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Ireland: Songs of Leaving

May 13th, 2012

Lawrence C. Connolly will perform at Riley's Pour HouseEver notice how all the songs about Pittsburgh are about leaving it?

A musician friend back in the early 70s used that line to introduce the song “Six Days on the Road,” a seminal truck-driving tune made famous by Dave Dudly. It’s a terrific piece of country-rock, and I’ll be playing it this Saturday (May 19) at Riley’s Pour House – one of western Pennsylvania’s top venue’s for Irish and American music.

Of course, as good as that opening line is, I must admit that I can’t think of one other song about Pittsburgh that involves leaving it. But songs about leaving Ireland? Man, there’s a ton of those.

Let’s consider a few that I’ll be playing this Saturday.

Singer-songwriter Lawrence C. Connolly will perform at Riley's Pour HouseTopping my list is the traditional song “Leaving Liverpool” (a.k.a. “The Leaving of Liverpool” and “Fair Thee Well My Own True Love”). In spite of its title (Liverpool is in England, not Ireland) the lyrics tell of a sea voyage that most likely begins in the port of Dublin, then continues on to Liverpool and outward from there. The song’s narrator, bidding farewell to his lover and home, certainly has a long trip ahead of him, as he is “bound for California” on a ship that is either “a floating hell” or “a floating grave” (depending on the version).

“Leaving Liverpool” is often sung as a ballad, but I prefer the up-tempo version that I recorded with the Laughrey Connolly Band. That’s the version I’ll be playing this Saturday. [Click on the player below to hear “Leaving Liverpool.”]

Another leaving-Ireland favorite is “The Rambling Irishman,” a traditional tune made popular by Andy M. Stewart. “Rambling Irishman” begins much like “Leaving Liverpool,” with the narrator lamenting the leaving of “this Irish nation” and all that he loves, including his beloved Nancy. Indeed, he misses Nancy so much that he dreams of her on the ship to America. But then, when he arrives in Philadelphia, everything changes. Feeling “both stout and healthy,” be bounds into port delighted at the prospects that America has to offer – not the least of which are the women, with their “blue petticoats and white blouses.”

“The Rambling Irishman” is an up-tempo song, with an earworm refrain that is hard to shake once you hear it. The Laughrey Connolly Band recorded it for It’s All in the Song, a special Andy M. Stewart tribute album that also featured Stewart covers by Mike Gallgher, Guarenteed IrishTerry Griffith and others.

Perhaps the best known of all songs about leaving Ireland is one that is loved by some, maligned by others. Often dismissed by Irish-music purists, “Danny Boy” is narrated by a man who never leaves Ireland at all. But his son does, and the father feels the loss of that leaving for the rest of his life. I used to perform this one as a surf instrumental. Honest. And it works, too. This weekend, however, I plan to play it straight.

The Amazing Bob BanerjeeOther leaving-Ireland songs on tap for this Saturday include “Wild Colonial Boy,” “Wild Rover,” “Black Velvet Band,” and my original contribution to the cannon – the rocking “Castlegregory,” which I’ve recorded with The Laughrey Connolly Band and special guest Bob Banerjee of Corned Beef and Curry. [Click on the player below to hear “Castlegregory.”]

This upcoming show is going to be a blast. Most of my appearances since the release of Veins and the accompanying CD Veins: The Soundtrack have been book events, and I can’t wait to get out there to do a full night of live music again. Look out Pittsburgh!

If you’re anywhere in the western Pennsylvania area on May 19, I’ll hope to see you at Riley’s Pour House for a night of stories and songs about leaving Ireland. Of course, I’ll be doing some American tune as well . . . and at least one about leaving Pittsburgh.

Riley’s Pour House is an over-21 venue.

Leaving Liverpool


“Leaving Liverpool” (trad) from the CD Home from the Field, recorded in 2005 with The Laughrey Connolly Band. Lawrence C. Connolly, guitar & vocals; Chris Laughrey, guitar and backing vocals; Duane Davis, bass; Lee McGinn, drums.



“Castlegregory” (words & music Lawrence C. Connolly) from the CD Two Seas recorded in 2006 with The Laughrey Connolly Band. Lawrence C. Connolly, lead guitar and vocals; Chris Laughrey, rhythm guitar; Bob Banerjee, mandoline, Duane Davis, bass; and Lee McGinn, drums.

Voices & Music at Jozart Center for the Arts: A Stoker Homecoming

April 3rd, 2012

What is the sound of horror?

We explored the question at last week’s World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, with a multi-media reading from Voices: Tales of Horror.  As part of the on-going 21st-Century Scop project, the presentation featured prose selections set to the music of Veins: The Soundtrack.

This week, the exploration continues at The Jozart Center for the Arts in California, PA, where I’ll be joined by two terrific up-and-coming writers, Sheldon Higdon and Stephanie M. Wytovich.

Sheldon Higdon has had over thirty publications, ranging from fiction to non-fiction to poetry, in numerous magazines and books. His work has appeared in Rue Morgue Magazine, Shroud Magazine, The Portland Magazine, Necrotic Tissue Magazine, Horrorwired, Death Be Not Proud, and Northern Haunts.

