http://www.waygoodmusic.com, on FaceBook and MySpace as Switchback
I first heard Switchback a couple of years ago on my local PBS station, and signed up on both of their social network pages. I have been getting a newsletter from them occasionally, and it has been fascinating. But until recently, I had not paid as much attention to them as I should have been because they are really, really good, and I remember why I liked them so much the first time I saw and heard them.
So I recently got a copy of their 2005 release ” bolinree”, and listened, and decided to write a blog. I have talked to them, their manager, and their fan club president, all by email, and got an approval, and some information.
Bolinree in Irish means “Cow of the King’s Herd”, and is the name of Marty’s grandfather’s farm in County Mayo. This release includes six traditional songs as arranged by Brian and Marty, and three which they wrote. The musicians who appeared on this release were Liz Carroll, fiddle, Mike Hagler, vocals (also an associate producer, along with Brian and Marty), Jim Hines, percussion, Lloyd Maines, several instruments, who is also their executive producer (and one of our own here in Austin, father of Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks), and John Williams, accordion, flute, synthesizer, and bodhran. I was privileged to make the acquaintance of both Liz and John at an Irish music festival about 18 years ago.
The nine songs on this release are: Wobbly Jigs, and Banshees’ Jigs: Both sets include quite a lot of Liz and John, and on the Banshees’ Jigs, Marty and Brian do a bit of Irish Gaelic singing. On one of their own, Dance in the Living Room, there is a great rhythm, one can almost get a primitive image of the Celts dancing around their fires in ancient times, even though the lyrics are very much about modern times. On Drunken Sailer, they start out with an instrumental treatment, and then about half-way through they start singing and make this popular and well-known song their own. There is a great mandolin riff on this piece – I love the mandolin. On Galway Shawl, another one that is well-known to Irish music lovers, there is a lovely vocal, and again, Switchback makes it their own. The final song, The Hills of Connemarra (yes, where the green stone is from) is a lively, fast, fun song about hiding illegal stills and running from the Excise Man in Connemarra – for some reason every time I listen to this song, I think about Robert Mitchum in Thunder Road, and his runs from the “revenooers”. It is definitely a finale that makes you want to go back and re-listen to the whole CD.
Bolinree, which they wrote, is a sad and lonely sort of Irish music sound one hears in the oceans and the land, when it is again talked about how hard it is to have to leave their home and immigrate to another land so they won’t starve. The descriptions of the farmhouse and the land really make you want to go back and see that land. I don’t know if the farm is still in Marty’s family’s hand – I’ve never asked. But I hope it is, and that when he goes to Ireland, he can walk freely about and stay in the farmhouse.
(Marty sent me a note after he read this to say the farm was no longer in the family – the last resident had to sell it and move to the city. As Marty said, too often the story of the Irish.)
Two other songs on the CD include the traditional Star of the County Down and the third of their own compositions, Love Won’t Run Away (Nil Gra Rithe Imihe). Although they give me the Gaelic title, it is sung in English, a lovely very slow song about how love will stay in your life, if you will just let it.
I had tried to copy four of their songs from YouTube to this blog, but for some reason, probably having to do with these computers in the community room, I could not get them to copy correctly. Only the site of http://www.youtube.com. So if you go to YouTube, and search Switchback, you will find several of their songs, the only one of which from this particular release being Bolinree. I copied them successfully to my FB page, but I can’t figure out how to transition them to this blog. Anyway, below is the address and information for Bolinree itself.
The lads are based in Chicago, IL, and Lansing, IA. From their FB page information, I picked up the following information: Quoting here:
Now, here is something I would like to see happen; perhaps more of Switchback’s fans will join me with this. Since Lloyd Maines produces them, and since Natalie of Dixie Chicks is his daughter, let’s promote a joint concert with the Chicks and Switchback. Obviously I would like to see it happen in Austin, but anywhere will do just to get them together. In the meantime, everyone go and friend Switchback – at the present time they have a little over 1000 friends on their FB page, and I’d love to see it get up to the highest number possible, and make them have to start a new page for all the rest who want to join.