Over the past decade the World Wide Web has changed the way we listen to and view our music. In 2005 three former Paypal employees in California created Youtube which allowed users to upload and share videos. The site has since highlighted international internet phenomena such as the McDonald’s drive-through rap, Techno Viking, Prison Thriller and pop star Justin Bieber.
Earlier this year Ireland had its own internet sensation when a three-piece family band from Cork called Crystal Swing attracted over a million hits on Youtube. Their rendition of the song ‘He Drinks Tequila’ (originally a minor US country music hit for Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw ) caught on like wildfire after it was featured on Sean Moncrieff’s Newstalk radio show. Father Ted writer Graham Linehan mentioned the trio on his blog and suddenly mother Mary Murray-Burke and her teenage children Dervla and Derek Burke were thrust into the limelight.
Crystal Swing became a worldwide phenomenon when American Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres posted a link to their video on her Twitter page. On St. Patrick’s Day she showed a clip of Crystal Swing on her chat show The Ellen DeGeneres Show and a month later the family flew to Hollywood to make a personal appearance on the show. It averaged about five million viewers.
Following their successful appearance on the Ellen show the band twice guested on RTE’s The Late Late Show, featured on TV3’s Xpose and Ireland AM and headlined festivals across the country. This Sunday (August 15 ) they play The Station House Theatre in Clifden, Co Galway.
Middleton housewife Mary Murray-Burke had always dreamed of a career in music and entertainment. This past year has seen the fulfillment of that dream. “I was asked to join bands when I was younger, as a teenager, but I never took up on those offers” she laments. “All my life I’ve been singing and been involved with drama and theatre and I always sort of wondered what would have happened if I’d pursued the music a bit further. Anyway, about nine years ago I decided to give it a go and I went out on the road as a one-woman band. I played keyboards and sang and my husband did sound for me and I got a good few booking around the East Cork area. After a while my children Derek and Dervla got involved too. We’ve been playing and singing together ever since and enjoying every minute of it.”
The trio all had very different musical tastes but they had a united vision of what they should sound like. Together they combined their influences and came up with the name Crystal Swing. The show and the name became an instant hit with punters. “Derek would have a fierce interest in the showband era and Dervla would be into American and Irish country,” Mary says, “I’m into Irish traditional music and American country ‘n’ western. I’d be a huge fan of Crystal Gayle and I think she’s one of the icons of the country music scene. She’s a lovely singer and a beautiful woman and she still has a very successful career. I chose Crystal because it’s a shiny, glitzy name and Swing because it’s a bit of fun and light-hearted. It’s funny that since we established the name I have people coming up to saying ‘How are ya Crystal?’ I have to correct them and tell them that my name is Mary and that I’m not Crystal.”
There have been many successful family groupings in the music industry down through the years including The Carter/Cash Family, The Clancy Brothers, The Carpenters, The Osmonds, The Jackson Family, The Beach Boys and Clannad. The Murray-Burke family continues this fine familial tradition. “I think the family idea is a wonderful idea” Mary states “I would have had great admiration for The Osmonds when I was growing up myself. If you look at all the successful family acts like Donna and Marie Osmond, The Jackson five and even The Corrs it really works. When it’s a family situation you can share in the excitement and you can also go through the highs and the lows together. People in a family are always helping each other along. Derek and Dervla are very close and they hardly ever fight.”
Around about the time that Crystal Swing arrived on the scene there was another Irish family combo that was gaining in popularity. John and Edward Grimes (aka Jedward ) - from Lucan, Co. Dublin – were finalists in the 2009/10 series of The X Factor on ITV. The twins were both loved and loathed in equal measures by the viewing public. “They’re out there and they’re a bit of fun and they’re enjoying every minute of it” says Mary of the terrible twosome. “I suppose there’s some parallels in the fact that they’re two brothers and there’s a brother and sister in our group. We both appeal to a younger audience and to a family audience and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Actually we were invited to go on part of Jedward’s tour in April but we were so busy at the time that we weren’t able to make a commitment to it. We’re very much aware of them and they’re very much aware of us. We still haven’t actually met them though.”
There have been many critics of both Crystal Swing and Jedward in the national media and among the Irish public. In general they are both seen as a bit of much-needed harmless fun in this time of economic gloom in Ireland. “Overall the response we’ve had has been very positive,” Murray-Burke says. “Obviously though there’s going to be a certain amount of people who just don’t like our music. You just have to do your best and enjoy it and a lot of people have said that us coming along has cheered them up. We’ll keep on going as long as we can.”
For tickets to see Crystal Swing in action phone 095-30303.