FolkWorld #54 07/2014
© Seán Laffey

Songs of a Roving Blade

The related article has been withdrawn by the author.

Dónal Clancy

Artist Video Dónal Clancy @ FolkWorld:
FW#17, #22, #27, #30, #32,
#32,#42,#42,#44, #45,#54,#54

Liam Clancy

Artist Video Liam Clancy @ FW:
FW#2, #38, #38, #41

Dónal Clancy: Songs of a Roving Blade 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.
Sing them he does on this album. Fans of the Clancy’s will recognise almost every one of them, from Rosin The Bow, The Broom of the Cowdenknowes, Crúíscín Lán, Heave Away My Johnny, The Sean Bhan Bhoct and more. Mrs McGrath is an old family version, with a melody and chorus that were both new to me.
The goose bumps hit when Dónal sings. There are genetics at work here, he has the same vocal qualities as his father, that uncanny ability with timing, the clarity of diction, subtle storytelling, unhurried, unsullied singing. Is it nature or nurture? It has to be both of course.
So is this a tribute album? Yes and No. Dónal has been around the block enough times now to have his own career, with a long stint in Danú and collaborations with a huge number of players and singers, he doesn’t have to rest on the family credentials. But, this is different, these are the family jewels, and why wouldn’t he want the world to share them again?
His guitar playing is of course of the highest quality, delicate finger picking on Sally Brown, a punchy chop on Roddy McCorley. The backing band he has put together for the album is top drawer too. It includes his wife Mary Rafferty on box and whistle, Martin Murray on mandolin, banjo and fiddle, Seán Ó Fearghail adds fiddle on The Limerick Rake. He is joined by Danú band mates Benny McCarthy on box and Donnchadh Gough on bodhrán. David Power guests on uilleann pipes, with Karan Casey on vocals and my old sparring partner from ‘96 Pat Sheridan on backing vocals on two shanties.
This might be called Songs Of a Roving Blade, but Dónal hasn’t strayed that far from his roots and the world has another Clancy to carry the torch for folk songs. I can see Dónal roving this album around the world in 2014, a great vintage already, and it has only just been bottled!

Dónal Clancy, Songs of a Roving Blade. Own label, 2014

Liam Clancy & Seán Laffey

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 Clancy

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).

FolkWorld Homepage German Content English Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Kidz Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld Info & Contact

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld