“Music Network tours are like Big Brother for musicians”, says Jarlath Henderson, one third of this organisation's latest experiment. I have written on here before about Music Network. They invite musicians who do not normally play together to develop a show, which they then get to perform in some of the nicest theatres across Ireland. Sometimes the end result is not greater than the sum of its parts, but mostly it is.
Cathy Jordan has been the singer of Sligo-based trad band Dervish since 1991. She released her first solo album in 2012 and I am in particular a fan of her side project the Unwanted, whose album 'Music from the Atlantic Fringe' I highly recommend. She is also a very entertaining front woman with a great sense of humour (she would conclude a bout of tuning with “Aah sure, it'll do”).
I had seen Jarlath Henderson before with Ross Ainslee in the late night rabble-rousing slot at Cambridge Folk Festival, which was nice enough but did not fully make me aware of this musicians' many talents. Jarlath is a three time All-Ireland champion on the uilleann pipes and was the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Folk Musician of the Year award. He is from Co.Tyrone and has a solo album out ('Hearts Broken, Heads Turned') which I want to check out. Amazingly, the internet tells me that he has a day job as a locum doctor in Accident and Emergency (and has toured with Duncan Chisholm, another firm favourite of mine).
Mick Daley is from Cork. He was a founder member of Belfast-based band Four Men And A Dog, and early member of Scullion and he now plays with the Lee Valley String Band, a bluegrass outfit (the programme also says Old Time music, but I never liked that term).
All three musicians are excellent singers. They all played guitar at some point during the concert, but Jarlath's main instruments were pipes and whistle, Cathy provided percussion on bodhrán and bones and also played accordion, whereas Mick played the 5-string banjo.
The gig at the lovely Sugar Club in Leeson Street was their first in a series of ten. I would have preferred to see a show a bit further down the line, but this was the night I could go. Cathy Jordan joked that at some point they just had to put their notes away and trust that it would be alright and of course it was. You cannot really go wrong with such fantastic musicians and full credit to whoever it is at Music Network that dreams up these combinations.
They took turns singing and introducing the material, mentioning songbooks and explaining the origin of the songs, none of which I was familiar with, with the exception of 'The Tri-Coloured House'. Cathy mentioned Frank Harte and Stephen Foster, whereas Jarlath spoke about supporting Anaïs Mitchell and he played a song by the late trad innovator Martyn Bennett. Jarlath sounds like Paul Brady when he sings.
It was a varied show, that covered traditional Irish music as well, including a few instrumental sets. There was an interval, and attendees received a programme with detailed notes and biographical info. Despite it being a particularly wet Tuesday night the trio performed to a full house of wonderfully attentive listeners.
The tour runs until 29 September.