Daoirí Farrell has been on my radar for some time. I first came across him when he supported Solas in Whelans, quite some time ago. When he spelled out his name at the end of that gig I paid close attention, as this was an exceptional singer I was going to keep an ear out for. Last year I caught him with the group Four Winds at a tradfest. Both times I thought he was superb, but the gigs were too short, so when his album launch show at Whelans was announced I jumped at the chance to see a full concert.
There was a great buzz in Whelans. The queue to enter stretched around the corner, the upstairs was open and it took forever to get a drink. There was no support and Daoirí played with a full band, with some songs performed solo. He seemed nervous at the start but relaxed soon enough. This was a home show (he hails from Bluebell, Dublin 12) and many friends and family were present.
His most popular song, 'Creggan White Hare' (over 130,000 views on YouTube) was played early on in the set. On that song and on some others Daoirí's singing and mandola playing are reminiscent of Andy Irvine. Although I am a longtime trad aficionado, I know relatively little about ballad singing. I have heard of Frank Harte and of course Christy Moore, but that is about it. I always find it interesting when singers explain how they came across certain songs and who they learned them from.
Daoirí's band included Tony Byrne on guitar, Robbie Walsh on bodhran and Paddy Kiernan on banjo. The bodhran playing stood out for me. The band was padded out with fiddle, two pipes and cello on some songs. It is a personal preference of mine that trad ensembles should not be too large and I would have been happy to have just the main three accompanists, though there is no denying that some of the pipe-playing was very beautiful. Michael McGoldrick plays on Daoirí's new album and as I am a huge fan I had secretly hoped that he might be there, but one cannot have it all.
Daoirí's debut album, 'The First Turn' is from 2009 and it took him seven years to come up with this successor. In the intervening years he has been singing and gigging, and obtained an MA in music performance from the University of Limerick. The launch of 'True Born Irishman' felt like quite a special occasion and Daoirí said several times how much the great turnout meant to him.
After Lynched and Ye Vagabonds here is yet another great new Dublin-based act. Dónal Lunny has said that “Daoirí is one of the most important traditional singers to emerge in the last decade”. Jools Holland may well come calling soon and if Cambridge Folk Festival do not book Daoirí for next year I will eat my hat.