Daoirí’s journey: from glass cages to international stages

Daoirí Farrell

Incompetent bank bosses do not generally receive too many compliments – even of the back-handed variety. The widespread damage they have inflicted on Ireland in recent years has had far-reaching implications – profoundly life-changing for many thousands of people. For the overwhelming majority those outcomes have tended to be seriously detrimental – but occasionally an unintended consequence has been positive.

For bank official, Christopher Moore, a twelve-week bank strike in 1966 was the catalyst that was to lead him towards a career as a full-time musician. With no strike pay, Christy, like many of his fellow workers, headed over to England to find temporary employment for the duration of the dispute. However, Christy never returned to banking. Would he have eventually found his calling in music if he had continued in the safe pensionable embrace of the Bank of Ireland? Perhaps, but would that altered timeline have also included the recording of Prosperous that led to Planxty and all that followed? We’ll never know.

Glass cages

Forty-two years later, a young electrician with a fondness for the singing of Christy Moore became a victim of an even more catastrophic failure by banking leaders. As the banking crisis triggered an economic collapse that shuttered construction projects throughout Ireland in the autumn of 2008, young Daoirí Farrell had little prospect of finding work in his chosen – though not entirely cherished – trade.

“I was getting up on mornings… and going out into the bloody freezing cold onto the seventh or eighth storey of a building along the [Dublin] docklands and pulling big huge heavy SWA cables. There were no windows – the wind was whipping through. I remember one day the wind was so hard that my hard hat got whipped off my head and it smashed down on top of one of the company vans below. There was a big dent in the top of the van. I went down to see if everything was OK. The guy who was down at the van just said: “It’s OK. It could have been you.”

Though he was happy to get a break from the early starts and the bitter winds, the question of occupying himself until the economic storm blew over was becoming ever more pressing. While he was interested in a wide range of musical genres, he had a particular appreciation for performers – and one above all others, Christy Moore.

“The first time I had a big grá for music was when I saw Christy playing the bodhrán on TV and he was singing The Well Below The Valley. I remember thinking I’d love to be able to do that. I didn’t think it was the singing particularly because at the time I didn’t know that I could sing as nobody had ever told me. But what appealed to me was the command of the audience: he just had this massive stage presence. It was so simple, but so brilliant at the same time.”

With this image of Christy playing in his mind, Daoirí started to try the bodhrán, himself, before moving on to the guitar and the mandolin – but the instrument he was hearing in his head as the sound to aspire to was the bouzouki – most likely Dónal Lunny’s bouzouki in Planxty and the Bothy Band. Yet his commitment to the music at this point, was almost as a secret hobby. Something to do after a hard day’s work hauling heavy cables up concrete towers in the docklands.

Daoirí rarely sang in public because no-one had even suggested that he might have a voice. Though he went to see bands like Moving Hearts live, “I wouldnt tell my mates because they were all into Oasis, Blur, the House of Pain and Cypress Hill. So was I. But I was getting more into Christy and folk music generally.”

So after the banking crisis in 2008 had swept his job away overnight as well as any real prospect of finding a new one for some time, Daoirí was encouraged by his girlfriend at the time to take a more structured approach to music.

“She said: ‘You shouldn’t sit around moping. You should go and do something even if it’s just to massage the brain during the day.’ She said: ‘You like music, don’t you?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ She said: ‘What about a music course somewhere?’ I said: ‘Yeah, but it’s October.’ I was playing the banjo at this time, but not very well. So I went down to see about a course.”

Ceoltóir

His first port of call was the Ceoltóir course run by Paul McGrattan at the Ballyfermot College of Further Education, just up the road from Daoirí’s home in Bluebell. Even though the autumn term for the Higher National Diploma in Irish Traditional Music Performance, to give it its full title, had already started a month earlier, Paul was impressed by Daoirí’s enthusiasm. “If you think you can catch up, we will gladly have you on the course.”

During his career as an electrician, Daoirí had developed the capacity to absorb technical detail and theory even though he might not have had a natural aptitude for the physical side of the work. But in taking on this new challenge, he was dealing with something he felt passionately about – music. So motivation allied to the ability to apply himself proved to be a winning combination.

“I just applied the approach I had about the electrical game to the music and I went way further way quicker because it was something that I was actually interested in. With no job to go to, I was allowed do over six hours practice a day and I really came on on the bouzouki and the banjo. I really came on very quickly.”

