Dermot Byrne, Éamonn Coyne & John Doyle - Éamonn Coyne
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Dermot Byrne, Éamonn Coyne & John Doyle

Dermot Byrne, Éamonn Coyne and John Doyle

 

Dermot, Éamonn and John have recently completed a soon to be released album (provisionally titled Nasc) of lesser known local traditional music and song of South West Donegal, relating how meeting there in the early 80’s at small village festivals has been a cornerstone of their disparate journeys towards their musical careers.

 

This music remains a basis of their musical journeys from meeting there in the early 80’s through small village festivals in Carrick, Kilcar and Glencolmcille, to their present careers as professional musicians living in Ireland, Scotland and America respectively but working worldwide.  The music and song will be that which is known in the area but with special emphasis on less common repertoire.  The album will showcase the special connection they have with the area and its music and how it remains a source of inspiration.

 

Dermot Byrne (button accordion and melodeon) was born into the heart of the music of South West Donegal as his father is from Teileann, outside Carrick.  He played from a very young age and consequently has an in-depth knowledge of the music of the area and Donegal music in general as he is from Burnfoot, Inishowen.  He now lives in Kinvara.

 

Éamonn Coyne (banjo, tenor guitar) originally from Roscommon but brought up in Dublin, and now living in Edinburgh for 17 years, spent many summer holidays in Mucross, just outside Kilcar.  This was before he ever played the banjo.  Being invited back to play at festivals in the area made him aware of a musical heritage he never knew existed – for example the owner of the seaside campsite he stayed at was a celebrated fiddle player, which was unknown to many of his visitors.

 

John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki, vocals) – originally from Dublin but now living in Ashville, North Carolina, USA – because of his late uncle, Donal Ward, a keen music enthusiast from the Carrick area, spent many holidays there.  This led to a keen interest in the music and song of South West Donegal and on to him playing at the Carrick Fleadh. This was where the three musicians first played together: a pub session at this then annual autumn festival organised by the people of the town put the three together with the late great Con Cassidy.

 

To say that the music they heard, learnt, played, and subsequently recorded in many different line-ups, came partly from those youthful sessions wouldn’t be a great exaggeration.  Year-on-year attendance at different festivals in the area cemented their friendship and the music and song of the area is never very far from their minds even though they are now more likely to meet at much ‘bigger’ festivals all over the world.

 

Although the local music of South West Donegal is at the heart of this work it is not solely about the music.  It is also about the artistic and personal development of the musicians involved who haven’t forgotten one of their great past influences.  It underlies much of the music they have made and continue to make since, be they playing with bluegrass royalty Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas in Nashville or Scottish International band ‘Salsa Celtica’ in Columbia or ‘Altan’ in the White House or indeed all of the above in various concert halls and venues around Ireland.

 

Neither is the project solely about the music of South West Donegal as a lot of the music played while spending time at such festivals came from far and wide being heavily influenced by Scottish, Shetland and Cape Breton tunes as well as those from all over Ireland.  The trio will re-explore this music and endeavour to record tunes and songs (including those in the Irish language) which are not the most popular and often recorded.  This is foremost in their minds and is ultimately possible because of the backgrounds of the three involved, their access to personal and public archive material, and the skill and experience they have garnered separately from many years playing and recording.  The recording will also provide an insight into the music that was being played by the many musical visitors to this area at that time and the great influence the music of the area had on the wider traditional music scene of the time.

Dermot Byrne

 

is one of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians having been awarded the Irish Television station, TG4’s Traditional Musician of the Year 2013.  He hails from Buncrana in the Inishowen peninsula, the most northerly part of Donegal, and has played accordion since a very young age, having learned from his father Tomás O’Beirn, who comes from Teileann area of South West Donegal, and is an enthusiastic promoter of the tradition.

 

Dermot had the good fortune to meet all the greats of Donegal music including Johnny Doherty, Con Cassidy, Tommy Peoples, Danny Meehan and many more, and they made a great impact on the young Dermot, who went on to develop a unique style. His seemingly effortless playing, combined with great subtlety, and a faultless ear, makes him one of the great accordion players of his generation. As well as his mastery of the Donegal style and repertoire, Dermot can turn with ease to other styles and traditions such as French musette, or South American choro music.

