The Groove Tube with Jimi McDonnell – firstname.lastname@example.org
Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard play the Festival Big Top on Thursday, July 25 as part of this year’s Galway Arts Festival. Last year, Dempsey released Almighty Love, a record that’s arguably his strongest so far and earned the Dubliner a Choice Prize nomination.
The last time Dempsey spoke to the Groove Tube, he was about to take some time off from music to travel. Was he inspired by the change of scenery?
“I kind of left it alone,” he says. “I tried a bit of writing when I was away, but it wasn’t coming together – nothing decent coming. It was probably a bit of writer’s block.
“About two years ago now, when I got back from my travels I just started writing songs that meant something to me again. I was trying to go a different angle and write something a bit lighter, a bit more ‘festival’. Just to pick people up, because everyone seemed a bit down with the recession and that.”
Damien was initially unhappy with the direction of the new album, but eventually found the tone he was looking for. The breakthrough came with Chris and Stevie, a song he wrote about losing people to suicide.
“The lyrics and the verse would have come in a day,” says Damien. “I had a different chorus, but it wasn’t strong enough I didn’t think. I had to try and write a more simple chorus, that people could relate to. It was a bit too wordy, the chorus I had.”
The one Dempsey went for sees him sing ‘I’m missing you tonight’. It’s a tune his fans took to with gusto, and quickly became a live favourite.
“Everybody misses somebody at the moment, I’m sure,” he says. “It goes down really well. People seem to enjoy the story and they get emotional. It touches people, I suppose. It shuts them up too, if they’re getting too rowdy. The melody you can sing acapella, so I can stop playing the guitar so that stops people talking if they’re having a chat.”
At the Arts Festival show, Damien will be sharing the bill with Glen Hansard, who will be joined by The Frames and a brass section. Hansard has had quite a few years – he’s won an Oscar, the musical of Once scooped eight Tony awards and, most recently, he played alongside Rufus Wainwright at Joni Mitchell’s birthday tribute in Toronto’s famous Massey Hall.
How does Damien feel about his fellow Dubliner’s success?
“I’ve always been a fan of Glen,” he says. “He’s never lost the passion that he had when I first saw him 20 years ago; he still has that passion that gives me the shivers whenever he sings. As soon as I saw him I was hooked, I was in love with his singing. I still am; he hasn’t lost that edge.
“It’s great. I’ve seen how hard he’s worked, all over the world. For many years he went out there and lost money, and came back with bills from America and Europe. But he kept going, kept grafting out there. And it’s finally after paying off; it’s just brilliant to see.”
Damien Dempsey has become one of Ireland’s most popular and enduring live performers. People come to see him in their droves, but he had his own struggles in getting to that point.
“I was 10 years before I made a shilling,” he says. “Then it started to turn. After about 12 years, I started to make something, but before that I made nothing. It was a hard old slog for them years; I was penniless a lot of the time. People saying to me, ‘give up the ghost, you gave it a try’.
“Outside of Ireland, it’s still very tough – in the States. But it’s going well in Australia, and some of the cities around the UK.”
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Folk duo launch What Will Be Will Be
Folk duo Niall Teague and Pádraic Joyce are launching their new album What Will We Be, a blend of folk, Americana and acoustic music, this Friday, May 19, at 8pm in An Taibhdhearc.
The success of their well-received 2020 release Taobh le Taobh, as well as recent successes at the Pan Celtic and Oireachtas Song Contests, spurred the duo on to record this new album which represents many years of collaboration and musical development.
It features Niall and Pádraic on vocals, harmonies, and acoustic guitars, Maidhc Ó hÉanaigh on double bass and Neil Fitzgibbon on fiddle. The catchy title track, What Will We Be, features contributions from percussionist Jim Higgins (The Stunning, Christy Moore, Paul Brady) and haunting, driving melodies on vocals, guitar, and fiddle.
Themes of love and hope are woven through Come Away with Me which features interplay between piano and fiddle as well as rich vocal harmonies.
People, places, and broken dreams are celebrated and lamented on Martin and Tom, Guitar Gold, Memories of You and Achill Island. The influence of David Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden features on the tracks Simple and Wise and Walden, with the beauty of nature, escape and simple pleasures at their core.
The album moves from minimalistic folk ballads such as Galway Ghost to swirling, string-laden arrangements on the song Neptune, both of which are influenced by maritime tales from Galway. Much of the work on this album was supported by the Arts Council, including work with musical arranger Eoin Corcoran and the string ensemble Treo.
The album will be launched this Friday, May 19, at 8pm in an Taibhdhearc. Tickets €22, plus booking fee at Eventbrite.ie.
All roads lead to Dunmore as town tunes up County Fleadh
Dunmore is the place to be this weekend for lovers of traditional music, as the Galway County Fleadh will take place there from this Friday, May 19, to Sunday, May 23.
It is 10 years since Dunmore last hosted a fleadh and the local Comhaltas branch, which has re-formed since Covid, is looking forward to facilitating this gathering of music, song, dance and craic.
The official Opening Concert will take place in Dunmore Town Hall this Friday at 8pm with the acclaimed Mulcahy family from Limerick. Mick, Louise and Michelle are well known throughout the country, thanks to their live performances, television appearances and numerous CDs. They were the winners of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Grúpa Ceoil Award for 2023. Tickets for their concert can be purchased on the door and a great night of music is promised.
Two days of competitions will kick off this Saturday at the town’s Community School, with more than 1,500 competitors taking part. Participants will be hoping to qualify for the Connacht Fleadh 2023, which will be held in Ballina, County Mayo, from June 23 to July 2.
Competitions for those aged Under 10, Under 12 and Under 15 will be held in a large variety of instruments on Saturday, as well as in singing and Comhrá Gaeilge. Sunday’s competitions will be for the Under 18 and Over 18 ages groups, as well as in dancing.
On both days a large entry is expected for Grúpaí Cheoil and Céilí Band competitions across all age groups.
Seventeen Comhaltas branches from across Galway will have participants in this weekend’s competitions, which will result in a large number of visitors to the Dunmore area.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the competitions, which offer a great opportunity to hear and see the talent on display. There will be sessions in local pubs over the weekend as well and everybody is welcome to attend these.
For more information on the County Fleadh, go to www.galwaycomhaltas.ie.
Piano concert rescheduled for Tuesday
Music for Galway’s concert with renowned Swiss pianist Cédric Pescia which had been due to take place on April 27 but which had to be deferred, will now take place next Tuesday, May 23, at 8pm, in the Emily Anderson Concert Hall at the University of Galway.
This concert of German classics with Bach at its core, will brings the Bach element of Music for Galway’s 41st season to an end.
This world-class pianist who won the famous Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition, has a repertoire that spans many eras from baroque to contemporary and he is widely known for his elaborate programmes. Cédric Pescia describes music as ‘language and movement at the same time’.
Audiences will have a chance to experience his soft, clear touch as he performs a programme for solo piano that will include classics such as Schumann’s popular Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), a suite of nine short pieces, and the penultimate of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, No. 31. These pieces will be interspersed with French Suites by Bach.
■ Ticket for Cédric Pescia’s concert are available at www.musicforgalway.ie, or by phone 091 705962 and on the door on the night. They cost €20/€18. The price for fulltime students of all ages is €6 while MfG Friends can avail of the friends’ rate of €16.