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Monday, December 2, 2013

Congratulations to the CT Lads on Their IMA Nominations

Congratulations are in order for several of the super-talented folks associated with Celtic Thunder. 

The Irish Music Award Nominees for 2013 were announced this weekend, and among those nominees are 

  • Keith Harkin (Top Solo Performer in Concert AND Top Solo Performer in a Pub Venue), 
  • Paul Byrom (Top Solo Performer in Concert), 
  • Ryan Kelly & Neil Byrne (Top Duo in a Pub, Festival, Concert, AND Best New Irish CD for Acoustically Irish), 
  • Emmet Cahill (Best Irish Tenor), 
  • Barry Kerr (Top Uilleann Piper), and 
  • Phil Coulter (Lifetime Achievement Award).

There are many talented people nominated for the IMA awards this year, besides the Celtic Thunder lads, and if you don't know who the rest of the artists are, this month would be a great time to familiarize yourself with some of the other excellent music and musicians being recognized through these nominations.

IMA Nominees for 2013

Irish Music Award Nominees

There are quite a few familiar names on the lists this year as nominees for the various categories of the Irish Music Association‘s annual Irish Music Awards. Here, from their website, are the nominees for each category. Only paid members of the IMA may vote, so if you wish to vote in these awards, you will need to be a ‘patron’ member, which costs $15 and lasts for a full year. Voting begins today, and ends January 12th. For more information see the IMA website.

Irish Music Award Nominees for 2013

Top Solo Performer in Concert (US, IRE, EU, UK)
Keith HarkinChristy MooreFinbar FureyPaul Byrom
Top Solo Performer in a Pub Venue (US, IRE, EU, UK)
Keith HarkinBrendan LoughreyTony CummingsBrian Gaffney
Top Group (US, IRE, EU, UK)
Best New Irish Artist(s) (IRE, EU, US, UK)
Gothard SistersWe Banjo 3 Socks in the Frying PanThe Yanks
Top Celtic Rock Band (IRE, EU, US, UK)
The Fighting JamesonsManranRathkeltairBlaggards
Best Irish Tenor (individual)
Paddy HomanAnthony KearnsMatthew GilsenanEMMET CAHILL
Best Female Vocalist (individual/trad.)
MeavShannon Lambert-Ryanmuireann nic amhlaoibhMary Dillon
Top Traditional Group in a Pub, Festival, Concert
McPeakeBurning Bridget ClearyRUNAfather, son, and friends
Top Uilleann Piper (US, IRE, EU, UK)
Tommy MartinBarry KerrPaddy KeenanKieran O’Hare
Top Harpist (US, IRE, EU, UK)
Cormac De BarraMoya BrennanAryeh FrankfurterPatrick Ball
Top Fiddle/Violin (US, IRE, EU, UK)
Winifred HoranKevin BurkeGriff “Bear” OckerCora Smyth
Top Button Accordion (US, IRE, EU, UK)
Danny O’MahonyShane HayesJohn WilliamsDavid Munnelly
Lifetime Achievement Award
Brendan ShinePhil CoulterMaurice LennonPatrick Healy

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

CT in Loveland, Concert Review

I posted a 2-part concert review on tonight's Celtic Thunder show in Loveland, on my main blog. I'll probably post a bit more in the next few week following this show on Ravenmount Celtic Corner, but for now it is nearly 3:30am and I am going to bed, finally.

Part 1 – Observations from a friend new to Celtic Thunder

"... We were 9 rows above the sound & lights consoles, almost exactly even with center-stage. We were still too far away to see Colm blush, which sadly may have happened without my seeing it tonight, but since we were in the front of our section and on a slope, it was easy to forget there were other people in the seats around me and just get sucked in to the performances. I doubt that anyone on stage could see me, but it felt like they were singing just for me sometimes. ..."

Part 2: My Own Reactions

"... This year Celtic Thunder was in fine form, despite whatever audio issues were making it harder to stay in tune and in time with each other. Emmet Cahill needs to practice singing American rock & roll, but while his parts in “The Boys Are Back in Town” sounded a bit like garbled tongue-twisters at times, Emmet’s voice was lovely (enough to win him a new fan anyway) and he seemed to be handling the high-altitude well. I think Colm was a bit short of breath in his song “Katie”, but otherwise it seemed that the whole group was better prepared this time to sing at ~5000+ feet above sea-level. ..."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Celtic Thunder 2013: The Adventure Begins

Posted on 

As unlikely as it seemed for a while there, I am just about to head out to the Celtic Thunder concert in Loveland. I bought my tickets back in April, the very first day they were available, two tickets because I can’t drive and there is no bus at night to and from the Budweiser Events Center. Last year I got two different friends with cars to go with me, so that I got to see Celtic Thunder twice (and since the group by the buses was small both nights I got to meet all of the lads except Keith, and got autographs from all the lads except George). This year my sister wanted to go with me, and while she doesn’t drive right now either, she was going to pay for a taxi for us.
Well, as always happens with ‘best laid plans’, this one fell apart. My sister is not going to be back in town till Christmas, and I found out she was not going to be back with too short notice to find a lot of friends interested in going to see a pop Irish band in suits doing a variation on musical theater, especially the week of Thanksgiving. I did find a friend to go with me, though, two days ago, and that night I realized that a) I had memorized the wrong date, and the show was in fact on the 26th, not the 29th, and b) I misplaced my tickets.
All is well that ends well, though. A worried call to the events center’s ticket office fixed the lost tickets problem, and my friend didn’t mind the earlier date. Moral of this story: sometimes it is better to choose the option to pick up your tickets at Will Call, even if that means not holding and petting the tickets and admiring them for months before the show. I knew when I bought these tickets that I had to move in July, and underestimated the chaos of moving; my tickets are somewhere in my new apartment, safely put away where even I won’t find them except by accident.
Celtic Thunder performs at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, at 7:30 tonight. Tickets are still available.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Cheer from Ryan Kelly (& musings on Social Toaster)

