Bill Mullen | The Beginning

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Folk: Irish Traditional Folk: Scottish Traditional Moods: Mood: Upbeat
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The Beginning

by Bill Mullen

Lively, exciting and inspiring Irish and Scottish songs. These are classics which Bill brings to life all over again. From "all-in" guitar/ bass/ banjo/ bodhran/vocals rowdiness to soulful harmony whistles, each song brings you something special.
Genre: Folk: Irish Traditional
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Scots Wha Hae
2:02 $0.99
2. Wild Rover
3:34 $0.99
3. Whisky in the Jar
3:51 $0.99
4. Loch Lomond
4:22 $0.99
5. I'll Tell Me Ma
3:38 $0.99
6. Spancil Hill
3:41 $0.99
7. Piper O' Dundee
3:10 $0.99
8. Irish Rover
2:47 $0.99
9. Wild Mountain Thyme
4:12 $0.99
10. Rising O' the Moon
2:47 $0.99
11. I Will Go
2:29 $0.99
12. Black Velvet Band
4:39 $0.99
13. Fields of Athenry
5:49 $0.99
14. Molly Malone
2:57 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Bill Mullen, and how I got here…
It all started with parties… not just any party - Scottish Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) parties were a real highpoint! I just had to be a part of the song, stories and hilarity. I played my 1st songs at our neighbors, the Gibsons, party when I was 12 years old – after that I was “all-in”, playing guitar, singing, harmonizing with the talented folks who showed up in abundance to celebrate. Those days in Dundee, Scotland where I grew up in the mid-60s were indeed magical. Celtic music wasn’t something I found, it was everywhere and had become a part of me.

Most importantly - the one thing that struck me about all of these songs was the delivery and passion of the performers. These weren’t just songs, they were stories and shared experiences, glimpses of times gone by all put in context so you could be a part of that time, that experience, that feeling – your spirit would be lifted or your heart would break depending on the song even though it could be hundreds of years old.

By the time I was 16, I could, and did, entertain at all sorts of parties on my own, no problem. I had developed a fine Celtic song repertoire by then.

Fast-forward to late in 2008, I had played in bands for around 21 years, left Dundee, moved to Aberdeen then the Netherlands had a family, then we all moved to USA. One soft Oregon autumn evening, I was invited to go, with my guitar, to Mahers, a small Irish pub in Lake Oswego, to play 8 songs just to see if I still had the touch. The crowd loved it and my solo music career was re-born. Since then I have played regularly and I turned professional in September 2013.

I love playing and seeing the impact I have on people in my audience. I watch them as they are transported to places I create by singing them songs from their forefathers – places / experiences they have heard of from their parents or grandparents. That bond to the “old country” is still strong.

The Album
In “The Beginning”, my 1st solo album, I have gone back to those exciting, emotional, happy days - that beginning, those Hogmanay party years where I was uplifted by the thrill of letting the music take me wherever it wanted … and captured all of that in this album. I am really happy with the result and hope that you will also enjoy sharing the musical legacy I inherited.

The songs are all traditional Scottish and Irish songs which were being sung during those wonderful early days (apart from the Fields of Athenry – but it’s so lovely, I just couldn’t leave it out). Let me give you a brief summary of the tracks – they all have a story to tell. I play all the instruments and sing all the vocals on all the songs.

1. Scots Wha Hae. Written by Rabbie Burns, Scotlands national bard who lived a short, hard but prolific life (in many ways) from 1759 to 1796. Imagine Robert the Bruce on a cold damp morning, September 18th 1314 facing his Army and inspiring them to charge against the much larger English army at the battle of Bannockburn to claim freedom for Scotland. “Now’s the day and now’s the hour…”, “Let us do or die…” so incredibly powerful, so final. Their bravery that day won Scotland it’s freedom for almost 400 years.
I took the original song and gave it a new faster, more powerful arrangement - bringing in the heartbeat of the bass and the gallop of the bodhran, building as the song progresses. The harmony vocal message on the last verse makes my neck hairs tingle “Scotland’s freedom is close now… stand for freedom” as true then in 1314 just minutes before that historic charge as it is now in 2014 – the year of the Scottish independence vote.
Instruments : 6 & 12-string guitars, bass, 20” bodhran and vocals

2. Wild Rover. This hearty Irish traditional has been sung and sung and sung the world over, and for me it will never lose its appeal – I can still hear Jenny Gibson at one of her parties in Dundee yelling “No, Nae, Never…” as loud as she could at 5am on 1st January all those years ago daring her neighbor (who she (sarcastically) called “the Laird”) to complain... he never did - she was a wild woman - with a heart of gold.
For the song, I stuck to the traditional arrangement, played a whistle solo and gathered 10 close friends and family one Saturday morning to come along to the Nettleingham audio studio in Vancouver, Washington to clap (a new clapping arrangement I picked up in the US) and sing the chorus, it was a lot of fun.
Instruments : 6 & 12-string guitars, bass, banjo, D-whistle, vocals, clapping

