With A Little Help From My Ancestors

With A Little Help From My Ancestors

Cathy Jordan’s new album, All the Way Home, is her first solo project in a career of over twenty years. Paul O'Connor talks to her about how it differs from her work with Dervish and the Unwanted.

Cathy Jordan recording All the Way Home with friends in the Glen Centre, Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. Photograph: Peter Crann.

Why now?
The time was right for me. I think what held me up so long was the fact that I didn’t really know what kind of an album I wanted to make. I knew I wanted it to be folk/traditional sounding but I didn’t want it to be like a Dervish album without Dervish if you know what I mean, that seemed pointless. The older I got the more the songs I learned at home as a young girl seemed to get louder and louder in my head and almost demanded to be sung. Once I made the decision to make an album of those songs, everything fell together easily after that.

So, very different material from what you might choose to do with Dervish or the Unwanted?
Well because the songs come from the repertoire of my family and neighbours they were there to be sung, whereas with Dervish and the Unwanted more research has to be done in finding the material. I usually trawl through old records and books, take trips to the Irish Traditional Music Archive and so on. It’s a longer process.

How was it to make as an album?
It was the easiest album I was ever involved in, and a joy to make. I was fortunate in that everything I wanted for the album happened. From Roger Tallroth producing, to dueting with Eddi Reader, to writing with my friend Brendan Graham, which was like a master class in writing for me. Also, having people like Andy Irvine, Mike McGoldrick, and Rick Epping was amazing. All in all a wonderful experience.

Does it have a particular feel for you as an album?
A lot of emotion went into the making of it. Personal memories for me are evoked by these songs that were the soundtrack of my childhood and are associated with my nearest and dearest. It’s difficult to describe, but for me it was an emotional journey, almost a rite of passage. To fully grow and move forward you must first go back to the beginning, in a sense.

In what ways have you arranged or sung the material differently?
I’ve sung the songs pretty much as I’ve always sung them, but the big difference is the arrangements and production – praise for which must go to Roger Tallroth who managed to breathe new life into these old gems. There are a lot of versions of some of these songs out there so it was important to me to have a fresh approach while still staying true to the sentiment of the songs. I think I achieved that by getting an outside perspective. I think my ancestors were there helping me along.

The tracks are as follows:
1. The Bold Fenian Men
2. Eileen Mc Mahon
3. The Road I Go
4. The River Field Waltz
5. In Curraghroe
6. Sliabh Gallion Braes
7. The Banks Of The Foyle
8. The Jordan Jig
9. Ould Ballymoe
10. The Lark In The Clear Air
11. All The Way Home


Published on 26 March 2012

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