The title “Running Through Woods & Falling in Bogholes” is inspired by childhood events.
By Daniel Neely
The increasing number of vaccinated people and the continued, consistent wearing of masks mean that confidence in in-person music is on the return! This is excellent news for things like sessions and pub gigs that can be organized on the fly, and while we’ll have to continue to wait for events that require long-term planning, there is a bit of good news on the Comhaltas front.
This weekend, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s North America Convention will take place, Saturday and Sunday, April 10-11. No, it’s not (yet) returned to being an in-person event and the entire thing will be held virtual and decentralized. However, the organizers have not only arranged the normal gamut of meetings to join in on, they’ve also arranged for some really top-notch artists to hold instrument workshops that will not only remind people of Comhaltas’s mission, but of the conventions and fleadhanna we can look forward to in the future. The workshops are open to all.
Saturday’s workshops will feature an incredible array of talent: Joanie Madden will teach whistle; Caoimhe Kearins, the fiddle; Clara Mannion, the concertina; Marla Fibish, the mandolin; Colin Harte, the bodhrán; and Marta Cook, the harp. Artists leading Sunday’s workshops are equally impressive, with Colin Farrell on fiddle; Kevin Crawford, on flute; John Whelan on button accordion; and Caoimhe Kearins with English language singing. There are some grand opportunities (for young folks especially!) to connect with some fabulous musicians, learn some tricks of the trade, and restore a bit of the community feel that we’ve all been so anxious to return to.
If this weren’t enough, I hear additional workshops will be announced over the course of this week! For more information on how to sign up, visit www.facebook.com/cceconventionNA.
In the media player this week is “Running Through Woods & Falling in Bogholes,” the new album from multi-instrumentalist Colm Naughton. Named after common moments of Naughton’s childhood, it’s a compelling album of original tunes from a musician who has a lot to offer in terms of skill and creativity.
Naughton, whose main instrument is the tenor banjo but who also plays anything with strings, grew up on a farm in rural Galway, the sixth of seven children. He brings good taste and hardy drive to his music, two things that rewards listeners especially when the tunes are being played by the artist who composed them!
“Running Through Woods” is very much an album that’s taken advantage of the moment we’re in. The liner notes tell us that while “the tunes on this album were written over the space of two years,” when lockdown began Naughton thought “here is my opportunity, so I cobbled together a home studio and set to work. This is the [result].”
Indeed, the reality of COVID-19’s restrictions challenged many artists to look inward and showcase their original work. In this sense, Naughton's process here reminds me a bit of the approach (but not the style) of someone like Bryan O’Leary, whose excellent EP of original compositions, “Tranquility in Tureencahill,” was offered to posterity in similar manner as a result of the pandemic.
However, while O’Leary’s release incorporated a sparing number of guest musicians, “Running Through Woods” includes a fair few and this gives the album it’s own sense of depth and variety. Naughton’s guests include Finbarr Naughton (fiddle), Orla Henihan (tin whistle), Catherine McHugh (piano), Derek Hickey (accordion), Brian McGrath (piano), Matthew Berrill (alto sax), Kenny Fahy (bodhrán), and Jamie O’Neill (snare drum), each of whom makes important contributions and rounds out the album’s sound to great effect.
Naughton is a fine composer. This is clearly evident on tracks like the reels “The Trip to Prague / Ten Hours in Victoria / What’s the Czech for Cigarette?" and jigs “Running Through Woods / Falling in Bogholes” that start off the album. There are some beautiful moments in these tunes that sound at once familiar and fresh. I also find “Nellie Beag / Nellie Mhór” tunes that are quite nice, both in their construction and execution here. “Matthew's Mazurka” and “The Inis Meáin Waltz” are also great and thoughtfully done changes of pace.
However, where I find Naughton’s tunesmithing at its finest is when he’s writing for what sounds like the Irish-American dance halls of the 1920s-1950s. He’s recorded a set of barndances, “Martin Keane’s / Ned Naughton’s,” and a set of slides, “Flowers for Mom / Dad’s Rainbow Slide,” both of which have great bit of personality about them. The former sounds like something James Morrison might have recorded or the Flanagan Brothers might have delighted audiences with at Donovan’s Ballrooms, while the latter has a bit of an “At The Racket” vibe and would most certainly have been at home the the halls on Boston’s Dudley Street in the 1950s.
“Running Through Woods & Falling in Bogholes” is a lovely album of original music that should draw in listeners and better acquaint them with a very sound banjo player with a nice style and identifiable sound. Definitely give this one a spin if spirited banjo music with a heart is your thing! To learn more about Naughton and his music, visit www.colmnaughton.com.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to wish Mickey Coleman, one of New York’s finest singers, all the best as he recovers from a recent heart attack. He’s in the thoughts of the New York’s entire music community, and we look forward to having him back with guitar in hand sooner rather than later. Best wishes to Mickey and his family in this unusually difficult time.