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Gerry O'Beirne: News/Musings/videos

Appearance on Fleadh TV, Sligo 2015 - April 11, 2016

Here's a version of "All Down The Day" with the lovely audience singing along which was recorded for Fleadh TV on TG4. The 2015 Fleadh in Sligo honoured me on a concert of my songs and I had many great singers along with me to sing them: Maura O'Connell, Pauline Scanlon, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Teresa Horgan, Seamus Begley, and the great Tommy Peoples who sang some of the verses of The Holy Ground.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MChG70gyggM

 

And from the same concert, my song "The Last King Of Feothanach":

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__aFTecNrTc

Summertime in Dingle - July 12, 2011

It's been ages since I gave any news in these pages so apologies for that. I came home from the states in May and did a tour with Irish Music Network which was a lovely experience, playing with legendary nickelharpa player Olov Johansson from Vasen, Conor Byrne on flute and Tom Morrow from Dervish on fiddle. There was a quick visit to Transylvania to play with the orchestra and choirs for Shaun Davey's Voices From The Merry Cemetery - sadly I missed the Irish debut of this remarkable suite in St Patrick's Cathedral last November. By now we all feel really at home in Sibiu and with those great musicians and singers. You'll find me for much of this summer as usual in the Dingle Peninsula and playing quite often in St James' Church in Dingle. When I get a better internet connection I'll put up some photos from these recent travels. Hope to see you down the road, or better again in Dingle!

Review of "Yesterday I Saw The Earth Beautiful" by Folkworld, Home of European Music - March 3, 2011


Singer/songwriter Gerry O'Beirne (vocals, guitars, ukulele) from Co. Clare and American fiddler Rosie Shipley (fiddle, vocals) have been working together for years and finally they release their first album together. O'Beirne composed six of the 13 songs and tunes, put two poems to music and they completed the program with five traditional sets.
Patrick Kavanagh is the author of the beautiful poem "Free Soul" and O'Beirne added a melancholic tune played by guitar, fiddle and Trevor Hutchinson on double bass; his tender singing is borne by Shipley's angelic background vocals. My favourite song is "Black Water", a kind of psychedelic folk song with hauntingly beautiful singing, hypnotic finger-picking, fine fiddling and Hutchinson's terrific double bass. Traditional dance sets from Ireland like "Tom Billy's" or the "Cape Breton Set", where Shipley attended a Gaelic Arts college, include intoxicating jigs. reels, hornpipes, strathspeys and slides. Another highlight is "American Tunes", a set of two Appalachian traditionals. National Steel Guitar, Fiddle and acoustic guitar produce an unbelievable bluesy groove. Shipley's fiddling is awesome and O'Beirne adds some virtuoso Bluegrass on ukulele. "Alfred Hitchcock's Polkas" is an original set by O'Beirne starting with a melancholic slow polka and accelerating to a breathtaking speed polka.
Two first class musicians hosting one of the best Irish double bass players have created an extraordinary album with innovative Arrangements and hauntingly beautiful songs.

© Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup

two short videos - October 14, 2010

I'm not noted for social networking, indeed I hardly do it at all, but if you would like to listen to some pieces of music that may not make it on to an album any time soon, here's a couple of videos taken in my summer retreat in Co Kerry. I hope you enjoy them.

An old Irish air, Marbhna Luimnigh, played on my gorgeous old National Steel guitar. I don't have enough hands to bring this instrument on the road, but it's an essential part of my music at home. I bought it many years ago from a dusty old man in a dusty old shop in London. That was a very good day.

and a new ukulele piece:

Brongaene Griffin - Three Colours Ginger - October 3, 2010

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Years ago I used to wander up the coast from LA to Portland to play music with Kevin Burke and Andy Irivine, and from there we would go on tour around the states. The music was sleek and jaunty and fun and the trio was never recorded, more’s the pity, though I produced an album for Kevin, Up Close, that among other things had the harmonica-playing Murphy family from Wexford with their celebrated reels, and I added some electric guitar and drum machine on one of those late night sessions. It’s a track I really love. You hear those tunes played a lot in trad sessions nowadays, but I always miss the electric guitar, though I might be the only one who does!