While the Social Toaster promo wound up being more of a time-waster and an irritant, rather than a useful communications tool, it did serve some purpose, by keeping more Thunderheads online and talking to each other daily. Had Celtic Thunder developed a better plan with respect to having enough regular shareable content, plans for ongoing rewards and recognition for the super-fans at the top of the rankings, etc., it could have been a great tool to keep us all connected better. Still, we have the vestiges of the Social Toaster experiment in the form of all the extra interconnectedness Thunderheads still maintain on facebook. We didn't all feel inclined to unfriend each other once the promo ended, so we are still a bit better networked than before.

Well, through those connections I occasionally come across Celtic Thunder related links despite my attention being mostly elsewhere these days (I realized only today that 'my' Celtic Thunder concert is tomorrow, if that is any indication fo how distracted I've been from CT). Here is a link to a streamable version of Baby It's Cold Outside, recorded by Ryan Kelly and Natalie Toro, off Natalie's album Just in Time for Christmas, which was released last year.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What Thunderheads Listen To

To outsiders the Thunderheads may seem like narrow-minded obsessives who only ever listen to Celtic Thunder and its component artists. I am quite sure there are Thunderheads for which this is very true, but many of us have a much wider taste in music, and enough of a love of great music in general to know the original versions of songs Celtic Thunder covers, at the very least. One of the best ways to introduce new people to the Thunderhead community, too, is presenting Celtic Thunder music in contexts outside or intersecting with the fandom. One way I have sought to do this, for Celtic Thunder as well as for the many local and emerging artists I know of, is weekly songlists, 20 songs each week arranged on spotify playlists available on spotify to the general public. Even for those without spotify, these lists can be a fun way to discover music new to you or remind yourself of great songs you haven't heard in ages.

Click here to check out these playlists, many with Celtic Thunder music seeded within them. This is an ongoing project, so a new list was just posted today, and a new one will be posted and available at the above link in a week from today.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Róisín O - Synchronicity (CC Video of the Day)

Róisín O- (facebook, Official Webpage, Official Webpage (Online store), youtube, twitter)
I've been following this lady on twitter for a while now, without ever really finding time to properly check out her music, but I finally looked her up on youtube, and yep, she's pretty cool. (Yes, there are a lot of musicians I know about and have yet to really investigate properly. So much great music, so little time!) She is a pop artist, not a traditional folk artist, but since she's Irish, from Dublin, her music is still encompassed within the current reimagined scope of this site. And, as I said, she's pretty cool, and makes great music that you might enjoy if you like Darrell Coyle's music. Here are two of Róisín O's videos off youtube- "Synchronicity" (the most recent of her singles available on youtube; a newer one just came out, apparently, but is not yet available on youtube) and "Tea Song," which as you might have guessed, is about tea. Click here to check out her most recent brand new video for the song "Hold On" on a very cool music blog called Direct Current.

This one almost has a country-sound to it, especially once the second voice (the guy) comes in, though American country music doesn't usually focus on tea. It also has a particularly neat music video concept, featuring clips of 'teaspora', the Irish diaspora (Irish people who still consider themselves Irish, but live elsewhere.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Michael Londra- "Follow Me Up to Carlow" (CC Video of the Day)

The drums in the intro to this song are gorgeous, and I would not have guessed this was Michael Londra ( I must have heard all the wrong songs from him last time I checked out his music, cause I had thought his style was just slow, boring stuff my grandma would love). This rendition of one of my favorite Irish songs reminds me of the High Kings' music. If you love this song but the Young Dubliners are a bit too rock&roll for your tastes, this is probably going to be a new favorite. I'm gonna have to check out more of Michael Londra's stuff now, to see what else I'm missing!

While I am still rounding up Celtic music and musicians in the Fort Collins area for this blog, a task which is starting to show some signs of promise, at least, I'd hate for this blog to turn into just a Thunderhead fan blog. There are already excellent fan blogs online for Celtic Thunder fans, and as most fans are not so interested in the marketing, PR and other business/industry aspects of the Celtic Thunder adventure, most Thunderheads will probably find a lot more to love on the more fan-blog oriented sites anyway. I'll post links to some of the best Thunderhead fan blogs as I come across them again, and yes, I'll still be posting about Celtic Thunder too, but this was meant to be a different sort of blog, a broader focus that puts Celtic Thunder into more of a productive context. Now that I run two pages, this one focused on Celtic music (whatever that means- it is a problematic term on so many levels) and my main blog ravenmount.com which takes in pretty much the full range of recorded music eras and styles, both blogs can be put to use contextualizing Celtic Thunder and other under-appreciated (in other words 'not universally adored') artists and bands.

