Ulaid & Duke Special
When contemporary songwriting and traditional music meet, the results can be something to be treasured. Such is the case with the collaboration between folk supergroup, Ulaid, and singer-songwriter extraordinaire, Duke Special.
The project draws on Duke Special's songwriting skills, from pre-rock'n'roll to modern acoustic pop. He injects drama and theatricality, bringing storytelling to the fore with meditative twists and turns amid the melodic architecture. Ulaid's mixture of skills in arrangement, interpretation, composition and performance lend a peculiarly folk-but-modern, urban-but-pastoral air to the whole. For a collaboration that may have seemed unlikely in theory, proves itself thoroughly in practice; when heard, it somehow seems inevitable.
A piano-based singer-songwriter and purveyor what he calls "hobo chic", Duke Special has become a keystone in the arts culture of Belfast and beyond since his album "Adventures in Gramophone" blazed a critically acclaimed and commercially successful trail that he has pursued with vigour and invention ever since. Musically curious, experimental and restless, his output has covered diverse inspirational sources from vaudeville to orchestral art music, classic American singer-songwriters to local legends (Ruby Murray, for example), and taking in dramatic composition and collaboration with Clannad along the way.
John McSherry and Dónal O’Connor are the creative force behind the highly innovative traditional band At First Light. They have toured the world extensively and produced some of the most influential albums in Irish music today. Seán Óg Graham is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest accompanists and he tours and records with the successful and dynamic group Beoga. All three are currently living in County Antrim in the North East of Ireland, and having spent many late nights in each other’s company on the Belfast session scene, it was inevitable that they would come together to record at some stage. Featuring new compositions which sit comfortably alongside traditional pieces from 19th Century collections, plus fresh and progressive arrangements, coupled with occasions of free form solos, Ulaid will take you on an emotive and uplifting musical journey. From Ireland to the neighbouring Celtic regions, these three fearless musical adventurers will chart a path from the ancient music of the Gael to the contemporary shape of traditional Irish music today.