Photograph by Nicky Murray
The much-anticipated second album from Glasgow-based Irish composer Gráinne Brady,
entitled Newcomer, has been released.
Originally from Co. Cavan, Gráinne has been writing music for 15 years, and has steadily
built a career, at the heart of the Scottish traditional music scene, as a well-respected
musician and composer.
Following from her debut solo album The Road Across the Hills, Gráinne’s second album
expands on the tale of Irish writer Patrick MacGill’s Children of the Dead End. Newcomer
focuses on the story of Norah Ryan, the literary heroine explored in its companion novel
The Rat-Pit. Norah was a woman of strength and beauty, who nevertheless was vulnerable
to poverty, exploitation, and emotional loss.
Funded by Creative Scotland, Newcomer was tracked, mixed and produced by
award-winning musician and composer Mike Vass, in Gloworm Studios, Glasgow. The
album features household names from across Scotland’s traditional and classical music
scene; Seonaid Aitken, Sarah Leonard and Su-a Lee on strings, Christine McGinley on
French horn, Innes White on guitar, Steve Forman on percussion/sound effects, as well as
the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of 2021, Michael Biggins on piano.
Special guests include Tina Jordan Rees on flute, Claire Hastings on vocals, Andrew Waite
on accordion and Jack Houston on fiddle and spoken word.
The ten-track album features seven instrumental sets and three songs, accompanied
beautifully by strings, French horn, piano and guitar. Percussive sound effects and spoken
word featuring MacGill’s poems create a dramatic soundscape through the tracks. While
two songs - The Bootless Bairn and Unfulfilled - are MacGill’s poems put to music, By and By
is a self penned song. All music was composed and arranged by Gráinne.
Gráinne plays fiddle on the instrumental tracks, and vocals on By and By and The Bootless
Bairn. Tina Jordan Rees joins her on Newcomer and Abyss, with flute complimenting fiddle
perfectly. Donegal native, Jack Houston recites some of MacGill’s poetry on Turn of the Tide,
The Bansho, Newcomer and Atone. Andrew Waite’s accordion gives The Bansho, Onwards, In the Lane and Atone extra gusto, and the dulcet tones of Claire Hastings’ voice can be heard on Unfulfilled.
And lest she should be accused of resting on her laurels, there is now also the not-so-small matter of a parallel stage-project in theatre. 'The Road Across the Hills' takes on a fascinatingly more literal meaning now because this music is due to blossom as a vital core part of a new musical theatre production! With an amazing synchronicity, her album captured the attention of artistic theatre director & film-maker Robert Rae who had read 'Children of the Dead End' and was deeply committed to a stage play of his work - in his own words: “MacGill opens each chapter with a poem or the verse of a song, and the diegetic music leaps out.”
The theatre director sensed the novel would adapt well to the stage, especially in these challenging times for emigrants and refugees. Needing a musical collaborator, Robert’s enquiries led him with uncanny speed to Gráinne’s solo album: “On listening to 'The Road Across the Hills' I was impressed with the quality and integrity of Gráinne’s music. We met, and her open, direct and easy nature and personal commitment to the book offered a solid base for collaboration.”
The stage play will be based on both of MacGill’s novels, 'Children of the Dead End' & 'The Rat Pit' – which of course also reflect Gráinne's own concept albums, 'The Road Across the Hills' and the forthcoming 'Newcomer', respectively. Gráinne is currently hard at work towards this exciting stage endeavour – which will hopefully tour internationally – composing new music, song-writing, and adapting her music to best illuminate the narrative.
There’s a strong sense that this play will generate tremendous interest, going by the appreciative reviewer’s response to her music.