Galway; There will be a press launch for "Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta" on the 5th December @5pm at the Bell Book and Candle, Small Crane, Sea Road. The local paparazzi and glitterazzi will be there and everyone is welcome, The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra will play a few songs unplugged and get arrested. You head off and get yourself a pizza slice. At 7.30 the band will be released from Mill St (to appear at a later date) and make their way across the road to Nuns Island Theatre, for the official Galway launch gig at 8pm admission €10.
Dublin: The Dublin launch will be presented in association with The Sober Sessions at 7pm on Sunday 7th December@ Bewley's Theatre (Doors 6.30) Thank you Áine Rynne and team.
The Donegal Launch to be announced!
We are without management, interns or elves we do it all by ourselves, this is the first time we have done it and we may be a bit slow. We are most grateful for your support and want you to be delighted and as much as we can will go out of our way to see that you are. Posters are hard to roll up and wrap and post i didn't think that one through. So if you all are amenable we will change that reward to a special limited edition "thank you" postcard. If you are desperate for a poster we wont see you stuck but it might take a little longer or you can collect it at a gig.
Thank you LJ
Hello i hope this does find you all well and happy. We are now going into distribution mode. The vinyl album is not yet with us but we are planning a strategy for getting the cd to you. We will be organizing launches in Donegal, Galway and Dublin where a person can collect if they so wish. If you would like us to do a launch in your village or at a crossroads near you that might be possible too! Sparkplug Callaghan will try to devise a route for rural delivery so that he can deliver and say thank you in person where remotely practical., The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra shall be engaged similarly, although primarily North of the Gap.
Otherwise your copy of the album you invested in creating shall be delivered by post and for this purpose I am requesting your postal address. I promise i will not arrive drunk on your doorstep on Christmas Eve looking for "somewhere to crash". Please if you would be so kind as to send address to email@example.com
thank you xx LJ
are you ready?
Feedback regarding the lyric error on the cd booklet suggests that no one thinks it is the end of the world or such a disaster that might prompt the prolonged postponement of the album launch so we are setting up the launches as i type. So its all systems go; the album shall be launched around the first week of December! In as many cities as possible. Probably three. Or two. I will endeavor to see that you all get your copies and rewards as close to that time as possible and will try to do a web launch for all our funders in the Foreign Legion, the rain forests and Luxembourg. For those of you living in parts of Ireland unsullied by internet filth I will try to get Sparkplug to deliver a few by hand and we can do a launch at a crossroads near you in the howling rain. At midnight. I suppose what I'm saying is we do not have the influence or the resources of U2 but we won't let that stop us from making this into something special.
we are nearly there. the c.d.'s arrived today but there was a problem with the little booklet insert, one page was repeated and one page was omitted. i have no idea how long this will take the manufacturer to rectify and i can only apologize for circumstances beyond our control.
the vinyl is being manufactured, estimated completion and delivery for vinyl is another four weeks ( this might change as it is out of my control)
i so appreciate that you supported this project and want you to receive your album asap as i think it's good.
the good news is i'm an old punk and will happily correspond with you creatively by email and compensate for the delay in other ways. email firstname.lastname@example.org
Highly Strung negotiations
Sincere apologies for the delay; here's the why of it. We have been offered a distribution deal for the album from a small new independent label in Europe. "Distribution" basically means the label would like to market and sell "Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta" They would use their contacts to get the LP stocked by some independent retailers in the major European cities. As a small independent they don't have a huge budget to spend on promotion or to give us cash in our pockets but we are impressed with their ideas, they are very sound and they really like the recordings. The label is an exciting project and obviously a great opportunity, in return we would licence out the rights of the album to the label for a limited amount of time and they would pay us a share of the sales. As you can imagine the details of such a deal are very complicated, Cover art, release date, the album content are all up for discussion. Negotiations have been slowed down by the fact that none of us have done anything like this before, a huge learning curve, and also by the fact that we are working prolifically on other projects. we are at a stage now where a preliminary contract will be drawn up and we'll get legal advice. However...this may take time and we appreciate that at this stage you yourself might be starting to get a little highly strung, so with the agreement of the label we have decided to proceed with plans to release a limited edition of "Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta" as soon as we can so that we can give you your copy and you can dance around the house.
We have given ourselves the deadline to come to a final decision on album art within the next two weeks (it's very hard to decide) The skimming of stones will take place in August and we will launch the album in October with some gigs. This mail is very long so I won't make it any longer but I'll elaborate more soon! thank you for your patience, hope the summer is treating you good and thank you again for helping make this happen.
