Sliotar | Voyage

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Folk: Celtic Folk World: Celtic Moods: Type: Acoustic
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by Sliotar

Modern Celtic Folk Music
Genre: Folk: Celtic Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Pigtown
6:41 $0.99
2. Tonight's the Night
3:45 $0.99
3. Kitty's Welcome to Limerick
4:36 $0.99
4. Better Man
3:18 $0.99
5. Kilmaley
3:07 $0.99
6. The Sweet Little Girl from Barnagh
2:05 $0.99
7. Weird Cup of Joe
4:46 $0.99
8. The Crow on the Cradle
8:15 $0.99
9. Pain
4:26 $0.99
10. The Boys of the Town
5:07 $0.99
11. I'm Not Ready
4:53 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
It was a hot summers day in Telc, a beautiful UNESCO town in Moravia. The three of us were sitting in a beer garden overlooking the town square. The tour was coming to an end but none of us wanted to go home. We had done this so many times before but this time something felt different.
Sliotar has history, no doubt about that. We have performed thousands of shows together. We know each other inside out, musically and personally but some kind of organic musical growth had happened in the past year. During the tour, the music took on a life of its own. It felt like the music was in charge and we just followed where it took us It felt good. It felt right.

The pressure had been increasing in recent years for Sliotar to produce a new album. Show after show we heard people asking the same question, “What about a new album?”. In fact, we had tried to visit “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in Denmark earlier in the year but the scheduling just didn’t work out. (More on "Uncle Tom's Cabin" later) But sitting in that square in Telc we each felt it was time to capture what was happening to the band musically. We had a handful of new, exciting songs that we hadn’t yet worked into the live set. We had new sets of tunes and also some old favourites which we had been playing for years but never properly recorded. And during the tour, with that organic growth, even those started to sound fresh again. We were ready.

When the going gets tough, Sliotar get going.

Before we go any further, let's go back a little over one decade on a sunny summers day in another part of Moravia, Plumlov. We were at the Keltska Noc festival. Sliotar and the Keltska Noc festival have history, which will become apparent along the way. We were sitting on the porch of our not so luxurious cabin watching the festival coming alive when another band, who have since become great friends of ours, Happy To Meet, drove their old Citrone tour bus into the festival grounds. The bus had definitely seen better days,,, but it screamed of adventure. The seed was planted.

When we returned to Ireland, Des set out to find a bus we could convert for touring. We found an old Mercedes 608D school bus which was being retired from service in Wexford. Over the following nine months Des lovingly converted the bus into Sliotar's home away from home.

I spent hour upon hour reaching out to festivals, venues and pubs across Europe. No venue was too small as we just wanted to tour and play shows. Eventually, the dots started to connect and we had our first proper long tour booked. None of us knew what to expect from this voyage.
In early July 2007 Sliotar sailed out of Rosslare harbour with our tour bus filled with equipment, a few weeks worth of clean clothes and excitement mixed with fear. We climbed over the Alps twice, dipped our feet in the Adriatic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel. We played shows all around Europe, slept in campsites, city streets and German supermarket car parks. We criss-crossed the continent in our bus at a maximum speed of 80kph. We broke down, ran out of money and clean clothes more than once and drank endless amounts of beer. Most of all, we did what we love the most, we played a lot of shows.

Tough years followed in Ireland. The world economy took a massive dive and Ireland was the figurehead of that sinking ship. Most of Europe followed and budgets normally allocated for entertainment were the first to be cut. Also, the price of diesel went through the roof. There were days when we put more money into the gas tank than we earned from that night's show. And our dear old bus was starting to feel the miles we were putting it through.
It was a constant battle trying to financially justify keeping our dream alive. All around us bands that we knew and respected stopped touring. Venues that were well known for their live music closed down or stopped putting on shows. Festivals that had been around for several decades called it a day.

Sliotar quitting was not an option. We regrouped, restructured, downsized and got back on the road. For the next few years we played some strange shows. . Student bars, weird Irish bars (if one old Guinness sign makes a bar Irish), a Greek restaurant, wine festivals, school concerts, libraries, breweries and bowling alleys.. We even played in a Tesco car park. And we did it over and over again. We just weren't willing to give up on our dream. We were not willing to give up on Sliotar.