As with my main blog, I only post music or write about musicians I like, so if I post something about artists you like on this blog, there's a decent chance that you might also like the other artists I post about on here, too. If you are looking for new music to check out, it is my hope that this and my other site serve as a resource for music fans to discover new music or rediscover music and artists from years past. These Video of the Day posts are a nice easy way to inject a bit of variety into this blog, but never fear, there will be more album reviews and concert reviews, and artist profile posts, and probably interviews and other more interesting posts as this blog develops. The Celtic music scene where I am living is fragmented and nearly invisible right now, to the extent that artists in this folk subgenre have a hard time finding venues to play in here, but there are lots of fans of traditional Celtic music in this town and in Northern Colorado more generally. As I find the musicians who play traditional Celtic music here, I'll be drawing this blog's focus towards them and their music, but in the meantime this page will get by on all the other great musicians loosely categorized as 'Celtic'. I'll also be including artists in other genres who are from Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England, as these artists represent what contemporary Celtic music sounds like.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Follow-up on the Celtic Thunder Bus Ban

While it doesn't address most of the points and concerns addressed in either my post or the many comments on this post, we must give credit where credit is due, that Sharon Browne did at least reply to us concerning the fans' response to her bus ban policy. Her decision to frame fans who disagree with her policy as questionable fans by placing quotes around the term fan when addressing dissenters seems a bit out of place if her intention was to smooth over all the hurt feelings surrounding this issue. Still, many performers who tour internationally would not bother to address complaints directly, and her responsiveness, if not her actual words, is well appreciated.  You can read her response here (http://www.celticthunder.ie/content/first-show-tour-sound-checks-m-g-buses#comment-208342).

Honestly I think Sharon and I are talking across each other, and she is not really understanding the threads of concern that appear in the comments, let alone the body of this blog post, and I am not sure if reiterating our concerns could help. There are lots of good, considerate, loyal Thunderheads who disagree with her and who are in no way prone to screaming or grabbing or any of those impolite behaviors she seems to ascribe to dissenters on this issue, and I don't know that Sharon has any interest in what 'good' Thunderheads have to say against her policy. Sharon has made up her mind, the lads and the band have signed a contract which necessitates that they follow the policies of Celtic Thunder as a whole while they represent the group, and we may simply have to accept that while the lads are touring with Celtic Thunder they are not accessible to us after shows. It remains to be seen how the merch tables work out in the context of the bus ban, but perhaps since the lads know they will not see any of their fans in that location after that merch table closes for the night, they will be able to somewhat offset the loss of fan-contact they have to accept by not getting to see us by the buses.

From the way Sharon's post sounded, I am guessing that outside this blog things have gotten a bit out of hand, with fans trying to sensationalize the bus ban issue far beyond what it deserves. There are some very odd, and unsavory people among those who call themselves Thunderheads, though very few, and frankly I am grateful that I have such nice readers (In moderating comments here I have not had to censor anything, aside from one REALLY off topic rant that did not pass my screening of it; even those who really disagree with me have been surprisingly civil). That said, I am not so sure I count Sharon's reply to our concerns as particularly civil, though she certainly sounds exasperated and defensive and quite a bit frustrated. I still have my concerns, and so far none of what I have said against the bus ban has been addressed, but as a music blogger I have hundreds of other bands to focus on, and while I wish Celtic Thunder was managed differently on this tour, it is still just one band. Even for the musicians in Celtic Thunder, it is just one of their projects.

I like the Celtic Thunder performers I have met, and find it frustrating that they cannot hang around after the show when I see them in November so I can say hi, but they are musicians who come through Colorado only briefly once or twice a year. Granted, part of my frustration is in the fact that they are not in Colorado much, so if I miss seeing them this year I won't see them again till next year, while if I miss most of the other musicians I follow after a show, I'll see them again a lot sooner. Still, there are thousands of bands and musicians who live in Colorado and perform regularly in Colorado, and who do not have Verve Music and all the other resources Celtic Thunder draws on. If Celtic Thunder is decreasing the accessibility of its artists to where I cannot reasonably expect to actually meet them, I am not sure in the long run that it even matters. I'll miss seeing the lads I met last year, and adding to the loose acquaintances I have with this band, but I'd hate to get so caught up in the issue of the Celtic Thunder bus ban that I lose perspective.

To keep some healthy perspective, I asked a bunch of my musician friends this week over facebook how they feel about becoming famous and charging people to meet them, and already I've had some great responses, from musicians with as many years of professional live music experience as many of the Celtic Thunder performers. And, while the virtual roundtable interview thingy I started with those questions is still ongoing, the responses I have had so far have reminded me of the reasons why fans and artists connect in the first place. For them, unanimously, making music is not about the money, though obviously they still need money to survive. They make music because it makes them happy and it makes their audience happy, and they perform live because people want to have a connection with their music beyond just listening to a disc. These artists value meeting their fans and involving other people in their music. I have no doubt from what I know of the Celtic Thunder lads, from what I have seen and read and from having met them, albeit briefly, that they would agree wholeheartedly with most if not all of what my friends have said so far. The bus ban is an annoyance and may make some of us rethink how we spend our money with respect to Celtic Thunder, but it doesn't change the music or the musicians. 

I do not think Sharon understood our concerns and complaints, if she even saw them (though with how popular this week's first post on the bus ban became became this week, she may actually have seen it), but it does not matter so much to me. For myself, whether she puts quotes around the word fan when referring to me, for my still disagreeing with her about her policy, I am still as much a fan of Celtic Thunder as a band as I ever was, and so are all the rest of the Thunderheads. I am unfortunately becoming less of a fan of Sharon Browne, the more I see of how she treats Thunderheads, but she is not Celtic Thunder. I think, if we had the chance to discuss the bus situation with the lads themselves (an impossible daydream considering how many of us and how few of them there are), I suspect that we would have a much more informed, nuanced and considerate dialogue between the Thunderheads and the Celtic Thunder lads, and while we still might not be meeting them out by the buses after the shows, we would not be doing so because of a blanket bus ban policy handed down from on high, but because we agreed with the lads that something else would work out better. In the meantime...

