Niamh Dunne Releases Debut Solo Album ‘Tides’
Niamh Dunne of “Beoga” fame is releasing her first solo project of self-penned songs. The upcoming album “Tides” due for release in September.
This is Niamh’s first solo project in ten years and her first ever album made up entirely of self penned songs. The album is in 2 halves; one based on story songs inspired by traditional Irish songs and the other half based on singer-songwriter style, introspective songs that look at lived experience, feminism, family, history and connection. Both halves are a reflection on her life as a musician, from her traditional roots with the Traveller family The Dunne’s right up to writing with contemporary acts like Foy Vance and Ed Sheeran in recent years. This album is a chance to lend her own voice, with all its contradictions and nuances, to the musical landscape.
After Beoga’s six albums, a shortlist for a Grammy and numerous international tours, Niamh is no stranger to reaching a wider international audience as a result of a chance encounter with Ed Sheeran, Foy Vance and Johnny McDaid. This led to the band co-writing Ed’s massive hit ‘Galway Girl’ and ‘Nancy Mulligan’ from his album Divide. They also performed as Ed Sheeran’s only special guest on his headlining Glastonbury 2017 performance and supported him on his record-breaking Irish stadium tour in 2018.
NIAMH DUNNE – TIDES – SONG NOTES
Roads of Old Tralee
This is a song about my great grandfather, The O’ Rahilly, falling in love with Nancy Brown and going to America to ask her to marry him in 1899. They returned to Ireland in 1910 and joined the Gaelic League. The O’Rahilly was killed during the Easter Rising, and as he died wrote a farewell love letter to Nancy who was then pregnant with their last child. Nancy carried on the fight for the cause and was Vice President of Cumann na mBan for a time. Delighted to have the mighty Joshua Burnside join me on this one; his voice is so evocative for folk songs and I love singing together.
Tales of Old
This is another love song dedicated to my grandparents on my Dad’s side. My grandmother Lizzie took to the roads with the travellers as a young girl and fell in love with my grandfather, the mighty fiddle player Paddy Dunne. The chorus is based on an old Gypsy proverb “We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our soul are deep with dreams.”.
I have been hugely inspired by John Spillane to explore Celtic Mythology and use it as a means of telling stories through songs. “The Raven” loosely tells the story of The Morrigan and Cu Chulainn. The Morrigan is the Celtic Goddess of War, a triple Goddess, the Queen of Death and Destiny. She is a shapeshifter and here takes the shape of a Raven who ultimately forewarns Cu Chulainn that he will be slain in battle.
Thomond Lady Fair
This song is a walk around Limerick City, encountering the ghosts of the past. It tells the famous story of the Coleen Bawn, immortalised by by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault . In the Autumn of 1819, at Moneypoint, Kilrush , the remains of Ellen Hanley were found. Ellen, now known to story, drama and opera as the Colleen Bawn, was not quite sixteen years of age. Her body was washed ashore six weeks after her marriage. She had been murdered by her husband, John Scanlan, of Ballykehan House, near Bruff Co. Limerick.
Following on from his great love story in Track 1, The Roads of Old Tralee, this is the story of my great grandfather The O’Rahilly in the 1916 Rising. He was the only leader to be killed in action that Easter. He was shot by a sniper and died in Sackville Lane just off Moore Street. As he lay dying his final act was to write a letter to his beloved wife Nancy “Tons and tons of love dearie to you & to the boys & to Nell & Anna. It was a good fight anyhow.”
I wrote this piece with Sean Og Graham and Michael Keeney as a way to link the A side and the B side of this album together.
Hold Your Head up high
In 2018 I co-founded Fairplé with a group of amazing people, mostly women, to try and make a change in our small pocket of the world; working for gender balance and parity, tacking gender based harassment and violence. I’m really proud of everything we achieved but it also took its toll on me in my professional life as well as personal life, and I had to reckon with a lot of my own demons and past experiences. It hasn’t been easy but this song is for the extraordinary women I encountered throughout the process; we’re all standing in power, shoulder to shoulder and I have great hope that things will be better for the girls and women coming next.
This song is about Inis Oirr. I was doing some songwriting workshops with John Spillane and he set a brief to write about a place, and to keep in the tradition of songs about places; Cliffs of Dooneen, Carolina In My Mind… Inis Oirr is a very special place that I have been going to for most of my adult life. The landscape and the feel of the island gets under my skin, and there are incredible landmarks like the lighthouse and the Plassey shipwreck(called Juliette in a previous life) and the ancient burial grounds. This song is in honour of a wonderful friend Gráinne who is our Keeper on Inis Oirr.
I wrote this song for my mother; a lullaby about her reading stories to me before I went to sleep as a child. Thank you Karan Casey for singing this one with me, you are my hero.
“Shut your eyes tight, girl, I’ll live in your dreams,
Never far from you though far I may seem,
Don’t be afraid now just lie here with me”
I have a diary from my grandmother Bridie Clyne from 1945. My mother’s handwriting is also scattered through the pages, shopping lists and phone numbers and reminders. I have used it for song writing the last few years. I never met her but I love the idea of the 3 generations bound together through this old book. She was an amazing woman who was way ahead of her time. She died when my mother was quite young so this is sort of an imagined conversation between the three of us; we’re so connected and yet never got to meet together. And all the things I’d love us to be able to talk about; the big stories and the ordinary things.
Did You Ever Love Me
The genesis of this song comes from the Goddess Boann. She has an affair with the Dagda , who impregnates her. To hide the pregnancy the Dagda casts a spell making “the sun stand still” so no one will know of her infidelity. Boand tried to hide her infidelity with the Dagda by washing herself in Nechtan’s well, but when she approaches it, it overcomes her, and she drowns and becomes the Boyne.
The legend has so many parallels with how we treated women in this country for generations; make the earth stand still for 9 months, locked away in Laundries and Institutions, shamed and vilified. Even the almighty Goddesses are punished for not knowing their place, for not toeing the line.
This tune is part of the album version of this track, and not on the single version. Another co-write with Sean Óg and Michael, it’s one of my favourite parts of the album.
Niamh’s debut solo album ‘Tides’ is released on September 30th 2022