Strange encounters

Do you ever feel like everything that happens to you happens for a reason? Like there is some kind of a master plan set out for you. Or that opportunities are presented to us all the time, but only if we act on them.

This part of the story takes us back to May 2002 in Denmark. Sliotar was beginning to build contacts outside Ireland. We were invited to play at a festival which like so many once off festivals, was poorly organized. This was not due to laziness or any badness on the organizers part, just simply inexperience. But as is often the case we tried to make the best of it. We were playing in a large tent in sweltering conditions. The tent was set up on a football pitch just after the grass was cut, and my hay fever was in full flare. We also had a massive misunderstanding with the fee that was the result of bad communication. You live, you learn...

We shared the stage with an Irishman who lived in Denmark and had his own band comprised of very talented session musicians. We got on with the members of the band and in the middle of drinking beers and playing football, we made friends with a blonde curly-haired saxophone player with a smile from cheek to cheek, who originally came from the Czech Republic but had settled in Denmark. He was mesmerized by Ray's piping and whistle playing.
This man was Tomas Somr. We exchanged contact information and headed our separate ways.

Little did we know that this meeting on that pollen-rich football pitch would have such an impact on Sliotars future. In fact, it was nearly nine months later when I got an email asking if we would like to come over to the Czech Republic to play a few festival shows. At this point, we did not know Tom, and he did not know us and our experience at the festival where we met had made us much more careful about agreeing to any shows before we had every little detail sorted.

In the end, we agreed to do the festivals. One of them was a festival he was organizing called Keltska Noc. Tom had a big vision for the festival. He wanted to build the biggest and the best Celtic festival in central Europe. That seemed like a crazy idea at the time but fifteen years later as I am writing this, the festival is now established as a major cultural event in the region. It is also one of Sliotar's highlights of the year. We haven't missed a single year.

Blind faith

The sun had set in the distance already a few hours ago. It was sweltering hot! We had just turned off from the last stretch of motorway and now we were only about an hour away from Treviso, where we were going to be playing at a Celtic festival the following night. The previous morning we had left from Troyes in France and made our way over the Alps doing 80kph max speed. Des had a new found respect for power steering, which our trusty old tour bus did not have. He was building muscles in places he did not know he had. The realities of touring were sinking in fast.

The night before we had slept in the car park of a supermarket somewhere near Lindau in Germany. We had done two shows in France, both in small pubs. Neither of them paid particularly well, and the bus had been thirsty climbing over the Alps. I was reading the map, Des kept his tired eyes tightly on the road and Ray was trying to convince himself that every sign at every crossroads was the turnoff to Treviso. We were all exhausted, running low on diesel and just wanted the drive to be over and done with.

Finally, when we had convinced ourselves that we would never reach our next stopover, we saw a sign for Treviso. We drove into the sleepy city and made contact with the festival organizers. They excitedly brought us to the festival grounds and put ice cold beers in our hands. It tasted nothing short of heaven. All three of us stood silently drinking the beers while the festival was buzzing around us. It was like the three of us were in a bubble and the festival was happening outside it. Finally, Des broke the silence. "We have an empty tank and five euros in the kitty".
It didn't matter anymore. we were at the festival and due to play a show the next night. The fee from the festival performance would be enough to keep us going for at least another two weeks.

You could call it blind faith, but we have always jumped head first into unknown waters with Sliotar. And it is this approach that has kept us going when everyone else would have given up. It is this approach that has brought us to places and introduced our music to you.

Five days in Uncle Tom’s cabin

I was standing in another Ryanair queue at Dublin airport. We had done this so many times before that I wasn’t worried about the other guys, even though I had not seen them yet. This time I was filled with excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I am always excited about our tours, but this was different, this was not a tour.
We were on our way to Odense in Denmark to record the sixth Sliotar album. We were on a very tight schedule, just five days to get the bones of the album recorded. This made me a little bit nervous.