We used to hang out at a somewhat anarchic wine-lovers’ restaurant that proudly boasted the most brusque service in America, The Vat And Tonsure, now sadly closed forever it seems, and one of the friends we made at that time was Bronnie Griffin, a teenage fiddle student of Kevin’s who was already a good old-time and bluegrass fiddler but took to the Irish thing like a happy splashing duck to water and was immediately good enough to play with himself. Now she has made an album and kindly asked me to produce and arrange the music. I think it’s really good and upbeat and fun, reminding me a lot of the times we had back then and full of Bronnie's generous spirit. I play along a fair bit too and Kevin doubles up some fiddle lines and harmonies on a few tunes, and then there are contributions from other good friends like Elizabeth Nicholson who provides airy dexterous harp. It’s very unusual too in that there’s a running theme of cats through all the titles (Bronnie is a big animal protection and rights supporter) and Kevin chips in by reciting The Owl And The Pussycat and some other cat poems in his inimitable growl. It’s worth checking out some of the tracks here. I think they are really pleasing.

Playing in the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta - September 21, 2010

The music has been flowing all summer in Dingle. I love playing in St James’ Church, a small perfect space for music, the crows calling outside in the dusk only slightly ominously, two poles in the middle of the room which sadly have never been exotically danced around, so far as I know, and usually a good audience. This week I’m looking forward to some solo sets so I’ll bring more instruments – the National Steel to play a slow air on slide guitar, the Tiple with its almost medieval flavour, the Elephant guitar and twelve-string and ukulele. I’ve written a new uke piece this week that reminds me of perhaps the theme music of an imaginary Luchino Visconti movie, if Visconti had a soundtrack featuring ukulele, which I will be the first to admit he didn’t and wouldn’t, but still it reminds me of him. I’d love to see a nice melodramatic Visconti season in the Dingle Cinema,  the best cinema in the world. I’m looking forward to playing with some of the other performers too this week in the church: Laurence Courtney’s big voice is one the local treasures and he’s not heard often enough on stage. Eilis Ní Chinneide is singing better than ever, and Aoife and Deirdre Granville are really good musicians, and all of them fine people for the crack. As in fun. There have been some wild nights in the Shebeen of course with Mr Begley and family, and when you head for Baile na mPuic out across the brow of the peninsula and see the Blasket Islands in the golden dying light of the day, well there are no words for it. Here's a picture of late summer here with the fuschia and montbresia blazing away:

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I had a memorable gig too with Béal Tuinne in Gougane Barra this summer where we stayed up quite late, and the quartet with Shaun, Rita and Eoin at the Clifden Arts Festival.

But the highlight of the season was a visit to Romania to play Shaun Davey’s “Merry Cemetery of Sapanta” suite, and this time in the Merry Cemetery itself. The journey started with an overnight train from Bucharest to the town of Sighetu. Joining us on the train was a band called Mambo Siria from Southern Romania. Around midnight they took off their shirts and started to play. They’re a terrific band and really a brass band in a train carriage is the most fun your ears can have while you’re on a train lurching from side to side drinking alcoholic beverages and trying to take a picture of them. Have a look at them on youtube too. It’s worth it, trust me.

 

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It was hot in Sighetu, near the Ukraine border, and we knuckled down to rehearsal with the orchestra and choir, and played in the cemetery the next day. Here’s a picture of just a couple of the “merry” graves. Notice there's a poem about each person with their image, and some of these are set into song by Shaun. Notice too that it's a modern cemetery, so you'll see images of children who have been killed by cars as well as people operating machinery.

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When we played the songs, each one set to a poem about the person who is buried there, I wondered why all cemeteries are not like this, and why we don’t play music all the time to celebrate people who are gone, music all about those people. It feels really good to do it.

A view from the stage at the concert that night:

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A highlight too was a visit to the communist museum, the only one in the country, which was a poitical prison in the bad old days, one of many such prisons. Interesting to see photos there of the Ceausescus having a great old time with Richard Nixon on a state visit, and a not uncomfortable looking Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip enjoying their visit to the palace. That’s who these people really are, you know, no matter how cuddly they may appear to be in cute movies. You really don’t have to sup with murderers and tyrants if you don’t want to. If we achieved nothing else in Ireland, at least we got rid of that royalty nonsense. The prison yard:

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Visiting Romania was a privilege and great fun again this year and no small thanks to “shadow”, our interpreter and minder Ioana Nistorescu.

