Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Mariannes ~ A band willing to experiment with limits of the alt-folk genre

This week, I'm writing about a band that I came across browsing the line-up for the Galway Fringe Festival that occurs annually in the last two weeks of July. The Fringe festival always manages to feature under the radar talented artists and bands. They especially have a track record in featuring some great folk, alt-folk and americana artists. This year was no exception with the recently blogged about Man Mountain Band being featured at the festival and today's featured artist The Mariannes appearing as well.


The Mariannes formed about 2012 with each member of this six piece bringing something to the outfit that leads to their current alt-folk sound. With the vocals of Lisa Loughrey (guitar) along with Joe Maher (Lead Guitar), Eamon Cassidy (Bass Guitar), Gearóid Ó Broin (Piano, Guitar, Banjo), Jack Cassidy (Mandolin Glockenspiel) and Nathan Maher (Drums), the band have slowly settled on to a alf-folk sound that includes elements of blues, and some pop. It sounds like a mish-mash but it's more a amalgamation of elements that make the sum of the parts all the worth while. "God Fearing Woman" is the perfect example. With a title that could have come from a Clancy Brothers song, the melody fuses a pop sentimentality built around a core folk structure.



The band's career took off when they won the inaugural Clancy Brother’s song-writing award in 2014. The award from this along with a Fundit campaign helped them to afford recording time to produce their first release; "Lost With All Hands" EP. The award winning title track revolves around that strange phrase "Lost With All Hands". The more you think about it, the more other-worldly those words seem. The band take what seems like a traditional folk tale about a downed ship and turn it into, for me, a mournful lament of a broken down relationship. The guitar and harmonica hover gently over the main melody adding a real melancholy to the song. It really is a beautiful tune.



The band launched the EP in Whelans in Dublin in April this year with gigs all summer in support of the EP. The tracks from the EP display their versatility even within what may seem like a easily defined genre of alt-folk; "Hurt" is probably as traditional as you might get with the Mariannes. Reminiscent of songs of the folk revival of the 1960's, the arrangement of guitar, voice and flute keep you engaged for those brief  but perfect two minutes.


A band with willingness to explore genres and arrangements, the Mariannes have a style that suggests they wont be limited to the borders of folk and have a very bright future in front of them. For more on The Mariannes, seek out their Facebook page. The band have a few songs on Soundcloud from the EP. You can purchase the EP on iTunes and it's well worth checking out.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Mountain Man Band

'Tis the height of summer. I'm writing this blog post here on a veranda not 100 yards from the beach in the sunshine. Sure what else would I be doing but writing about some great Irish music. This week I came across a band playing locally here in Galway, so I thought they deserved a wider audience.

Not to be confused with "Mountain Man" (the American three piece vocal group), the Mountain Man Band is as far as you can get from that as possible. It's funny how the blues seems to be the only genre (well if not the only, the principle one) that specialises in  surrounding the artists origins in mystery. Going back to Robert Johnson, there are always semi-fables that lead you wonder where the truth ends and the legend begins. The Mountain Man Band are no different; this alternate Mountain Man Band are a bluesy rock duo made up of two guys who hail from the Gaeltacht. And that's all I know for sure. They formed last year (2014) and have since racked up a number of recordings. The guys are going strong with only recently celebrating a year recording as a band. They have been taking part in Battle of the Bands in Dublin while gigging about the place.


My favourite of the recordings is "Play That Song". It's your straight-down the middle, no messing blues rock. I am reminded of the Mississippi hill country blues of R.L Burnside listening to it. The repetitive rhythm keeps your attention the whole time, it's foot-stompin' rock that is hard to resist.



 "All I ever Wanted" demonstrates the bands versatility. Taking the cadence down a notch, the song builds itself up to a crashing crescendo of drums and guitars only to return to the moody, longing words of the verses.


Where and how two men from the Gaeltacht got the inspiration and found their influences is something I would love to find out. On first glance it might seem that the West of Ireland is a very different place to Mississippi, the birthplace of the blues, but maybe not, when you start thinking about it both are rural with emigration a major influence on people's lives and both places have a strong music tradition. The music of The Mountain Man Band goes to show that the musical style of one genre can easily still have an impact on two guys a few thousand miles away. That's the power of music.




The Mountain Man Band are probably one of the best exponents of the blues-rock genre this side of the Atlantic. Going by what they have recorded in just a year, I would say that these lads should be destined for great things. The quality of these blues melodies would easily keep you intrigued until a full LP comes around. The Mountain Man Band have their own website where you can find out more about the band. Check out the Mountain Man Band on Facebook too and get a full idea of their sound through the Soundcloud page

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Good Tidings From The West Vol. XI

Haven't done one of these in a while, in fact a very long while (I think it's terms of months). Considering I get a load of emails in from American bands, outside of Ireland, I don't feature them enough on the blog. So keeping up with the general theme of these posts, I'm going to look at three bands that hail from the U.S. that are purveyors of the best americana out there.