We had talked about doing this for over a year, but on that sunny day in Telc we finally made a commitment, set the schedule and booked the flights. Why Denmark? Well, in Denmark is Uncle Tom’s cabin.
Uncle Tom’s cabin is Tomas Somr’s home studio set in beautiful countryside just outside Odense. And when I said how we didn’t know the impact of that meeting in Denmark nearly sixteen years earlier, I was not messing around.
Tom has become an integral part of Sliotar, booking shows amd promoting us. No one understands our values and the music we play better than him.

Over the next five days Tom captured the very essence of Sliotar as we bared our hearts and souls. As a result of the thousands of shows we have done over the years, Sliotar is very much a live band. The magic happens when we play in front of an audience. We feed on the energy of the audience.
It is a symbiotic relationship. Without us playing the music, there will be no show just as without you guys turning up at the show, our music has no purpose. So capturing that "Sliotar sound" has been a difficult task in the past. Tom knew how to set the mood and how to push us the right amount.

The Pigtown Races

If you haven't done so yet, now is the time to press play on track 1. of the album. The first thing you will hear is Des easing in with a groove. This set, in many ways captures what Sliotar is all about. We might start slow, but that is just us playing with dynamics. Where we begin is never an indication of where the music might take us. The drums create the space. It's like walking into a big hall and taking that first glance at the space before you start to take in the details.
The guitar comes in. One of the secrets to Sliotar's sound is the awareness of space. Every instrument has its own ground to cover, and we respect and trust our fellow band members to take care of their own territory. The sound of Sliotar is known to be much bigger than the sum of its people. We don't achieve this by doing more, but less. At the beginning of the set, the guitar plays a bass line. It is that symbiotic relationship with the low end of the DADGAD guitar and the kick drum that fills in the place where a bass guitar would usually sit.
Then Ray's whistle draws a suggestive melody line, almost teasing us of the tune to come. The first tune "Ships Are Sailing" often makes me think of sailing from Dublin Port as we head out on tour. We settle into the tune, and suddenly all of it comes together.
Cruising into the good old "Silver Spear" we change gears back and forth dynamically, and by the time we reach the third tune,"The Pigtown Races", you should find yourself tapping your feet uncontrollably.

Tonight's the Night

Whether we turn up at a show after sometimes days of travelling or just a short bus journey, the anticipation is always the same. Some people in the audience may have seen us before and might be excited about seeing us again. whereas some people may have never heard us before and are not quite sure what to expect. Our approach is always the same. We use the music to break the ice. We look you in the eyes, and we won't stop until we have won over the very last person.
And even though the music is what we are all about, Sliotar shows are so much more. We love meeting you guys before and after the show. Sometimes those meetings run late into the night well after the music is finished and our gear is packed away.
But for those moments we stand in front of you playing the music, there is a connection. As the music takes over and the weight of the world is lifted off the shoulders of everyone present, and for those few moments the band and the audience become one. Adrenalin surging through our bodies. It's like a drug!
It takes hours to come down from and as soon as we do, we want more. We know standing there in front of you how lucky we are and we feel incredibly humbled that you guys come to see us. Without you, we could not do this. For us, every night we play in front of an audience is "The Night."

Kitty's Welcome to Limerick

Have you ever spent a substantial amount of time looking at Uilleann pipes? I don't mean when you first saw them, but actually looking at them. I have. and often the first thing that comes to my mind is how someone came up with the idea in the first place? Obviously, there has been gradual development over decades and centuries.
Bagpipes have been part of many cultures throughout history. The earliest known record dates back to 1000 BC in Turkey, but my personal assumption is that they have been around a lot longer than that. Obviously, Uilleann pipes are a young instrument in the history of pipes, but they are also the most sophisticated form of bagpipes, both in design and musical capability.
They are a difficult instrument to master, and most pipers would devote their whole life to this task. There is something evocative about the sound, like it is connecting with our soul and stirring up feelings of our ancestors that have been hiding in our DNA for centuries. It speaks to us in ways no language can.

