Archive for Irish Music

The Vinyl Art Form – U2’s no line on the horizon vinyl edition album

Vinyl is an underated and sadly disappearing art-form. My childhood memories are of record stores and beautiful abum covers of artists such as Abba, Neil Young and the Beatles. Thankfully a number of artists still release their new albums in vinyl format.

I recently purchased REM’s, Bruce Springteen’s and RadioHead’s new abums in this beautiful format. U2’s new album came through the letter box this morning, actually couldn’t fit through the letterbox the postman had to ring the door bell

Vinyl allows the artists to convey a different aspect of the music through the use of a large canvass which is offered by the double gate fold format. The artist can create a whole theme or mood around the album which U2 have done with the internal double gatefold photo of the band in Morocco. The sound is also warmer and also sounds more authentic.

I look forward to listening to this double album this evening and enjoying the luxurious visual and tactile experience.

Patrick Alexander Guitar Luthier –

Its not often you walk in to your local pub on a Saturday night and the guy sitting at the bar beside you is a lutheir who has been making guitars for 20 years.

Patrick made his first guitar at 9 years old.  He runs Blackspot
from his workshop in Bristol, UK, to produce guitars that have
the look and quality lost in the mass produced product available today.
We had a fascinating conversation about the timber and techniques used to make guitars.

My mandola was made for me by Mike Regan using recycled georgian mahogany. My guitar was made in Canada by Norman using solid Canadian spruce. The quality of materials will determine the quality of the instrument and Patrick shares this passion. He is a very easy guy to talk to. This is important as the musician must be able to communicate with the luthier the type of instrument they want.

Patrick makes both solid and acoustic models. His guitars have received rave reviews from UK magazines. His acoustic models use a variety of timbers including walnut, spruce and cedar. The different combinations produce different tones and timbre, A cedar top for example produces a warm and sweet tone. You can contact Patrick via


Rem on the cover of new music mag

Check out the April edition of for an in-depth article on REM and the recording process for their new album Accelerate. There is also an interview with Jack Knife Lee.

DADGAD Chord Progressions and backing irish music

I have resurrected my ambition to back irish music using the DADGAD tuning. I recently bought Pierre Bensusan’s book The Guitar Book and I am rereading Sarah McQuaid’s DADGAD book.

Pierre’s book is a work of love and is evident from reading it. It focuses on tablature rather than chords.
Sarah’s book covers chords but is too text oriented and confusing, I do not doubt Sarah’s expertise but I do not have enough music theory to firmly grasp what she is explaining.
The best introduction and explanation of chords to use for backing Irish music is FREE and is written by Hans Speek, the DADGAD part of his website explains and provides examples of chords to use to back music in different keys.
I decided to derive the chords as suggested by Hans and draw the chord diagrams for the various notes. This was time consuming but worth while. Where possible I progressed the chords up the fret board. Where that wasn’t possible I used the 4 low sounding strings for the first few notes and the high sounding strings for the notes further up the scales.
Practising chord scales does actually help as I put the theory to the test last night. Keeping up with the speed of the reels and jigs was the tricky part.
Hans approach does work well and has given me some ideas on interesting chord progressions for tunes.

The ballad of Ronnie Drew – Get well soon

The chances are that if you are reading this from outside the country of Ireland you may have never heard off Ronnie Drew. Ronnie is the lead singer of the Dubliners. My childhood are full of memories of their music playing on the radio, the vinyl record player and later cassettes. Ronnie is currently undergoing treatment for throat cancer.
U2 and a host of irish music celebrities came together to record a song that was supposed to include Ronnie himself but due to his declining health they decided to record a tribute to Ronnie with all proceeds going to the Irish Cancer Society.
Musicians involved in the record include members of U2, Sinead O’Connor, Christy Dignam of Aslan, Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead, Irish Trad band Kila, Christy Moore, Andrea Corr, Moya Brennan, Shane McGowan, Bob Geldof, Damien Dempsey, Gavin Friday, Jerry Fish, Paul Brady, Paddy Casey, Mick Pyro (of Republic of Loose), Mundy, Chris de Burgh, Ronan Keating, Jack L, Eleanor Shanley, Mary Black, Declan O’Rourke and Mary Coughlan. In the official video Glen Hansard evens manages to contribute his part via mobile phone.
Ronnie get well soon, you are in our thoughts.

I am successfully a failure but happy all in all

Immortal words from the Pale from the chart topping song Butterfly (1992). The band has just released a new album titled “The Contents Of A Shipwreck”. The new album has received good reviews.
For all those who remember seeing them live in the early 90s I have linked to their video for Butterfly.

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The Pales’s Myspace Page

Mike Regan Wexford Luthier

Mike Regan who makes beautiful instruments such as Mandolas and guitars now has a website I own a Regan Mandola which has a beautiful sound due to the materials used in its construction. He can be contacted at

Una Healy – Now on Youtube

Thurles musician Una Healy has a performance of her song “Sorry” available to view on Youtube. Its a good song and can be purchased from
Una’s career has been going from strength to strength over the past few years. Upcoming gigs include.
Sep 8 2006 11:00PM City West Hotel Dublin
Sep 9 2006 10:00PM O’Briens, Leeson Street Dublin

U2 play an unforgettable gig in Dublin on a beautiful evening

Monday night was a perfect night for a concert, blue skies, warm sunshine and a bar less than 30 yards from where we were seated. There had been a number of complaints from people who attended the Friday night concert especially those seated in the canal end at the back of the stadium. Letters to the editor in the Irish Times described the sound as oppressive and hard to make out what Bono was saying. Thankfully all this had been rectified for the Monday concert. The sound was perfect (like sitting in a surround sound cinema) the video screens were crystal clear and the backdrop was amazing especially later on in the show when it got darker. Great concert and the white wine being served wasn’t bad either.

How the Beatles rescued music

TIPPINST – Howard Goodall presented a very interesting programme on Monday morning on Channel 4 as to how versatile and complex some of the beatles music was. ‘The big story of 20th century music,’ he says, ‘is the way that classical and popular music collided with each other to create a new musical mainstream … In the 1960s, with classical music at its lowest ebb, the most important composers in the world were without doubt The Beatles.’
Songs like Elanor Rigby were based upon 14th century dorian scales (i.e. church/folk music). Lennon and McCartney had the ability to integrate other cultures into main stream pop.
Goodall argued that classical composition lost its way by breaking with the traditional ‘language’ of Western music that listeners understood. The Beatles, he says, threw music a lifeline by building on foundations abandoned by the modernists – keys, harmony and different scales.
Hopefully this programme will be repeated in the future.
Howard Goodall’s Twentieth Century Greats