It is remarkable to reflect, when you hear Daoirí’s prowess on the bouzouki today that he has been playing the instrument for less than twelve years. With the discipline and the motivation to practice, Daoirí has certainly managed to make up for lost time. He also served an unofficial apprenticeship in the company of many instrumentalists at festivals and summer schools.

“I never had any problem going up to somebody and introducing myself. Although I was terribly shy when I was a kid, it all changed when I started playing the instrument. I think maybe it brought out a bit of confidence in me. I’d always go and make it my business to introduce myself. For the most part they were all lovely and then they’d invite me on stage. It was just an amazing feeling being up there with those musicians.”

Those musicians’ included Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Gerry O’Connor (fiddle), Gerry O’Connor (banjo), as well as the John Carty Big Band, Kíla, Danú and Dervish – an amazing roll call of role models for an ‘apprentice’ bouzouki player. 

Unlike many other traditional players, Daoirí has not had the benefit of a particularly strong family background of musicians. He has been told that his grandfather, Kevin Farrell, was a weekend concertina player. His children – including Daoirís father, Dessie – would look on slightly awestruck as Kevin played before he would catch their eye and shoo them away. Dessie is a good singer, Daoirí says, but rarely sings in public. “I think he knows a few songs,” he says, “but he doesnt like to sing.”

But Dessie was – and still is – a Christy Moore fan. So the young Daoirí was exposed to Christy, Planxty and the Bothy Band in his formative years. Dessie says that, as a child, Daoirí, could not go off to sleep at night unless there was music playing – usually Planxty or the Bothy Band. So at a subliminal level, the young Daoirí was absorbing the music. Yet even as a teenager, apart from Christy, he would have been hard pressed to name any other members of either line-up: the world of traditional music was largely unknown to him.

“I wasn’t in those particular circles at the time. I didn’t know about Mother Redcap’s. I didn’t know about the Góilín (Singers Club) and back then I only really knew of Christy Moore. I didn’t even know about Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine back then, although I had seen Christy with this band of people and they played these really weird instruments. And I remember a particular song that stood out in my mind: I didn’t even know the band was Planxty – but the song was called Time Will Cure Me and I remember hearing that and thinking: ‘That’s really weird. I don’t actually know if I like that or not.’ But of course I did. I didn’t know at first because I never had anything to compare it to.”

Daoiri plays Andy Irvine’s guitar-shaped bouzouki during one of his “Corona-Conquering Corner Sessions” from his home in Bluebell, Dublin,

Andy’s Bouzouki

Time Will Cure Me was sung by Andy Irvine whose guitar-shaped bouzouki now hangs in Daoirí’s home in Bluebell.

The absence of a point of comparison for the music he was beginning to appreciate also applied to his own voice. Since he did not frequent singing circles or sessions at this time, he had no idea that his own voice was so good. Also by coming relatively late to the singing scene, Daoirí’s approach to the repertoire has been far less inhibited than other performers who might be far more reluctant to move out from under the weight of the tradition.

So when he enrolled in Ballyfermot College of Further Education in his mid 20s, Daoirí brought few pre-conceptions but lots of enthusiasm. But with the encouragement of Paul McGrattan and his team over the two years of the course – which included exposure to a range of musicians and singers like Len Graham, Niamh Parsons and the late Arty McGlynn – Daoirí laid solid foundations which he then built upon in further studies for a degree in Applied Music at the Dundalk Institute of Technology (where he encountered the influential flute player and academic, Fintan Vallely, and fiddler, Gerry O’Connor) and for a Masters at the Irish World Music Centre in the University of Limerick.

Liam Weldon

Liam Weldon (Photo: Colm Keating)

It was Paul McGrattan who first introduced him to the music of the great Ballyfermot singer – the late Liam Weldon – a discovery that was to have a profound effect on Daoirí.

“Paul McGrattan had given me a copy of the album (Dark Horse on the Wind) when I was in Ballyfermot. He said bring that home. He’s a singer: you’re looking for singers. Now, he gave me that with a pile of other CDs and I brought it home to listen to it.”

The album – which Liam had recorded with Dónal Lunny – had a major impact. Daoirí not only began to familiarise himself with the songs with a view to eventually singing them, himself, but also as part of his exploration of the life and times of Weldon in the academic sense for his thesis at Dundalk under Fintan Vallely’s supervision. It was in Dundalk that he first began to sing Liam Weldon’s songs.