PS. The final track listing is
3.The Belle of Tirchonnail
6.Full Tank of Petrol
7. Dead Rooster
9. Schrodinger Scat
10. Sparkplug's Swilly Water
11. Punches and Bruises
12. This Kitchen
hello and thank you, on reaching the target this "project update" section is suspended so most of the gratitude and celebrations were expressed through facebook and i had hoped to reach you all through that medium, if however that failed i offer my profound apologies and would like to take this opportunity here now to say fair play thank you! welcome to your new identity as an executive record producer! Truth the LP is in the process of becoming a vinyl and cd reality as we speak.
The recording, the mixing and the mastering are finished. The photos have been taken, and the artwork is progressing, over the next few days we will send the masters to a the manufacturer and in about three weeks we will recieve a test pressing of the vinyl recording. if we are happy with this the pressing will proceed.and the album will be ready roughly four weeks after that.
There will be 500 vinyl records and 1000 cd's so your copy will be a limited first edition.
We have been advised not to set a date for the launch until we have everything sitting in front of us as delays can occur. We have also been talking to an independent label about the possibilities for distributing the album in Europe.
It is likely that we will organize a special "skimming of stones" celebration on the banks of Lough Swilly most likely when the weather is more clement and the stones won't get carried away by the wind, I'll keep you updated,
We will be available to perform at festivals and other venues throughout the year, at present you can contact us through my website www.littlejohnnee.com. Myself and the Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra are all inspired by your generosity and support and that gives great momentum to the project. Once again thank you very much x
Origin of the songs- Latest update- Lorain
Lorain – from A Ukulele Cometh – Origins of the songs
"Lorain danders on down the Andersonstown devastating as any petrol bomb...”
This song was composed on a banjaxed cheap acoustic guitar with two strings missing that I borrowed from a Welsh anarchist bus conductor who lived downstairs in a squat in Stoke Newington. As I had to return the guitar - and I didn't know how to play the song on an ordinary guitar-for many years I sung this song acapella. None of these circumstances got in the way of the romantic intent or the melodiousness of this nocturnal serenade.
For “A Ukulele Cometh” I played it on the same 6 string taropatch ukulele that I now play on our Highly Strung version, Fionn plays electric guitar with E-bow, Jeremy piano and Orlaith clarinet.
“Wi her navy blue trench-coat and monkey boots…Lorain”
under three weeks to go...
Thank you all for your support. You are playing a vital part in the realization of this dream, a thousand blessings on you and may your generosity come back to you many fold. i am confident in the progress of the work and excited about the finished outcome.
We have pretty much decided on all the songs for inclusion on the LP. Those funding €50 or more will receive a download of an additional live bootleg recording "Secondhand Suits and Silver Tongues" If there is any particular song that you would like to hear that might not make it to the main album please let me know and i'll see that it features on the download. you can contact me through facebook or my website.
It's particularly heartening to be funded by so many artists who like ourselves frequently beat the wolf back from the door and strive to create good work against all odds. For this reason we've decided to create some surprise extra rewards for all funders to express our gratitude.
I am aware that there is a possibility that we might not reach our target. If so your donation will not be taken from your account. I will still be grateful and value the intention of your support and encouraged by your generous gesture I will rally again, there will be a recording of "Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta" that you have helped bring into being.
latest on the origins of the songs!
The Belle of Tyrconnell – from the The Mental
This is the first song sung in The Mental by the character Joe Boyle, a resident of St Conal’s in Letterkenny. Joe was first institutionalised in New York after a meltdown in the East Village where he had sung with a punk band “The Mary Duffys” In St.Conal’s he forms a relationship with the ghost of the Irish language writer Seosamh Mac Grianna who he likens to a Donegal Jack Kerouac.
I wrote the song on ukulele at the same time as I worked on the script; I have a few ukuleles around the house it’s a very handy instrument to pick up at any time if you get an inspiration. I wanted it to be old worldy, dripping in a past that clings to so many broken lives. In the show the musical parts were played by Laura Sheeran on ukulele and Nuala Ní Chanainn playing the violin pizzicato, they also sang harmonies. (Laura and Nuala composed an exquisite score for the show.)
Our delicious new recording is played waltzy; we are led round the hall in the masterly arms of Fionn Robinson who plays both bass and six string guitars, while Jeremy and Orlaíth cast their dreamlike magic on grand piano and clarinet. Many of my theatre songs need to be short for the sake of dramatic pacing so for the album there is a new second verse that follows a most perfect atmospheric guest trumpet solo by John Ruddy; Orlaith sings the second verse as only she can. The song is not mixed yet but so far so very happy.
The Mental was commissioned by axis ballymun.
