Throughout my learning curve on the ‘folk’ scene one of the constants has been Irish band The Dubliners. Now into their 50th year and no name change…take note Mr Gavin…this superb collection is personally better even than The Ultimate Dubliners CD released in 2003 and is proof positive that longevity can indeed be obtained if the will is there. Of course you can’t mention their name without smiling at the very thought of favourite songs and tunes including “Seven Drunken Nights”, “The Irish Rover” (with The Pogues), “The Wild Rover” and the astonishing rapport (long before Eric Weissberg’s “Duelling Banjos” was a twinkle in Hollywood’s eyes) between Barney McKenna and John Sheahan on the staggering “Mason’s Apron”. In his succinct sleeve notes folk-o-phile Colin Irwin manages to name check every past and present member of the band something unfortunately I can’t do here. Finally I’d like to thank the compilers of this set of tracks for including the plaintive “I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me”. I vividly remember being in the audience at The Fairfield Hall in Croydon two or three years ago along with a packed auditorium (nearly 2,000 seats!) and hardly a dry eye in the house by the end of the song performed by ‘banjo’ Barney. Sadly last year McKenna passed away but he can rest assured that we did love him and his antics on and off stage will be sorely missed. Let’s raise a glass of the black stuff to some true legends.
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For Damien Dempsey, people and place are King. His voice is Dublin yet wholly distinctive, almost clichéd to say it, but he is part of a rich bloodline of Irish singers from Luke Kelly to Ronnie Drew, Christy Moore to Andy Irvine. Their kin outside Ireland are Springsteen and Guthrie, Dylan and Marley.
In his new album ALMIGHTY LOVE, Dempsey’s sense of place reaches out beyond Donaghmede and North Bull Island, where he first performed in public as a teenager, across the Irish Sea and further afield. The locale is still in the lyrics. It’s there in the hauntingly poetical Chris and Stevie, a tribute to male bonding and grief. You can hear it in Canadian Geese – large migratory birds whose flight path took them past Dempsey’s boyhood window. It’s there also in the references to railway tracks and waves, visible from the rooftops of Dempsey’s childhood home. Those railway tracks took Dempsey and his boyhood friends out into their own imaginations and he hasn’t forgotten. ALMIGHTY LOVE goes on a journey of a different kind. Dempsey, at 37 years old, has already said so much about self and state that trying to plough over old ground wouldn’t have been artistically challenging or fresh. So instead, he has given us an album of confidence and maturity, which has a more global sound to it and a broader scope. It is at once bigger and quieter, still rallying against injustice, yet with a more reflective and thoughtful tone, communicated more widely. It’s not that ALMIGHTY LOVE is a radical departure. It’s more an evolution on previous themes and concepts. The anthems are still there: Bustin Outta Here, The Good and the Great,Community and Almighty Love. His generosity of spirit, affiliation with those in need and the downtrodden, and recognition of their suffering, remains. It prevails even when that preoccupation may shine a spotlight on aspects of modern society that are uncomfortable to face.
Glorious revolutions can breed terrible evil and rage. Bob Marley understood that and London based poet and rapper Kate Tempest understands it too. She collaborates with rhythmical focus and fury on Born Without Hate, adding to the internationally grounded feel of the album. Of the 100 or so songs earmarked for the album, nine originals and just one cover were chosen– Andy Stewart’s Fire in the Glen, which Damien was singing in the kitchen late one night and it stayed in the air and drifted into the studio. Sinéad O’Connor, one of the greatest voices of her generation, adds backing vocals, but gives without taking. Her voice alongside Damien’s makes sense in their mutual authenticity and authority. Making ALMIGHTY LOVE was a long and careful process. Damien worked with long-term collaborator John Reynolds, who is an internationally recognised producer. This is their fifth album together, and theirs is an instinctive and homely artistic relationship, and it shows.
Damien’s debut album in 2000, THEY DON’T TEACH THIS SHIT IN SCHOOL set him apart as a unique and important voice, championed from an early stage in his career by Sinéad O’Connor and others. The follow-up, SEIZE THE DAY, released in 2003, marked the beginning of his relationship with producer John Reynolds, picking up many awards and leading to extensive international tours. Commercial and critical success continued with the release of the No. 1 album SHOTS in 2005, backed by Brian Eno, and TO HELL OR BARBADOS in 2007, which debuted at No.2 in the Irish charts.
Damien is an award-winning artist, having won several prestigious Irish Meteor Awards including Best Irish Male and Best Traditional Folk Award. His albums have topped the charts and gone Platinum, and he has been lauded by, among others, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Billboard, MOJO and The Sunday Times. Since the release of his last album, Damien’s creativity has found other outlets also. One notable project was with Irish graffiti artist Maser, on a project entitled ‘They Are Us’. This was sparked by Dempsey’s lyrics, and involved the painting of his words on derelict buildings in Dublin. Sales of the limited edition prints raised funds for The Simon Community, which was a charity set up to help the homeless and disenfranchised in Dublin and elsewhere. Dempsey’s charitable work continued in December 2010, when he and Oscar winning songwriter Glen Hansard recorded and performed the Irish folk classic, ‘The Auld Triangle’. Monies raised went towards the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) ‘Keep The Lights On’ Campaign.
