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Songs from the heart with great Gretchen Peters



Date Published: {J}

Gretchen Peters is an artist whose work really catches your ear. Her songs have been performed by the likes of Neil Diamond, Faith Hill and Etta James. The American singer – who has also received a Grammy nomination – plays Kelly’s Bar on Friday next, March 9.

Etta James was an icon of American music, whose recent passing highlighted a rare and genuine talent, and Peters was a fan. “She sang a song of mine called Love’s Been Rough on Me. It was the title song of an album that she made with the late Barry Beckett in Nashville. It’s really one of the recordings of my songs that I’m just the most proud of. “I’m so grateful that I got to see her in the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville about two or three years ago,” Gretchen says. 

 “I knew she wasn’t in the best of health but I have to say I walked away from that performance and I told my husband ‘that’s the best singer I’ve ever seen live’. She just stunned me.”

Gretchen Peters was born in New York but moved to Nashville in the late eighties. It was an inspiring time in the town known as Music City with artists like Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith emerging. They were bucking the trend of writing songs for big stars to perform – in Nashville, the roles of ‘singer’ and ‘songwriter’ are often seen as two very different things.

“It was confusing to me when I first moved there, because there was this idea that you were one or the other,” Gretchen recalls. “I think Nashville’s a little less that way [now] but there’s still that tendency to put songwriters who have had commercial success into a box.”

But having your song picked up by a mega-selling act obviously has its benefits, both financially and for the fact that record companies will take a chance on you. Gretchen Peters scored a hit when Martina McBride covered her song, Independence Day, but this kind of success is not something that motivates her when writing.”

I think that there’s a notion that if you’re a Nashville songwriter, you sit down to write a hit or a song for a particular singer – and I don’t have any of those skills. I mean, I’ve written hits, but they were complete accidents. Nobody was more surprised than me!”

Instead, Gretchen’s personal experience informs her work. This is especially the case with her latest record, Hello Cruel World. The songs were written during a tumultuous 12 months, when Gretchen’s son told her he was transgender. There were also the devastating floods that hit Nashville and the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the affects of which Gretchen could see from her cottage in Florida. And, tragically, during this period a close friend of 30 years took his life.

“If ever there was an album that was all about songs that needed to come out, it was that one,” Gretchen says. “The songs were written, for the most part, in one year in two song writing sessions. I poured it out; I had an incredibly tumultuous year in 2010 and I knew I had to write about it. Everything that happened, good and bad and in-between, had to inform all these songs.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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