For myself, I have local festivals every weekend that I will be photographing and blogging about, and lots of local bands and music events to keep me busy. If you, my dear readers, need something to distract you from the many bristling comebacks you might otherwise write to Sharon, I strongly suggest that you check out the local music scene. I have met enough bands from enough of your cities to know for sure that most Thunderheads have some absolutely fantastic local bands and artists they should know about, and the ones I know are just those that tour through Fort Collins, Colorado. One of my favorite local Celtic groups, for whom I've taken a bunch of photos, is launching a new website, and another Celtic group from Greeley is releasing a brand new album quite soon, so I have plenty of local Celtic music to post about here this month. And, of course, Darrell Coyle's new EP comes out on Sunday (Darrell is signed to Damian McGinty's music label Walled City Records, and is a fantastic young singer-songwriter well worth checking out if you haven't yet.) The High Kings are starting to promote a brand new album as well, with some original songs, a new thing for the High Kings. And there are lots of other Irish and British artists worth focusing on for this blog.

I am guessing that the whole bus ban issue will work itself out, and since Sharon is not all that interested in actually understanding all sides and does not consider the bus ban open to discussion, I am stepping back and letting the tour progress as it will. I am hoping that by late November things will be ironed out enough that my blog post following the Loveland Celtic Thunder concert will be entirely positive (after all, they only have a couple shows left in the entire tour after our show). If not, there are so many other bands, that I am not sure it really matters. (Do I sound frustrated? I should. I expected a lot better from Sharon Browne than the bristling, rant-like response she posted, and am wondering how much wine she had to drink before deciding to reply to us in this fashion. She is not always the nicest woman on the planet, but I still expected something better from her this time.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9/11 (new ravenmount.com post)

"Off screen, as the 9/11 attacks occurred and the world reacted, Americans around the world were given such amazing support and sympathy by the people around them, and even in countries that ‘hate us’, there were rallies of support, as the good people of the world made the distinction between the US as a hegemonic superpower and the American people as human beings in need of support. One day, maybe, we can manage as a species to find this amazingly powerful sense of our common humanity not as a response to massive tragedies but as a daily way of life, for all of us."
 from Remembering 9/11 on ravenmount.com

Monday, September 9, 2013

Guess Who Turns 21 Today ... (Happy Birthday, Damian McGinty!)

Damian McGinty, the former kid Celtic Thunder singer and current co-owner of Derry, Northern Ireland music label Walled City Records turns 21 today. He already had a proper birthday party to commemorate the occasion over the weekend, and since his birthday comes just after Paul Byrom's wedding, I'm sure Damian had appropriate 'supervision and guidance' leading into this most important birthday. Being from the US, I don't quite know all the age restrictions that apply in Northern Ireland, but since Damian spends a lot of his time in the US now, as an important young music executive as well as a performer and TV actor, he will appreciate being able to legally enjoy all the fine liquors, ales and microbrews he has of course never tried yet while residing in the US. Since Damian does not have any particularly recent music videos or new studio releases of his own (he does perform live plenty, and spends a lot of time working with the artists and albums his label represents) here is the playlist of YouTube videos on the official Damian McGinty YouTube profile.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mythology Tour & Bus Bans: Is Celtic Thunder getting too big?

My first thought after reading Sharon Browne's new blog post (click here to read it if you haven't yet) on the Celtic Thunder website- "oh boy, here we go again!" It is a gamble pushing fans away regardless of how big and famous you are, and while Celtic Thunder sells lots of music and merchandise worldwide, and has #1 albums on the world music charts every year, the world music charts are not the pop charts, or radio airplay measures. Most people in most cities in the US, Canada and Australia still do not know who the heck Celtic Thunder is, and their particular brand of family folk music and pop covers seems still to appeal mostly to young and middle-aged women, not exactly a broad demographic. Their marketing plans seem to rely very heavily on the expectation that they will have hundreds of active fans in each area helping to drum up interest in Celtic Thunder (thus their experiment with Social Toaster), and so far it seems to work fairly well.

However, in a world where most music on the radio is performed by celebrities who are cut off from their fans by walls of security, part of the appeal of Celtic Thunder has been that these performers are real people who have real human interactions with their fans. And, from what I have seen over the past year I've spent hanging out with local musicians, I think interacting with fans has helped the performers of Celtic Thunder maintain a better, healthier outlook. They aren't singing to the faceless masses, with a few wealthy or sacrificing fans in the front row who paid the equivalent of a month's rent for a night up close to their beloved singers. As Celtic Thunder gains still more fans (we hope) having the ability to meet fans in a slightly more casual setting like the autograph lines allows the performers in this group to meet a few people each night who did not have to pay ~$100 each just to say hello and shake hands.

Sure, the Celtic Thunder lads don't know all their fans- that would be a nearly impossible task, for sure- but they do remember many of their fans, and they know that they have hundreds of friends of some sort or another throughout each night's audience. Some of those friends may not have the money to buy a 'Meet & Greet" ticket or Soundcheck Pass, but they are all loyal fans who do their best to introduce their friends to Celtic Thunder, not as a marketing ploy, but because these fans feel a connection with Celtic Thunder that makes this group uniquely special and worth sharing.

