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Putting on the Music Hat

October 7th, 2017

The 21st-century scop wears many hats. It’s not like the old days, when the traveling minstrel-storyteller showed up at the mead hall with a repertoire of poetry and epic tales uploaded to his personal memory. Today stories are delivered through books, films, digital downloads, spoken-word and musical performances. The most recent posts at this site have covered some of the former … now it’s time for the music hat.

First, a few words about the actual hat (left).

It’s what haberdashers call a stingy-brim, but what makes it special is the Shure microphone wired into its brim, a set-up that provides cushion from the mike’s wire clamp while freeing the singer from the tyranny of the mike stand.

Last night, I got the chance to don the hat once again when long-time musical-collaborator Duane Davis joined me for a full-band show at Riley’s outdoor pavilion, adjacent to Riley’s Pour House, now in its fourth decade as Pittsburgh’s go-to place for music and Irish culture.

Backed up by new drummer Eric Lamm and featuring special guest Lauren Connolly-Moore on vocals and mandolin, Connolly-Davis celebrated the mild autumn night with four hours of Irish and American folk-rock (right.)

In all, I can’t think of a better way to spend four hours on a Friday night.

Duane and I have been making music for going on 20 years now, first teaming up in the late 90’s when we were backing my brother John in the John Connolly Band.  That band broke up when John moved to Hawaii (early retirement for a successful frontman), but Duane and I continued working together, teaming with Christopher Laughrey, another one of my longtime collaborators to form The Laughrey-Connolly Band in 2005.

When Chris relocated to Denver a few years later, Duane and I continued collaborating, first by teaming up to create the high-concept instrumental CD Veins: The Soundtrack (released in 2008 by fantasy publisher Fantasist Enterprises) and to perform as a duo at places like Riley’s.

Between us, we’ve created a lot of music over the years, and some of that music is making its way into the digital realm, becoming available for listening and downloading from a variety of sources.

Tracks from our days with The John Connolly Band are available at John Connolly’s YouTube channel, where you might consider starting with the track “Ever Longed for Love,” an original that Duane and I both regard as one of John’s best. Also, if your into vintage vinyl, John’s first record Just Arrived is available from Craig Moerer Records. I understand the copies are in mint condition, and I can attest to the fact that the music remains as fresh today as if was when the record was pressed in 1977.

But the really big news this weekend is the Bandcamp release of The Best of The Laughrey-Connolly Band, featuring twelve tracks (plus a bonus) from our out-of-print CDs Home from the Field and Two Seas. The tracks feature Lee McGinn on Drums and special guest Bob Banerjee (The Corned Beef and Curry Band) and production by Al Snyder (The Corbin-Hanner Band). If you like what you hear, consider supporting your friendly 21st-Century Scop and fellow collaborators by springing for a download. The tracks are far less expansive than a cup of coffee, and refills are free.

I’ll be back next time with some updates on the forthcoming film Nightmare Cinema. Until then, enjoy the music … and scop on!

Images

  • Wearing the Mike Hat.
  • The Connolly Davis Band on Riley’s Outdoor Stage: Duane Davis, Eric Lamm, the 21st-Century Scop, Lauren Connolly-Moore. October 2017.
  • The 21st-Century Scop and Duane Davis perform with The Laughrey Connolly Band. March 2007.
  • Cover art for Veins: The Soundtrack.
  • Cover art for John Connolly’s Sound of Mind.
  • Christopher Laughrey and the 21st-Century Scop of The Laughrey Connolly Band in 2005.

Last Weekend @ Riley’s:
The St. Patrick’s Day Shows

March 25th, 2017

Pittsburgh’s still the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. That’s according to Niche.com, which places the Burg ahead of Boston (the city that held its first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1737) and Chicago (where they dye the Chicago River green in the saint’s honor). Pittsburgh’s Parade Day traditions might be younger than Boston’s, and our rivers might not ever go green, but Pittsburgh is still the best place to be for mid-March celebrations … and the place to be in Pittsburgh (at least for my money) is Riley’s Pour House.

This post is a follow-up to Parade Day @ Riley’s: Just the Beginning, which I managed to post between a couple of marathon gigs on Parade Day Weekend. I intended to be as timely with this post, but the St. Pat’s performance schedule proved to be even more demanding than the one on Parade Day. We played ten hours over two days, dividing our time between the pub stage and the tent. Now, after a week, I’m finally ready to do some blogging.

