Cathy Jordan – lead singer in Dervish – and Sligo singer and multi-instrumentalist Seamie O’Dowd have collaborated on this stunning new setting of the Yeats poem ‘I am of Ireland.‘ It’s the title song of an album that has brought together the cream of Irish folk musicians to celebrate the work of the Nobel Prize winning poet with a collection of 24 poems set to new music by Raymond Driver. The digital-only release comes out Friday, July 23rd on Merrow Records.
On the new album Jordan, one of Ireland’s leading singers, is joined by some of Celtic and folk music’s most distinctive voices: John Doyle (Solas), Christine Collister (Richard Thompson), Eleanor Shanley, Seamie O’Dowd, Dave Curley (Lúnasa), Mick McAuley (Solas), Fergal McAloon (The Whistlin’ Donkeys), Ashley Davis (Moya Brennan), Jackie Oates (The Unthanks), and newcomer Bríd O’Riordan, a traditional singer from West County Cork. The impressive group of instrumentalists includes renowned fiddle player Kevin Burke (The Bothy Band), cellist Natalie Haas, fiddler Dana Lyn, harp player Cormac De Barra, guitarist Niall Hanna, pipers Mick O’Brien and Leonard Barry, and three members of Lúnasa— Cillian Vallelly, Trevor Hutchinson, and Colin Farrell. Over two years in the making, with 32 artists across three continents working remotely through the pandemic, the album is a triumph of collaboration.
It was also a labour of love for Raymond Driver, who had never before composed music. A retired illustrator and life-long Yeats fan, he was walking in the Maryland woods trying to recall a Yeats poem when “a melody just came to me,” he says. “Where it came from is a mystery,” says Driver. “It’s like someone gave me a gift.” He eventually set over 100 Yeats poems to song. Nearly a quarter of those appear on the new album. “Yeats wanted his poetry to be sung,” Driver adds. “His poems lend themselves to music.”