As a music blogger, I spend most nights of every week out among the musicians. I know how exhausted they are after the show, and how rough it can be performing with a sore throat from being out in the cold, or from smoking or drinking too much. Still, I also see how much meeting fans and hearing from them how much they loved the show really matters. They may not be able to see beyond the front row if the lights are in their eyes, so not only do they enjoy hearing how great they are, but they also enjoy meeting some of the faces they couldn't see during the show. Out of the thousands of people who attended the two Celtic Thunder shows I saw last year, the Celtic Thunder lads only saw maybe 60 fans total because it was cold, and because staying up late is even tougher for most fans than it is for the performers (who stay up past 11pm most nights and are used to that schedule). Many of the fans who stayed behind were people the lads had met before, at a previous show in the tour, or at a show in an earlier tour. So, while they had a few new faces to learn, they also got to see a few of the folks they recognized and knew as friends and loyal supporters. Granted, we are in Colorado, and some of the bigger, crazier venues might be tougher for the lads after the shows.

I suspect that there is a huge overlap between the fans who stay after the shows by the buses and the fans who actually participate in the Social Toaster promotion. The fact that despite not being particularly active this summer, I still rank in the 20's on that promotion's ranking page suggests that there are not very many very active loyal fans, and I wonder how much Sharon's attempts at protecting her artists from bad weather and rude fans might distance those few fans whose efforts make such a big difference in the success of the band as a whole. I know that I can make far better use of the $100 I spent on Celtic Thunder tickets this year if I had used that money to support local artists instead. $100 is equivalent to 20 albums or cover charges, and if I had bought 20 albums and wrote reviews of those albums, it would make a much bigger impact towards promoting live music than paying for myself and my sister to warm two seats of a sports arena for 2 hours.

Considering the expense of touring such a big show as Celtic Thunder, $50/ ticket for the cheap seats at a Celtic Thunder show seems reasonable enough, but for me part of what I would have been looking forward to is meeting the singers again. I enjoyed chatting with Colm and Emmet, in particular, and appreciated meeting Ryan in person after worrying about him for so long last summer. And it bugs me that while I have Keith's autograph, I never actually met him (because a rude fan darted in and started talking to him just as he got to me, and while he still signed my ticket, he and I never even exchanged greetings). I met Trace Bundy when he was in Fort Collins this year, not long after he opened a show for Keith, and we chatted a bit about his show with Keith, but I still want to actually meet Keith. Thankfully Keith has a solo career now and maybe he'll eventually play a show near here, but I had hoped that in the cost of buying tickets to see Celtic Thunder again I could also at least meet Keith long enough to exchange greetings.

I suppose I will always still be a fan of Celtic Thunder, but I don't like fawning over celebrities, and I really do enjoy knowing the people who make the music I listen to and write about. I'm reserving judgement till after I've seen how things actually go in Loveland, still over 2 months away, but this may be the last year I bother buying tickets to Celtic Thunder shows. CDs and DVD's are cheaper and can be enjoyed multiple times, and DVDs, while they don't show the whole show, ever, still have the advantage of a pause button. DVDs are filmed from a lot closer than the back section seats I can afford, too, so I can see the performers' faces and I can sing along without the people next to me scowling at me. And, if I feel the need to meet the singers, I can either write them a letter or find performers closer to home who are available after their shows to chat and sign autographs. Here's hoping, for Celtic Thunder's sake, that I am in the minority, or that I find good reason to change my mind by the end of the tour.

I know for sure that I am not the only Thunderhead to feel this way, nor is my reaction by any means the most extreme. I do understand, I think, where Sharon's coming from in reinstating the bus ban from the early years of Celtic Thunder, and I appreciate how challenging her job is. Sometimes there are no right answers where her job is concerned, and I'm sure she thinks she is choosing the best option, given what she knows. Perhaps the Celtic Thunder lads say a lot more about not wanting to meet us after the shows, once we are not around to hear it. But perhaps, too, Celtic Thunder has gotten too big to have personal connections with its fans, without lots of security, rules and dollar tags attached to everything. Maybe those of us who liked Celtic Thunder when it was small enough to not need those things will simply have to move on. What do you think?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ready for the Celtic Thunder Mythology Tour?

Celtic Thunder kicks off their 2013 Fall Tour, with their show Mythology, in just 2 days. Their first show will be in Abbotsford, British Colombia, on September 7th, so this Saturday (at the Abbotsford Sports & Entertainment Centre). There will be weekly live video chats with the lads throughout the tour, and a video tour diary, plus the usual social media banter, and all of a sudden all the Thunderheads will re-emerge onto tumblr, twitter and facebook as the lads wind their way throughout the states and provinces of North America. Are you ready?

Barry Kerr not on the Fall Tour, New ABC Album
Sadly, Barry Kerr will not be traveling on this tour, but no doubt he has some worthy projects he is working on back home in Ireland while the Fall Tour rolls on here. Ryan Kelly and Neil Byrne have announced some exciting news, that they will be releasing their first Acoustic By Candlelight studio album, called Acoustically Irish. This exciting new album will be available on amazon.com (and elsewhere) on October 1st. Acoustically Irish includes lots of fan favorites from these guys' Acoustic By Candlelight tours, including their always excellent cover of the Hothouse Flowers song "Don't Go" and the traditional song "Rose of Allendale". It may take some getting used to- the bits of "Don't Go" that one can hear on their reverbnation page sound a lot more complicated, almost overworked, compared to the basic acoustic version they played live. Still, I'm sure in the context of the full song, those bits sound fantastic.