Better Man

Doing what we do comes with a price. Society today struggles to justify the need for art. We so often put a monetary value on things, and as music in its purest form does not exist as a material thing, it is therefore easy to dismiss. You see, all that exists is the note, or notes and the beat being played right now. The previous note is in the past, and the note that follows has not yet been played, we can only predict it. We have found ways to capture and recreate a performance, package it, download it, stream it. We have built a business around it to support the creative art of music, but does the business support the art, or does the art support the business?
Sliotar is an independent band, and we are proud of this. We make sure the organic magic that happens when we play together is nurtured in its purest form. We make sure no business decision gets in the way. For us, the music comes first.
This is not always the best environment for such things as financial stability and stable relationships. Believe you me, trying to be in a relationship with any member of Sliotar is not easy. Over the years the band has lived through breakups, separations, and divorces. We are the first to admit it is not easy to live with the unpredictability of a musician partner. We rarely have a weekend off, there's plenty of late nights, being away from home for weeks at a time and making financial sacrifices in the name of the art, it all takes its toll on relationships.
But as I write this, I am glad to say we are in a much better situation today than we ever have been. We have unbelievable support from our loved ones, who believe in the band as much as we do. You know who you are and you make us want to be better men.


If you take the road to Doonbeg from Ennis in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, about 12 km down the road you pass a little village called Kilmaley.
The Old Kilmaley Reel starts off the set and like at the races, as the horses are off the stalls, the whole band races down the track from the get-go.
In the second tune, "Joe Bane's," Des turns things upside down with his beat. It comes thumping down like an old steam engine. The momentum is building, and there is no stopping now.
But just when you thought we are out of juice, Sliotar takes another turn and hurdles off the tracks with Andersons Reel. We have no idea who Andersons was.

The Sweet Little Girl from Barnagh

Ray brought this song to the studio without us hearing the song. The original idea was to record the song with just Ray's voice, but in the studio Tomas worked on some ideas, and suddenly the song went in an entirely new direction. We don't know much about the history of the song, but it is definitely as old as the hills. Ray found the song from an old Comhaltas book. I was also able to trace down a handwritten manuscript of the lyrics in UCD's National Folklore Collection.
Barnagh is a small place in Co. Limerick, Ireland, beside the Ballyhoura Mountains.

Weird Cup of Joe

This is a set of tunes that go back a long time, and we have been playing it as part of the Sliotar live set in some shape or form as long as we can remember. Often sets of tunes evolve in our live sets over the years.
The name goes back to another little story from our travels. I am guessing it was around 2009 and we were driving in the south-east corner of Austria. We stopped at a local petrol station to fill the tank. The station was closed, but they had a self-service pump. There was also a coffee machine outside the station. Ray offered to get the coffees while Des filled the tank. The were no instructions on the coffee machine in English, all the buttons were worn down, so it was hard to say what you were ordering. But the lights were on, and the need for coffee was strong, so Ray decided to give it a go.
What we got was unrecognizable. It was grey in colour and hot. We still don't know if we got coffee, hot chocolate, or soup.

The Crow on the Cradle

This is a Sliotar golden oldie if there ever was one. There is a live version of this song and the set of tunes on Sliotar's first album The Porterhouse sessions, which has long been out of print. But for some reason, we never got around to record a studio version of it until now. As I mentioned earlier, Tom did such a great job setting the mood for the band and capturing our sound in the studio, that suddenly we felt much more at ease. So we decided to try to capture this beast of a song and a set of tunes. When we play this live, we never know if we are in charge of the tunes, or the tunes are in charge of us.
The tunes following the song are Hingerty's Frolics, which Ray named after a fellow musician from a previous band, a tune based on a traditional reel called "The Green Gate" which in time drifted away from the original and took a life of its own, and the legendary"Mason's Apron"..


This song is about men's ability to mess things up when things are good. It is about how under the influence of alcohol we all too often make stupid mistakes and live to regret them the next morning with a massive hangover. It's as if we can't allow our selves to be happy, because the pain is a more familiar feeling..
It's the devil we do know.