So far he has recorded three Liam Weldon songs – the stunning protest song The Blue Tar Road (which provided the title for his second album, True Born Irishman) and two love songs (written for Liam’s wife, Nellie) the beautiful My Love is a Well and the monumental Via Exstasia. He also has Dark Horse on the Wind and Jinny Joe in his repertoire, though he hasn’t sung them recently.

Via Exstasia is one of the highlights of Daoirí’s recent album, A Lifetime of Happiness, which Dónal Lunny produced. In a recent interview with Fonn, Dónal Lunny explained that even though he had worked with Liam Weldon on the original recording in 1976, he never fully appreciated the musical structure of the song until he had the chance to work on it again with Daoirí 42 years later. “I played on the original recording with Liam on Dark Horse on the Wind and I hadn’t got it cracked,” he told me. “I didn’t fully understand the harmonic sequence that Liam was following in his melody but I found it with Daoirí, I think. There are a few optional junctions you can take during the song. But I managed to get from one end to the other in a logical way.”

While the knowledge and experience gained in the intervening years are undoubtedly a factor, Dónal credits Daoirí with enhancing his appreciation of Weldon’s masterpiece. Daoirí had entertained the idea of recording the song for a while but was uncertain. “It’s one of the most standout things for me on Liam’s album… I was worried that I didn’t understand it fully to do it justice.” However, when Dónal suggested it, Daoirí was encouraged to try it.

“He tipped me over the edge: it was something I wanted to do. But I didn’t feel like I knew it. But then I got the words and wrote them out properly one night. I was sitting looking at them with Dónal. And he’d be telling me stories about Liam and some of the people who would have been associated with him. So I felt like I got to know it really well and I recorded it. There are loads of recordings of me singing it from then, but the one that went onto the album is just lovely. I am very proud of it. I hope that if he was still alive and he got to hear it that he wouldn’t have minded me singing it.

“I did a lot of studying of Liam when I was in college. So even though I never met him, I feel like I learned an awful lot off him. I never thought I’d be saying that about anyone in my life. Even things that he would say in interviews with people – like ‘the song sings the singer and not the other way around.’ Maybe he did not come up with that – but at least he understood it and he said it because he understood it.

“Songs can really affect people. I’ve seen this over the years as well and he affected me with his singing in different ways. I can actually see the caravans when Liam is singing The Blue Tar Road and when Liam sings Via Exstasia, it’s just so real it’s like as if he’s singing it to Nellie face-to-face.

“Liam recorded Via Exstasia twice. He recorded it unaccompanied on another album with Pol Huellou from Brittany. He’s a fantastic guy. He told me that Liam was a bit older when he recorded it the second time and when he went over, Pol set Liam and Nellie in the recording room to record it and you should hear it. It’s just so beautifully sung: you can hear in the recording that he’s singing it to to her. And then that was all backed up for me because I met Pol and he said to me: ‘You’re correct. The two of them are in the room and he was singing to her. We were drinking wine and eating some cheese.’ He set the night out for me and coloured in the picture of what I imagined when I closed my eyes and listened to it. That’s a really rare thing to happen in certain types of music. It’s beautiful.”

Daoirí Farrell at Pickering House for the Liam Weldon documentary shoot (Photo: Colm Keating).

Daoirí’s enthusiam for Liam Weldon is palpable: he becomes even more animated than usual. He is involved in the Weldon documentary being produced by Lorraine Kennedy and directed by Myles O’Reilly. He took part in a shoot at Pickering House along with Radie Peat, Damien Dempsey and others.

“I ended up singing some songs – actually loads of songs because obviously once I get started I can’t stop. Myles asked me to sing Via Exstasia. I wasn’t expecting that. I thought I was going to talk about Liam. I wasn’t expecting to be singing that day, but it was fine. I can’t wait to see the film.”

His initial hesitation in recording Via Exstasia for A Lifetime of Happiness was grounded in a fear that he might not do his hero justice. But it also reflects Daoirí’s general approach to the songs he sings – especially when he is adding a new song to the repertoire or contemplating recording one for the first time.

“I feel like I need to become friends with it. I know it sounds stupid and I’m probably not even explaining it right but that’s the way I feel about it. I feel like I need to really know it inside and out before I sing it. I think I need to make it mine and that might not happen. Sometimes it happens that I spend six months on a song and it ends up that I’m not feeling it. So we have to break up. Sorry about that, it’s not you it’s me. But that happens in music. It’s fascinating.”