3. Whisky in the jar. The story of an Irishman who is sorely tempted and one day robs the bold, greedy tax man... but as we all know, that usually doesn't end well! Especially if you live with an untrustworthy partner! Well this version does as he escapes from jail and lives to “court pretty fair maids ‘till the morning – so early”! As this song has been around for years, probably starting at one source and taking various routes to get where it is now, there are several versions around - I settled on this one where the language is modern enough to understand and of course, because it has a good ending!
This traditional arrangement chugs along happily through its many verses… my banjo keeps it nice and bright, I added a whistle solo and our 10 clappers’ hands were bright red by the end.
Instruments : 6 & 12-string guitars, bass, banjo, D-whistle, vocals, clapping

4. Loch Lomond. A lovely Scottish classic. The words and the melody were picked up from a poor boy in the street in Edinburgh by Lady Scott and her husband in the 1800s. The 3rd verse was added later. The song refers to two of “Bonny Prince Charlie’s” wounded soldiers who had to be left behind in Carlisle in 1745 during their retreat from England. One was released and the other was to be executed the same hour. In Celtic belief, the spirit of the dead man would travel the “low road” back to his birthplace, arriving ahead of his wounded comrade who would take the road of the living… the “high road”. Heavy stuff!
I kept the traditional arrangement for most of the song, adding a whistle solo before the 3rd verse. I end the song with a couple of upbeat choruses to lift it at the end - that always gets a positive reaction at my gigs.
Instruments : 6 & 12-string guitars, bass, B-whistle, vocals

5. I’ll Tell Me Ma. An Irish street song. This was sung by little girls in the streets of Ireland, it was a skipping-rope (jump-rope) song - a cheery, cheeky wee song of the times “I’ll tell me ma’ when I get home, the boys won’t leave the girls alone, they pulled my hair and stole my comb… but that’s all right… ‘til I get home!”.
It skips along brightly with the banjo and bass pushing it forward, it has a wee banjo solo and a couple of solo singing parts backed up by my 10 trusty “clappers”, it has a great momentum all of its own.
Instruments : 12-string guitars, bass, banjo, D-whistle, vocals, clapping

6. Spancil Hill. The story written by an Irish immigrant, Michael Considine living in California in the late 1800s who has a vivid dream of returning to his home town of Spancil hill, so vivid he felt he was really there. He wrote the song knowing he didn’t have long to live and that he would never return home or be re-united with his love (who features in the song).
I start the song softly and atmospherically, build it up gradually using the bass and bodhran and add a dramatic ending. It’s effective.
Instruments : 12-string guitar, bass, 20” bodhran, vocals

7. Piper o’ Dundee. This is the song of Carnegie, a high ranking Jacobite (follower of King James of Scotland who was exiled in France (latin for James = Jacobus, hence Jacob-ites)). He was nicknamed “the Piper o’ Dundee”. “Dundee” was Graham of Claverhouse who established the Jacobites in my home town of Dundee in May 1689 with only 50 followers. Carnegie, the “Piper o’ Dundee” raised funds, raised troops and followers and generally got people to “dance to his tune”. When the Jacobites won their first battle with the Government troops at Killiecrankie two months later, they had around 3,000 of an army – whatever he did, it was effective. “wisnae he a roguie, a roguie a roguie… the piper o’ Dundee”
This is a song that just bounces along with a will of it’s own. I play a simple guitar solo in the middle and end it with a type of Greek Syrtaki style slow chorus which speeds up to the end. Why? I have no idea, I was playing it one night, the song was bouncing along great, the crowd was singing loudly, spirits were high, drink was involved … and at the end I abruptly started a “zorba the greek” rhythm… which everyone loved – and I’ve played it that way ever since. Some things just happen.
Instruments : 6 & 12-string guitars, bass, vocals

8. Irish Rover. The song of an unlikely sailing ship on an unlikely journey with an unlikely cargo – from its barrels of stones through 3 million sides of old blind horses hides to 8 million bales of old nanny-goats tails. The song is just sung for fun – when the poor old dog drowns on the last verse – quite a few people give a hound howl – I’ve spared you that in this recording.
Another song that just trips along at a good pace, I quieten it down then build it up again a few times through the song - keeping it interesting. I like the way the 12-string and bass drive it along when it's built up, it turned out well.
Instruments : 12-string guitar, banjo, bass, vocals

