seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Cara Dillon, Irish Folk Singer

Cara Elizabeth Dillon, Irish folk singer, is born in Dungiven, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on July 21, 1975.

Dillon comes from an area steeped in Irish traditional music. Since she was a schoolgirl she has sung and performed. She learns local folk songs from teachers and workshops held in the town. She can also play the fiddle and whistles. At the age of 14 she wins the All-Ireland Singing Trophy at Fleadh Cheoil.

In 1991 Dillon forms a band called Óige (an Irish word meaning ‘youth’) with school friends Murrough and Ruadhrai O’Kane, bringing her take on Irish traditional songs to Ireland, Scotland and further afield. During this time she also performs with big names such as De Dannan and Phil Coulter. Óige records two albums with Dillon, a studio and a live album. Inspiration is recorded in 1992 to sell at concerts in Europe. The live album, simply called Live, is recorded at a concert in Glasgow on August 15, 1993.

Dillon leaves Óige in 1995 and joins the folk supergroup Equation, replacing Kate Rusby, and signs a record deal with Warner Music Group. She leaves Equation with original band member Sam Lakeman because of musical differences and together they immediately signed a separate deal with the same label as a duo named Polar Star. In 2001, she releases her first solo album, Cara Dillon, which features traditional songs and two original Dillon/Lakeman compositions. The album is an unexpected hit in the folk world, with Dillon receiving four nominations at the 2002 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Lakeman and Dillon marry in December 2002.

Dillon’s second album, Sweet Liberty (2003), enters the Irish Albums Chart and UK Independent Albums Chart. In 2004, she receives the Meteor Irish Music Award for Best Irish Female. Her third album, After the Morning, is released in 2006. The album’s opening track “Never in a Million Years” gains BBC Radio 2 airplay, while other tracks feature the Czech Philharmonic orchestra and Paul Brady. Also in 2006, she sings at the opening of the Ryder Cup in Ireland.

In 2009, Dillon releases her fourth album, the award-winning Hill of Thieves. The record marks a return to Dillon’s traditional roots with a purer production and arrangement style. The titular track “Hill of Thieves,” a Dillon\Lakeman original, is voted by BBC listeners as one of the “Top 10” original songs to have come out of Northern Ireland. In 2012, she performs two concerts with the Ulster Orchestra.

Dillon’s fifth solo album, A Thousand Hearts, is released in 2014. Prior to the album’s release, she discovers that her music enjoys a dedicated following in China, where her first album is featured in English curriculums. She has since embarked on several popular Chinese tours. As of 2017, she continues to tour regularly and work with her husband, who backs her on piano and guitar. Her most recent release is the album, Wanderer (2017).

Dillon is the sister of fellow folk singer Mary Dillon, formerly of Déanta. Dillon and Lakeman live in Frome, Somerset, England with their three children, twin sons born in 2006 and a daughter born in 2010.


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Birth of Maura O’Connell, Singer & Actress

maura-oconnellMaura O’Connell, singer and actress known for her contemporary interpretations of Irish traditional music, strongly influenced by American country music, is born on September 16, 1958 in Ennis, County Clare.

Born into a musical family, O’Connell is the third of four sisters. Her mother’s family owns Costello’s fish shop in Ennis where O’Connell works until music becomes her full-time career. She grows up listening to her mother’s light opera, opera, and parlour music records. Her father’s interest leans towards the rebel ballads. Despite the presence of classical music in the house, O’Connell gets very involved in the local folk club scene and together with Mike Hanrahan, who later fronts folk rock outfit Stockton’s Wing, they perform a country music set, as a duo called “Tumbleweed.”

O’Connell attends St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Spanish Point from 1971 to 1974, where she takes part in the school choir. She is also a member of the “Cúl Aodha Choir”, led by Peader Ó Riada, that sings at the funeral of Willie Clancy in 1973.

O’Connell begins her professional musical journey during a six-week tour of the United States in 1980, as vocalist for the traditionally-based Celtic group De Dannan. The following year, she is featured on the band’s landmark album, The Star Spangled Molly, which becomes something of a national phenomenon in her homeland. However, not long after joining the group she becomes very interested in the experimental roots music of America’s New Grass Revival when the bands’ paths cross. She moves to the United States in 1986, settling in Nashville, Tennessee. There she meets progressive bluegrass pioneers Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas, with whom she works on most of her records.

O’Connell records her first solo album in 1983, however, it does not make any impact in Ireland or in the United States. She receives a Grammy Award nomination for her 1989 album, Helpless Heart, which is her first record released under Warner Bros. Records. Real Life Story (1990) and Blue is the Colour of Hope (1992) register a move toward a pop synthesis. Her versions of “Living in These Troubled Times” and Cheryl Wheeler‘s “Summerfly” become standout tracks on the 1993 album A Woman’s Heart, on four all-female overseas tours and on the 1994 follow-up album in her homeland. A Woman’s Heart Vol. 2 features her heartfelt renditions of Nanci Griffith‘s “Trouble in the Fields” and Gerry O’Beirne’s “Western Highway.” After numerous albums heavily inspired by American newgrass music, she returns to her Irish roots with the 1997 release Wandering Home.

As the new millennium approaches, O’Connell signs with Sugar Hill Records in late 2000 and begins working on her seventh album. Instead of working with her longtime producer Jerry Douglas, she has Ray Kennedy produce Walls and Windows, which is released in 2001, and features an eclectic collection of songs, including work by Kim Richey, Van Morrison, John Prine, Eric Clapton and Patty Griffin. Her 2004 album, Don’t I Know, contains musical textures added by everything from fiddles, to clavinets, to lap steel guitar and B-3 organ.

Naked With Friends (2009) is O’Connell’s first a cappella album. Guest vocalists include Mary Black, Paul Brady, Moya Brennan, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Tim O’Brien, Dolly Parton, Sarah Dugas, Kate Rusby and Darrell Scott. The album is nominated for a Grammy Award.

In addition to her solo work, O’Connell has collaborated with a number of Celtic, folk, pop and country artists, including Van Morrison, Brian Kennedy, Moya Brennan, Mary Black, John Prine, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, John Gorka, Béla Fleck, Robert Earl Keen, Dolly Parton and Shawn Colvin. She has also sung background vocals for a number of artists, including Van Morrison’s 1988 project with The Chieftains, Irish Heartbeat and Stockton’s Wing on Take A Chance.

Aside from the music world, Martin Scorsese casts O’Connell, scruffed up for the role, as an Irish migrant street singer in his 19th-century epic Gangs of New York, released in 2002.

O’Connell announces the end of her solo career in 2013.