the spirit of each song and brings a new vitality to iconic traditional songs of their homeland.

Throughout The Great Irish Songbook, Dervish build off the dynamic they’ve brought to their thirteen previous albums and dazzling live performance: a kinetic union of technical brilliance and undeniable soul, endlessly fortified by their immense creativity. With the help of their guest artists, Dervish’s intricately sculpted sound expands and widens and takes on new textures, revealing the limitless possibilities within a single song. The result is an album that instantly transports you to a more charmed state of mind and-like all the most illuminating journeys-imparts a deeper understanding of what’s most essential in life.

Produced by Graham Henderson (a musician known for his work with artists like Sinéad O’Connor), The Great Irish Songbook delivers some of the best-loved songs in the Irish tradition. In assembling their lineup of featured guests, Dervish reached out to the many artists with whom they’ve bonded over a shared passion for Irish folk, then called on each musician to select their most cherished song within the genre. Recorded mainly at The Magic Room in Sligo, the finished product finds each collaborator imbuing the album with their own distinct sensibilities while lovingly upholding the time-honored character of the songs.

 The Great Irish Songbook encompasses everything from lovelorn ballads to traditional dance music to songs customarily sung at funerals, its moods continually shifting from longing to joy to delicately rendered heartache.

Within its first few tracks alone, The Great Irish Songbook shows the extraordinary scope of the album and the musicianship behind it. On “There’s Whisky in the Jar,” Nashville-based bluegrass band The SteelDrivers channel their freewheeling energy into one of the most widely performed traditional Irish tunes of all time (recorded by everyone from Thin Lizzy to Metallica to Jerry Garcia).

Poetry also infuses much of The Great Irish Songbook, such as on the Kate Rusby-sung rendition of “The Sally Gardens” (a W.B. Yeats-penned serenade) and the D.K. Gavan-authored “Rocky Road To Dublin,” a 19th-century story-song delivered with unabashed brio by famed Irish actor and part-time fiddle player Brendan Gleeson. Meanwhile, “On Raglan Road” transforms Patrick Kavanagh’s lovesick verse into a moment of sublime melancholy, thanks in no small part to the tender tenor of country star Vince Gill.

One of the two newly written pieces on The Great Irish Songbook has Steve Earle accompanying Dervish for a wistful yet rousing version of “The Galway Shawl,” closing out the track with a full-hearted sing-along.

Through the years, Dervish have toured the globe and shared stages with the likes of James Brown, Neil Young, and Sting, becoming the first Irish band ever to play Rock in Rio (the world’s most massive music festival), and steadily making their name as one of the foremost purveyors of Irish folk music.

As they approach their 30th anniversary, Dervish again prove the enduring significance of even the most timeworn songs. And in a way not unlike the folk revival of the 1960s, much of The Great Irish Songbook celebrates a spirit of togetherness, with a conviction that’s gracefully understated but powerfully felt. For Dervish, that sense of community and connection is both an ideal takeaway for the album and the driving force of its creation.

Accordionist Shane Mitchell, a founding member of the band, noted, “With this record we brought in people from genres sometimes totally unrelated to what we do, but still found a way to create some beautiful music together.” He reflects, “I think that’s an incredibly important thing to consider in life as well, especially now: everyone can find a way to collaborate, even if you’re coming from what feels like completely different places.”

In the coming weeks, Dervish will announce full details of The Great Irish Songbook Live, a show that will begin touring internationally in late 2019 and will feature guests from the album.

Artists’ website: https://www.dervish.ie/

‘As I Roved Out’ – live with Kate Rusby and Kevin Burke:

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016 winners are…

Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016

The winners of this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards have been announced at a spectacular event held at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Now in their 17th year, this major event in the specialist music calendar saw accolades presented for Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Album, Musician of the Year and many more, as well as Lifetime Achievement Awards for songwriter Joan Armatrading and traditional folk legend Norma Waterson.

Also on the night some of the most exciting acts in the folk music scene took to the stage for magical performances to celebrate the vibrant folk music scene in the UK and beyond.

John McCusker Band

The evening kicked off with an electrifying performance by the John McCusker Band, and throughout the evening the audience were treated to performances by Grammy Award and BRIT Award nominee Joan Armatrading; British singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and film score composer, Mark Knopfler; Mercury Award nominated Sam Lee, Dublin folk band Lynched; a special tribute to Sandy Denny by Rufus Wainwright and many more. The evening culminated in a rousing performance by acclaimed Northumbrian group The Unthanks.

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright performed a special tribute to Sandy Denny who was inducted into the Folk Awards Hall of Fame. For the rendition of Sandy’s classic ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, Rufus was backed by musicians including some who were members of Fairport Convention alongside Sandy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Awards were presented by a host of famous folk fans, including actors Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, The Office) and Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, House of Fools), musicians Richard Hawley and Graham Coxon from Blur, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo and 1960s star Sandie Shaw.

The night also saw the presentation of the annual BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, which has been finding and championing young folk talent for 18 years. The four nominees in this category also performed live during a special interval programme presented by Radio 2’s Simon Mayo and top folk musician Kathryn Tickell.

Bob Shennan, Controller BBC Radio 2, 6Music and Asian Network and Director BBC Music, said:

“What better way to celebrate the thriving folk music scene than a wonderful night in the impressive surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall. It was a fitting way to recognise the huge wealth of talent and I’d like to congratulate the winners of these prestigious accolades. Here’s to next year!”

The awards will be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer from today and will be broadcast on the BBC Red Button from Saturday 30 April until Thursday 5 May.

The full list of winners:

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR
Rhiannon Giddens

BEST DUO
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman

BEST GROUP
The Young’uns

BEST ALBUM
Mount The Air – The Unthanks

HORIZON AWARD
Sam Kelly

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
Andy Cutting

BEST ORIGINAL TRACK 
‘Mackerel’ by The Rheingans Sisters

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK 
‘Lovely Molly’ by Sam Lee

BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG FOLK AWARD
Brighde Chaimbeul

Gift Band 2016

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Norma Waterson

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Joan Armatrading

GOOD TRADITION AWARD
John McCusker

HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Sandy Denny

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Well, if that was not exciting enough, then why not create your own Albert Hall replica out of those discarded food/ electrical cardboard boxes lying around the house, sit on your favourite cushion, grab a glass of something special and re-live it all again here at:

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – 2016: Full Show