The St. Pat’s weekend got rolling on a snowy Friday afternoon, but the weather didn’t deter the crowd. By evening, the party was in high gear as piper John Walsh (above) did his traditional march through the pub.

Meanwhile, out in the tent, hundreds were dancing and singing along with Mike Gallagher and his son John (right). Bandmate Lauren Moore and I arrived at the end of their set, in time to hear their rousing rendition of “A Nation Once Again.”

We took the stage at 5:00, and before long the place was at capacity. At once point, I had to pause and snap a picture (left). I can’t prove it, but I sense it was the best party this side of Dublin.

At 8:00, Mark Guiser took over the pavilion stage while bassist Duane Davis joined me for two more sets inside the pub. Then, the next night, we did it all again.

I’ve been playing March shows like this for years. They’re fun but demanding, and over time I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing the sets so as not to run out of steam. But this year I decided it was time to purchase some new gear to ease the strain of back-to-back performances. I offer the following as a bit of musician shoptalk. FYI.

First, I opted to play some of these shows with a Martin 000×1 rather than my usual full-size Guild. I love my all-wood dreadnought, but the Martin — with its smaller design and laminated back and sides — makes standing and playing a lot easier, especially during the final sets. Second, I fashioned a mic-hat that provided more freedom on stage. It might seem like a small thing, but the wider range of movement seemed to keep me limber as the night wore on. That’s the mic-hat (and the new Martin) on the right. The microphone, a Shure WH20XLR, comes with a wire head brace that looked like it might get uncomfortable fast.

The hat seemed like a good way to provide padding while keeping the thing in place. Headgear for a 21st-century scop. What do you think? Maybe I should market these.

Images © The 21st-Century Scop, 2017.

Parade Day @ Riley’s: Just the Beginning

March 12th, 2017

The Parade Day Celebration at Riley’s Pour House topped all expectation — a veritable three-ring wonder featuring entertainment under the big top, in the pub, and even (when the famed Irish Belly Dancers arrived) on the bar.

If you were part of the multitude in attendance, you know what I’m talking about. If you weren’t, you’ll get a chance to make up for that next weekend, when we do it all again for St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

So here’s a recap.

Even before the parade concluded downtown, people began gathering at Riley’s, quickly filling both the pub and the giant tent erected in the adjacent courtyard. By the time John Gallagher took the tent stage at noon, both spaces seemed filled to capacity. But people kept coming, spilling onto the patio behind the pub and even (despite the cold) onto the sidewalk along Main Street.

The trad-duo Dan & Dave warmed the indoor stage for us. Accompanied by a guest fiddler (above), Dan & Dave played from 1:00 – 6:00 while John and Mike Gallagher traded the spotlight on the outdoor stage.

Connolly-Davis took over the indoor stage at 6:00 and performed a two-hour set until Lauren Moore arrived to join in on mandolin and vocals. After that, the three of us played the rest of the night, performing for an enthusiastic crowd while The Wild Geese Band played next door.

Next weekend, Dan & Dave, Mike Gallegher, and Connolly-Davis return for another two-day party. Mark Guiser (right) will also be on hand in the big tent, playing opposite Connolly-Davis, who will be finishing out the weekend on the pub stage.

You’ll want to be there for all of it. Otherwise, you’ll have to be content with listening to the stories, which given the Caltic penchant for craic, might be almost as entertaining. Almost.

Parade Day & St. Patrick’s Day Shows

March 5th, 2017

March 11 (Parade Day)

  • 6:00 – 7:30: Riley’s Pub Stage with bassist Duane Davis.
  • 8:00 – 10:00: Riley’s Pub Stage with bassist Duane Davis and vocalist-mandolinist Lauren Connolly-Moore.

March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day)

  • 5:00 – 7:30: Riley’s Garden Center Stage.
  • 8:00 – 11:00: Riley’s Pub Stage with bassist Duane Davis.

March 18

  • 8:00 – 11:00: Riley’s Pub Stage with bassist Duane Davis.

Details are still coming together, but the above are some dates, times, and details that we have so far. For more info, click here!