04 April 2011

Dobro meets Irish trad!

Thanks to Colin Henry, who writes:

Thought you might like this photo taken at the launch of Oonagh Derby's CD Harmony Street. Gerry (banjo) O'Connor produced the album and I played on some of the tracks.

Gerry wanted to kick off the night with a rip-up so we played 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown' along with Gino Lupari on bodhran and Gerdy Thompson on guitar. A real privilege to play with these musicians. Gerry is probably the best tenor-banjo player in the world and I have been a fan of his for many years. I never imagined I would get to play with him and to play with Gino as well.

Oonagh's CD is great and can be purchased from CD Baby and through her website.

BIB editor's note: Not (of course) the first meeting between Irish traditional music and the resophonic guitar: Colin's own playing of Irish tunes can be heard on his MySpace site, and Frankie Lane's 1993 album Dobro on the Gael-Linn label is an eye-opener.

Update: After the above note was posted, Colin added:

Incidentally, just as you had started the whole banjo thing for me back in the 70s, it was Frankie Lane's Dobro album that started me on the dobro. I was driving in Belfast one day back in 1993 on my way to Matchetts music shop to buy banjo strings. A track from Dobro came on the radio and I was really taken with it. As pure chance would have it, when I went into Matchetts I was browsing the banjo books (as I always did) and I came across The Dobro Book by Stacy Phillips. As I had been so taken with Frankie's playing I thought I would buy the book and give it a go.

I went home and put a nut extender on an old guitar and used an old bottleneck with a bit of cable taped to it for grip. From the moment I heard the sound I was completely hooked. I got all my banjo/bluegrass records out and listened to them again, only listening for the dobro this time. About six months into learning I nearly stopped, as I had recorded myself for the first time and realised I was constantly flat on the note. I thought I just didn't have the ear to play well. The wonders of the internet came to the rescue as I had Stacy Phillips's e-mail from the book and I e-mailed him and told him about my tuning problem. As you know, Stacy is a great teacher and his reply to me was to persevere; he said I was halfway there as I knew I was out of tune, it was the people who didn't know they were out of tune that had the problem.

I never looked back from there. The banjo, I am afraid, took second place from there on in. So there you are - two great American bluegrass instruments and I only took them up because of players from Ireland - so you see I have to play some Irish music in gratitude! To finish the story, a few years ago Gary, Janet, and I were at the Phil Murphy festival in Wexford and were staying in the same B&B as Frankie. I had never met him and one morning after breakfast I was sitting playing and he came into the room and asked to play my Scheerhorn. As he played I told him my story and that the only reason I was there was because of him - I'm not sure he wanted that responsibility :-). We became friends and we have subsequently recorded at his Athy studio. An all-round great musician and nice guy.

PS: Note to aspiring dobro players - record yourself well and often!

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