Stephanie M. Wytovich is a Rhysling Award nominee (for her poem “The Craving”) who is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.

Prose, poetry, and music – the sounds of horror.

Jozart will be the perfect venue for this event.

At World Horror we had to make due with portable equipment set up minutes before the reading. It went well, but at Jozart we’ll be able to work with a system that has been calibrated for the performance space – always an ideal situation.

Jozart is located at 333 Second Street in California PA. You can reach them at 724-938-9730. If you’re anywhere near the area on Saturday, do consider joining Stephanie, Sheldon, and me as we explore the sounds of horror.

The event will run in the evening from 6:00 – 10:30. Admission is free. A reception and book signing will follow.

21st Century Scop does Horror Realm

March 11th, 2012

Mike Christopher, Lawrence C. Connolly, John Amplas at Horror Realm.

The undead sure know how to party.

I’ve just returned from Horror Realm, where I shared billing with John Amplas (Martin), Mike Christopher (Dawn of the Dead), and Kyra Schon (Night of the Living Dead).  Also in attendance were Chris Rickert (Eljay’s Books), Tiffany Apan, and lots and lots of zombies.

Primarily a media convention, with a strong focus on the films of George A. Romero, the event drew a couple hundred enthusiastic fans, many of them decked out in their best living-dead regalia.

The  21st Century Scop performance centered on Voices: Tales of Horror (nominated for this year’s Bram Stoker Award). It drew a nice group of readers and fans. Chris Rickert did the introduction.

Here’s the playlist, a great way to revisit the show if you were there . . . or imagine you were if you weren’t. Click the links to access notes, samples, and highlights:

Horror Realm readers.

“Axle Rising” (Veins: Soundtrack)

“The Haunted Attic 1961” (Voices)

“Step on a Crack” (Visions)

 “Shooting Evil” (This Way to Egress)

Something in the Darkness (Veins: Soundtrack)

“Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement” (Voices)

“Downhill Run” (Veins: Soundtrack)

“Monte” (Voices)

A question-and-answer session followed, then it was back to the signing table to hang out and talk to fans and make new friends, many of whom I hope to meet up with again when Horror Realm returns in September. I’m already planning to attend.

Were you there this weekend? Do you have a comment or something to share? The comment tab below and the Facebook, Twitter, and contact buttons above are open. Feel free to share your Voices!

In Praise of Indie Bookstores

September 25th, 2011

Eljay's BooksYou walk inside. Right away you sense you’ve arrived someplace special. Books fill the aisles, stacked on a combination of antique, handmade, and prefab shelves. And there’s art, lots of it: on the walls, tables, and even painted directly onto the chairs. But best of all, you’re greeted by someone who knows books – a manager who reads, knows the store’s inventory, and who has mastered the art of supplying you with a basket of books that you possibly didn’t even know about when you walked through the door.

There’s nothing like a good independent bookstore.

Today I’m pondering the merits of such places, possibly because I’ve just finished editing a story about one of them (Between Books) for my forthcoming collection Voices, but also because yesterday I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at Eljay’s Books, an independent bookstore that has become a Pittsburgh institution – for good reason.

It’s managed by Chris Rickert, formerly of Pittsburgh’s now closed Joseph-Beth Booksellers, who  invited me to bring the 21st Century Scop to Eljay’s after hearing me speak at Confluence this past summer. I’m glad she did. I had a terrific time, and for the entire afternoon I forgot the month’s pressing deadlines. (I’m currently proofing the galleys for Voices, finishing book three of the Veins Cycle, and trying to get started on a new steampunk story for Edge Science Fiction’s forthcoming Professor Challenger anthology.)

One benefit of doing an event at an indie store is the kind of people who show up for your reading. They tends to be serious readers who enjoy learning about, discussing, and buying books. The big box stores can sometimes generate this kind of turn out (like the ones that often greeted me at the Borders in Wilmington DE, but that was due in large parts to the efforts of Delaware resident W. H. Horner, my editor at Fantasist Enterprises). It’s the personal touch of the indie bookstore’s PR force that brings them in.

Yesterday’s event gave me the chance to share some of the new material from Voices, the forthcoming collection of horror stories that I really should be working on now (and which I intend to get back to as soon as I click the publish button for this blog entry). It’s always reassuring when a group of serious readers reacts favorable to stuff that’s in the pipeline.

Lawrence C. Connolly at Eljay's BooksI also had the chance to revisit some greatest hits, stories from Visions and This Way to Egress as well as excerpts from Veins and Vipers – mostly  read to music from Veins: the Soundtrack and The Legion of Incredibly Strange Superheroes (now disbanded but still one of the best science-fiction rock bands ever). You can listen to studio versions of those readings here and here.

Got some free time today? Why not go out and visit your town’s independent bookstore. If you live in Pittsburgh, make a bee-line to Eljay’s, where you’ll be able to meet the wonderfully entertaining  Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano, who will be signing their collection of comedic horror Scary Tales of Scariness

As for me, it’s back to work.

Keep reading!