Dermot guested on two Altan recordings, “The Red Crow” and “Island Angel” before joining the band in 1994, and was a member until 2013, during which time he recorded five further albums with them. He has played on collaborations with many great musicians including Séamus and Manus McGuire, Sharon Shannon, Frankie Gavin, Pierre Schryer, Tim O’Brien, The Stunning, Salsa Celtica and the late jazz violinist, Stephane Grappelli. His eponymous solo recording, which he has reissued recently, received great critical acclaim.

Éamonn Coyne

 

now lives in Edinburgh but is originally from Ireland (Dublin/Roscommon). His début solo album ‘Through the Round Window’ also featured a few friends including Grammy Award winner Alison Brown, Dermot Byrne and Michael McGoldrick. fRoots called it “utterly stunning” and The Irish Times reported, “…this album comes as no surprise either in its virtuosity or eclecticism”. Coyne has also performed and recorded with a vast array of people from many different musical genres including Tommy Peoples, Bèla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sinéad O’Connor, Tim O’Brien, and Russell’s House.

 

Éamonn plays as a duo with the multi-award winning Kris Drever. Their debut duo CD, ‘Honk Toot Suite’, was described by Songlines as ‘a breath of fresh air’ with its ‘mutually attuned musicianship of the first order’ and ‘its immense yet ultra-supple sophistication’. ‘Storymap’, the follow-up to this, was BBC Music Magazine’s five star Album of the Month in Sept 2103.

 

Éamonn also plays with Salsa Celtica and Treacherous Orchestra whose most recent recording, ‘Grind’, released Feb 2015, was nominated for Scottish Album of the Year and won Best Album at the Scottish Folk Awards.

John Doyle

 

From a musical family in Dublin, John’s influences include well known English folk singers Nic Jones, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, and The Watersons; Scottish singers Dick Gaughan and John Martin; and fellow Irishmen Paul Brady and Al O’Donnell as well as his father, Sean Doyle – probably the biggest influence of all.  John went on the road as a pro at 16 with the group Chanting House which he formed with Susan McKeown and which eventually included such great players as Seamus Egan, Eileen Ivers, and Donogh Hennessy.  John went on to form the highly acclaimed supergroup, Solas, with Seamus Egan, John Williams, Karan Casey and Winifred Horan which took the folk and Celtic music worlds by storm, in no small part due to John’s powerhouse rhythmic guitar style and innovative arrangements.  As a member of Solas, John performed to sold-out audiences nationally in the US and internationally as well as appearing on many national US TV and radio programs including NBC’s The Today Show.  As part of that critically acclaimed group, he also received three NAIRD awards and a Grammy nomination for the band’s self-titled first recording.

 

After leaving Solas, John has gone on to perform, tour and record with many other greats in the Folk, Celtic and Bluegrass worlds: Eileen Ivers, Seamus Egan, Tim O’Brien (John was included on Tim’s 2006 Grammy-award winning CD, Fiddler’s Green), Linda Thompson, Kate Rusby, Cathie Ryan, Mick Moloney, Cathal McConnell, Karan Casey, Alison Brown and many others.  He has appeared on soundtracks for the feature film, The Brothers McMullan, Soldier, PBS’s Out of Ireland and also composed the music for the film Uncle Robert’s Footsteps and the play Down the Flats.  Click for a full discography.

In recent years, John has gained major prominence in the Celtic and Folk worlds in duos with Chicago fiddler Liz Carroll (their recording, ‘Double Play’ received a 2010 Grammy nomination for ‘Best Traditional World Music Record’) and with Karan Casey; in trios with Michael McGoldrick & John McCusker and The Teetotallers with Martin Hayes and Kevin Crawford.  2008-2010 saw John on the road with the legendary Joan Baez as her music director and guitarist.

 

With the release of John’s most recent solo recording, ‘Shadow and Light’ (Compass Records) in 2011, his significant talents as songwriter and singer are finally coming to the fore.  His most recent work is as part of Irish ‘supergroup’ Usher’s Island.  Impossibly in demand in the studio and on the road, immensely talented and blessed with an acute ear, a wicked sense of rhythm and seemingly endless bag of chops in his playing, composing, performing and producing, John has firmly established himself as one of the most versatile, creative and prolific voices in folk and traditional Irish music.

Other ÉC Projects

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Dermot Byrne, Éamonn Coyne & John Doyle

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Éamonn Coyne & Kris Drever

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Treacherous Orchestra

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Salsa Celtica