I seriously doubt they'd be willing to send me a copy early so I could review it (I get spoiled with my local music blogging lifestyle- if they were a local band, I'd probably already have a copy and would be writing a review of it in the next week or so). There are samples of all 13 tracks on amazon, though, and knowing their voices and the rest of their music, I'm sure many of us Thunderheads can imagine the rest of these tracks enough to know this will be a fun album.

Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly- Acoustically Irish

Mini Review based on hearing the sample clips on amazon.com- These lads don't need strings and other instrumental accompaniment- they really would have been ok with just their guitars and voices, even for a studio album, but I can imagine how much fun they had layering in all the extra stuff. I do really love the a capella portion of "Green Fields of France". I've been throwing "Fields of Athenry" in as a song request every chance I could, and while I don't remember right now if I ever actually suggested it to them, I certainly think of these lads every time I hear other versions of "On Raglan Road". There's enough Irish traditional music to place this album in that genre, and enough of a folk-pop sound to their recordings that perhaps some of their new tracks might do quite well on the radio. Maybe next ABC tour-time they can include the Colorado Front Range in their itinerary, and in the meantime perhaps their fanbase here might grow a bit once this new album is available.

Keith Harkin
And no doubt Keith Harkin is getting closer to having his second solo album completed- he's been working some long hours in the studio lately, anyway. We'll have to find out Saturday whether Sharon Browne let Keith keep his facial hair and longer-than-usual hair (I really like how he's been looking this summer, and with his rougher, scruffier look he'd fit in just fine here in Colorado or anywhere in this part of the West, but I know a lot of fans prefer him clean-shaven and cleaner-cut). His latest new youtube video, posted a couple days ago, has very little of Keith himself in it, though his very tanned feet and hands show up right near the end. Here's a glimpse of some of Keith's more slippery neighbors. Hopefully he got in enough quality time with his boat that he won't be too terribly homesick for the next few months.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Molly's Revenge at Avogadro's Number

It has been a while since I saw a band in the Celtic genre, so this week's show by Molly's Revenge, a band out of California, was greatly appreciated. This trio played a great set with lots of old Irish, Scottish and Appalachian folk tunes that would be fun to dance to, if I was not holding a camera. Sadly no one was dancing while I was at this show, but maybe the second half of the show, which I missed, got people up off their butts to try a few jigs. At least I could enjoy the bagpipes droning cheerily on the Avo's patio as I was walking to the next venue of my night, a welcome sound after so many months without live bagpipe music. We really need a few more Irish bands in town, because I know I have seen people in Fort Collins who know how to dance to this stuff, but without more Irish/Celtic concerts to practice at, I think we as a town get too rusty when it comes to dancing something besides swing and salsa. The presence of more bodhrans and bodhran-players in town would be lovely too, as it would make my mastery of my own drum that much more likely if I saw master drummers playing these lovely hand-drums every week in concert.

Molly's Revenge played here the day before their brand new album Trio was released, so they played a few of the songs off this new album before I left the venue (and probably a few more in the second half of the show). This new album is all instrumental, Very few (if any) of this band's songs are the sing-along family show type that Celtic Thunder relies on; Molly's Revenge concentrates on the traditional instrumentals, with a lot of those 2-4 song sets that Irish fiddle albums feature so heavily, clusters of dance tunes, lullabies and laments that all sound the same to the untutored ear. But, they did play a lot of fiddle tunes I recognized from my past encounters with Irish fiddlers, and a couple tunes I can whistle in their entirety. The true Celtic traditional music aficionado will love this band, but I think their music is varied enough to keep the interest of novice listeners too.

(I do love hearing obscure folk songs brought back to life, too, but it can be exhausting trying to appreciate and absorb hours of new tunes without a few familiar ones mixed in. I also love singing along to the even more familiar songs that seep from the woodwork every St. Paddy's Day, so local bands and artists anywhere along this spectrum are welcome to start playing here in Fort Collins anytime.)

One additional treat for my evening with Molly's Revenge was meeting and chatting (far too briefly) with a fellow music blogger, Stuart Mason, who plays guitar and mandola for Molly's Revenge and also is the blogger behind the folk music blog Fiddle Freak. While not focused solely on Celtic folk, Stuart's blog looks like a particularly good resource for folk music fans regardless of subgenre preferences.I unfortunately did not get a chance to meet the other two members of Molly's Revenge before I left Avo's [and will continue to ponder the question 'Where have I seen David Brewer (pipes, bodhran & bagpipes for Molly's Revenge) before?' for many months, at this rate], but hopefully this band will visit Fort Collins again before I move elsewhere so I can meet the other two of the talented fellows properly soon.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Where Do We Go Now

Blog Update
For Celtic Thunder fans who have been tolerating all the local Fort Collins music news without being really into it, this will be a welcome change. For my local Colorado readers who like the local music stuff but are not Thunderheads, this will probably also be a welcome change. I now have 2 ravenmount blog sites, so ravenmount.com will be the general music blog and this one will be the Celtic music blog. There is a new Celtic band playing next week at Avogadro's Number, too, so this won't be just a Thunderheads' page, as lovely as the Celtic Thunder lads are. The Celtic music scene in Fort Collins is a bit sparse and disconnected at the moment, but seeing as they sell bodhrans at the drum store downtown, I'd be willing to bet there is more Celtic music around than turns up at Avo's and Old Town.

