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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.