We’ll be performing the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta suite and other music in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin on the 27th November, along with the novice priests’ choir from Sibiu (they’re not allowed to become priests in the Romanian Orthodox Church until they’re married), and the RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by the redoubtable David Brophy, with Rita Connolly, Noel Eccles  and Liam O’Floinn. We hope Shadow will come along too with the Romanian contingent to look after us all.

Art of the Song - August 10, 2010

My friends John Dillon and Vivian Nesbitt have a great radio show broadcast from Taos, New Mexico called Art Of The Song. John has written a book about creativity called The 20-20 Creativity Solution. Check it out here: http://www.1shoppingcart.com/app/?af=1224448

Some of the proceeds from the book will go to keep Art Of The Song: Creativity Radio on the air. Well worth supporting.

on the road/off the road - May 13, 2010

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It's been a typical spring with much road, some of which is displayed above thanks to the magic of griangrafadoireacht. There was an appearance at Celtic Connections in Glasgow with Andy M Stewart and on the same blll was Shona Donaldson, a lovely Scots singer. I did some filming for a piece on the bog bodies for Irish TV. Valerie Waters put it together for Nationwide and was pleased with the result. Well, look what you had to work with I said, and she said, yes, a couple of old guys who didn't give me any guff. Some recording followed with Rosie Shipley for our album together (out in August, I think) in Handsome Trevor Hutchinson's studio in Dublin. There will be some new songs on it from me and some rather good fiddle from Rosie and even vocalizing from herself. I recorded too with Trevor's band Lunasa for their new album, and then I set sail for America. A week followed in a recording studio in New Orleans with my good friend and ace engineer Misha Kachkachishvilli for Danny O'Flaherty (thank you Dr Ruary and Michelle) and then the serious traveling started - Washington DC, out to West Virginia and then down to Texas. We had a great time with the Gillette brothers on their ranch in Crockett TX and playing at their club the Camp Street Cafe, where Lightnin' Hopkins used to perform. I picked up an album/book combined of old time music/new songs based on local East Texas history called Settlers of the Western Woods and it's a good find. Fascinating stories about pioneers, native americans, paddleboat disasters and escaped slaves with historical pictures and wonderful music. It's the work of Steve Hartz and you'll find it at www.mysteryridge.com. Then over to Shreveport Louisiana and Monroe Louisiana where we had a great time with Doyle Jeter of Enoch's Pub and Tom McCandlish (a great story from Doyle about Truman Capote and a cream puff - Doyle was hungover one morning in New York City.  He was stumbling across the street to get coffee when he bumped into a man eating a cream puff.  The cream puff went right into the man's face.  In the middle of apologizing, Doyle realized that the man was Truman Capote.  Delighted and surprised, Doyle cried: "Truman Capote!"  Covered in cream-puff, Truman replied, "Fuck you!") and also in Monroe discovered the worst Mexican restaurant in the world, seriously. It's good to know these things. Older and wiser we drove down Highway 61 to New Orleans, magical as ever at the head of the shimmering mighty Mississippi. We were at a loss for what to do on St Patrick's Day - my default is to hide out for the day - but in the event we played for our friend and great chef Susan Spicer at her restaurant Bayona and found another restaurant, our new favourite place, Adolfo's on Frenchmens Street. We heard some fine brass street music in the city this time but had to leave all too soon for the Northeast again up to New Hampshire, and one of the loveliest towns in America, Rosendale New York, and a gem of a place, the Rosendale Cafe. By now Rosie was well into her new role as backing singer. Still can't get her to sing a song though. We pressed on to play in Phoenix Arizona(thank you Terry and Michelle for coming), back east for a show near Asheville North Carolina and a reunion and a few tunes with our dear old friend E.J. Jones, then to Bett Padgett's famed concert series in Raleigh NC, and on to Savannah Georgia just before the summer heat came. I scooted up to Massachusetts to teach at a school called Tabor Academy and then managed to fly home through the unpronounceable ash cloud by way of London and Shannon and a bus to Dublin. Phew. That was a a good time. I think. Now to finish writing some music that will be on the new album, a weekend soon in Scotland with Andy M Stewart and a visit to Brittany and then maybe all will be quiet and peaceful for the rest of the summer in old Dingle town. Maybe not though. I just got an email from Andy Irvine. I played with Andy for a couple of years many years ago and many and various were our adventures. We may have a glass or three some time soon.