The making of a singer

His first attempt at singing in public was during the course at Ballyfermot. For the first year he was mainly focused on the instrument.

“Paul McGrattan said to me one day you have to perform a piece on the banjo and something on the bouzouki. So it was perfect. I remember standing in the class one day and trying to play Sullivan’s John on it and then trying to sing along and I couldn’t do it. So I used to stay back for an hour or two in the evening until the janitor came around and told me to go home.

“But I remember Paul sticking his head in and saying: ‘You’re going have to figure it out because you have to do something for the concert. Actually that concert was a complete disaster because I forgot the words of the song and I thought I’d never get on stage again. But I got over that hump and I’m still doing it. I know how to deal with it if something like that ever happens again.”

Undeterred by this initial experience, Daoirí found he was being drawn deeper into singing.

While still studying in Ballyfermot, he created an album of some of his favourite songs with the assistance of Alan Doherty, James Ryan and Robbie Walsh.

Reflecting his admiration for Christy Moore, Andy Irvine and Frank Harte, The First Turn included a number of songs which have remained firmly fixed in Daoirí’s continuing repertoire, like McShane, Boozing, The Mickey Dam, Bound For Van Diemen’s Land, The Creggan White Hare, John O’ Dreams, The Shamrock Shore and Tippin’ It up to Nancy.

“I went to Comhaltas in Monkstown for a few lessons from Kieran Hanrahan and Claire Sherry and started playing music with a few people of my own age… So they might say Daoirí would you sing a song. So I’d get up and sing a song and then we’d get back to the session again.

“Then somebody said to me one day: ‘Why don’t you enter the fleadh or competitions?’ I was thinking I wouldn’t be a good enough banjo player. I actually said that. But they said: ‘Not the banjo you idiot, we mean singing.’ They said: “For a Dub you’re not a bad singer, you could actually have a chance.”

“I didn’t really know anything about it. But I knew that there were some singers in the north who were – and still are – absolutely phenomenal. I started getting into the singing of these really local songs from people from the north of Ireland. I have a lot of really good friends now who are absolutely brilliant singers from up that way.

“So all of a sudden I found myself in competition singing against some of them – there’d be loads of people singing in the Dublin fleadh – really good singers but the competition got really tough in the All-Ireland. I thought it was amazing that people would come in from America and other parts of the world to compete. The singing was really competitive but the singers were all very friendly people. I entered the competition for men singing in English a couple of times in 2011 and 2012 before I won it in 2013.”

The All-Ireland format encourages local songs. As a novice in the competition, Daoirí was unaware that some Dublin songs would have been eligible for him to sing. Had he known, he thinks he might even have won the competition a year earlier. “But,” he concedes, “everything fell into place the way it did for a reason, I suppose, When I eventually won it and brought the plaque home, there was only one other person from Dublin who had won it: Frank Harte in 1973.” At 40, Frank was ten years older than Daoirí was when he won it.

“Winning the All-Ireland opens up a whole new world for teaching, which is something that I do from time to time. But I much prefer standing on stage and singing for people. I get a great buzz out of it.”

Daoirí remains a fan of the Fleadh. If he is free during the Fleadh week, he likes to drop in on the singing competitions. “People think I’m mad. But I’d go and listen because there are some fantastic singers. I always thought that the women’s over 18 competition singing in English is probably one of the toughest competitions in the Fleadh because they are all absolutely gorgeous singers.”

FourWinds: (from left) Daoirí Farrell, Caroline Keane, Tom Delaney and Robbie Walsh

Apart from marking his All-Ireland victory in Derry, 2013 also saw the launch of the band, FourWinds. Daoirí was joined by long-time friend and one-time All-Ireland bodhrán champion, Robbie Walsh, and two musicians he had met as a student at the Irish World Music Centre in Limerick – prize-winning concertina player, Caroline Keane, and uilleann piper, Tom Delaney, who had finished as runner-up at the 2012 Fleadh Ceoil na Éireann.

“So the four of us decided to put a band together. We were playing really energetic music. We were all bringing something to it. I thought there was something really special about it at the time and then we recorded an album in Kerry and did a few tours.”

