This past year has been the most intense period of traveling and music-making in my life thus far, and it’s been great fun! Occasionally exhausting, but mostly wonderful. The summer started off with a bang. Right after finishing up spring tours with Celtic Crossroads and Comas, I flew to St. Louis to perform at John D. McGurk’s for the whole month of May with my buds Dan Lowery and Alan Murray under our bar band stage name, The Bronx Boys. That month was punctuated during days off by occasional camping excursions, a trip to Chicago, and a fly-in visit to Virginia to record a new album with Ensemble Galilei. We always have a great time in St. Louis with our friends at McGurk’s, and this time was no exception. We’ll be back for May and September 2014!
After a short break in Chicago, I hit the road with The Yanks for a two-week tour in June, starting in the midwest and ending in New Hampshire. It was our first time being on the road together for longer than a weekend, and it was a great success! I then went to New York for a couple of weeks to do some local gigs and catch up with friends, then The Yanks reunited for Catskills Irish Arts Week, where we played many sessions and some concerts, including an unbelievably packed midnight concert at the Blackthorne on Friday night. The energy was incredible!
In late July, I headed to western Canada to begin a tour with Comas at the fantastic Mission Folk Fest, just outside Vancouver. It was great to return to Mission, because that was the first major music festival I ever played, back in 2005 with Eileen Ivers. There were some really great performers there this year including Dick Gaughan and Liz Carroll. After the festival, we played a house concert in Vancouver hosted by the fabulous Jenny Ritter, who opened for us with her Scandinavian folk trio, Marmota. A great night followed, featuring a flat-tuned session in the public park outside Jenny’s house including B uilleann pipes, Hardanger fiddle, and tenor banjo! We then made our way to Ontario to play an afternoon concert in Tobermory, the Mill Race Folk Festival in Cambridge, and finally one of our favorites, the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, where we taught workshops and played concerts for our third consecutive year. It was great to see our friends there and hear all the amazing music there. More than a couple of late night sessions were had!
Next, I flew to beautiful Medellín, Colombia, where I’d spent some time in January, and reconnected with fiddler Carolina Arango. We spent a week getting ready for a concert with her great new band, Æire Irlandés, which went super well! We also played a session one night with the band and several of Carolina’s students. It’s great to see such talent and enthusiasm for Irish music in Colombia, and I think we can expect to hear some great things from her students in the coming years! Just when I was becoming comfortable speaking Spanish again, it was time to head back to the States for a concert with Ensemble Galilei. It took place in a beautiful theater in Rockport, Massachusetts, and we were delighted to be joined by Lisa Gutkin on fiddle! After the concert, Lisa and I drove to New York where we stopped in the Bronx for some curry chips from my favorite local establishment, the Chipper Truck, before making it down to the 11th Street Bar for the end of their Sunday night session.
The next evening, I flew to Brussels, where Philip Masure picked me up at the airport and we drove to his studio in Antwerp, where we spent the next two weeks working on a new album for Comas. This was my second stay at Philip’s studio and I think it was a productive visit! Periodically we would derive some amusement from Philip’s chickens, who live in a pen just outside the studio window, and would come and peck against the glass from time to time. I swear sometimes they peck in rhythm to the tunes…. We also did some nice gigs including festivals in Geluwe and Alden Biesen, and crossed into Holland one night to play at Mulligan’s in Amsterdam. We also took an afternoon to visit Brugge, where we met up with flutemaker Geert Lejeune, who showed us around his workshop and let me play some of his beautiful instruments. I won’t be parting with my Olwell, but hopefully I’ll add a Lejeune to my arsenal one of these days!
After my two weeks in Belgium were up, I went to Ireland to play some session gigs at the Dingle Trad Fest, and also did some gigs in Blarney, Co. Cork, with guitarist Conor O’Sullivan. I then spent a couple of weeks knocking around the country, seeing many friends including my beloved Celtic Crossroads family, my old comrade James Riley, and most importantly visited my beautiful goddaughter, who’s now nearly three years old! Look out boys, she’s a charmer!
As my time in Ireland drew to a close, I was sad to leave, but also excited to get back to New York, where I am now, and get to work playing some gigs around the northeast, and getting ready for upcoming traveling gigs with The Yanks and Comas. Hope you all had a great summer!