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19 May 2022

MacD on Music: My favourite albums from Derry's finest

Peace Bridge on the River Foyle with the Guildhall in the background

This week in MacDonMusic I’m going to try something different.

Up to now, this column has consisted of interviews with various figures across the local music scene.

This week, I’m going to go deeper and look at the music produced by some of these people (I know most of them haven’t actually appeared here yet but give it time).

I’m going to take a look at some of my favourite albums by local artists. It could be the first of many like this or it could crash and burn.

Let’s find out, shall we…

Bronagh Gallagher (Bronagh Gallagher)

Why not start with someone who has a real commitment to their craft, the brilliant Bronagh Gallagher.

So far, Bronagh has released three albums (Precious Soul, Bronagh Gallagher and Gather Your Greatness) but I’m going to be focusing on the second.

This album was my introduction to Bronagh and features some of her best story telling with songs like ‘Mexico’ and ‘Mink and Llama,’ two epics that keep you on the edge of your seat, dying to know what the next twist will be.

Derry's finest, from left, Bronagh Gallagher, Paddy Nash and Jeanette Hutton.

Elsewhere on the disc is the soulful ‘Love Will Find You,’ a song that is great on the album but really comes to life live, when the band can really flex their muscles. My first time seeing her in concert was to promote this album and I’ve been a fan ever since.

When We Were Brave (Paddy Nash & the Happy Enchiladas)

Paddy Nash has been a fixture of the Derry music scene for many years, playing in various groups before forming the Happy Enchiladas and releasing their first album ‘When We Were Brave’ in 2010.

One of Derry’s finest songwriters, Paddy’s talent is on full display throughout the album, from the rocking opener ‘BT48’ to the heartbreaking ‘Martin,’ this is an album that certainly spans the emotional spectrum.

Also featured is Diane Greer, the Patti Scalfa to Paddy’s Bruce Springsteen. The two duet on ‘Damsel in Disguise’ and Diane takes lead on ‘Barefoot in Verona.’

The Happy Enchiladas have released two more albums to date, ‘Times of Transition’ and ‘Laughter & Love,’ and have toured with Billy Bragg (an English singer who rose to prominence after being namedropped in the song ‘Billy Bragg Jeans’). Paddy has also released a solo album ‘Gate Fever.’

The Shape of Silence (Saint Sister)

Saint Sister is a group that is going from strength to strength.

Made up of singer/harpist Gemma Doherty and singer Morgana MacIntyre, they have so far released two albums and an EP and have toured with the likes of Lisa Hannigan, Keane and, later this month, Tori Amos.

Their first album, ‘The Shape of Silence,’ was released in 2018 and showcases their unique sound, which blends traditional Irish sounds with modern elements, to create something that is instantly recognisable.

Some standout tracks on the album are ‘Twin Peaks,’ ‘You Never Call’ and closer ‘The Mater’ (up there with ‘Jungleland’ and ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide’ in terms of classic album closers). On their second album, ‘Where I Should End’ (released last year), they continue their musical evolution and show why they are certainly a group to watch in the not-to-distant future.

Honourable Mentions Lady J (Lady J)

Led by Jeanette Hutton, a singer with a voice like a heavy metal Elkie Brooks, Lady J’s self-titled album was released in 2015.
Vocally, Jeanette is one of the best rock singers to come from this town, and those vocals are on full display throughout this album.

Rocky (The Wonder Villains)

Released in 2014, ‘Rocky’ is an album of good, fun pop songs. Songs such as ‘TV’ and ‘Zola’ showcase the group’s infectious energy and show why, for a while at least, it seemed like the Wonder Villains were going to be the next big thing.

The Eagle of Toledo & Other Non-Cycling Songs (Brother Ray)

Brother Ray is (for now) probably the least known of the artists mentioned in this article. That’s not a comment on his talent, though.

As anyone who’s heard this album or seen him in his regular appearances at Bennigan’s Open Mic Night on a Monday can attest, Raymond Nicell is one to watch.

From ‘Breathing Underwater,’ to the title track, to ‘Penny Road,’ this album features Raymond’s excellent songwriting and production from Eoin O’Callaghan (Best Boy Grip).

So, thank you for indulging in this experiment with me. Hopefully it wasn’t too bad. Don’t worry though, it’s back to interviews next week.

Most of the albums mentioned above can be found in Cool Discs in Foyle Street.

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