seamus dubhghaill

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


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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.

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Birth of Liam Clancy

William “Liam” Clancy, Irish folk singer and actor, is born in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary on September 2, 1935. He is the youngest and last surviving member of the influential folk group The Clancy Brothers, who are regarded as Ireland’s first pop stars. They record 55 albums, achieve global sales of millions and appear in sold-out concerts at such prominent venues as Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Clancy is Robert Joseph Clancy and Joanna McGrath’s ninth and youngest surviving child. He receives a Christian Brothers education before taking a job as an insurance man in Dublin. While there he also takes night classes at the National College of Art and Design.

Clancy begins singing with his brothers, Paddy and Tom Clancy, at fund-raising events for the Cherry Lane Theatre and the Guthrie benefits. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, begin recording on Paddy Clancy’s Tradition Records label in the late 1950s. Liam plays guitar in addition to singing and also records several solo albums. They record their seminal The Rising of the Moon album in 1959. There are international tours, which include performances at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. The quartet records numerous albums for Columbia Records and enjoys great success during the 1960s folk revival. In 1964, thirty percent of all albums sold in Ireland are Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem records.

After The Clancy Brothers split up, Liam has a solo career in Canada. In 1975, he is booked to play a festival in Cleveland, Ohio, where Tommy Makem is also playing. The two play a set together and form the group Makem and Clancy, performing in numerous concerts and recording several albums together until 1988. The original Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem line-up also get back together in the 1980s for a reunion tour and album.

In later life, Liam maintains a solo career accompanied by musicians Paul Grant and Kevin Evans, while also engaging in other pursuits. In 2001, Clancy publishes a memoir titled The Mountain of the Women. He is also in No Direction Home, the 2005 Bob Dylan documentary directed by Martin Scorsese. In 2006, Clancy is profiled in a two-hour documentary titled The Legend of Liam Clancy, produced by Anna Rodgers and John Murray with Crossing the Line Films, which wins the award for best series at the Irish Film and Television Awards in Dublin. His final album, The Wheels of Life, is released in 2009. It includes duets with Mary Black and Gemma Hayes as well as songs by Tom Paxton and Donovan.

Liam Clancy dies from pulmonary fibrosis on December 4, 2009, in Bon Secours Hospital, Cork. He is buried in the new cemetery in An Rinn, County Waterford, where he spent the last number of years of his life, owning a successful recording studio.


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Birth of Singer/Songwriter Eleanor McEvoy

eleanor-mcevoyEleanor McEvoy, one of Ireland’s most accomplished contemporary singer/songwriters, is born in Dublin on January 22, 1967. McEvoy composes the song “Only A Woman’s Heart,” the title track of A Woman’s Heart, the best-selling Irish album in Irish history.

McEvoy’s life as a musician begins at the age of four when she begins playing piano. At the age of eight she takes up violin and, as a teen, she joins the Junior Irish Youth Orchestra. Upon finishing school she attends Trinity College, Dublin where she studies music by day and works in pit orchestras and music clubs by night.

McEvoy graduates from Trinity with an Honors Degree in music and spends four months busking in New York City. In 1988, she is accepted into the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra where she spends four years before leaving to concentrate on songwriting.

During a solo date in July 1992, she performs a little-known, self-penned song, “Only a Woman’s Heart.” Mary Black, of whose band McEvoy is a member, is in the audience and invites her to add the track to an album of Irish female artists. The album is subsequently titled A Woman’s Heart and the track is released as the lead single. The album goes on to sell over three-quarters of a million copies in Ireland alone and remains the biggest selling Irish album of all time. The record’s success makes McEvoy a superstar virtually overnight.

Eleanor McEvoy, the self-titled debut offering, recorded in Windmill Lane Studios, is released in February 1993, and tours in the United States, Asia, and Europe follow. Back on Irish soil, McEvoy is awarded Best New Artist, Best New Performer, and Best Songwriter Awards by the Irish entertainment and music industries.

McEvoy signs a contract with Columbia Records and begins working on a new, edgier second album, which is eventually entitled What’s Following Me? The album is released in 1996 and the sound is louder and grungier than her debut.

McEvoy releases her third album Snapshots in 1999. Her primary goal is to make Snapshots her most song-oriented album to date. Toward that goal, she hooks up with legendary producer Rupert Hine, who has worked with Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Suzanne Vega, and Duncan Sheik, and records the album at Rupert’s “Chateau de la Tour de Moulin” and then in Metropolis Studios in London.

As the century closes, McEvoy has had enough of major-label involvement, making the decision to take the fourth album and head down the independent road. Yola was a turning point in McEvoy’s musical direction. Released in 2001, it reflects the acoustic, jazz-influenced style she had developed on stage with Brian Connor.

March 2004 sees the release of Early Hours, produced by McEvoy and Brian Connor. The style differs from McEvoy’s previous work, taking on a jazz/blues feel for many of the songs. She continues to tour with Brian Connor until April 2005. She then begins performing solo, accompanying herself on bass guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, and violin.

McEvoy continues to release new albums almost on a yearly basis with Out There (2006), Love Must Be Tough (2008), Singled Out (2009), I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010), Alone (2011), If You Leave… (2013), and Stuff (2014).

Naked Music (2016) is McEvoy’s twelfth studio album. It is recorded at the Grange Studio in Norfolk, UK. McEvoy records the tracks by “studio-performing,” in other words, playing the songs as she would in a live performance. The album features exclusive artwork by famed painter Chris Gollon.