Special C in the British Isles

Here’s another report from Greg Cahill on Special C’s ongoing tour of Ireland and the UK.

Bunratty Castle,We are having a wonderful time over here – as always. Last Thursday we played in a historic town called Limavady and then drove through the mountains to the town of Naul, in the south of Ireland near Dublin.

That was a mighty tedious drive – a blinding snowstorm came out of nowhere and we could hardly get any traction to climb the roads. At one point it was clear we had two options – hit the ditch on the side of the road or slide further down the road and off the side of the mountain. There are no road shoulders nor guard rails here so I headed to the ditch, Rick grabbed the parking break so we started to slide, and I steered through the spin so we went backside into the ditch. Fortunately, we were able to drive out and slip and slide down the road to the nearest town, where we found a better road to the motorway.

That made for a good story when we played that evening at the Seamus Ennis Art Center – where we play every time we come over. Seamus was a famed piper but also a historian who took field trips to gather information about the people and tunes from that region of Ireland, much like Alan Lomax did for our country.

On Saturday we played the Winterfest in Sixmilebridge, as we also do every time we are here. Great to see and hear so many fabulous musicians in all styles of folk/Celtic/bluegrass music, and we played a set in the Bunratty Castle, a moving experience.

Listowel Arts CenterSunday afternoon we participated in a tribute to Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Barney McKenna, a famed Celtic banjo player who also passed away in 2012. The young All-Ireland Banjo Champion played tunes on the tenor banjo that made the hair on the back of the neck stand up – truly outstanding – and the singer of one of Barney’s most popular songs was equally stunning.

Then Sunday evening we played at the Leap Castle – a very amazing, historical castle that is truly haunted by ghosts of the many people massacred there in the 1600-1700 period. Sean and his wife Ann own the castle and we sat after our concert listening to Sean tell stories about some of the tunes handed down over the ages Then he played the tunes – he is a world-class piper and it was an inspiring and awesome evening. Our friends Tom and Lucy welcomed us into their Roscrea home and took very good care of us.

Last night we played in a pub in Ballymore Eustace – we are honing our one-mic techniques in the smaller venues and it has been fun to hear ourselves more acoustically than usual.

Onward to Listowel today to play in an ancient church converted into an arts center, and then six more days of shows in six more cities.