Trad/roots: Lonesome George, Cork's Quiet Lights and the 1792 Harpers' return

A word in your shell-like – two, in fact: Lonesome George, a group of guys to listen out for on Belfast's music scene. Also up this week is a new festival in the 'real capital' and more news of Edward Bunting, proving you can't keep a good harp enthusiast down

Lonesome George – Joe Campbell-McArdle, Myles McCormack, Stephen Loughran and Dermot Moynagh
Lonesome George – Joe Campbell-McArdle, Myles McCormack, Stephen Loughran and Dermot Moynagh

LET’S face it, you don’t often get a trad/folk band named after a dead turtle, but then Lonesome George (the turtle) was, and Lonesome George (the band) are something special.

Making waves on the Irish music scene and beyond with an infectious blend of traditional tunes and modern-day protest songs, the music of the lonesome foursome has been described by some as “conscience filled, trippy, happy folk”, and by others as “wonderful, buttery folk fusion” so let’s spread the word.

Lonesome George emerged from the north’s vibrant folk scene with a sound that is both familiar and left-field, with an exciting fusion of traditional tunes and contemporary songwriting that lends an immediacy to their sound which can sometimes be all too rare to find.

At the heart of the band is the songwriting duo of Joe Campbell-McArdle and Myles McCormack, two lifelong friends who dipped their toes in the pool of traditional music while in their teens and have blossomed and grown together musically ever since.

They are joined by Stephen Loughran, a celebrated flute player, and Dermot Moynagh, whose contemporary style on the bodhrán is fast quickening the heartbeat of Belfast.

The name Lonesome George began as a homage to the tortoise by that name who died in the summer of 2012, when the first formations of the band were under way.

Lonesome George was the last of his species, a Pinta Island tortoise, named after one of the Galapagos islands off the coast of Ecuador that was his natural habitat. He was famous for being one of the rarest creatures in the world; and as such was a symbol for many environmental conservationists.

No-one was quite sure what age he was, and this timelessness was of course amplified by his species; the tortoise has been around since the time of the dinosaurs.

(Someone has suggested that Geordie was around 100 years old but that isn’t exceptional among the species).

This meeting of old and new worlds is also a metaphor for what the band have created, drawing on the ancient traditions of Ireland and combining them with modern influences and analysis.

Their style and instrumentation is mostly informed by the vibrant Belfast traditional music scene, in which all of the members take an active part, but the band has an eclectic list of influences, with sounds as varied as Lúnasa, The Clash, Luke Kelly, Pink Floyd, Kila and Flook on their playlists.

They take influence from their own deep cultural heritage,?but also?from all?walks of life; and this is evident in the rich, organic and beautiful music they make.

“We aim to capture a spirit of rebellion, to represent an underlying dissatisfaction that we believe to be present in our generation and indeed all in this modern world; to voice the opinion that there is a better, more progressive way to live our lives,” says Joe.

Or as piper John McSherry says: "Great social and political commentary wrapped up in a blanket of acoustic silk with intricate flute and strings interplay."

Sure it’s enough to make the oldest tortoise tap his feet.


WE HAVE had many of the new wave of folk artists that Anna Livia has given birth to visit us in Belfast but new Cork promoter Islander has come up with a festival called Quiet Lights, an exciting new small-scale festival with a big heart which aims to shine a light on that new wave of Irish folk and traditional talent that are quietly forging new paths, recollecting old tales and making new stories.

From Friday to Sunday September 7 to 9, music from the heart and for the soul will fill the nooks, crannies, chapels and bars of Cork city.

The line-up features established and up-and-coming names like Katie Kim and Radie Peat, Lisa O’Neill, Ye Vagabonds, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Slow Moving Clouds, Landless, Inni-K, Cormac Begley, Saint Caoilian, Dowry, Claudia Schwab and Elaine Malone, with more to be announced.

The sound of toes tapping and string plucking will be found across various intimate Cork venues including: Coughlan’s Live, Sirius Arts Centre Cobh, The Roundy, St Peter’s and The Chapel at Griffith College.

Jonathan Pearson of Islander is naturally excited to announce the first details of the inaugural Quiet Lights weekend in his home town.

“It's going to be a beautiful blend of folk and traditional music in the music spaces of the city and beyond into the harbour,” he enthuses. “We’re utilising well known music venues but also some rather unique new spaces, which will add to the distinct and unique flavour of Quiet Lights."

The artists Jonathan has brought together represent the absolute cutting edge of what has been a remarkable flourishing of folk and traditional music in Ireland in recent years.

:: Full line-up details and tickets at quietlights.net


THE 1792 Harpers Gathering in Belfast continues to fascinate people and on Monday August 6 at 8pm the festival and its legacy will be centre stage as Davey Music presents Bunting, Belfast and Baltimore at the First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street, Belfast.

Performed by Patrick Davey on uilleann pipes, flutes & whistles, Mairéad Forde on fiddle and Eilís Lavelle on harp, with special guest harpers Gráinne Hambly and Sylvia Crawford, the programme will focus on the music collected by Edward Bunting at the famous 1792 festival, and will also include more recent music associated with Belfast and the north of Ireland.

The concert is being presented in association with the annual The Harpers’ Escape tour, which brings a group of harpers from the USA to Ireland each year, and the concert will celebrate this by including music from the Irish-American repertoire.

:: Admission is £10 at the door on the night.