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Singing Our Hearts Out…Just Like Mocking Birds!

inshot_20191112_124602704Musical influences can come at us from a myriad of sources and get under our skin from an early age. Being Irish, my generation’s influence most certainly came from songs of rebellion and social injustice, and while the ‘auld’ ballads appeared to be done to death, especially as we got older, other musical genres , such as the blues, helped vent our inner rebel against any oppression. Around the time I first got the music bug as a teen, I also got the reading bug, especially any book that had a musical connotation.

Harper Lee’s , To Kill A Mocking Bird, was a stand-out book for me. Even today, this classic still sells about a million copies annually.

Set in the poor oppressed southern states of America in particular the town of Maycomb, a town and a people steeped in old fashioned values. The combination of the words and story that managed to transport me to this place where music just bubbled beneath the surface of the infamous”” Deep South,” …my friends we are talking, thee,  birthplace of the blues.

A Mocking Bird, the book says, will  “sing their hearts out”,  simply for the pleasure of pleasing their audience, and so killing one was said to be an almighty sin.

Thus the Mocking Bird is really a metaphor for any decent, upstanding and rather innocent human being who would do anything to help his or her fellow man. This is a story of racial injustice and in equality told through a child’s viewpoint. Irish folk, intuitively understand any sense of injustice, you could say this as well as music, is in our blood. We identify with it.

Most musicians are carefree souls, content with a few regular gigs and decent skins and the Freight Train Preachers are no different. Just as that book transported me to the heat of those Alabama dirt streets, our aim with our love of blues and roots music is to transport an audience to such a place.

While we sometimes, include Dylan, Neil Young and such like, Roots music in our sets, our loyalty to hard hitting blues remains steadfast. Like the Mocking Bird we will sing our hearts out, killing off Roots and Blues we feel a tragic sin. We don’t get as much gigs as the younger, prettier boys singing pretty songs, so if you are of a certain vintage and leaning, we would love to see you at one of our blues and roots gigs. As I write this we are privileged to be playing in one of Cork’s better known live  musical melting pots, none other than Cheers Bar in Fermoy, Co. Cork this coming Thursday from 9.30pm onwards you might say it would be a sin not to….


75282292_2205311512907743_5139393901169213440_oWe know what you think when you look first clock our line-up.  How come, three fairly old and one fairly young, white, Irish fellas end up playing Blues Music ? A more interesting question would be, why such music made by poor, uneducated, black slave sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta in the early nineteen hundreds, came to have a huge influence on an affluent, educated  middle class white population world wide ?.

Growing up we got a taste of the Blues through Eric Clapton, Cream and the Doors. Those big album cover sleeves were scrutinized for the small print, searching for clues to where these guys got their influence. Names like Chester Arthur Burnett, meant nothing to any of us, but when you see Clapton give him recording credit for some tunes you dig deeper to find that “ ‘ole Chester ”was in fact that larger than life, literally, the most famous blues power-house himself …. Howlin’ Wolf, well you then begin a long journey down a very interesting road !!!

And so began our fascination with this call and response musical genre. Second-Hand record stores on line have been hounded for our blues and roots material, which we have been slowly building up over the last few years.  While most of our friends, back then continued playing the Eagles or the Ramones  and easy listening middle of the road music,  we took the nod from the devil and went down a route towards the “Devils Music”, a name given to the blues by early Christian preachers, who saw it as ungodly . We now find ourselves with a deeper appreciation and find we got to continue the legacy of the blues. We can’t help but not to be fascinated by the hard life stories of those early pioneers and how their music survived against all the odds. A strange reflection of music survival and even our homeless society today ?  yeah that’s what we thought as well… hence our quest to explore this genre more deeply.

And so, to answer the above question, cultural, historical and social settings all conspire to influence and shape a certain sound that will capture a particular mood of a particular time. The Freight Train Preachers feel that time is right around anytime now.

While currently, at least here in Ireland anyway, country music holds sway, we have been busy pushing our blues fare, to anyone will to listen to something that is rooted in an alternative sermon. These past few months, playing hard hitting tunes and slow blues in a tight setting in Cheers Bar in Fermoy on the second Thursday of the month proved an ideal venue.

We are back there, on the main stage, no less, in full flight on the Sunday of the October Bank Holiday October 27th and due on at 6pm.

We won’t say the Angelus when the clock strikes  6pm,but instead crank up with a Stevie Ray Vaughan number, Pride and Joy, or maybe Robert Johnson’s Dust my Broom,who cares, it’s the Bank Holiday Weekend and it’s Blues in Cheers Bar, Fermoy, the best music venue outside the city !

Heroes for a Day

A Special Gig for Cork Down Syndrome

We robbed Bowie’s title for this event , the home crowd ensured it was a ticket sell out for the great cause of Cork’s Down Syndrome Center. Yvonne O Connell did Trojan behind the scenes work, Heather the manager of the Sextant bar and beer garden, and the staff here  on Albert Quay went to great lengths to accommodate musicians and all the parents making the venue family friendly. Even the sun stayed shining for the best of the afternoon.

Privileged to share the stage with Karen Jordan, her of the magical singing voice, had  the place enraptured with some beautiful songs. Performing from such a (more…)

The Beauty of a Residency Gig

Promoting your own music, while a thrilling experience, is becoming more of a challenge to keep momentum going, especially in a country rich in musical talent. Talent such as James Walsh of the Goldfish Syndrome, a fella who inspires us to keep going regardless, as he has shown with his latest offering, ‘The Ballad of Christmas Day’.

Our regular residency in The Widows Bar in Glanmire in Co Cork where Jack ( a dyed in the wool blues man ) and myself a  committed folkie, fuse our musical projects in this little suburban city bar, two weekends every month.

We have taken James’s lead and stuck to our guns of being authentic to ourselves and our brand of retro alternative country and blues based music.

OK, we may be vintage stock, road-worn characters, but a growing following looks like our time of attention grabbing is nigh. Slavish devotion to chasing the dollar at all costs was never the reason we took up guitars. Come on down, bring a friend and saviour gutsy bluesy tunes and a welcome change.



No Guarantee of a Happy Music State

Folks in Ireland are up in arms because water charges are to be implemented into every household in the country. Local politicians called by this evening looking for my vote for the upcoming local elections, but all I could think of was our next gig in Mulls Bar in Mallow. Like, how important is music to Ireland ? Where is the (more…)

Freight Train Preachers Are Back in Town

Were Back !!! Bright Spots Amid the Gloom and Garth Brookes

After a year in the harsh music wilderness we have decided to re-launch ourselves again on an unsuspecting public, or whatever public will have us.

Sure, we had a few issues to resolve, but it would appear that we were not the only ones.. (more…)

Woody Guthrie’s Influence on Us

As we were packing up after a gig recently, and loading the wagon, mumbling our complaints as we split our spoils, we wondered if Woody Guthrie was alive, would he see all this as opportunity? We are certain that Woody would see the current world state as a harvest-time for songwriters and protesters alike. (more…)

A Free Lesson from HMV

About five years ago for a bargain of €15, my mate and I brought the American Recordings CD by Johnny Cash in the big HMV music store in Cork. We envied not only those who worked behind the counter with a (more…)