Did you hear about the Irish airline workers who left a bright red double bass case on the runway when a popular band began a major tour?

Well, it happened twice to Lunasa on the eve of flights from Dublin to Denmark.

"We've been to Denmark twice and both times my double bass was left on the runway in Dublin," Lunasa co-founder Trevor Hutchinson told Nu Country on the eve of the band's fourth Australian tour.

"Are they trying to tell me something? It never gets lost for long, it's in a ridiculous bright red case. It's not actually a full double bass. It's a stick double bass. It's heavily insured and in a heavy-duty case but the more fragile stickers you put on them the harder they drop them."

Hutchinson, a focal point of the band after being with The Waterboys from 1986-91 and Sharon Shannon Band from 1991-97, is attached to his instrument.

And he also has a deep love of Australia, with little pockets of Ireland around Port Fairy where the band has won a large fan base.
"Australia was the first tour we had done as a band, apart from half a dozen gigs around Ireland," Hutchinson revealed.

"Australia was the first port of call in February 1997. Our debut album was released first in Australia. The only reason we got together in the first place was an excuse to go back to Australia. The previous year Donough Hennesy and I had been out there with Sharon Shannon.

Trevor Hutchinson

We hadn't really intended Lunasa as a full time venture but we had been asked to come back. We loved the country and wanted any excuse to go back - especially at that time of the year. We decided to so something we really wanted to do musically, it worked out a lot better than we thought. The following year we decided to pursue it. Australia has a big place in our history. We have played Port Fairy three times, also Woodford and the national folk festival in Canberra. Port Fairy was a lot like Ireland with its little cottages. When I was with the Waterboys we had two or three Australian tours cancelled at the last moment."


The band took its name from an ancient Celtic harvest festival honouring Irish God Lugh - patron of the Arts.

Lunasa is touring to promote acclaimed fifth album The Kinnity Sessions cut at an Irish castle in a county eulogised by Irish singer David McWilliams famed for his hit The Days Of Pearly Spencer.

"We set up a big room there and recorded it and then mixed it back here at my studio," says the bassist producer whose studio was the locale of their first four albums and others by artists diverse as Donal Lunney, Grada and country folk singer Anne Marie Grady.

Anne Marie has written all her songs. I'm just mixing it now. Grada has done two albums there. Donal Lunney has also recorded there. Frank Hart - a compiler of Irish songs - has just finished an album on the famine. He also did one on Napoleon Bonaparte."
Hutchinson revealed his studio and production are often a labour of love.

"I have invested all my earnings into the studio," he laughed, "it's like a huge black hole. Everything goes into it and nothing comes back. It's a comfortable environment to record in, not too clinical. It's in Dublin, pretty close to city and airport."


Lunasa's albums are on Compass - operated by Grammy award winning banjo player Alison Brown and bassist husband Garry West - in the U.S and released here by MGM.

"We went with Compass because they had licensed our first album recently and we had a good working relationship," says Hutchinson.

"We had an unsatisfactory experience with our previous label, we weren't particularly anxious to get back in bed with anyone really. They seemed to be the natural choice -being musicians helped. They understand a lot more and what it's like from the band's perspective. It has given us a lease of life - a fresh perspective."

It also prompted a higher profile for the band who crossed over into a larger audience by touring with Grammy winner and two time Australian tourist Mary Chapin Carpenter.
"She got hold of one of the records and liked it and ended up doing a tour with her," he added, "most supports you are virtually ignored but with her she gave us interaction. We crossed over well into that country rock audience. It worked very well, it's encouraging that we can cross over."

The band has a hefty touring schedule to sate its large following in the U.S. and Europe and occasional gigs in Jerusalem.


Although award winning fiddle player Sean Smyth revealed Lunasa copped flack from the ethnic police - expatriate Irish fans in England - it was clear sailing in the U.S. and Australia.

The expatriates, long departed from their homeland, have a penchant for the music of their childhood.

But Hutchison is unfazed by a vocal minority whose descendants have embraced changes in Irish music.

"We don't really have that much flack from the ethnic police," says Hutchinson, "our music is pretty traditional. There is an evolution of music with younger artists having a lot more confidence but the music is staying true to its roots. The improvement in the economic climate has also accelerated the growth of the music."

Hutchinson, guitarist Hennessy, fiddler and whistler Smyth, Cillian Vallely on uillilean pipes and Kevin Crawford of Moving Cloud fame on flute and whistle, have won a loyal following here.


Hutchinson played electric bass in The Waterboys from 1986-91 before moving to double bass.

"In the last couple of years in The Waterboys 1989-90 I bought one almost by default, It came my way, It takes a determined effort to play it for the length of the gig, it's a totally different muscle grip. It was not until they folded that I played it for more than a couple of numbers at a gig. It wasn't until I started working with country singer Frankie Lane. I enjoyed it so much more than the electric bass. Then Sharon Shannon's gig came up and I started playing it more."

Frankie Lane is the Irish country singer who made his name with the Fleadh Cowboys in the eighties and supported international artists such as Dylan, Emmylou Harris, B B King and local heroes The Pogues.

He should not be confused with Chicago born country legend Frankie Laine, 81, whose career began as a dancer when he was 17 and was detailed in 1993 autobiography That Lucky Old Sun.

< Irish Frankie Lane


The American Frankie Laine performed in Mel Brooks 1974 movie Blazing Saddles and was best known for theme of TV western show Rawhide.

The singer, who performed title songs for seven movies, recovered from quadruple heart bypass surgery in 1985, death of former Hollywood starlet wife of 40 years, Nan Grey, on her 72nd birthday in 1993 to remarry in 1997.

< American Frankie Laine


But I digress.

Lunasa has won wide acclaim for its use of double bass, guitar, flute, fiddle and pipes in revamping traditional Irish folk tunes and reels and jigs.

The award-winning band begins its tour in the Sydney suburb of Tempe on May 17 and also plays Queensland, Byron Bay, Katoomba, Canberra and two gigs at the Basement in Sydney on May 18 and May 23.

Lunasa then heads south to Victoria where it plays Meeniyan in Gippsland on May 28 before the Corner Hotel, Richmond, on Saturday May 29.

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