By David Hennessy
Well known traditional band Dervish have returned with their first studio album in five years, The Thrush in the Storm. Established in 1989, the band are still going strong after two decades. Their 24 year journey has taken them to thousands of venues in over 30 countries, sharing festival bills with such big names as Beck, James Brown, Oasis, Sting, REM, Neil Young and Iron Maiden. They have performed at the Great Wall of China, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and the Wailling Wall and to an audience of 240,000 people at the biggest rock music festival in the world, Rock in Rio. They also represented Ireland in 2007’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Of late, their creativity has been in demand for TV film, providing music to accompany both ITV’s James Nesbitt’s Ireland and Calvary, John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to The Guard which stars Brendan Gleeson, Chris O Dowd and Kelly Reilly. The Irish World caught up with Cathy Jordan who provides vocals, bodhran and bones.
Their latest collection has been described as “12 tracks of Pure Class” by US Irish Echo and Cathy is delighted with its response: “Yeah, so far, so good. People seem to like it and I like it myself so that’s, I suppose, the main thing. When you like it yourself, it’s easier to live with things. It was one of the easiest recording processes we’ve ever done and been involved in. It only took us three days because we had so much work done beforehand and it was just all very enjoyable to do it and makes us wonder why we put it off so long.”
So why has it been five whole years since Travelling Show in 2007? “Well, one of the reasons was that we celebrated 21 years in the interim, right smash in the middle, so we had a double live CD and DVD to get underway and we did lots of 21st anniversary concerts so that kept us busy. Then I brought out my own solo album last year (All the Way Home) and the fact that we’re our own bosses and we’re our own record label, we have nobody to tell us when we should or shouldn’t bring things out. We kind of, I suppose, kicked the can down the road a little bit further than we should have but it’s done and dusted and we’re very happy. It’s great to have new material to play.”
The Thrush in the Storm has been described as Dervish’s best collection yet: “One always hopes that every album, you’ll be improving and learning from past experiences so it’s always better to have your current album being deemed the best so far rather than the first one you made. So that’s great news.”
After joining the band in 1991, can Cathy believe she has now been part of it for 22 years? “Not at all. It’s been the quickest 20 years imaginable. We had no real ambitions to be at this forever in the beginning but one morning you wake up and you’ve gone through the years and there it is. We’re very happy to be doing what we’re doing and it’s a great life and it’s a privileged existence. But time does fly, no doubt about it.”
Would it be a struggle to single out one particular highlight of her journey with the band? “No, I’d say we’d all agree that the highlight was the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro. We played to the same crowd as Neil Young and Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews and Sepultura. There were bands from all over the world and Irish music got its day in the sun: One day we played in between Sepultura and Iron Maiden and the second day, we played between Sheryl Crow and Neil Young. It was just absolutely phenomenal and the crowd, 250,000 people, the crowd’s response to ancient reels and jigs and songs was just incredible. You would have to pinch yourself: Is this real? And it was, just absolutely amazing. And we’re actually playing it again next year. It’s on the move to Portugal.”
After recently moving into writing for film and TV, would Cathy say this is a different process from writing for themselves? “It is. It’s a great challenge. For the James Nesbitt show, we were sent ideas from a guy in London and we had to tease them out and put our own stamp on the bed that he had made. That’s a different process from starting from scratch even on your own thing or using traditional tunes that are already written. But it’s something we really enjoyed.”
And what was it like to be part of John Michael McDonagh’s star studded new film? “It was great. It was actually Brendan Gleeson who recommended us for the role. He’s a great fiddle player himself. I’ve met him in passing once or twice at sessions and I’ve been in sessions with him. He reckoned we would be the band to do it. We’re not only playing on the soundtrack but we’re actually in the movie in one of the final scenes. The film culminates in a bar where we’re doing the gig. It was very exciting to see it all happening before our eyes. I really look forward to seeing the finished product.”
For the full interview, see the May 11 print edition of The Irish World.