March 12, 2009

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An Irish invasion
Two Emerald Isle bands to play Dana Center
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

For St. Patrick’s Day festivities, you can settle for the plethora of local bar bands doing endless versions of “O’ Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” or you can settle in for an evening of authentic Irish music from — gasp! — real Irish bands.

Ireland’s own Gráda and Slide will perform as part of the Dana Center’s 2008-2009 World Music Series on Friday, March 13, at 8 p.m., at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.

Gráda guitarist Gerry Paul says that his band is excited to come back to Manchester, having played the Dana Center in 2007 with another Irish band called Flook.

“We liked New Hampshire, it was great,” Paul said in a March 5 interview. “We met a lot of really great people there. We played a gig in the area that was really cool and also have a friend there, Kevin Malloy, who’s got a pub there [The Shaskeen]. We’re looking forward to going back.”

Formed in 2001, Gráda is comprised of Colin Farrell on flute and whistles, vocalist and fiddle player Nicola Joyce, Andrew Laking on bass and vocals, Paul on guitars, and flautist Alan Doherty, who contributed solo music to the score of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The group’s sound is one they consider a modern take on Irish music, and incorporates a wide range of styles.

“It’s really based in the traditional Irish genre, since our roots are in traditional Irish music,” Paul said. “But we do come from diverse musical backgrounds — there’s jazz in there, bits of bluegrass, little bits of reggae, all to make our own Gráda sound. It’s pretty contemporary, with a lot of improvisation in there.”

The band recently finished up a world tour that spanned 12 countries and 10 months, in promotion of their now newly released CD, Cloudy Day Navigation. Part of the tour was filmed by Irish documentary filmmaker Brian Gray, who produced a live DVD for the band.

“The DVD is part of the Cloudy Day Navigation package,” Paul said. “It’s basically the CD and then six live tracks from the DVD that we did in Dublin. We were lucky enough to get funding from the Arts Council of Ireland, so that was really cool.”

Their new album, which was produced by former Waterboys member Trevor Hutchinson, includes a roster of renowned artists, including Dublin jazz trumpeter Bill Blackmore, Danish percussionist Rasmus Skovmand, and cellist Vyvienne Long, best known for her duet with Damien Rice on the song “Volcano.” Most of the collaborators had worked with the band previously.

“We knew Rasmus and had a long-time association with him,” Paul said. “Bill’s been playing with us for years. We were really lucky to work with [Long] — she’s an amazing musician. We get really excited to work with other people because you get a lot of new ideas that way.”

 Sharing the bill with Gráda at the Dana Center is the Bandon, Ireland, band Slide. The quintet released their first album, The Flying Pig, in 2000 and quickly started headlining venues and festivals, including the National Concert Hall in Ireland, the Cambridge Festival in England and the German Folk Festival. The next year the guys were named “Best Newcomers” by Irish Music Magazine, and in 2006 they won the Young Musicwide Award.

The two bands have a long musical history together, says Paul.

“They’re already good friends of ours, and their flute player has recorded on one of our albums before, so we’ve been playing with those guys for years,” Paul said. “It’ll be really cool, and should be a lot of fun.”

As far as any worries about their traditional sounds being embraced by U.S. listeners, Gráda says they’ve found nothing but enthusiastic audiences for Irish music in the States.

“They’re nuts over it,” Paul said. “I mean, so many Americans have roots in Ireland, you know?”


Gráda and Slide
When: Friday, March 13, at 8 p.m.
Where: Dana Center, St. Anselm College, 100 St. Anselm Drive, Manchester.
Tickets: $5 to $25.50, 641-7700