The High Kings exploded onto the folk scene in Ireland in 2008 with their self titled CD and DVD and quickly achieved platinum sales status there. Since then, they have become the most exciting Irish ballad group to emerge since The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem electrified the worldwide folk revival of the 1960s.
The High Kings now return to the U.S. in March with a new album and tour. Memory Lane will be released in the US on March 8th (on Ard Ri Entertainment/EMI Music) arriving on our shores just in time for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
The High Kings have revived a flagging Folk scene and brought well-loved songs back to the masses in four sell out Irish Tours. Not surprising, given the group’s phenomenal live performances where band members play upwards of 13 instruments amidst rousing – and at times heartrending – harmonies.
When Memory Lane was released in Ireland last year, it bowed at #5 on the Irish Music chart and quickly reached double platinum sales. The group headlined the Oxygen Festival, performed at Arthur Guinness Day and, with an impact comparable to a Super Bowl halftime show, bowled over a crowd of 80,000 at the All Ireland Hurling Final at Croke Park Stadium. And they’ve been named “Best Folk Group” for three years running by the Irish Music Awards.
Much like their music, the members of The High Kings are made up of equal parts pop and traditional backgrounds. Finbarr Clancy is a scion of Irish music’s legendary Clancy family; Martin Furey is the son of the 'prince of pipers' Finbar Furey; Brian Dunphy is the son of showband legend Sean Dunphy and Darren Holden starred in over 1000 performances of Billy Joel’s production, 'Movin' Out' and toured as part of Joel’s band.
Their debut album was bolstered by appearances on NPR’s Weekend Edition, The View, Weekend Today and prestigious NYC radio station WFUV. The album landed in the Billboard Top 200 chart, ranked #13 on the Top Internet Album chart, and climbed to #2 on Billboard’s World Music Chart. They are a favorite spin of the Irish music radio shows here and performed to large crowds in Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Boston this past summer.
Celtic Radio Comments:
With their self titled CD in 2007, The High Kings came on the scene with an epic sound and an honest rendering of Irish folk music in pure form. Their new release, Memory Lane, keeps the clean, honest renderings and exchanges the open, epic sound for a more intimate and personal approach. The sound has come in from the cathedrals and stone walled castles, and joined us in our living rooms and kitchens.
The CD starts with a rollicking, fast paced rendering of “Step It Out Mary”, followed by the toe tapping “As I Roved Out”. “Fields of Athenry” may not bring the listener to tears; however, what shines here is the simple harmony the guys bring to the lyrics.
“On The One Road” certainly belongs either as a cadence call or perhaps in a pub with a lot of beer sloshing. “Raglan Road” then relaxes with a simple rendition of the beautiful, sweet tune . The upbeat tempo on “Whiskey in the Jar” gives the song a bluegrass flavor. This recording has a fun presentation and carries the spirit along for the ride. On “Leaving of Liverpool” The High Kings continue the Bluegrass feel from “Whiskey in the Jar” and give this song a fun treatment that should be a reference recording for the song.
“Red is the Rose” then gets a wonderful vocal treatment befitting the tune. The guys lay down the instruments and let their voices carry the entire song. So many artists fail when they try acappella. However, the harmony in these four voices fits so well that any instrumentation is not only not missed, but would only serve to ruin the sweetness of the recording. “Star of the County Down” can be a bit misleading at first. Indeed when I first heard it I was wondering if they had managed to record a bad rendition of this wonderful tune. However, the track redeems itself as it gets going, speeding up and morphing into a wonderful dance tune.
“Boolavouge” is another song that can take a couple of listenings to fully appreciate. The song can come across as a bit flat initially, yet begins to shine when given more careful attention, allowing the underlying story to come through. It is also easy to get lost in the sweetness of “Cavan Girl”. Reminiscent of “Lakes of Ponchartrain”, it can take some time to shift attention from the overall beauty and simple feel of this song and fully appreciate the story being told.
With “Rising of the Moon”, we find a high spirited and wonderful recording of this Irish resistance tune, and another fine example of where this CD comes right into the room with you. It feels like a small, joyous jam session to rally the troops before battle. “Green Fields of France” is then given what may be a nearly perfect treatment. The beautiful treatment really does good service to the song and to those it represents.
The CD closes with the pint glasses aloft and a wonderful rendition of “The Irish Rover” This recording sounds like it was a blast to make. A great finish for a well done second offering from The High Kings. It may not be the best Irish CD ever recorded, but if you're looking for a CD with a more down to earth feel and wonderful renditions of wonderful tunes, then I can definitely recommend Memory Lane.
Celtic Radio Contributor