They quickly became popular as a touring band – enjoying success at festivals and picking up the Danny Kyle Award for newcomers at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow at the start of 2015. The album, FourWinds, was released later the same year to considerable critical acclaim. Though primarily an instrumental album, four of its eleven tracks were songs – including three which remain part of Daoirí’s continuing repertoire: Farewell to the Gold, The Rollicking Boys around Tandragee and Clasped to the Pig.

“In the background all the time. I was working on my singing… and I was finding out more and more about myself and my limits every day. It just caught on and I met Terry O’Brien, who became my agent. She was just brilliant and I still work with her. She introduced me to the folk scene in England and many more parts of the world.

“She’s really pushy in a good way and although I’m confident, she made me feel even more confident because she seems to be really into the music. She does the heavy end of it, as I like to call it, so I just get up and perform. So it works really well.”

More Prizes

Daoirí Farrell (Photo: Dessie Farrell).

With the growing demands of his solo career, a mutual parting of the ways with FourWinds became inevitable. Nevertheless, they remain firm friends and Robbie Walsh has continued to play as a member of the Daoirí Farrell Trio along with uilleann piper Mark Redmond. In January 2016, Daoirí returned to Celtic Connections in Glasgow as a solo performer. This was followed by an invitation from Mark Radcliffe to do a live session for The Folk Show on BBC Radio 2 just before his first UK tour.

On a roll now, a new album, True Born Irishman, was released in October 2016 to the proverbial critical acclaim. Taking its title from the opening line of Liam Weldon’s mighty protest song, The Blue Tar Road, the project brought together a distinguished band of musicians to support Daoirí including Mike McGoldrick on flute and low whistle, former All-Ireland champion James Mahon on uilleann pipes, Alec Brown on cello, Brian Dwyer on piano, Eoin Kenny on uilleann pipes and low whistle, Tony Byrne on guitar, Pat Daly on fiddle and Paddy Kiernan on banjo and the ever-present Robbie Walsh on bodhrán.

The album included two more songs about Travellers – This Town is not Your Own by Shay Healy, and Pat Rainey by Góilín stalwart and friend, Fergus Russell. The latter song remains a particular favourite because Daoirí’s paternal grandmother was a Rainey.

In the following spring, Daoirí garnered two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – Best Traditional Track for Van Diemen’s Land and the Horizon Award for best newcomer. Although Van Diemen’s Land had been lauded as much for Daoirí’s epic arrangement as for his singing, 2017 also saw the beginning of a new partnership with Dónal Lunny – the first fruit of which was a two-track release involving new versions of previously recorded songs – The Creggan White Hare (originally recorded on The First Turn) and Bogie’s Bonny Belle (on True Born Irishman). Once again, the response from critics and fans alike was – and still is – overwhelming to the point where no Daoirí Farrell gig is complete without his exhilarating rendition of The Creggan White Hare.

Recording of a lifetime

Recording of a lifetime: (from left) Mark Redmond, Daoirí Farrell and Dónal Lunny at the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

In between gigging and touring through 2018 he recorded his latest album, A Lifetime of Happiness, with Dónal Lunny producing. The album was recorded in a series of sessions in Ergodos Studios in Portobello, Áras Crónáin in Clondalkin with Alan Doherty again as engineer, in the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Merrion Square, Dublin, with Brian Doyle and Ciarán Byrne, and in Manus Lunny’s Stiúideo Na Mara/Ocean Studios in West Donegal.

Unlike the stereotypical image of a band disappearing for months into Windmill Lane noodling and jamming until the magic happens, Daorí’s life on the road generally does not permit great blocks of time to be spent without gigging. However, travel does provide some time and space to think about songs that might be candidates for recording in the future and possible treatments and instrumentation.

So A Lifetime of Happiness was a fairly well disciplined project: once the songs had been agreed, Daoirí and Dónal generally had a clear idea of the result they were looking for each time they went into the studio. Not only is it a matter of professional courtesy to the musicians, engineers and others who support the recordings – but also a question of simple economics, given the cost of hiring recording facilities especially when the artist is not being bankrolled by a major label.

“Dónal’s just done it so many times before, he knows the process and I had done it three times before. But some people who go into the studio are just so organised, it’s just brilliant. It takes a massive load off if we go in and I’m happy. I see it as a waste of money and a waste of people’s time, more importantly, going into a studio and not being prepared. I have to be prepared to a certain degree. So I’d know the song from start to finish first of all. l don’t like singing anything off a sheet. You probably noticed that now watching me. I don’t like that at all. In fact, I don’t even like writing a set list going onto a stage.

