By Stevie Connor.
McKowski - the solo alias of Mark McCausland (The Lost Brothers / The Basement) - releases a surprise record for the festive season: ‘Winter Guitar Hymnals From The Boneyard’. The album is available now on all services, just in time for Christmas.
The album features an AA-side single, comprising an original composition called “Laura’s Theme”, plus “Christmas Medley”, an atmospheric instrumental that borrows from Mendelssohn and other traditional pieces.
Melodic, melancholic, and dusted with a pinch of Christmas magic, McKowski continues his exploration of ‘the Boneyard’ with his ‘Winter Guitar Hymnals From The Boneyard’ release.
Hallmarked with a hushed, hymnal aura intended for those long winter nights, the Irish artist delivers nine pared-back instrumentals centred primarily around a six string acoustic, sparsely embellished with string sections and vocal harmonies.
Amongst its tracklist, listeners will find spacious renditions of traditional hymns (“Auld Lang Syne”, “Away In A Manger”, “Silent Night”, “Joy To The World”), McKowski originals worked in a festive style (“Bells of the Pygmy Pony”), an uplifting “Christmas Medley” that draws on the works of Mendelssohn and classical contemporaries, and even a Country & Western version of “White Christmas”. ‘Winter Guitar Hymnals…’ also features one brand new composition, “Laura’s Theme”, made available for the first time here. The album is dedicated to ‘Blind Joe Death’ AKA the late American fingerstyle guitarist and composer John Fahey, whose “Red Pony” is also covered here.
Taking us inside his latest creation, McKowski says, “As winter takes hold and darkness falls, a candle light is glowing from the shack on Boneyard Hill. Inside, McKowski is playing a collection of guitar hymnals to warm the soul. Recorded in a single night, these songs are a homage to Blind Joe Death, and a stripped back ode to winter.
Along with solo renditions of Christmas classics, there’s a brand new composition, “Laura’s Theme”, a piece that was written for an upcoming movie score. This is an early live version of the song, with accompaniment from Laura McFadden on cello, who also lends her name to the title of the track… So sit back, put another log on the fire, and let McKowski’s Winter Guitar Hymnals from the Boneyard keep you sheltered from the cold dark nights ahead. ”
All tracks were played and recorded by McKowski at Boneyard Studios, except “Laura’s Theme”, “Return Of Pygmy Pony”, and “Red Pony”, which were recorded in the BBC’s Foyle Studio. Mixed by St Francis Hotel who creates a pin-drop atmosphere throughout, the record was mastered by Stephen Ceresia. Additional cello sections were added by Laura McFadden.
1. Auld Lang Syne (traditional,)
2. Joy To The World (G. F. Handel, L. Mason)
3. Laura’s Theme (McKowski)
4. Silent Night (Franz Gruber)
5. Christmas Medley (Mendleson, Traditional)
6. Bells Of Pygmy Pony (McKowski)
7. Red Pony (John Fahey)
8. White Christmas (Irving Berlin)
9. Away In a Manger (William J Kirkpatrick)
McKowski is the alter ego of Mark McCausland, one half of the critically acclaimed Irish duo The Lost Brothers, and previously of the Deltasonic band The Basement. Returning to his old label with an innovative new project, his latest solo venture invites listeners into a haunting universe of sounds known only as ‘The Boneyard’. Dappled with light and shade, eeriness and hopefulness, the familiar and not-so; McKowski proves himself a master of instrumental storytelling.
McKowski’s debut album ‘Notes From The Boneyard’ is out now on Deltasonic Records (The Coral, The Zutons). It is available on limited ‘Pumpkin Orange’ vinyl, cassette, and to stream in full here. McKowski’s seasonal follow up record ‘Winter Guitar Hymnals From The Boneyard’ is available on Bandcamp, Spotify and all streaming services from 22 December 2023.
If Mark McKowski is known at all it is probably for being one half of the Irish folk duo, The Lost Brothers. Before that he was the lead guitarist in The Basement. And before that he was a youth, living in a Omagh, a small Irish town.
McKowski was surrounded by music since birth. His grandfather led the Moore Family Band, while his uncle was in the successful showband, The Plattermen. And on his fathers side, McKowski is a distant relative of the king of skiffle, Lonnie Donnegan. It is no surprise then that he chose music as his life’s path. Or music chose him. He spent a lot of time playing with and learning from the wealth of local musicians. The late great Arty McGlynn often called him probably the best guitarist in ireland, which is high praise coming from the actual best guitarist in irleand.
At 18 he formed The Basement with his close friends and together they moved to Liverpool, where they were immediately signed to Deltasonic Records. They were thrown out on the road, opening for the likes of Joe Strummer, The Pogues, and a The Coral. They even spent five minutes in the Top 40 with their debut single “Medicine Day”, which Noel Gallagher branded “the dogs bollocks”.
After the band went their separate ways, McKowski formed The Lost Brothers with Oisin Leech. They moved to Portland where they recorded their debut album and have released 6 acclaimed albums in the 15 years that followed. Along the way they have collaborated with artists such as Glen Hansard, Howe Gelb, M Ward, Tony Garnier, Richard Hawley and more.
In recent years McKowski has found himself back living in Omagh, the town he’s been trying to escape since birth. As a way of coping with small town life, he has created a world around him. A world he calls The Boneyard. He writes about it weekly in his column in the local newspaper, which he titles Notes From The Boneyard. He also co-founded Boneyard Records, the local record shop which has been running since 2016. He turned his suburban home into a recording studio. Boneyard HQ is where he spends his days and nights working on an ever growing library of material.
His newspaper column is an entertaining take on living in a small town while juggling various projects around the globe. One of his Boneyard column stories was picked up by Colin Broderick, an Irish writer and film maker living in New Jersey, who turned the short story into a feature length screenplay. Titled “The Spin” the film is currently in production, with McKowski composing the score for the soundtrack.