The Ciderhouse Rebellion announce three new albums

The Ciderhouse Rebellion

In their customary unconventional style, The Ciderhouse Rebellion (fiddle player Adam Summerhayes and accordionist Murray Grainger) have announced details of their forthcoming releases: a folk triptych comprising wholly contrasting albums along with accompanying books, featuring two of their now regular collaborators: poet Jessie Summerhayes and Irish singer Molly Donnery. Out Friday 7th June 2024.

And Even The Sheep Shall Dance (The Ciderhouse Rebellion)

A Little Bit Slanted (The Ciderhouse Rebellion With Molly Donnery)

Tales Of Colonsay (The Ciderhouse Rebellion With Jessie Summerhayes)

Having released an impressive thirteen albums over the last three years together in various guises (including The Haar), these newest works serve to highlight The Ciderhouse Rebellion’s prolific musical creativity, their astute choice of collaborators and their defiant refusal to be pigeon-holed or follow the usual structures of music making.

It’s the duo’s passion for spontaneity that has seen them being dubbed as the ingenious masters of folk-improv and gained them an enviable reputation for being a thrilling live act. Although Summerhayes prefers to explain their approach as: “turning folk music on its head. There’s something about the word ‘improvised’ that sounds woolly and there’s something much more coherent about what we’re making than just being an improvisation… We are creating in the moment together.”

Although it was the joy of creating music spontaneously that ultimately led to the pair working together, prior to this both musicians have forged highly successful careers in the classical world.

Summerhayes, who cites Vaughan Williams and Bartók as being key influences, was first taught the violin by his grandfather, Alex Whammond, who himself studied with Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky. An indication of his anarchic streak was evident from a young age when his mother would hear him practicing the violin and shout up to him: “Are you playing what you’re meant to be playing?” His response was always, “Absolutely not!”. 

Grainger studied at the Royal Academy of Music and has long-standing familial connections to the Orkney islands so grew up steeped in Scottish folk music. He nearly ended up playing the bagpipes but it was on hearing a programme on BBC Radio 4 (The History of the Accordion by the Danish player Mogens Ellegaard), that made him decide to take up the accordion instead.

Like many acclaimed musical partnerships, it was a purely serendipitous encounter that first brought them together. Grainger was playing in an Edith Piaf tribute band when Summerhayes stepped in as the replacement fiddler on a gig. As Grainger recalls:

“It just was an inexplicable and instant psychic connection. To have it on stage with somebody you’ve never played with before – it’s so rare.”

Besides the instantaneous musical chemistry, they also bonded over their love of good banter and beer. Initially they called themselves Dead Man’s Folk, however on discovering they both had an aversion for excessively hoppy craft ales, they started drinking cider instead which led them to becoming The Ciderhouse Rebellion (very much in the spirit of social movements such as the Levellers and the Chartists).

The change in name also coincided with a shift in their performance style. Previously they would have a pre-determined set-list and a fairly good idea of what they would play during a gig.

“After that we abandoned such restrictions. We had a rebellion against being told what to do, even by ourselves!”

Summerhayes also noted that the strongest element of their partnership was their capacity to improvise, so he suggested they try to capture this on record. This resulted in the recording of their first fully improvised track (‘Chapter 1’ on Untold, released Feb 2020).

“It was quite an epiphany in many ways,” remarks Grainger. “It was as if suddenly all those barriers that we artificially create for ourselves disappeared, and it actually allowed me to play what I really wanted, and even things I didn’t know I wanted.”

Since then their chief modus operandi has been to capture the spontaneity of music making, in a completely unconscious way, with the only decision being what key to start in.

Whether performing as a duo, in The Haar or on one of their many Lockdown YouTube videos, what is instantly apparent is their remarkable synergy and innate desire to create in-the-moment music that takes audiences on a thrilling and unexpected journey. As anyone who has seen them perform will attest, The Ciderhouse Rebellion are a superb live act. However they realised that their albums to date  didn’t fully capture these intensely energetic and dynamic performances. That is, until now. So in an effort to rectify this, they are releasing not just one, but three very different albums.