Since his first live outings in the mid-1990s, Damien’s gigs have seen him wow audiences across the globe, and his performances have taken on a spiritual and soulful quality. October/November 2012 will see Damien touring throughout the UK and Ireland, for more information and the latest tour dates visit www.damiendempsey.com
“Dempsey’s musical heroes are now his admirers. And this is an Irish classic.” The Guardian
“The Dublin folk hero is a stirring mixture of grit and grace and tenderly soulful” MOJO
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Folk legends Don McLean and The Dubliners will both be given Lifetime Achievement Awards at BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards 2012, to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 on Wednesday 8th February.
Presenter Mike Harding announced the recipients of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards on the Radio 2 Folk Show on Wednesday 18 January (7-8pm).
Jeff Smith, Head of Music for Radio 2 and 6 Music said:
“Radio 2 is committed to featuring folk music as part of our specialist music output, so we’re delighted to be holding the Radio 2 Folk Awards in Salford this year, and that listeners will be able to also watch the ceremony. Both The Dubliners and Don McLean are much loved by the Radio 2 audience, and I’d like to congratulate them on their well-deserved awards.”
Mike Harding said:
On The Dubliners – ‘When The Dubliners virtually invented the Dublin pub music scene 50 years ago, they changed the face of Irish music forever. They were exciting and different, with a real whiff of danger about them. In Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew, they possessed two truly charismatic singers of a rare quality. Barney McKenna and John Sheahan, who remain with the group to this day, are indisputably world class musicians. Hugely influential and deeply loved at home and abroad, The Dubliners are responsible for countless definitive recordings and I’m delighted that Radio 2 is honouring their immense contribution to folk music.’
On Don McLean – ‘The truly great songwriters, who create works of such quality that they become standards across genres, are owed a debt of gratitude by the music world and I think it’s fantastic that we’re presenting Don McLean with this award.’
Don McLean is one of America’s most enduring singer-songwriters and is forever associated with his classic hits American Pie and Vincent (Starry Starry Night). Since first hitting the charts in 1971, Don has amassed over 40 gold and platinum records world-wide and, in 2004, was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
Don McLean said:
“I thank the BBC for thinking of me and honouring me with this award. The UK audience has been among the most loyal for over 40 years and without them certainly I wouldn’t be considered for this honour, so I thank the BBC and I thank the British public”
The Dubliners changed the face of Irish traditional music when they formed in Dublin in 1962. Half a century later, they continue to be one of the best-loved and most recognisable of Ireland’s folk groups, responsible for definitive versions of Ireland’s greatest ballads – Whiskey In The Jar, The Wild Rover and The Rocky Road To Dublin. For a lot of people around the world, The Dubliners are Irish music, and Irish music is The Dubliners.
This is the 13th year of the awards, which were created to celebrate the UK’s folk scene, and the first year the Radio 2 Folk Awards will be broadcast from the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays. In addition to being broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, the awards will also be available for fans to watch live on BBC Red Button.
The awards, which are produced by production company Smooth Operations, will be hosted by BBC Radio 2 Folk presenter Mike Harding, alongside singer Julie Fowlis. Lifetime Achievement Award winners The Dubliners and Don McLean will be playing at the event. Other artists who will be performing on the night are Christy Moore, The Unthanks with the Brighouse and Rastrick Band, Martin Simpson, Seth Lakeman, Tim Edey & Brendan Power and June Tabor & Oysterband.
One of the other prestigious awards of the night – the Roots Award, awarded in recognition of an outstanding contribution to Folk Music from a Grass Roots level upwards – will be presented to Malcolm Taylor OBE. Malcolm is the Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society. He’s receiving the Roots Award for his outstanding contribution for over 30 years of service.
Malcolm Taylor said:
“I am surprised and honoured to be receiving this award. The real star of the show is the Ralph Vaughan Williams Library itself. I am absolutely delighted to be accepting the award on behalf of the library and archive collections.”
Among this year’s nominees are June Tabor & Oysterband who have picked up four nominations for Best Group, Best Album for the album ‘Ragged Kingdom‘, Best Traditional Track, for ‘Bonny Bunch of Roses‘ and June Tabor has been nominated for Folk Singer of the Year. Sisters The Unthanks have also received four nominations for Best Group, Best Live Act, Best Album and Best Original Song. Other short-listed artists include Martin Simpson who has three nominations for Best Album, Best Traditional Track and Musician of the Year.
The Folk Awards ceremony will once again be combined with The BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, which is given to the most promising young folk artist in the UK.
Simon Mayo will be bringing his Drivetime show live from The Lowry Theatre in Salford ahead of the Radio 2 Folk Awards. He’s joined by his very special guest Don McLean who will be performing live on the show ahead of the event. In an extended programme, Simon also showcases live music from some of the other nominees and brings a flavour of what the night has in store.
Listeners can watch the Radio 2 Folk Awards live by using the BBC interactive Red Button service and pressing the red button from any BBC TV or Radio Channel. Or by going online to http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/
Highlights of The Radio 2 Folk Awards will remain on BBC Red Button and the BBC Radio 2 website for viewers to enjoy for seven days after the event.
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