New Road, to paraphrase Kermit, is made up of exemplary practitioners of traditional music

New Road group shot

Conor Byrne (flute); Rick Epping (vocals, harmonica & concertina); Leonard Barry (Uilleann Pipes); Andy Morrow (fiddle); Seamie O’Dowd (guitar & vocals)

All this talk of “super groups”, but it’s all relative, of course. One man’s supper is another man’s tea.

The success of Leonard Barry’s 2013 album, New Road (five stars in the Sunday Business Post, most recently) – on which all of these super musicians feature to such great effect – has led to an unexpected outcome: a brand new band, named after the album.

Musically melding so well in the studio and on the album launch tour, the obvious next step for these musicians was to continue on the road. With plenty of common ground already underfoot (Dervish, The Unwanted, Luka Bloom, Christy Moore), barriers there are none, and a whole new musical journey is easily embarked on.

Conor Byrne, known to many as a promoter, television presenter and festival curator, is of course the same flute master Conor Byrne who, since his first solo album in 1998 has been in constant demand as a collaborator (Maire Breatnach, Meabh O’Hare, Luka Bloom) and highly praised for the excellence of his compositions.

Leonard Barry, from Kerry, is among our finest uilleann pipers. He has played and taught in the USA, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and collaborated with the likes of Luka Bloom and John Spillane.

Andy Morrow is from a Co Leitrim family steeped in traditional music – his brother Tom plays fiddle with Dervish. Andy’s 2005 album with Tony O’Connell and Arty McGlynn was quickly acclaimed by many as a classic in the tradition (an “absolute snorter of a debut album” – Geoff Wallis).

Multi-instrumentalist Seamie O’Dowd is one of the most sought-after musicians in Ireland today. Equally proficient on guitar, fiddle or singing, Seamie was a member of Dervish for a few years and plays with Martin O’Connor and Cathal Hayden. He has played with Christy Moore, Liam O’Flynn and a host of others.

Rick Epping is a legend of reed music on both sides of the Atlantic. Bred in folk scene of California, in Ireland Rick was a founder member of Pumpkinhead, recorded a CD with Frankie Gavin and Tim Edey, and played with Arcady. He also plays with Seamie in the The Unwanted.

New Road’s music will include the tunes and sounds of Sliabh Luachra music found on Leonard’s album, but will now also take in songs and tunes from Sligo and America, as well original compositions from the pen of Byrne.

Rick’s sense of it was how “with the solid foundation in tradition, mind open to imagination, and heart yearning to lift itself and others around it that each of these excellent fellows display, this new road is one I’m delighted to be travelling.”

Seamie conjured up the following thoughts from a semi-slumbering state: “The new road, a spiritual exploration of the spontaneous musical energy that spawned the powerful band sounds of Ireland over the last four decades, the new road combines the depth of the piping tradition, the stride of north Connaught fiddling, the grace of Leinster flute playing and the wildness of the non-denominational anarchic stream of Sligo folk…”

I, for one, can’t wait to get on that new road.

New Road will play their first gig in Whelan’s on Tuesday, 25 February. Special guest to be announced. Tickets on www.wavtickets.ie or 1890 200 078.

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