9. Wild Mountain Thyme. An old Scottish love song with various origins which has no one dying, being sent to Australia or being forced to marry someone else. Quite a novelty really. I learned this song in my early days and when I first sung it to Dorothy (my wife) she really liked it, but thought the last verse “If my true love she were gone, I would surely find another” spoiled it right at the end – if she was gone, I’d just come here with someone else… hmm – I had to agree. So for years I have sung “If my true love she were gone, I would never find another…” you have to keep your Dorothy happy you know!
It was nice having the opportunity to play this on both my 12-string guitar, which brings a light, full “airy” sound to it, and my 6-string baritone guitar, which delivers a deep soulful arpeggio – they go well with the B and low E whistles I use for the solo – I think it’s a lovely and quite haunting.
Instruments: 12-string and baritone guitars, B & E whistles and vocals

10. Rising o’ the Moon. Quite an epic Irish ballad. It was written mid-1800s about the 1798 rebellion, which was unsuccessful. It did however help inspire future generations to succeed. I like the song for the atmosphere it creates “get ready!", "It’s happening!", “assemble your weapons”, “meet up and wait for the signal!” then the anticipation of the men waiting inside the mud-walled cabins with their hearts in their mouths anxious for the signal to attack. I can just imagine what that waiting was like - excitement, fear, apprehension all mixed together.
The song runs along at a nice pace, I keep it quite empty with just guitar and vocals for the verses, bringing in bodhran bass and banjo for the choruses, add a whistle solo then finally everything's in. The bodhran rhythm I used was intended to give a military marching feel signifying the impending battle.
Instruments: 12-string guitar, banjo, bass, D whistle, 14” bodhran and vocals.

11. I Will Go. A song which dates back to the time of the Highland Clearances, that horrible period in Scottish history where, after the Jacobite defeat at the battle of Culloden, the government forces found ways to remove people from the Highlands and break up the clan system to prevent further uprisings. The story in the song is of a highlander who was recruited with others from his village into the British army, fought their battles overseas but found a sad sight on their return…
In line with the traditional arrangement, I used two bodhrans and vocals only – my 14” bodhran mostly on the left and my 20” mostly on the right. Listen for the change in beat on the verse “when we reached that far off land…” I did that to signify the raised heartbeats as they saw the foreign heather … and realized they might not leave this place alive.
Instruments: 14” and 20” bodhrans and vocals

12. Black Velvet Band. A story of misfortune when an innocent young man visiting Belfast meets up with a lovely young woman, they take a walk together, she picks a gentleman’s pocket, slips his gold watch into our young man’s hand… he then gets arrested for theft, brought before a judge, found guilty and shipped off to Van Diemen’s land (Tasmania) for a 7-year hard labor sentence. A typical Friday night out in Belfast I’d say… (only joking !!!).
I never understood all my life why having a neck like a swan would be an attractive thing on a woman… but hey – that’s just me.
I play this fairly traditionally, breaking it up between verse and chorus, lifting the choruses with bass and banjo. I play the solo on the banjo and keep that going until the end where all instruments are in.
Instruments: 12-string guitar, banjo, bass, vocals

13. Fields of Athenry. A tragic Irish love song based on a true story where a family is split when the husband is caught stealing corn from the Government to feed his starving family. He was jailed then shipped off to Australia. If it wasn’t sad enough, the corn which he stole was maize which at that time, they didn’t know how to prepare and eat… so it was useless. The song was written in the mid 1960s by Pete St John and is incredibly popular. It was adopted by the Glasgow Celtic football supporters and the Irish National Team as their song.
I play the 6-string baritone guitar as the foundation, you can really hear it’s depth and round bass tones. For the solo I played the melody on my low D carbony whistle and a harmony on a standard D whistle. I really like how that turned out.
Instruments: 6-string baritone guitar, low D & D whistles, vocals

14. Molly Malone. I end the album with a song virtually everybody knows. There are various theories about Molly, who she was, did she sell cockles and mussels?, was she representing a type of person who was around at that time?, did she even exist? Well, who knows – not allowing facts to get in the way of a good story, the Dublin Millennium Commission endorsed Molly in 1988 and June 13 was chosen to be “Molly Malone day” which was when she died (of a fev-er…and no-one could save-‘er) in 1699. No matter where I play this, no matter what people are doing, they pay attention and join in with the chorus –it is known the world over.
I play it as a happy wee song which tinkles along with the 12-string guitar capo’d high at the 7th fret playing in G using the C shapes to get a sweet high sound. I added the bass, banjo and wee touch of harmony to pick it up after the sad bit where she dies (of a fev-er… oh be quiet!).
Instruments: 12-string guitar, banjo, bass, vocals

I hope you enjoy "The Beginning"… like all beginnings, there's more to come…

Bill Mullen (



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