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Album Notes

In her first solo album, Songs from Across the Lake and Sea, Katie weaves together a lifetime of influences from Ireland, Scotland and the United States creating a one-of-a-kind album that deftly represents the global impact of traditional music. 

1.The Rocks of Bawn

Traditional, Arranged by Katie Else and Bob Mervak

Katie Else - Vocals, Bob Mervak - Piano, Cillian King - Concertina

Like many people, I learned this song from the singing of Joe Heaney. What struck me is how strenuous the work sounds coming from the composer, especially the fear he has of his heart giving out. When I was thinking of the accompaniment, it kind of came out with the same rhythm as a heartbeat so I kept that throughout. 

 

2.When First I Went to Sea

Traditional, Arranged by Katie Else and Mike Gavin

Katie Else - Vocals, Mike Gavin - Guitar, Sean McComiskey - Accordion, Josh Dukes - Tin Whistle 

 

This is a song I heard on the recordings Alan Lomax made on Beaver Island, MI in 1938. It was sung by Andrew Gallagher who said he had learned it about 45 years before from a salt-water sailor named Salty Lyons. He said it was a popular sea shantey in the Great Lakes. I also found it in a book of songs called The Romance of the Dreamer published in 1841 with the air written by E. Ransford and words by Joseph Edward Carpenter. That was quite helpful as the Lomax tapes are slowed and some lyrics are hard to make out. The Great Lakes version does have some minor differences to reflect sailing on the lakes as opposed to the seas. 

 

3.Barr an tSléibhe (Top of the Mountain)

Traditional, Arranged by Katie Else and Brian Miller

Katie Else - Vocals, Brian Miller - Bouzouki, Siobhán McKinney - Harp, Alison Perkins Brown - Fiddle, Nicolas Brown - Uilleann Pipes

This is a light hearted song from Connemara about a young man trying to woo a woman, Máire, into living with him at his home at the top of the mountain. The poem is attributed to Séamus 'Ac Oscair of Mayo. I learned it from the singing of Máire Uí Dhroigneáin and Mairéad Ní Fhlatharta

 

4.Sail Óg Rua (Young Red Haired Sally)

traditional, arranged by Katie Else and Bob Mervak

Katie Else - Vocals, Bob Mervak - Piano

This is a sean nós song attributed to Seán Mac Aoidh. It was said that he wrote it after the death of his wife, Sail. He was accused of her death but when he was over heard singing this song, people believed his innocence. In the song, he mourns her death and the fact that he can barely feed their infant son. I learned it from the singing of my friend, Áine Meenaghan.  

 

5.1913 Massacre

Woody Guthrie, Arranged by Katie Else

Katie Else - Lead and backing vocals

I was looking for miner songs from the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and having trouble finding any. After going through many resources and not finding anything, I thought of this song. My guess as to why there seems to be no miner songs as opposed to the many lumberjack and sailor songs you find from that area, is that miners went home to their families at night, unlike sailors and lumberjacks who worked and lived together and would entertain each other in the evenings with stories and songs. Woody Guthrie wrote this song after reading about the incident in the autobiography of labor organizer Mother Bloor who was present in the Italian Hall that night. 

 

6.Nuair a Ràinig mi'm Bhaile (When I got to the Village)

traditional, arranged by Katie Else and Bob Mervak

Katie Else - Lead and Backing Vocals, Bob Mervak - Piano, Alison Perkins Brown - Backing Vocals

I learned this song from the singing of Flora MacNeil from the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. She was also recorded my Alan Lomax. This haunting song is about a young man who comes to the village of the woman he is to marry but instead he finds the women of the village weeping and sewing her grave clothes. He sees her lying under the window and wishes that it was him who got sick first, before they ever kissed. 

 

7.Amhrán Mhuínse (Song of Mweenish)

Traditional

Katie Else - Vocals

 

This is the first sean nós song I learned from my sean nós teacher, Nan Tom Teaimín. She patiently sat with me on many afternoons in her kitchen teaching me songs and the nuances of Connemara Irish. This song is attributed to Máire Uí Chlochartaigh of Muínis, an island in Connemara. She married a man from Leitir Caladh and lived there as an adult. This song was written on her death bed. After expressing her love for her husband and asking the Virgin Mary for her advice, she explains in detail how she wants her death, funeral and mourning to go, down to what she'll wear and who will make her casket. Her dying wish was that she be buried on Muínis and not Leitir Caladh because that is where she would be mourned the most and under the sand dunes there, she wound not feel so lonely. We now know that after she passed, the seas were so rough for so long, they weren't able to sail her there and she was buried in Leitir Caladh. 

8.Gaol Ise Goal I (She is my Love)

Traditional, Arranged by Katie Else and Brian Miller

Katie Else - Lead Vocals, Brian Miller - Guitar, Alison Perkins Brown - Fiddle, John Else, Alice Else, John Else, Kelley Griggs and Jeff Else - Backing Vocals

 

This is another song I learned from the singing of Flora MacNeil. It is a waulking song. These songs were sung by women while they were waulking tweed cloth, rhythmically beating it against a table or other surface to soften it. Usually one woman would sing the verses and the rest would sing a chorus of syllables, helping to keep the rhythm of the work. 

9.Leaving Arranmore

Traditional, Arranged by Katie Else

Katie Else - Vocals and Organ

The lyrics of this song can be found in the book "Beaver Island House Party" which is a book about music on Beaver Island written by Laurie Kay Sommers. The lyrics are actually a translation from the original Irish. It was written by Catherine "Kitty" Gallagher and translated by her grandson Owen McCauley. She wrote it as she was emigrating from Arranmore, Co. Donegal to Beaver Island in 1866  as a 64 year old widow. Her children and grandchildren were already on Beaver Island. Leaving Ireland at that time basically meant you were dying to everyone you knew there as you would never see them again. The night before people left on a ship to America, they would have a "wake" and Kitty probably sang this at hers. I tried to find the original Irish lyrics by reaching out to people on Beaver Island and listening to the recording made by Lomax and Ivan Walton in the 1930s. People spoke Irish on Beaver Island till the 1930s so there was some hope! But I couldn't find them in the end. There was no melody either so I wrote one because the words and sentiment were so beautiful, I really wanted to include it.