The Boys of the Town

One thing is sure, boys will be boys. From time to time we just need to go to town and let loose. It's that same desire to play hard, that makes us work hard. You simply can't have the one without the other.
It is with that inquisitive tone we start the first jig. We test the waters, we take a look around and confidently make our way down cobblestone streets with our chest out like some kind of primal animal because deep down that is what we are. And it is by harnessing that primal energy that we are able to add that energy in our live set.
By the time we get to the second tune, "John Joe's", we are we are lightly bouncing down the street. The drums and the guitar tease each other with the rhythm, while the whistle leads the way.
Finally the last tune, "The Boys of the Town" races in and we are in full stomp, slamming our feet on the ground and spinning around. This is what Sliotar is all about.

I'm Not Ready

We have taken you on a journey all across Europe and through the history of Sliotar, and we thank you for sticking with us so far. For now, we are going to bring things back home to Dublin. As we mentioned before, back in 2008 Ireland was deep in recession. Before this, property prices had gone through the roof. As a result, many people lost their homes after the crash, when the property prices dropped. But even at their lowest Dublin was still an expensive city to live in. Today as I write this, Ireland's economy is doing well but the property prices are going through the roof again and are already higher than at the height of the last boom.
This always had an underlying effect on Sliotar. We live in one of the most expensive cities in Europe, so when we go on tour, we had to worry about rents and mortgage payments back home. Don't get me wrong, we are not singing a sad song here about how hard the life is, while we are doing what we love. Just the opposite. I am just painting a picture of the situation that made me write this song. Why do we live in Dublin?
Dublin is our physical and spiritual home. Even for me, who was not born here, Dublin has been my home for the past two decades. I love this city but a few years back as the rents were going up through the roof once again, I thought I might have to move out of the city. At the time this was a devastating thought for me. I was not ready to leave the Dublin just yet. I was not ready to leave the salty sea air mixed with the occasional smell of roasted barley from the St. James's Gate brewery. The hustle and bustle, the music coming from the doorways, the good and the bad, I was not ready to leave it all behind.

The Voyage Continues

And as the echoes of my voice and the last strum of my guitar dies down, the album comes to an end. But this is not the end of the Voyage. It is only the beginning. Where we go from here is as much in your hands as it is in ours. The music is here, the desire for us to bring it far and wide is here but we are only a small independent Celtic band. We need your help. to help us write the next chapter of our story and we want you to be part of it.
Go to our website, sign up for our Email list, follow us on all the social media sites and spread the word about Sliotar. We want to hear from you, we want to see you along the road. At the end of the day, we are a live band and we want to bring our music and our show to you! And by helping us spread our music, even one person at the time, you are bringing us one step closer to your hometown. Are you up for it?

Thank you!

We would like to say a big thank you to an extraordinary friend of ours, Tomas Somr. Without him, you would not be holding this album in your hand, reading and listening to our music. Tom has devoted endless hours to making what we genuinely believe is the best Sliotar album so far. After those five magical day's in Uncle Tom's Cabin back in October 2017, Tom spent days, weeks and months tweaking, twisting knobs and lovingly mixing this album. Now when we listen to the final product, we know we are forever in your gratitude. You have given Sliotar a new injection of life just when we needed it the most.
We want to thank three beautiful women, Izabella, Lisa and Sylwia for putting up with us, loving us, and always being there for us when we need you the most. You make us want to be better men.
We want to thank all of the hard-working event, venue and festival organizers who have helped us along this Voyage.
And last but not least, we want to thank each and every one of you for listening to our music, coming to the shows, supporting us and having faith in us. We truly deeply love you all. See you on the road!

Sliotar is: Des Gorevan: Drums. J.P. Kallio: Guitar and Vocals. Ray McCormac: Whistles, Uilleann Pipes and Vocals

Keys, low whistle and Saxophone by Tomas Somr

Booking and contact:

The album was recorded in Tomas Somr's studio in Odense in Denmark during October 2017. Produced, recorded and mixed by Tomas Somr.
Tracks 1,3,5,6,7 and 10 are traditional, arranged by Sliotar.
Tracks 2,4,9,11 Written by J.P. Kallio, arranged by Sliotar
Track 8 The Crow on the Cradle written by Sydney Carter, Hingerty's Frolics, Written by Ray MacCormac, The Green Gate and the Masons Apron are traditional. All arranged by Sliotar.



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