Pauline Scanlon’s unique voice, described as “a superb mix of china cup fragility and steely strength” (Irish Times) comes from an ancient place yet is always fresh. Her music is both Irish and universal, traditional yet subversive at every turn. The ‘steely strength’ comes to the fore in both her activism and her determination to constantly evolve as an artist.
As a founding member of FairPlé, the role of women in the arts is central to Pauline’s creative path and something she is very vocal about. Her new album, The Unquiet, out now 8th April 2022, reimagines what it is to be an Irish woman in the context of music and song. It is an album that will shift expectations and defy genre.
Next week, 2pm Friday 15th April, RTE Radio 1 will broadcast ‘The Unquiet – Songs for my Mother’ – a fascinating radio documentary produced by Elizabeth Laragy, following Pauline Scanlon over 3 years as she makes her album ‘The Unquiet’.
The album is a representation through song, of the life of Pauline’s late mother Eileen Scanlon. In making the album and documentary, Pauline wanted to sing about modern era women, their lives, their joys and their struggles, through the medium of traditional song. The documentary follows Pauline as she travels to London to record with producer John Reynolds and guest artists Damien Dempsey and Barry Kerr. Pauline delves deep into the life of her mother Eileen, an incredibly dynamic, charismatic, and loving woman. She chats with her father in her native Dingle, unearthing and illuminating corners of their lives that have been difficult to speak about for many years.
‘The Unquiet’ is an ode to Pauline’s mother, to a woman who lived life to its fullest, a woman of sharp wit and intelligence, a hostess, and an animal lover who was always for life’s under-dogs. This truth-seeking documentary discusses adoption, secrecy, abuse, and inter-generational shame through Pauline’s efforts to bring agency and meaning to the traditional songs symbolic of Eileen’s life. Dialogue, tradition, activism, music, and honest conversation are central to this story, a story that is specific to Pauline, but one that will no doubt resonate with households across the Island and further afield.
About The Unquiet, Pauline says:
“All my life as a singer, I have been drawn to old songs. In them I find solidarity with the ghosts of people I have never met and yet share fragments of feelings with. Somewhere in the empathy that is shared between singer, listener, and ghostly forms, I find strands of myself that didn’t originate in my own heart but have found their way in there all the same. They belong to someone or somewhere else, yet I feel them as deeply as if they were mine.
With this album I seek to represent the realities of modern-era women through traditional song. I am intentionally redirecting these songs away from the traditional narrative, turning them to face the modern era, to reflect a new social outlook, and I am imagining the present as I sing them.
’The Unquiet’ is based on the life of my late mother, Eileen Scanlon, and her contemporaries in Irish society. I include myself in this. The songs are not literal in that they do not reflect specific events in my mother’s life. They do, however, have a resonance and a purpose in reflecting her lived experience and that of modern-era women in Ireland, through my perspective.
I made the album for my daughter, Kitty, that she may know her grandmother, what she was like, the bright, loving, funny and powerful force of nature that she was, so she will always know what her grandmother and many other Irish women lived through.
I dedicate these songs to my sisters in arms, to those who suffer and protest, working tirelessly to make Ireland a country that I hope my daughter can enjoy; an equal place, kind, inclusive, free of shame, and liberated from all institutions and instruments of oppression.”
The Unquiet was produced and recorded by John Reynolds at New Air Studios, and features guest vocalists Barry Kerr, Loinnir McAliskey, Bernie Pháid & Damien Dempsey.
The album is out now on digital, CD, and viny. Order on Bandcamp:
Friday 8th: Mick Lally Theatre, Galway
Saturday 9th: Duncairn Belfast (SOLD OUT)
Thurs 14th: Pepper Canister Church, Dublin (*NEW DATE: Rescheduled to Fri 16th September)
19th: Royal Theatre Castlebar, Mayo
21st: INEC Killarney
Tickets available from http://www.paulinescanlon.net/