with Béal Tuinne in Paris - June 29, 2009

gathering_audience_paris_resized.jpgI was delighted to be asked to play with Béal Tuinne in Paris the other day. Here’s a pic of the audience gathering at the Irish Cultural Centre. Béal Tuinne have one of the loveliest choral sounds you’ll hear in a band, and what singers: Seamus Begley, Eilís Ní Chinnéide, Laurence Courtney and Rita Connolly. After the show we retired to a Paris sidewalk café where Seamus performed the greatest percussion solo ever heard by man nor beast using only Paris sidewalk café cutlery and a keen sense of survival. The songs of Béal Tuinne are all taken from the poetry of Eilís’s father, Caoimhín Ó’Cinnéide from West Kerry. More at http://www.bealtuinne.com/

Voices from the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta - June 10, 2009

This was a series of poems from a medieval cemetery in Romania set to music by Shaun Davey and performed last weekend in Sibiu in Transylvania, Romania as part of the Sibiu Theatre Festival with a small orchestra, two choirs, majestic singer Rita Connolly, the no less majestic Liam O'Floinn on pipes, Noel Eccles on percussion and myself on guitar with redoubtable conductor David Brophy. Even by his high standards this was great music from Shaun. We had a good time in any case of course, but the music was a rapturous experience, not least because of the singers from Sibiu. These people don't hold back when they sing. Here's a picture of the Evangelical Church where the performance was held. I'll put up some other pics from Sibiu on my flickr page.

Evangelical Church, Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania

The "elephant" guitar smashed on southwest flight and Southwest refuse to pay! - May 18, 2009

I've always liked the airline so I'm very surprised, but they flat out refuse to pay for the repair on the basis that i didn't discover the damage there and then, plus they call me "Ms Obeirne" which i suppose shows how much attention they're paying. Very disappointed in them. The repair involves a whole new top among other things and will take months. Luckily the people who built it, Ithaca Guitar Works, have more of the original cedar block they used for the original. a picture of the damage

 

UPDATE: So far we've raised about two thirds of the cost of the repair so big big thanks to the Friends of the Elephant!:

Kate Christmas and friends, Fred Knight, Clifton English, Valeri Keogh, Deborah Rogers, Claire, Michael, Sinead, Gerard Dunn, Bett & Bill Padgett, Aaron Karmelk, Anne & Keith Willoughby, Phoebe O'Brien, Teresa Mecca, Burke Walker, Jennifer Karlsson, Jamie O'Brien, Robbie White, Nora Jeannier, Terry Murphy, Abbie Bernstein, Kate Akers, Dawn McBride and Tonya Baumhardt.

Road Records - March 2, 2009

Dublin: Road Records on Fade Street is in a struggle to survive. A terrible shame if they go as it’s a great independent record store with good taste in music. It’s where I first bought a Sigur Ros album, and where I saw Carly Sings sing one lunchtime. (If you haven’t heard her album, you might enjoy it.)
Who cares if the big stores die along with the record labels, but I thought there would always be room for a class act like Road Records.
After hearing my album on Pearl’s wonderful show on Phantom FM a blogger sniffily opined that he was far too worldly and knowing to spend $17 (on CD Baby) on any album. And this when it was worth about 12 euro.
If everybody is working for free now, count me in. If not, I’m going to charge for my albums, thanks very much. It’s still costly to make a good sounding acoustic music album.
Some are now “leasing” music by paying for streaming on sites like Rhapsody. I understand that you can run out of room for albums in your house and probably there’s plenty to be said for it but from an artist’s point of view it takes hundreds of plays before you can buy a cup of coffee. And as someone who uses their own artwork/photography I love having the physical album. Incidentally I’m having the Half Moon Bay CD reformatted, all slim and with no plastic.