Moondog Matinee



Possibly named after one of The Band's albums. Moondog Matinee are a Reno-based soul/blues-infused rock quintet made up of members Pete Barnato (Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar), Steve Widmer (Guitar, Vocals), Drea Ballard (Guitar, Vocals), Adam Carpenter (Bass, Vocals), Ben Ingle (Drums). That description is quite the conflagration of sounds. The group have already released one album and are about to release a second titled "Carry Me, Rosie" which is due out at the end of August. Listening to their current single "Last Night The Devil Learned My Name", their sound is full of energy. It's soulful rock with energy. Check them out on their website.

The Afternoon Edition



If you're looking for something more calm side of americana, you should check out The Afternoon Edition. Reminiscent of Gooldrush era Neil Young, Canyon Lights is a lovely, piece of summery americana. The band also have another single that offers an opportunity to further explore their sound. With a banjo dominating through-out, it's a sweet, warm tune that slowly reels you in. Check out more of The Afternoon Edition on their Facebook page.

The Living Sisters


The Living Sisters are a act that have been around a few years. Made up ladies Eleni Mandell, Becky Stark, Inara George and Alex Lilly they have a new album out now: "Harmony Is Real: Songs for a Happy Holiday". The group were formed in 2005 by Eleni Mandell and Becky Stark because they both have a love of harmonies. After a few years together, the sisters recruited Inara George joined the next year, and Alex Lilly became the fourth "sister” in 2012. Their back catalogue consists of albums Love to Live was followed by an EP, Run for Cover. Each of the members has a solo career and come together to create these beautiful harmonies. It does remind you of the classic vocal groups of the 1950's. Built up around some great melodies, they really are a treat for your ears.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Live Preview: Valentia Isle Festival

After my recent preview of festivals, I thought I would look at a few festivals in detail that deserve or merit a bit of more attention and who is playing at them. This week it is the forthcoming Valentia Isle Festival.

The festival has been going for a number of years though its only crossed my radar this year. That's likely to do with the fact that this is the first summer that the festival has moved from its usual September slot to a new spot in the second weekend of July.

Happening this year from 10th-12th to July, the festival line-up has a very eclectic mix. The headliners include Daddy G (Massive Attack), Norman Jay, Jerry Dammers (The Specials) and Don Letts.

It's as much as about the venue here as the artists that are playing. Valentia Island is a a beautiful spot on the edge of the world. As well as having some beautiful scenery. It's also one of the locations of the Dark Sky International Reserve; a place where you can view the night sky better than most other places in the world.

The festival is complete with three stages: Secret Sounds, Radiomade Stage and the Blind Pig stage. What drew my attention was the amount of artists that have been previously featured on Eirecana. It's quite a list of acts appearing: Corner Boy, Fox Jaw, John Blek & The Rats, The Eskies, The Hot Sprockets, Mongrel State. It's hard to suggest what to go see. One I would recommend is Mongrel State. Formally known as Moo!, they are a band I haven't seen live yet but if the energy of their recorded output is anything to go by, their performance should be a lot of fun.



The Festival Website is where you'll find all the info. Tickets are priced at a reasonable €89 for weekend camping and €50 for day tickets. The festival accommodates Campers too though I don't know how many spaces are left. You can buy tickets through Eventbrite and keep up to date with what's happening through the festival Twitter and Facebook.

As well as local headliners Frank & Walters, another local act is making an appearance at the festival. John Blek & The Rats have been one of my favourite Irish bands for quite a while. Cork based John Blek & The Rats will also be making an appearance. The band have recorded their second album I believe so hopefully they might preview a few tracks from it at Valentia. If the beautiful folk melodies of their first album is anything to go by, it should be worth looking forward to.



As well as the main acts, the festival features two distinguished musical events. Saturday night its swing with lots of brass in action and the opportunity to learn a few proper dance moves. On Sunday then, it's a more relaxing affair with traditional music featuring heavily on the day. Also on the island on the weekend the King Scallop Festival takes place. So you're definitely not short of options.

One band that would usually be outside of what I write about here on Eirecana but I have developed a gra for is The Vincent(s). Their moody rhythmic death pop tones hark back to a mix between late 80'd alternative rock and classic grunge and it's really enjoyable.




So between dark skies, dance lessons, trad music, nice food, stunning location and one impressive line-up of acts Valentia Isle Festival in the height of summer is proving quite the temptation.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Elder Roche

Well this week's find is a bit left-field for Eirecana. What that means I'm not entirely sure. I can tell you it's not americana but it has familiar melodies, it's not alt-country blues but it has plenty of soul. This is the sound of Elder Roche.

