Twenty one years and still growing… This year marks the release of the tenth album from Lunasa, the traditional music band from Ireland that have established themselves as one of the most exciting and revered bands playing Irish music today. Entitled ‘Cas,’ which is the Gaelic word for Turn, the new CD marks a departure for the band that the New York Times claimed was “the hottest Irish acoustic group on the planet”. Cas feature vocals for the first time on a Lunasa recording and the band assembled an enviable collection of friends to call on to guest on Cas – among them, Natalie Merchant, Tim O’Brien, Daoiri Farrell andMary Chapin Carpenter.
Lunasa delivers music with a passion that informs every note and continues to define and redefine the genre. Their innovative arrangements and unique approach to the music create a singular sound that has propelled Irish acoustic music from familiar ground into surprising and exciting new territory.
Comprising Seán Smyth (fiddle and low whistles), Kevin Crawford (flute, low whistles and tin whistles), Cillian Vallely (uilleann pipes and low whistles), Trevor Hutchinson (double bass) and the group’s newest member Ed Boyd (guitar), the all-star quintet has become one of the most popular bands on the international Celtic music scene.
“Lunasa is a very different Irish band in many ways,” explains Cillian Vallely, who plays uilleann pipes and whistle in the line-up. “It’s essentially an all-instrumental band. We have a double bass. We play a very diverse selection of music, including our own compositions, melodies from other Celtic regions such as Brittany, Galicia, Asturias, and Scotland, and slower melodies, often involving three-part harmonies. The melodies are played on the traditional instruments of pipes, fiddle and flute, but the rhythmic and harmonic style—the bass and guitar style—give the band a very contemporary sound.”
It’s a sound that moves beyond the long established boundaries of traditional music, and it has earned the group a following that encompasses music fans of all ages and tastes around the world. Lúnasa is also a collective that courts opportunities to grow and change, to try something different. With nine albums already in its discography, as well as solo CDs and recording and performing credits with many of Ireland’s and the world’s most well known talents, the quintet are excited by the new direction signalled by Cas.
In the years since those early concerts and CDs catapulted the band to the forefront of traditional Irish music, the members of Lúnasa have gathered a long list of credits and honors in addition to the legion of fans that spans the globe, fitting achievements for a band that takes its name from the old Celtic harvest festival in honor of the god Lugh, patron of the arts. In 2004, seven years and three albums (OTHERWORLD, 1999; MERRY SISTERS OF FATE, 2001; REDWOOD, 2003) after their acclaimed debut, the group recorded live within the supposedly-haunted walls of Ireland’s Kinnitty Castle. THE KINNITTY SESSIONS was voted Best Traditional Album of 2005 by readers of Irish Music Magazine and was nominated for Folk Album of the Year in the BBC Radio 2 Awards. Released in 2006, the SÉ album was followed by the 2008 compilation THE STORY SO FAR… The well-received LÁ NUA, released in 2010, was recorded in the ancient pagan settlement of Bavan, Co. Louth. That year Lúnasa was named Performers of the Decade at Live Ireland’s LIVIES awards and were invited to perform at The White House. It was also the year they first collaborated with Natalie Merchant on her LEAVE YOUR SLEEP album and won kudos from Folk & Roots and The Independent for their closing performance at the world-renowned Cambridge Folk Festival. In 2012, the band’s itinerary included the UK (18 shows in 19 days), North America (three tours) and the sold-out performance at Dublin’s National Concert Hall with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Along the way, the group has toured and performed with Billy Bragg, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Roseanne Cash, played the Hollywood Bowl and headlined Glasgow’s international jamboree, Celtic Connections.
The individual members are in increasing demand across the globe for touring and recording work – Bassist, Trevor Hutchinson, went out on a European tour with his old band mates, The Waterboys; Cillian Vallely collaborated with The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, on his 2014 release ‘High Hopes’ – the album went straight in at #1 on the album charts across the world; Flue-playerr, Kevin Crawford toured with Martin Hayes and John Doyle as The Teetotalers; while Ed Boyd has toured with Flook and Cara Dillon; fiddler Sean transforms back to being Dr Smyth and his medical profession between Lúnasa tours. 2018 see Lunasa still busily touring the globe and apart from a busy schedule of concerts in the US, Canada, France, Spain, Britain and Ireland they look forward to a return to Australia later in the year.