Even The Sheep Shall Dance – The Ciderhouse Rebellion

Recorded in just 24 hours, over two days in the spring of 2023, this album is Summerhayes’ and Grainger’s response to the current state of the world – post-COVID aftermath, global political turmoil, Putin, climate change…
As Summerhayes explains:

“I was thinking about this apocalyptic world we appear to be in and then I just thought I’m going to create a made-up biblical quote: ‘As the apocalypse comes, and the end times are upon us, cider should be drunk and even the sheep shall dance….!’ It’s not getting rid of the problem, it’s just an antidote to all the doom and gloom”, he concedes, very much in keeping with the burgeoning Jazz Age during the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s when people just wanted music that was upbeat and uplifting. 

For the first time the duo use a stomp box that enhances the danceable quality of the music without detracting from its complexity and the beautiful moments of stillness.

The album also comes with a graphic novel, brilliantly illustrated by Summerhayes in a Quentin Blake-esque style, depicting a crazy story about sheep, warring rabbits and the impending apocalypse.
Summerhayes concedes that while there’s an undeniable silliness involved in Even The Sheep… “at the same time a lot of what we produce is quite dark and moody and I don’t think we could be more deeply serious about what we do.”

With this CD and book The Ciderhouse Rebellion have managed to strike a remarkable balance between demonstrating their irresistible sense of irreverence while never compromising on their virtuosic musicianship. Essentially the overriding message is that in spite of everything, life is to be lived and if it all goes wrong, then party!

A Little Bit Slanted – The Ciderhouse Rebellion with Molly Donnery
Another album recorded in just two days during a break while on tour with the Irish singer Molly Donnery, who collaborates with the duo in The Haar (alongside bodhrán player Cormac Byrne). This partnership was also the result of chance meeting – this time in a pub in Galway when Summerhayes and Byrne heard Donnery singing unaccompanied during a session. A Little Bit Slanted is a collection of Donnery’s favourite Irish songs from her childhood, accompanied by Summerhayes and Grainger. As Grainger says: “Molly is probably the finest singer I’ve ever worked with. She’s ridiculously good.” Singing in English and Irish Gaelic, she brings a wonderfully contemporary timbre to these traditional songs.
“She is such a capable and imaginative singer”,  adds Summerhayes. “In the same way as we react to her, she absolutely reacts to us. So if we’ve suddenly taken a song in a different direction, she will absolutely go with it without a pause. I don’t know any other singer who’s quite as flexible.”
Tales of Colonsay – The Ciderhouse Rebellion with Jessie Summerhayes
Both Summerhayes and Grainger have always been inspired by the landscapes of their surroundings. Tales of Colonsay is the fourth collaboration with Summerhayes’ daughter Jessie who is an award-winning poet and spoken-word artist, and the second in which a very specific landscape serves as the creative inspiration. In this case the basis of the album is a collection of poetry Jessie wrote for her father’s birthday, inspired by one particular journey to and on the Inner Hebridean island of Colonsay. There’s an intense reciprocity between the trio, even though they recorded the album in three separate rooms, with Jessie reciting the poems in one, while Grainger and Summerhayes  improvised, weaving everything together to create an intricate and beautiful piece of work.
“The words are the music and the music is the words and it’s an incredible inter-relationship of poetry to music that you don’t often come across”, says Grainger. Tales of Colonsay will be released as a double CD along with a book featuring Jessie’s poems and illustrations.

In their inimitable defiant fashion The Ciderhouse Rebellion look set to shake up the folk world once again when they release all three of these albums simultaneously – and in CD-book format. Given the increasing digitalisation of music and the sheer number of albums being released, some might conclude that this is a madcap concept but then The Ciderhouse Rebellion have always gone against the grain.

Just as there was initial scepticism about their idea to create music in the moment, now their innovative and spontaneous performance style has sparked a trend that has seen other artists within the folk scene adopting a similar no-safety-net approach to music-making.
Ultimately they have a fervent belief that there should be no constraints on making art. As Summerhayes explains:
 “I strongly believe in creativity for and of itself… creativity without boundaries. You know how there’s always an internal critic that’s sitting on your shoulder saying ‘oh is this good enough? Is that what you want to do?’ The whole thing about The Ciderhouse Rebellion is rebellion against that internal critic; it’s just saying ‘let’s just do and create and make’.”
So in defiance of critics and convention, and as a way to show audiences the breadth and depth of their creativity, these works celebrate the incredible talent and synergy between two musicians who came together, thanks to Piaf and a love of beer.

Artists’ website:

Cider With Molly – ‘Mo Bhuachaillín Donn’ – live:

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