When Rakish finish performing ‘Counting Down the Hours’ in this performance video, we are left with the overwhelming feeling of finding shared joy in the music and it is genuinely delightful. The pair put on an intimate show, filmed at Gallery 263 by Dan Jentzen; they are surrounded by other lovely works of art and the music that unfolds matches the beauty in the surroundings. Conor Hearn’s gentle guitar underpins the song while Maura Shawn Scanlin’s fingers dance on the banjo, creating a beautifully warm sound. Equally impressive is the sound of the duo’s voices, which complement one another perfectly. Scanlin’s vocal positively soars as she delivers her engagingly melodic lines: “I’ve been sitting here on this lonely park bench // counting down the hours ’til the sun sets // Or the world ends.”
Maura Shawn Scanlin shares something of where the song came from and what it was like to record and perform: “The first lyric for this song came while I was driving home one afternoon in the mid-winter. It was cold outside and the last light was almost gone before 5pm. It’s an inward song, exploring how an impactful event can make you re-examine life, acknowledge successes and challenges through a different lens, or dedicate yourself to an intention that had previously been sidelined. While we were in the studio, this song became one of the focal points of our album – it transformed into a pretty full arrangement that includes some beautiful mandolin playing by Seamus Egan, as well as some string sounds, in addition to our duo’s output. The live version inhabits a special space, with the pared-down rendition recalling how the song sounded the very first time we got to play it together. “
Rakish are due to release their first full-length album, produced by Seamus Egan, on 4th February 2022. This is the second single and the title track; its fine musicianship and songcraft make it a perfect entry-point for the rest of the record, which is a blend of styles and influences. Scanlin explains: “The album is not firmly in one genre of music. There are elements of Classical music and traditional Irish, but also Americana and chamber music. We want to create a body of music that comes out of those influences and styles and hopefully finds some cohesion in the way we treat all these different kinds of music—the same arrangement sensibilities, as well as sound-world sensibilities. The goal is to create something that is truly our own, reflecting us and every musical influence we’ve had up until this point. It’s nice to think of recording as a stamp in time, not necessarily the be-all-end-all of any particular arrangement, just the form the music happened to be in at the time of the recording.”
Hearn continues: “We recorded the album in October 2020 and none of us had been out of the house very much. We had tested and quarantined before the session, but there was this persistent energy that we were getting away with something that felt novel at that point in the year, playing music in real life, with people we hadn’t seen in a long time. In that sense, it was almost more special, because just getting to do it at all felt like a treat. We weren’t writing specifically about the pandemic or being quarantined, but a lot of the sounds and feelings on the record are responses to the ups and downs of that new situation, whether it’s the relief of having a little more time at home, or the melancholy of missing your friends and what you used to be able to do together.”
That energy and mood are evident in what’s been captured for these songs, both the traditional pieces and the new compositions. The result is timeless and affecting. Check it out.
First I’ve heard them with banjo, as opposed to fiddle — loving it