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The best of Irish music at this year’s London Irish Village

 

 

London Irish Village’s spectacular line-up has been given a boost with the addition of The Fureys, Frankie Gavin & De Dannan and Mark Rafferty.

 

The festival, which takes place at Under the Bridge in Chelsea between July 27 and August 12, brings some of the biggest and best Irish acts to London this summer.

 

And Tuesday, July 31 looks like a special treat for trad and folk fans – thanks to the latest acts to be added to the line-up.

 

Both The Fureys and De Dannan are legends on the folk circuit. The Furey Brothers are probably one of the hardest working groups with a long history of successful recordings behind them and are now very much a brand name in the same way that The Dubliners are.

 

Being family based they have had fewer changes to their line-up over the years and even when Finbar left and Paul sadly passed away, George and Eddie carried on.

 

De Dannan has always had the most incredible knack or extreme good luck in finding great musicians and singers. Past singers include Dolores Keane, Maura O’Connell, Mary Black, Tommy Fleming and Eleanor Shanley to name just a few.

 

Formed in 1975, the band folded in 2003 but re-emerged six years later which resulted in a dispute over the name.  Ace fiddler and founder member Frankie Gavin now leads a cracking new line-up with Michelle Lally on vocals.

 

Support on the night come from Mark Rafferty, nephew of the late great Gerry Raffery.

 

 

Anyone who saw the recent BBC TV recording of the tribute concert to Gerry would have been impressed by the harmonies of the Rafferty family, featuring Gerry’s daughter and nephews and nieces. Mark stood out as he moved the audience with a solo acoustic version of Mary Skeffington – a song that Gerry wrote about his own mother.

 

Promoter Vince Power describes this festival as “our mini Feis during the Olympic Games” and he has pulled out all the stops to book a cracking varied line-up that would have graced the Feis if it had run again this year.

 

Texas superstar Nanci Griffith gets the proceedings under way on Friday, July 27. A hugely popular figure on this side of the Atlantic she was a big hit at last year’s Feis and deservedly so.

 

One of the reasons for her popularity might be the fact that although she is a terrific songwriter whose material has been covered by lots of artists, she has never gone down the precious road of only doing her own songs.

 

She has recorded and performed other people’s compositions always giving them her own stamp and has never been afraid to look at material from not-so-well known writers. Nanci’s warm relaxed stage presence should be just the right feel-good start to the days ahead.

 

Saturday, July 28 has a complete change of pace when The Undertones storm The Bridge. They had a busy year in 2011 with gigs in Belgium and Britain, including a storming appearance at the Feis, USA, Italy, Spain and of course Ireland.

 

Originally formed in 1975, the band enjoyed huge success on the back of their debut single Teenage Kicks –  which became BBC Radio 1‘s DJ John Peel’s favourite record of all time – before eventually splitting in 1983. They re-formed again in 1999 (minus Feargal Sharkey) to play some gigs in their native Derry and it went so well that they have been performing regularly ever since.

 

Dublin rockers Aslan continue the rock theme on Sunday, July 29.  They are another band who had success before splitting up in 1988 but decided to give it another go in 1993 after getting back together for a charity gig.

 

They landed a record deal with BMG and their single Crazy World won Single of the Year in 1993 Hot Press Awards. The usual record company problems prompted them to go their own way and they went from strength to strength establishing themselves as a major force in Ireland before touring Australia for the first time in 2000.

 

They have continued to record and their latest album Nudie Books and Frenchies is now on release. In August they will perform two nights in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre celebrating 30 Years of Aslan.

 

The mighty Saw Doctors from Tuam sweep into Stamford Bridge for two nights – Thursday, August 2 and Friday 3.

 

They have come a long way since the late 1980’s when Leo Moran and Davy Carton first got together to write a few songs.

 

Mike Scott spotted them playing in The Quays in Galway one stormy Tuesday night and invited them to support The Waterboys on the Ireland tour and then the British tour.

 

Leo Moran told me: “Despite the chaos and lack of money, it was probably the most enjoyable time we ever had”.

 

He also said his favourite gig last year was The Feis in Finsbury Park. They are another band that had to cope with some changes over the years. Leo joked: “I don’t know why. Maybe me and Davy are hard to get on with”.

 

I am sure everyone has their own favourite Saw Doctors song. For Leo it’s this.

 

“Same Oul Town would be the one that I am most proud of, “he said. “It’s a more serious song than our usual boisterous stuff and I am delighted when people like it because it means they have actually listened to us”.

 

The Boys Are Back In Town when Thin Lizzy rock thing back up on the heavier scale on Tuesday. August  7 and Wednesday 8. Originally formed in 1969 they have survived multiple changes including the loss of Phil Lynott in January 1986 and have disbanded and re-formed several times.

 

The name and the sound have a certain magic though and this incarnation has been working for the past eight years keeping the legend alive.  Long may it last.

 

Glasgow-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eddi Reader tops the bill on Friday, August 10. This much-travelled lady, also a talented actress, was awarded an MBE in 2006 for outstanding contributions to the arts in connection with her brilliant Songs of Robert Burns, a project that she toured all over the world with.

 

Eddi has also received several honorary doctorates from Scottish Universities over the years. She was in terrific form when I saw her at the Transatlantic Sessions in London earlier this year and seems to be enjoying her music more than ever looking so relaxed and completely at home on stage. It should be a fitting end to a great feast of music.

 

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