“And if you were to give me a pop quiz on what number verse it is before I come in with let’s say an instrumental or if another musician was to ask me when they come in, then I’d have to know the answer straight away because that way they think you know exactly what you’re talking about. So you can work all of that out before you get into the studio.

“The recording was really enjoyable and I think it comes through in the finished album. A Lifetime of Happiness is just beautiful. But I actually started thinking about the next one the minute that was finished. Even though I haven’t even started yet, I will get started soon.”

Apart from the Liam Weldon’s Via Exstasia, the album also included songs popularised by two more of Daoirí’s musical heroes – Valentine O’Hara from the singing of the late Frank Harte and There’s The Day and Sweet Portadown suggested by Cathal McConnell who was also a source for two songs on True Born Irishman: The Shady Woods of Truagh and Fergie McCormack.

“He wanted me to sing and record The Cavan Road, which I probably will but I’m not feeling fighting fit for it yet. It’s a really big heavy song. I had to buy a tape recorder because in any one week Cathal will send me a tape full of songs. He’s just a brilliant collector of songs. I don’t even know where to begin with some of the songs that he’s given me, but he always asks me: ‘Did you do anything with them yet?’ But I’m slowly getting through it.”

Mother of invention

Lockdown Merch: Daoirí and has partner, Caitríona, model T-shirts for the ‘Corona-Conquering Corner Sessions.’

The lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions have provided Daoirí with time and space to consider the next album. It has also led him to a very successful series of weekly gigs online – streamed on Facebook Live, YouTube and Instagram mainly from his home in Bluebell, Dublin with support from his partner, Caitríona, and his sister, Cíara, with various guest artists joining him in recent weeks.

The weekly livestreams have attracted thousands of viewers from Australia in the east through to California in the west. He has also just launched another two-track “single” – recorded at home in a DIY sound booth made from a large cardboard box and a piece of curtain material.

Despite the rather rudimentary conditions of the recordings, he has achieved more than acceptable sound quality on two of the songs that have featured during the lockdown gigs – When the Breakers Go back on Full Time and The Parting Glass.

It remains to be seen whether these two songs will receive more extensive treatment on the next album – or indeed whether any of the other previously unrecorded lockdown songs will feature. Certainly he has been afforded plenty of opportunities to ‘get to know’ a number of potential candidates for recording in future.

After such a positive experience with Dónal Lunny, it seems likely that, barring intractable scheduling problems, the two will work together again. There is a great deal of mutual admiration between the two men. Lunny was already on the record in his confirmation of Farrell as “one of the most important traditional singers to emerge in the last decade,” and he subsequently described Daoirí to me as “a total natural,” adding: “There are singers who sing and you can just bloody well believe them,” and “He takes pains to get the song right and he knows what he wants. He is the only singer I know who could definitely handle everything that Frank Harte recorded.” So says the man who produced and accompanied Frank Harte on record.

For Daoirí, it is almost surreal that the man largely responsible for the sound of three of the most ground-breaking bands in Irish music – Planxty, The Bothy Band and Moving Hearts – who provided the soundtrack to his pre-sleep rituals as a child – has now become a close friend and collaborator.

“Yes. it’s not a coincidence that Dónal is the common thread running through them all. He brought this life and energy as well as the musical imagination. When you hear Farewell to Éireann, that set of tunes, you hear the attack of the bouzouki even though it’s in the background. It puts the hackles up and you’re thinking there’s something happening there. I remember hearing that for the first time a long time ago and thinking ‘what is that instrument?’ This was years ago before I knew what a bouzouki was and I was thinking ‘Christ almighty, what’s that instrument? That’s really powerful.’ And then when you see it, it’s like a stick. How can that make so much noise?

“Every time I hear the Bothy Band live recordings I get the same feeling as I did years ago, and that’s something else to have that from a piece of music. I always say there was so much truth in Liam Weldon and Luke Kelly singing. Well, I say the same about Dónal’s arrangements on a set of tunes. They’ve got this truth. I still can’t explain it properly. That’s the beautiful thing about Irish music and folk music.”

“There is just so much music in Dónal. I’ve never seen it in somebody before and he can play so many instruments. It’s hard to find the words to explain it. He’s like water: he can go from one thing to another so quick. I really love that.”

Lunny’s involvement in Planxty was particularly significant for Daoirí – in helping to persuade the tradition-bearer, Liam O’Flynn, to step into the unknown with a bunch of ‘folkies.’

