This for me is the goose–bump album of 2014. Mind you I had thrill of hearing a pre–release download just before Christmas, and what a welcome present it was.
Why the goose bumps? Liam Clancy is the answer. Back in the winter of 1995/96 I spent four months singing with Liam on the recording of a couple of his Helvic label albums.
Dónal was on both of them, but as the recording process is fragmentary we never actually got it together as a band until we appeared on the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne.
The Songs of a Roving Blade album was recorded in the very same setting of the family studio in An Rinn (Ring in English), this album being dedicated to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and rightly so.
Dónal explains in the album notes that after his father died, there was a silence in the house but the ghosts of the songs were with him. Although until then he’d been happier to play the guitar, the songs had to be sung.
Dónal Clancy is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest guitarists. He is the son of the world renowned singer Liam Clancy of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and has since the death of his father focused his attention on the family repertoire of songs that he grew up with, while keeping the Clancy tradition alive with his solo performances.
Dónal grew up in a household and community steeped in music. He spent his early childhood in Canada and the US before his family settled back in An Rinn, Co. Waterford in 1983. His father gave him his first guitar at the age of eight and he was playing professionally by his early teens. A founder member of the group Danú, Dónal left to join a trio with his father Liam and cousin Robbie O'Connell. Their debut tour in 1996 took them across the US from the Santa Anita Race Track in Los Angeles to Lincoln Center in New York. They continued to tour together for a couple of more years and recorded two albums before they disbanded in the early noughties. In 1998, Dónal moved to New York where he became the go-to guitarist for many of the top Irish music acts in the US. He toured and recorded with Riverdance fiddler, Eileen Ivers and was a guest with The Chieftains on their Tears of Stone Tours in Japan and the US. He has also been a member of the Irish American super group Solas and contributed to the soundtrack of Ric Burns’ award winning documentary film New York.
In 2006 he released his first solo guitar album Close To Home which The Boston Globe dubbed "a sweet masterpiece of melodic grace and riveting groove". In 2009 Dónal returned to live in Ireland with his wife Mary and their three children and in 2014, to much critical acclaim, he released Songs of a Roving Blade. The Irish Post awarded the album 5* calling it “folk singing at its best” and “a smashing album that should help to ensure these songs will never be lost”
Photo Credits: (1)-(2),(5) Dónal Clancy; (3)-(4) Liam Clancy (unknown/website).