There is not much in terms of bio for Elder. He grew up in Dublin, has seen the world and is now based between Dublin and Berlin. Indeed it's hard to establish if Elder is a moniker as I thought or his name. The name though seems to fit perfectly the sound of Elder's music. With a foundation in roots, his style moves and stretches the genre to leave you unprepared for what's coming around the corner next.

Elder got his break though Damien Dempsey. After meeting him in a bar, Damien was the man who got him up on stage at the International in Dublin. Elder ended up sharing the stage with Damien Rice, Paddy Casey and Luka Bloom. Not a bad start. The background of Elder is so mysterious that I'm not sure if his 2009 release "Nobody Knows" was his first album or not. Nevertheless the album is a collection of 12 songs full of atmosphere. One thing that you can say for Elder is that he is a talent at creating a mood. The whole album from start to finish definitely takes you down a creepy dark road and leaves you there. Highlights like "Dark Place" give you a taste of the setting.



The songs veer between dark and bright. Songs like "Shine" and "Diamond" are a lot more poppy than the other tracks on the album and all the better for it. A quote on Elder's website mentions the lazy comparisons to Tom Waits and his ability being a lot more singular than that. Saying that, the comparison should be made. Many of these songs are reminiscent of Tom Waits but I think another milestone is Lou Reed. The versatility of those songs from "Nobody Knows" suggests a man that is comfortable not being tied down to one genre or style.

The new EP "Simple Melody" was launched late last year and it is definitely a step up. If the previous release was atmospheric then this release is drowning in it. The lead single "Kerry Black Mountain" is seething in broodiness. The refrain "Gimme love now" sounds more like a demand than a request. With the big brass presence and that single piano note that always adds a momentum to any song, the melody and words combine to leave you wanting to hear it all over again.



An E.P heavy on a big sound, the addition of brass adds real impetuous to the record, it's a real pleasure to enjoy. If I was to come close to labelling it it's like gothic-blues/americana. Whatever you want to call it, Elder Roche has definitely taken a step forward with "Nobody Knows". It's some gothic soul that you can dance to.




You can find out more about Elder Roche on his website. As per usual, there is the Facebook page and to listen to a full compliment of his songs, try his Soundcloud.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Eirecana Radio - 11th February 2015

Just a few episodes more and the back catalogue is done. Don't forget to listen back to previous shows on Mixcloud if you want some quality americana radio! Eirecana radio is on flirtfm.ie every second Wednesday at 2pm. Catch up with previous shows on Mixcloud. Any requests, send them my way too. You can stream the show through Mixcloud. The playlist is below.

Eirecana Radio - 11th February 2015 by Eirecana on Mixcloud


Artist

Song

Album

Baby Brother

Live on A Farm

 

Fifth on The Floor

January in Loiusana

Ashes & Angels

Kasey Anderson

Some Depression

Let the Bloody Moon Rise

My Morning Jacket

Holding On To Black Metal

Circuital

Butchers Blind

Dice Were Down

Play For The Films

Elm

Concentrate

 

Joe Pug

Stay and Dance

WindFall

Matt McGinn

Darkest Before The Day

Latter Day Sinner

The Secret Sisters

My Heart Skips A Beat

My Heart Skips A Beat

The Viking Project

A Year in Disappear

The Viking Project

The Eskies

Jesus Don’t Save Me

After The Sherry Went Round

The Famous

50 Miles to Firebaugh

 

Homebrew & The Bad Examples

Dead in The Morning

 

Dax Riggs

Let Me Be Your Cigarette

Say Goodnight To The World

 

 

Submit Music If you want to submit music for the show (even your own), you never know I might play it! Please feel free to contact me at the email address: ron [at] eirecana.com So have a listen. If you like the show, check the back catalogue on Mixcloud. If you really like the show, tell someone!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Ireland Summer Festival Preview 2015

The sun is shining out there, the flowers are blooming and men in tractors are cutting silage which means only one thing; it's festival season again. Previously I have run through a load of festivals over the Irish summer but this year I thought I would keep it concise. It's as simple as highlighting the festivals that I think will be enjoyed most by people who enjoy the music on this blog. Some of my picks you might disagree with. Some you might support. If you think I am missing out on any festivals or have any suggestions of your own, feel free to comment below.

Townlands Carnival
When: July 10th-12th
Where: Macroom, Co. Cork
Cost: €85 Camping/ €35 Day Tickets

A brand new festival set in the lvely countryside of Macroom in Co. Cork, the Townlands Carnival is offereing a lot of variety for the admission fee. There will be workshops, multi-media events, entertainment for the children and of course music. Playing at the festival will be artists of all genres but in particular Eirecana's attention is drawn to The Hot Sprockets, Psychdelic Pill (Neil Young Cover Band), Twin Wolf, Hermitage Green and North Strand Kontra Band. It looks like a fine affair and a festival that has really been thought out to enterain everyone no matter what your interest.