“For a piper, the tradition of the music is a really powerful thing, especially within Ireland and now outside Ireland too. But at the time like it was a really sacred kind of an instrument and I always thought that Liam trusted this bunch of guys with this sacred music. And I am so happy that it all happened when it did and how it did and evolved the way it did.”

Passion for the Pipes: Daoirí has sought opportunitites to play with some of the country’s finest pipers including Paddy Keenan (left).

Trust is a recurring theme for Daoirí in Dónal’s collaboration with the late Dublin traditional singer, Frank Harte: “For Frank Harte to trust Dónal Lunny, too, that was something else. For me that’s just amazing and really beautiful.”

As a soloist, or as a member of the trio or occasionally in a much larger ensemble, Daoirí has performed throughout Europe along with Australia, Canada, and the USA, including major folk festivals like the Cambridge Folk Festival, the Milwaukee Irish Festival, the Vancouver Island Folk Festival and the National Folk Festival of Australia as well as touring the UK in 2018 with the Transatlantic Sessions.

Generally, he is a happy tourist: he enjoys meeting people and visiting new places. So far he has only had one bad experience when he became very ill on a solo tour in Australia. However, the kindness of strangers – in this case a retired doctor who prescribed a course of antibiotics to help him pull through – ensured that even the risk of adversity far from home does not deter him from going on the road again.

“I don’t mind going away because the people around me at home don’t mind me going away. It’s great: things are good at the moment. I feel it’s great to get away: it gives you a lot of time to think when you’re on your own. I have always thought that if I am on my own and go somewhere to a session or a singing circle, you get the optimum amount of goodness out of that because you’re on your own and anything can happen. You can meet anyone. You can talk to anyone and I do. I can’t stop talking, as you can tell. I love going and meeting new people. It just suits me down to the ground.”

“I did my first solo Irish tour last year. It was extremely successful. I couldn’t believe it. But it went really well and I would love to do a bigger one again next year if the pandemic allows.”

Whenever he finally gets back in front of a live audience, Daoirí’s unique vocal and musical talents – allied to his irrepressible, playful enthusiasm – is guaranteed to delight. As the performer who first inspired Daoirí to seek the limelight, Christy Moore, has declared: “it’s always a treat to hear [Daoirí] sing.”

Daoirí’s Albums:

The First Turn (2009)

  1. McShane
  2. Boozing
  3. The Pool Song
  4. The Mickey Dam
  5. Bound For Van Diemen’s Land
  6. The Creggan White Hare
  7. John O’ Dreams
  8. The Little Drummer
  9. The Shamrock Shore
  10. Tippin’ It Up To Nancy

FourWinds (2015)

  1. Con Carthy’s Favourite/Comb Your Hair and Curl It/The Templehouse
  2. The Three Little Drummers/The Queen of the Rushes/Palm Sunday
  3. Farewell to the Gold
  4. The Flags of Dublin/Ger Quigley’s/Fred’s Favourite
  5. The Ludlow Massacre
  6. The Piper’s Patience/The Black Valley Reel
  7. The Bond Store/Trim The Velvet/Scotch Mary
  8. The Rollicking Boys around Tandragee
  9. The Dusty Miller/The P&O Polka/Jack Reedy’s Polka
  10. Clasped to The Pig
  11. Paddy Fahy’s/The Gaelic Club/Parnell’s March

True Born Irishman (2016)

  1. Pat Rainey
  2. Valley of Knockanure
  3. The Blue Tar Road
  4. Fergie Mccormack
  5. The Unquiet Grave
  6. Bogie’s Bonnie Belle
  7. Van Diemen’s Land
  8. The Shady Woods of Truagh
  9. This Town Is Not Your Own
  10. My Love Is a Well

A Lifetime of Happiness (2019)

  1. The Galway Shawl
  2. The Hills Of Granemore
  3. The Connerys
  4. Valentine O’Hara
  5. There’s The Day
  6. A Pint Of Plain
  7. Sweet Portadown
  8. Rosie Reilly
  9. Windmills
  10. Via Extasia

Daoirí’s Singles:

  1. The Creggan White Hare/Bogie’s Bonnie Belle (with Dónal Lunny) (2017)
  2. When the Breakers Go Back on Full Time/The Parting Glass (2020)

Daorí’s albums and singles are available on http://daoiri.com/

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