For everyone who rather liked this blog as it was, it still exists, just at ravenmount.com instead of ravenmount.blogspot.com . The new site is running on a different blogging interface, so my posts may shift a bit in appearance towards shorter less verbose posts (probably a very good thing) and more frequent short posts, and this old site will continue to have new content every week, but within the realm of Celtic music and related topics. (& yes, the title to this post is from the end section of "Sweet Child O'Mine" by Guns N' Roses.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

1 Whole Year of Ravenmount

I suppose picking the anniversary date for this music blog is a bit arbitrary. The first show I photographed and wrote about was the Indulgers, and that post wasn't published till early July, but the first post on this site which reestablished in my mind that I had a blog called Ravenmount that I wanted to develop was posted June 8th. Ryan Kelly was still in a coma, none of us Thunderheads knew what was going on with him, and I had started posting a daily 'candle' post on tumblr as my contribution to the international online vigil that was going on for Ryan. But, while all that was going on, a former Celtic Thunder singer Paul Byrom was working hard to promote his solo career here in the US, and needed his fans to spread the word. I had no idea if anyone would see it, though I knew hardly anyone read my blog, ever, but it was worth a shot. I liked the notion that I might be able to help talented musicians from Celtic Thunder, as well as local and indie musicians, by way of my blog and social media skills.

A year ago I was a hermit-like student, and had never been in the habit of going out in the evenings, alone or with friends. I had seen the inside of one bar, Road 34, once, in the entirety of my years in Fort Collins, for a friend's rock concert (from which I did come away with a few photos, actually). I had also been to New West Fest once, but almost by accident, while wandering around town looking for a comfy place to read my book. I did put my book away and make it to the front of the stage for Earl Scruggs (and got a few photos). But in over 3 years that was the extent of my exploration of local or live music in Fort Collins. Music has always been a big part of my life, but always in private, on the radio or CDs, and I had settled into a groove with the same few bands and artists keeping me company for years. I knew no local music whatsoever, aside from a vague notion that Danielle Ate The Sandwich and Elephant Revival (who I knew of via youtube) were from someplace in Colorado.

Now, in huge contrast to my former life, I am out on foot somewhere in Fort Collins 4-6 nights a week, taking hundreds of photos each night, and while there are still far too many bands here I have not yet seen or met, I am familiar with a considerable chunk of the local music scene. My Ravenmount facebook page boasts thousands of show photos from a wide range of bands, and I have actually met people randomly at shows who say they are fans of my blog (very crazy thought, and thanks!). Every day that I am out taking in the music scene I am reminded that my success as a music blogger, local music promoter, scenester, or whatever my role should be called, derives from the continued support of the amazing musicians, venue staff and owners, and other music scene folks who make this 'job' worthwhile and who help in various ways to keep my costs down to a minimum so I can keep on taking photos and exploring the music scene while I am figuring out how to keep my rent and utilities paid.

I still have a long, long way to go, but already at one year in I could not have imagined years ago that I would  be doing what I am doing or having such a great time doing it. After years of trying to stuff myself into academia, all of a sudden I am surrounded by so many supportive friends and colleagues and immersed in a whole world of creative, interesting, lovely people. I may be insane to think I could support myself financially as a career music blogger, but it would be even more insane to leave behind the world of local live music I live in now, even for the safety and security of a steady paycheck. You only get one life, so why waste your days away in a life you don't love?

Here's a HUGE thank you to all the musicians, event and venue people, and everyone else who has been a part of my first year as a music blogger. It's been great, and I look forward to seeing what year #2 has in store.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

News & Notes, May 7th- Ross Crean, Darrell Coyle, Kate Graves, Jami Lunde

I've been feeling spoiled/well appreciated/very fortunate, listening to all the great tunes that have been accumulating on my computer lately. 

Ross Crean's new album The Reluctant Socialite, which I reviewed recently on this blog, was a particularly welcome addition to my computer's music collection. This album will be available May 10th on Bandcamp, where folks can name their own price to download it (like suggested donations at live concerts, this sort of arrangement is a great opportunity for fans to chip in a few bucks to support the artist). As Ross is one of those artists I always forget is not universally known, I am always surprised that my friends are not more excited about this new album. I'm certainly still enjoying it. 

Another artist I needed more music from, Darrell Coyle has been updating his soundcloud with lots of great tunes available as free downloads. Darrell has a new EP which will be coming out this summer, but in the meantime he does a very good job of keeping his fans entertained and interested with his frequent youtube videos and demos. Now that he has been putting music on soundcloud, and making these tracks available to download, I can enjoy my favorite Darrell Coyle song, "The Love Song", even when I am not online. (I know, I picked a very girly favorite song from this guy. But, I am a girl, and it is a great song.) 

A fantastic local country band, Bonnie and the Clydes, has been doing a campaign to get their facebook numbers up, and have been using free downloads as a carrot to lure more of their fans and would-be fans to their facebook page. So, naturally I got to download my free copy of this excellent band's album Wrong Side Up. If you like country music, and haven't checked out this band yet, you're in for a treat. 