Greystones Americana Festival 

When: 3rd-5th July
Where: Greystones, Co. Wicklow
Cost: Unknown

After taking a break last year, the fifth Greystones Americana festival returns on the first weekend of July. Well that's the dates pencilled in but so far there hasn't been any confirmation of the festival and the acts booked for it. Still this family event usually has a great line-up of both international and local acts. Previously the festival has hosted Washboard and Banjo master-classes.The music takes places all over the town of Greystones. Stay tuned to the Facebook page for updates.


Valentia Isle Festival 

When: 10th-12th July
Where: Valentia Island, Kerry
Cost: €89 Weekend/€50 Day

It's not the Valentia Island festival, it's the Valentia Isle festival. The name makes the festival! Still there is a lot to be said for this little boutique festival. With a very beautiful setting, camping and camper-van facilities and a great line-up, all there is to hope for now is sunshine. Again the festival features some eclectic artists playing. Apart from the headliners, there is John Blek & The Rats, The Hot Sprockets, Fox Jaw, Mongrel State, The Eskies and one of my favourite non-Eirecana bands The Vincents. The festival features three stages so there should be something there for everyone. As well as the top class music, there is swing, trad and even a Farmers Market. Not bad going to fit all that on one island.





Knockanstockan 

When: 24th-25th July
Where: Blessington, Co. Wicklow
Cost: €80 Weekend Camping

As sure as our summers on the west coast of Ireland will be have little sunshine, you can be guaranteed that Knockanstockan will return with another great festival with a host of brilliant Irish acts. The festival tends to focus on having mainly Irish artists who have not crossed over the mainstream and as such is all the better for it. It's here where you can wander, enjoy the music for what it is without being too worried that you have to see this band and this band. Still with the likes of Gavin Glass, Mongoose, The Eskies, Tucan and all more there, it promises to be a great weekend. And they always get good weather for that festival.



Jack of Diamonds Festival 

When: August
Where: Dublin City, Various Locations
Cost: Usually Free

No details have emerged of what the line-up is for Jack of Diamonds this year but I'm sure it will be as good as previous years. The festival generally takes place in mid August in various locations around Dublin city. It really is one to catch. As the title suggests, they have one of the best line-ups of americana and alt-country this side of the Kilkenny Roots Festival.



SugarBeat Festival
When: 22nd-23rd August 

Where: Tuam, Co. Galway
Cost: Saturday €35, Sunday €30

A festival that local to Eirecana, the SugarBeat festival is a straight-up no nonsense music festival. With two days of bands there is plenty to choose from including Amazing Apples, Joe Fury & The Hayride, Rackhouse Pilfer and headliners local band The Stunning.











Ballinamore Free Fringe Festival 

When: 21st-23rd August
Where: Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim
Cost: FREE!
One of my favourite little festivals simply because it's a small community event that manages to attract a host of generally un-signed artists. The festival has comedians, artists and a lot more to offer. It really is a lovely, well I was going to say little but considering they had over 200 acts last year, it's definitely not a little event.






Monaghan Rhythm & Blues Harvest Festival 

When: 4th - 6th September
Where: Monaghan
Cost: €50/€20/€15
If you like your blues, then this festival is the one for you. Withinternational acts like Leo "Bud" Welch and the Nikki Hill Band along with homegrown acts like Crow Black Chicken, if you like your blues of any persuasion, then Monaghan town on the 4th, 5th and 6th of September is for you.










Spirit of Folk Festival
When: 18th-20th September
Where: Dunderry Park, Co. Meath
Cost: €65 Weekend /€35 Day Ticket
What a nice way to round off the summer that some soul warming folk. This festival has been running for a number of years and is expanding every year. As well as the music there is story telling, living history, pop up dance essions, yoga and more. It sounds like the perfect way to unwind after a summer of music.




Others Worth Mentioning

There are a few other festivals that might be worth the admission price that are on the Irish festival calendar for this summer: The Bash at The Bridge is a new blues-rock festival in Co. Fermanagh with a wonderful backdrop and a great line-up....Galway Arts Festival (13th-26th July) always turn up a few good gigs. This year I'm looking forward to the Galway debut of Chuck Prophet along with The Young Folk/ The Lost Brothers double gig....Castlepalooza (31st July - 2nd August, Tullamore, Co. Offaly) is another great festival that is off the beaten track and constantly promotes upcoming Irish artists....Folkfest Killarney (24th-26th July) has an amazing line-up of folk artists from home (The Whileaways, The Lost Brothers) to prestigious international acts (Tinariwen)...For those of you who like their straight-up country The Cowboys and Heroes Country and Americana Festival (17th-19th July) returns this year to a lovely location with plenty of country artists playing...the Finally Doolin Craft Beer and Roots Festival have hit my birds with one stone. Great roots music, lovely food and tempting craft beer.