DIARY - 6 MAY 2004 - LUNASA
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
"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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
- PATRON OF THE ARTS
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."
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.
played electric bass in The Waterboys from 1986-91 before moving to double
"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."
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
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
BACK TO LUNASA
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
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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