GALWAY SINGER Deirbhile Ní Bhrolcháin releases her wonderful new album Starlight Falling/Coinnlíní Ceoil 1, which sees her deliver spellbinding versions of some of her favourite songs as Gaeilge and in English.
The album - to be launched at a gig in The Crane Bar, Sea Road, tomorrow evening - features covers of songwriters like Luka Bloom, Mick Hanley, and Richard Thompson, as well as traditional and sean-nós songs. If that represents a diverse range, what pulls everything together is that the album is Deirbhile’s response to the loss, in a comparatively short time, of three people very close to her - her mother, sister, and dear friend Conor Maguire.
The album acts as a loving act of remembrance and is a beautiful blend of sorrow and sweetness, while it ends on the optimism of ‘Bog Braon’, celebrating the younger members of her family.
Raised in a musical family, Deirbhile has long been a highly regarded figure in Galway singing circles, both as a member of Galway Baroque Singers and Cois Cladaigh, and as a traditional singer. She has appeared on a number of albums and recorded one previous solo release, 'Smaointe'. Over a Sunday coffee, she talked with me about Starlight Falling, and began by saying what drove the choice of material.
“There were some songs I felt driven to do, especially ‘Wave Up To The Shore’, ‘Farewell, Farewell’, ‘Domhnal Óg’ and ‘Bog Braon’ because they are very strongly linked in my heart to other people," she says. "Then there were others that just felt like old friends. It’s almost like they pick me rather than me picking them. They can make you sad but they can also get you through the sadness.”
‘Black is the Colour’ would be a musical old friend for many people and here it gets a fresh reading as Deirbhile is joined by jazz guitarist David O’Rourke. “I feel there is a whole area that can be discovered between Irish music and jazz,” she observes. “To me the freedom of sean nós, especially the slower songs, musicians who play jigs and reels find it difficult to loosen up those rhythms for the singer but jazz accompanists do it all the time so it’s a different flow, an extra dimension.”
Opening track ‘Bring On The Wonder’ is another stand-out. “I was going to put it at the end but Gabriel Donohue [who co-produces and plays on most of the tracks] suggested having it at the start,” Deirbhile reveals. “I link my singing so much with my mother and when she died I found it hard to sing because each time I did so was to access that grieving part of myself. I had a great conversation with Cassandra Wilson about that and she said ‘Singing is your path, it is what you should be doing’. The very next day I heard that song on an episode Bones and it expressed everything I had been feeling.”
Starlight Falling 1 (Pt II is due next year ) is available from Powell’s and http://deirbhile.net.