“Dead Rooster Blues” – from Dead Rooster Blues
Dead Rooster Blues premiered in Killargue Hall Co. Leitrim in 2008 as part of The Flights of Fancy Festival. The song is a celebration of the travelling life of a bluesman in Ireland
In the show Dead Rooster Blues the bluesman hero sets off in his vintage lorry to a mysterious gig in a singing lounge up in the hills in the middle of nowhere “The Mothers Arms” The dodgy owner has organised a new age healing festival and spread rumours about possible surprise musical guests; this draws an audience of expectant bikers as well as a busload of Daniel O Donnell fans and some Bjork fans; the pressure is on our bluesman, who while unloading his equipment from the lorry accidentally reverses over a rooster. When he brings the dead rooster to the nearby caravan of its owner, the beautiful Bella, she informs him that the rooster was likely already dead and proceeds to explain her conspiracy theory involving an assassin in the hills targeting roosters.
The song was composed on my mahogany Paul Hathway ukulele, and it featured in a broadcast of “Sunday Miscellany” in November 2010
For “Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta” the ukulele is joined by Fionn on electric guitar, Jeremy on harmonium and Orla playing both alto and soprano clarinets. We all succumb to the glory of the spirit and sing the chorus with a righteous fervour that will make the feathers in your pillow dance like dervishes.
Full Tank of Petrol
In “The Derry Boat” Glaswegian wide-boy Shughie O” Donnell bursts into a tin shed in north-west Donegal with a gun and suitcase full of money; he’s waiting for his girlfriend Alison to arrive from Glasgow, they’ve arranged to meet here. He waits. At one stage he fantasizes about the car he’s going to buy and in this song he remembers the first time they met.
I wrote this song in the pokiest flat in Galway during the writing of The Derry Boat in 1998 on an Epiphone acoustic guitar. Fergal Gallagher was musician and musical director on the show, composing all the soundtrack music, he played it on an electric guitar while adding kick drum, and managed to sound like a full band.
The song suits a Highly Strung treatment that’s sees the whole band playing dirty electric road music that justifies the Washington Post’s previous comparisons to Bruce Springsteen while taking it somewhere else entirely.
Schrodinger Scat – from “Wee Black Bees”
Schrodinger Scat is taken from the radio play “Wee Black Bees” commissioned by RTE Radio Drama on One. In the play Sparkplug Callaghan is house-sitting as a favour to a neighbour when The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra arrives unexpectedly and instigates a drunken house party. Norma Eggstrom sings this song to Rosa the drunk bee-keeper and priestess in the bee worshipping Sacred Order of Melissa.
I composed this song on a cigar box guitar one bright winter morning in Tuam; it was written for Orlaíth’s Highly Strung character “Norma” to sing. Even though I knew Orlaíth was going to sing it I was still blown away when I heard her making it entirely her own, adding new depth, consummate craft and a sublime artistry that went beyond my expectations even though I’m a fan.
For this recording we are fortunate to be joined again by John Ruddy for a trumpet solo, I pluck the cigar box guitar, Jeremy and Fionn deftly roll it along on grand piano and sweet electric guitar before we all stroll out into the bee busy meadows with Orlaíth joining in on her B♭Clarinet. In all humility I have to say this is probably one of the best songs about an Austrian physicist recorded in Donegal this year.
“This Kitchen” – from Dead Rooster Blues – Origins of the songs
“This Kitchen” is always a popular song to do live and is now a regular part of my repertoire. As I have already referenced the “Mother’s Arms” in the Dead Rooster Blues post I will say no more here other than to mention that this song refers to the kitchen in that most dilapidated establishment. I find younger audience members particularly relish this song but should warn that it never ought to be played near food.
I wrote it on a banjolele that looked like a frying pan but recorded it on ukulele. The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra lost the run of themselves on this one; becoming immersed in the dark dangerous world of the flourishing organisms that compete for dominion of neglected kitchens. We have inadvertently created a monster! May the lord have mercy on our souls.
Origins of the Lough Swilly songs - “O Arranmore"
Over the next few weeks I’m going to give a bit of background information on the songs that most likely will feature on “Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta” O Arranmore is a definite.
O Arranmore was originally written in 1979 in 30 Theberton St. Islington, London; a large Georgian house squatted by young people from Letterkenny and New Ross. The song was one verse in entirety and performed acapella.
It was two years later that I first sang it in public at Dalston Junction Alternative Cabaret. Subsequently it became part of my act “The Zen Mc Gonagall” It would usually lead directly into a poem. Surprisingly it has been sung on the stage of the Abbey Theatre; I performed at Gala benefit for “The Centre of the Performing Arts” on a bill with Maureen Potter and The Dubliners”
It was 1995 before it became fully integrated into a theatre show “The Church of Chill”
For the recording I am adding a second verse, and harmonium, with Orlaith on alto clarinet, Jeremy on piano and Fionn on bass.
Arranmore go there.