In addition to all these other new tunes on my computer, Jesse Niethammer has his new debut album done, & so far is carrying it around on flash drives so he can share it with his friends who have their computers handy (an old-school approach to music distribution which predates soundcloud). So, as I had my computer on hand when I last ran into Jesse, I now have his new album. Jesse combines the hip-hop and pop styles which the 'younger generation' go for nowadays with the looping and sampling tricks that allow artists like Tyler T. to simulate a 5-piece band in a solo show. Jesse is still working out his tricks and overall sound, so this first album may not land him on the Top 40 charts just yet, but he's clearly on his way.  Obviously I can't pass a memory stick around via this blog, so most likely I'll be sharing a song or two from Jesse's album on here soon, through more contemporary means.

And, of course, I have a few new excellent CDs to digest, the latest from Kate Graves (Long Night) and Jami Lunde (Big Black Birds). These ladies played as the featured artists at the Avogadro's Open Mic last week, and also played at Road 34 a few days later along with Deadwood Saints. Kate plays folk music, but the sort of folk music that led the bar crowd at Road 34 to demand an encore. Her song-writing follows the sad tragic themes that are a staple of country music, while her voice has the sort of rough edginess that reminds me a bit more of blues-singers. Jami Lunde's music has more of a rock & roll lilt to it, with more upbeat rhythms, but neither of these women is singing mushy love songs. So far my favorite song out of these two ladies' albums is the title track from Jami Lunde's album, "Big Black Birds", but I haven't had these discs long enough yet to really digest them. No doubt I'll latch onto more songs over time, from both of these artists.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

New From Ross Crean: The Reluctant Socialite

Ross Crean's excellent new 6-track album The Reluctant Socialite comes out May 10th. Previews from these six new songs are now available for preview on Ross's website (click the Music tab at the top of his website). When it is released in ~2 weeks it will be available on Bandcamp, where you can name your own price for this excellent album. As far as music deals go, this is probably one of the best coming up. 

It always surprises me that not everyone knows of Ross and his excellent existing albums, because his music is always consistently a notch or two above what one would expect of local/regional artists. One of these days the right people will catch his music and he'll be suddenly hugely famous (maybe with this album?). If you're looking for sweet sappy love songs, this new album is not quite the right choice, though there is actually a nice love song among Ross's 6 new tracks ("Yours Only"). I suspect that the whole album sounds even more impressive on a sound system with multiple speakers, and of course these songs would be particularly cool to hear live. But, since Ross is not touring through Fort Collins yet, I suppose his studio recordings will do for now. 

I always am jealous of Ross Crean's voice- I would still want to sound like him if I were a man (though as I am not, I'd go for a voice like Katherine Jenkins' just as happily). His new tunes show off his range quite nicely, and also bring in lots of great percussion and a nice variety of instrumentation for a very modern sound that is as much 'pop' as Depeche Mode's sound. Actually some of his music, including a few of the songs on The Reluctant Socialite, could be covered quite comfortably by Depeche Mode or a decent Depeche Mode cover band (I can especially hear the resemblance in "Daniel" and "Tilda", though "Yours Only" could also fit into a set for a Depeche Mode cover band). My favorite, right now, is probably "Yours Only", but just as with the new Celtic Thunder album, I'm sure my favorites will shift as I become more accustomed to the entirety of Ross's new album. 

If you are already a fan, be sure to check out his new songs on his website and mark the release date, May 10th, on your calendar. Also, if you are a fan AND use spotify, be sure to 'follow' Ross on spotify (a new feature on that platform). If you are not a fan yet, check out Ross's new music on his website. His albums are available in several places online, including CD Baby and spotify, and he has a lot of his music available to preview on his website besides these brand new tracks. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

SHEL in Europe (Frankfurt, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow & London)

SHEL will be in Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow and London this month before returning to Colorado to play a show in Boulder at the Fox Theatre on April 28th. I always like sharing this band, one of my absolute favorite local Fort Collins music acts, with my friends, so it is an exciting thought that Neil, Colm, Emmet, Ryan and George may actually get to see this band live in a week or so. I am not exactly friends with the Celtic Thunder musicians just yet, but hopefully at least one or two of these lads will take my random fan tweets seriously and check out SHEL while they are actually on the European side of the ocean. For that matter, anyone in Frankfurt, Germany this week should check out this band, too.  If you happen to live in Ireland, Scotland or London and are not a Celtic Thunder musician, chances are good that you still might really love this band.

SHEL is made up of 4 sisters, all excellent musicians, who have performed together for years, and who played with their dad (who was on electric bass for the last SHEL show at which he was performing with them, this past fall). Their music has a dreamy, eclectic folk sound that bridges the pop, folk and country genres, with lots of original songs, many written by the very talented Eva, who plays mandolin and electric mandolin, among other things. They also do an absolutely fantastic cover of Led Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore".

SHEL's upcoming European dates (from their website):

April 11-13 Frankfurt, Germany (see SHEL @ Prolight+Sound @ Prolight + Sound Convetion for more info)

April 17 Bruxelles Bar, Dublin, Ireland (16+, no cover listed)

April 19 John Hewitt Bar, Belfast (All ages, no cover listed)

April 21 The Roxy 171, Glasgow, Scotland, UK (All ages, £6)

April 22 Pivo Pivo, Glasgow, Scotland, UK (All ages, £6)

April 24 The Bedford, London, UK (All ages, free)

April 25 The Islington, London, UK (All ages, free)

So, why should you care? Here's a taste of what you've been missing if you haven't heard SHEL yet ...

and one more, just in case you need more convincing :) The first video was filmed in the Fort Collins area, and this second shows lots of familiar Fort Collins locations, including our Old Town Square Stage, a nice outdoor venue which features a small but somewhat effective occasionally water-filled moat as its divider between the stage and the audience.