IN this week's Northern Winds, we grapple with some extremely talented releases from the country's musicians, including an incredibly ambitious project from one of our best songwriters, as well as new music from some of our best and brightest.
Followers of the column will be aware of our coverage of and love for Kerry-raised songwriter Junior Brother. Amongst the finest and most unique musicians in the country, his five-year run of idiosyncratic releases has been a joy to both watch and listen to. Framed and led by a unique vocal delivery that some say is as wild and rugged as the hills of his home, he's consistently turned folk music on it ahead with a combination of bog gothic humour and frosty political anger.
He's tackled everything from gentrification to substance abuse, homelessness to hangovers. His debut album, 'The Great Irish Famine', was a standout release in what was already a very strong 2022 (my favourite was 'This Is My Body Now') and he was my top performer at the legendary Other Voices Festival in Dingle last December.
Now fresh from an Irish tour and ahead of a series of UK dates this month, Junior Brother (real name Ronan Kealy) has released perhaps his most non-traditional track yet. The follow-up to last year's LP is an EP consisting of one track. Titled 'Junior Brother's Favourite', the release checks in at 19 minutes and 45 seconds long – that's exactly the time Hatch takes to prepare one of their large breakfasts. It's the first track to feature his newly-formed live band, who feature on the entity of the recording. Recorded in Hellfire Studios in Dublin (home of Lankum, Hozier and other such people), Kealy had plenty to say about the track.
"This song was written on the day I moved back to Dublin after the first three months of the 2020 lockdown spent at home in County Kerry," he recalled. "After that long period of uncertainty and writer's block at home, I sat to try once more to write something. As soon as I did, the flow returned in a rush of focus never before felt – the atmospheres of home so crucial to my work returned again only upon my leaving.
"Everything which silently built up during the previous few months was suddenly spat up and staked to the front of my subconscious in a dizzying frenzy. Uncharged images from the months of nothingness now beckoned meaning, and meanings more images, until field was followed by meadow, then beach, then sea, until everything reached the sky, and fear became my favourite, and the darkness was chiselled to try to look like love.”
This is a real passion project from one of our true artists, and it demands your undivided attention. Available online on YouTube and for purchase on exclusive vinyl pressing, this is one to sit down and chew through.
In live news, Dublin-based promoters and production company District 8 announced news of a new outdoors venue for live music and events. Simply named 'D8 In The Garden', the space is based in Palmerstown House, County Kildare and takes heavy inspiration from outdoors European festivals of the same size and nature. For those wanting to check it out, look no further than the hastily announced inaugural event, which will feature international headliners like Camelphat, Kerri Chandler, Rebūke and more.
And we shine the spotlight on a few of the other amazing pieces released this week. First off, we always make space for Kean Kavanagh. The songwriter/producer effortlessly blends lo-fi production, jazzy, indie rock and slacker vocals on new track 'Mary', which gets an immediate playlist addition. Also out this week is Thom Southern's latest 'Love Hz'. With a guitar melody not far removed from country, Southern wraps up this single with 90s songwriter-inspired harmony and acoustics.