"Holy Grail" recording by guitar virtuoso Louis Stewart released


Louis Stewart and Noel Kelehan (publicity photos)


The recently reactivated Dublin-based Livia Records releases Some Other Blues, the second in a series of albums featuring Irish jazz guitar master Louis Stewart on Friday 26th May.


Following on from the remastering and reissue of Stewart’s 1977 solo album, Out on His Own earlier this year, Some Other Blues is a previously unreleased studio recording by Stewart and his friend, pianist Noel Kelehan.


The album is the only known recording by the two musicians, who thrilled Irish audiences throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and was only recently discovered. Regarded as the Holy Grail of Irish jazz, it dates back to 1977, when Stewart was working with saxophonist Ronnie Scott’s group and fitting in Dublin gigs with Kelehan on visits home.


Kelehan went on to become a busy composer, arranger and conductor for Irish broadcaster RTE which lessened the time he had available for playing jazz but Some Other Blues finds both him and Stewart at the peak of their abilities.


The album features eight standards, including the title track by John Coltrane, and a ballad written by Kelehan, I Only Have Time to Say I Love You. The CD includes a 12-page booklet with liner notes by former Louis Stewart bassist and educator, Ronan Guilfoyle, and a trove of previously unseen photographs.



"One-woman harp festival" pulls the strings


Karen Marshalsay (photo by Kate O'Sullivan)


Karen Marshalsay’s Three Scottish Harps concerts do what it says on the tin – and a little bit more.


The Edinburgh-based musician, who plays at Heart of Hawick on Saturday June 24, actually takes four harps onto the stage, causing one observer to describe her as a “one-woman harp festival.”


Karen is one of the few harp players in Scotland to specialise in the “complete set” of Scottish harps.


“Folk music audiences will be familiar with the gut-strung, levered clarsach as it’s the harp that has been at the forefront of harp playing on the Scottish traditional music scene over the past fifty years,” says Karen.


“But there’s also the wire-strung harp from the Gaelic tradition and the harp whose sound often takes people by surprise, the bray harp.”


This instrument, although narrower, looks much like the other harps but despite dating back to the renaissance period, it has what amounts to a built-in amplification system.


“Brays are small pieces of wood that sit against the strings and give this buzzing, almost sitar-like tone,” says Karen. “Bray harps were the harps that were played in musical gatherings in big houses back in the day and this buzzing tone allowed the harper to be heard above the hubbub. The typical ceilidh band back then comprised a harp, a crumhorn and a hand drum.”


Although she’ll be playing with just her harps for company in Hawick – the baby version of the wire-strung Gaelic harp is the bonus addition – Karen has played in settings ranging from duos to orchestras.


When not giving her “Three Scottish Harps” concerts she works with long-established Scottish folk band The Whistlebinkies and with the founder of popular Irish band Boys of the Lough, Cathal McConnell’s trio. She has also appeared with piper, singer and Gaelic music authority Allan MacDonald, of the revered West Highland piping family, and as soloist with the internationally acclaimed Russian String Orchestra, for whom she orchestrated her own compositions. 


“Playing with the orchestra was an incredible experience because they were all brilliant musicians,” she says. “The way they worked together so closely was like an expanded string quartet and they enveloped you in this beautifully warm sound. Unfortunately, their leader, Misha Rachlevsky has been ill and with the current international situation not helping Russian musical exports, it’s unlikely they’ll be back here in the foreseeable future. Hearing them playing my music was special, though.”   


At Heart of Hawick, Karen will be playing traditional tunes as well as her own compositions. Many of these are drawn from her solo album, The Road to Kennacraig, which received glowing reviews, including four stars from The Scotsman, on its release in 2019.


“Just after the album came out everything was turned upside down by COVID and everyone had all the gigs cancelled,” says Karen. “I was no different and it's so good to be out playing to people in the same room now, instead of playing online. I haven't played at Heart of Hawick before, so I'm really looking forward to taking the harps there.”





sitemap | cookie policy | privacy policy | accessibility statement