They're trying to wash us away - May 11, 2008

Just back from New Orleans and another glorious Jazzfest. Randy Newman singing Louisiana brought tears to the eyes. One of the things i Love about the city is the relative absence of the corporate appearance that you encounter in almost every other American city and small town. You're not looking at the same half dozen corporate logos everywhere, and peoples' conversations on the street seem not so defined by speech patterns and drivel learned from tv. The streetcars are the same heavy iron ones, still going to Desire and the cemeteries. A really interesting place. And if you love food.... Bayona for garlic soup! N'Awlins Flava for po boys! Casamento's for oysters! Please come and support this magical place. The tent city under Interstate 10 still tells a powerful story.

A rose by any other name... - May 9, 2008

The Bog Bodies And Other Stories: Music For Guitar". I thought that about covered it. "Congratulations on the birth of the Bog Bodies", a friend emailed helpfully. Then I had people at gigs saying " I'd like a copy of the Bog Babies please" and "two Bog People and a Half Moon Bay". It's been fun launching the new album and mostly it's been enthusiastically received. But Echoes, the American radio show which kindly gave it album of the month, while liking the music very well, expressed surprise that I should choose such a "macabre image". Poor Oldcroghan Man! Poor Clonycavan Man! I never thought of them as being macabre! I imagine you won't either if you go to see them in the National Museum in Dublin. To encounter them is to see two incredibly interesting people who have come to us from so very far away but who seem oddly familiar - the bog and time seem to have burnished and defined them into an essence of their persons and personalities, almost as if they have become works of art. It's fascinating, and I just wanted to tell their stories. Macabre indeed! Save the Bog Bodies!

Guitar tunings - July 4, 2007

Cloned back from my old web site by popular demand (well a few people have asked me about it) I hope this is helpful. Warning: If you don't play guitar you may find what follows excruciating. Even if you do...

Guitar tunings from my Half Moon Bay album and elsewhere:

I'm not a full-time guitar nerd--I don't buy the guitar magazines for example--but I’ve always had fun with tunings. I started out with some for slide guitar : DGDGBD and DADF#AD which I still use, but curiousity led me further afield. Perhaps too far - I remember tuning the 12 string to 12 different notes and writing a piece for it which luckily I’ve managed to forget…
I always imagine i know enough tunings to keep me busy but every now and then a new one emerges and gives me new colours, new architecture….

Anyway on the Half Moon Bay album, The Holy Ground is in a dropped D tuning – DADGBE. Dropped D tuning has the advantage of familiarity but has a grandeur about it and the additional bass notes are nice especially the droning low D. 1874, another old song of mine, is in this tuning.

Then Off The Rocks At Clahane is on the National Steel in DADF#AD which is also the tuning for Darkness Now and Silver Line Sarah and Caperucita. There’s something about this tuning that encourages melody writing on the top strings as well as bright poppy harmony. And fingerpicking is good and propulsive with it. I think John Fahey used to use this tuning a fair bit so it must have been popular too with the old country blues guitarists.

Then Long Beating Wing and Western Highway and Half Moon Bay are all in C tuning – CGCGCE.
C tuning has been fertile ground for me, particularly on the 12 string. It seems to bring out a lot of momentum and melodies that turn and hinge on the dominant chord. It makes you want to tell a story, to write a song.

Angel Angel is in EEEEBE, believe it or not, a very rocky sound which sometimes tends towards Middle Eastern music.
I once had about twenty guitarists jam on this tuning at a festival workshop in New Zealand, a splendid sound and just a tad anarchic. Like a pipe band without the, um, pipes.
Another variation on that is EEBEBE
If you can’t have fun with this one, well, maybe fun is not your thing.

Shades Of Gloria is in normal or, as you might say, missionary tuning. So is When you're Gone I Say Your Name. and The Days Of Joe O’Dowd , another old song I’ve been doing recently.

The ukulele for The Glass Boat is in normal uke tuning where the first string is a B - ADF#B. I tune the Tiplé to this as well for a piece called Fergus River Roundelay which will be on the new album.

A new one for me is BABEAE and I wrote a song with it about Ned Kelly the outlaw which is called The Burning Ground of Glenrowan and also a song called Sekou Camara about an immigrant to Ireland from Guinea . And I’m working out some instrumental passages with this tuning for the next album.

Winter Sun, a long 12 string instrumental piece is in a modified C tuning, CGCECE. So is a new piece, Cloneycavan Man, which is inspired by one of the two new bog bodies on display in the National Museum in Dublin. The other new bog body piece, Old Croghan Man, is in regular C tuning.

