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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Northern Ireland Singer-Songwriter Matt McGinn Releases Second Single Ahead Of Upcoming Album

By Stevie Connor.

Last year, Co. Down singer-songwriter Matt McGinn was commissioned by Northern Ireland Screen to compose a suite to celebrate their Digital Film Archives. He had been shown a video that left him transfixed. Filmed in 1965, the grainy black and white footage captured an elderly, diminutive busker, resplendent in flat cap and bow tie performing ‘Danny Boy’ on the saw. Flawlessly. Delving deep into press archives, Matt discovered the story of Willie "Winkie" Campbell, the disabled busker who played the streets of Belfast for over 40 years and who this year, would have turned 120. But crucially, his story would inspire a suite of music, a staggeringly beautiful opus, The Turning Of The Tide that closes Matt’s forthcoming album, Behind Every Door, and is the album’s second single, both released on 27th October.

Born in 1903, Willie Campbell had been taught to play the violin from a visiting German Music professor and became part of his ‘Cripple Choir Orchestra’ that would travel across the country. Yet it was busking on the streets of Belfast that he loved the most with his favourite spot outside Belfast City Hall. There he played his saw through sun and snow for all passing, with fine tone and a welcoming smile. He was a well-known musical institution back in the day, name checked in Phil Coutler's autobiography, mentioned in a Van Morrison song and remembered by many to this day.

The Turning of the Tide’ is a heart-wrenching song, magical in its melancholy and powerful in its story. The words see life from the busker’s viewpoint and reflect on the fact that Willie could never have envisioned The Troubles that would hit the same streets that he busked for decades, soon after the film was made and shortly before he died in 1969. Demonstrating McGinn’s impeccable talent for arranging, the track features strings, Uilleann Pipes, virtuoso piper Darragh Murphy and archive footage of Willie himself performing in the song’s utterly haunting final moments.

The track was recorded and filmed live in the now empty Carlisle Memorial Church where Willie would have frequented. It has been screened in film festivals as far as New York and Berlin and has been nominated for a FOCAL International award.

Photo: Wesley Street, Belfast. c1960. Northern Ireland Historical Photographical Society

The Turning Of The Tide’ is taken from ‘Behind Every Door’, Matt McGinn’s sixth and arguably finest album to date. A dynamic ten-track collection of beautiful songs and outstanding songwriting that blend folk, alt-country and soul, it traverses uplifting, driving melodies, rollicking fiddle-led Celtic folk and introspective, reflective pieces. Throughout, McGinn’s emotive, personal songwriting shines, matched by the warmth and passion of his voice.



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