Some guitar music I wrote for the film “Shannon – River of Dreams” is in DF#DEAD.

When I’m accompanying Irish traditional music, I most often use a CGDGBD tuning which if you capo on the 2nd fret, gives you an open A chord with a D bass note. From there you can reach all the usual keys without all that annoying moving around of the capo. Even if you use a Drop D tuning and are always moving the capo I think it’s a shame that you’re not getting all the voicings that a guitar can give you. The same with DADGAD.

Well there’s always more tunings but that’s plenty to be going on with. It’s all about pursuing your own journey in music. If you get lost, just keep going. And be sure to write.

Dublin - February 12, 2007

The annual Dublin winter gig looms. It's next friday in the Cobblestone. Expensive silks and fine Donegal tweed emerging from mothballs, intensive rehearsal already under way in Raheny Castle, a punishing fitness regime on the sand dunes of Bull Island, an all out media blitz being contemplated for friday afternoon some time - all the usual trappings. No detail too small etc. Now all we need is yourselves.

The City of New Orleans - November 19, 2006

New Orleans. For any music lover it's a pilgrimage.
A city forsaken and its people insulted and still in deep trouble but it's wonderful to be there.
I went to Vaughan's in the Bywater last thursday night to see Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers for more fun than is decent and Tuesday night in the Maple Leaf with the blaring Rebirth Brass Band. Going to a dance or a gig there(I'm not talking about Bourbon Street) is to see just how good music can be, absolutely everyone having the best time they could possibly have and no bullshit of any kind. Then of course there's the food and most of all the people. You seem to remember every conversation you ever had in New Orleans with friends, taxi drivers, strangers. When you're leaving town have beignets and coffee in the Louis Armstrong airport terminal and listen to the only decent piped music you're ever likely to hear. Thus fortified, you can more easily dance through the security cafuffle, laptop out, shoes off and away from what is still sheer magic. Having said all that, will most of the people of New Orleans ever be able to return? It doesn't seem likely, and that is an incredible tragedy. There are worrying signs too, of police crackdowns on second line and Mardi Gras Indian marches. Insanity.

Shut Up And Sing - November 3, 2006

I saw "Shut Up And Sing", the Dixie Chicks movie last night in Nashville. It's a good documentary, and great fun. They're as well out of country music it seems to me. It's the political season in the states, and hard to see the coming election being anything other than a train wreck seeing as an electronic vote isn't worth the paper it's written on, to paraphrase Louis B Mayer on the subject of verbal contracts. Meanwhile I'm heading out to Atlanta, Savannah and Dataw Island for the next few days, and then down to the beloved and betrayed City of New Orleans.

The Black Stars. Robin Williamson. SUV's in Ireland. - July 24, 2006

Thinking about it, an odd World Cup this year, shaping up to be a great one and then somehow leaving a funny taste with some disappointing matches, though I thought the Italians were good enough overall for their win. But I was very proud of my Ghanaians, going down to Brazil without their best player. The Black Stars shall rise again!

I haven't seen him since we both lived in L.A. years ago, so I was glad to see Robin Williamson this weekend in St James' Church, Dingle, and at the top of his form. In an era when folk and traditional music is so bound by musical conventions, so very straitlaced, what a treat to hear someone be very much himself. A great picture he makes too, with his harp and bass drum.

Surely the most offensive sight in Ireland these days is all the SUV's on the road. I understand you need something big and mighty to get around in northern Michigan in winter, but Ireland? Anyone caught with an SUV on Irish roads should forfeit their apartments in Turkey and Croatia and be made to go on Big Brother for the rest of their lives.

Micheál O'Domhnaill - July 9, 2006

I just heard the sad news that Micheál O'Domhnaill passed away. Micheal was a fantastic singer and guitar player who of course was best known for his part in the incredible Bothy Band. I was privileged to work with him on his album with Kevin Burke, "Promenade". Amazing rhythm in his guitar and emotion and soul in his voice, both of which went to the very heart of him.

Midnight Well - May 28, 2006

Hello everyone. Heading back to Ireland. See you at the Midnight Well reunion in Sligo next weekend.

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