Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Studio Progress!

Well, we're back in Studio 19 in Cloghy here in County Down. So far we've put down a load of rough guide tracks with a click, and are also laying down some final vocal/instrumental stuff too.

Did a good version of "I'll Fly Away" one night last week which is sounding great; last night we worked on some more stuff like the old Louvin Brothers song "The Great Atomic Power" and "G.L.O.R.Y" as well. We're really getting into an old Thomas Dorsey song from the 20s called "If You See My Saviour", and we're trying some new instruments like fiddle, dulcimer and mandocello too. So it's early days but sounding good.

We're also thinking of playing a slow-paced instrumental version of "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb". This was the hymn the small congregation in Darkley was singing that fateful Sunday night in November 1983. We were all youngsters at the time, worshipping in similar wee wooden halls, and the atrocity had a massive impact on our lives. It's usually a bright and bouncy hymn - to hear it as a deep, resonant lament played mainly on the mandocello is strong stuff. It brings a lump to the throat. We'll see if it makes the final track selection.

All being well there'll be a few tracks where Gibson and Ivan take on lead vocal duties too - can't wait for that!

We've got a shortlist (ha!) of 43 songs, and if all goes according to plan we'll have the new CD out in early December. Fingers crossed for the next six weeks.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Three Ulster-Scots Revivals: Stewarton, Sixmilewater and Kirk O Shotts

Some of you will know that through my Ulster-Scots Agency role I've been working on a whole range of initiatives to mark 2006 being the 400th Anniversary of what many regard as the foundational event of Ulster-Scots history - the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement of 1606. Visit the growing web site here

Part of the story is the amazing impact of the early Presbyterian ministers who came from Scotland, and the clear links between three revivals (Stewarton, Ayrshire 1623 - 1630 / Sixmilewater, Co Antrim 1625 - 1634 / Kirk O' Shotts, Lanarkshire 1630) I don't know if anyone has ever seen the connections before, so I'm looking forward to seeing people's reaction to the story when it's printed in the next edition of the Agency's monthly newspaper The Ulster Scot.

At Stewarton (2 miles away from where Sir James Hamilton grew up, and where Montgomery's uncle was once the minister), the ministers involved in the revival were Rev David Dickson and Rev Robert Blair. At Sixmilewater the ministers involved in the revival were Rev James Glendinning, Rev Robert Blair, Rev Josias Welch, Rev John Ridge, Rev Robert Cunningham and Rev James Hamilton(he was namesake and nephew of Sir James Hamilton). At Kirk O Shotts the ministers involved in the revival were Rev Hance, Rev Robert Blair, Rev David Dickson, John Livingstone and Rev Robert Bruce. Just two months after the Kirk O' Shotts revival, Sir James Hamilton invited Livingstone to Ulster to become minister at Killinchy in County Down.

The other amazing detail is that Blair, Hamilton, Livingstone and a part-time minister called McClelland were the four ministers who commissioned the Eagle Wing on the first attempted emigration from Ulster to America. They sailed from Groomsport on 9th September 1636, the morning after Sir Hugh Montgomery's grand Scottish state funeral at the Priory in Newtownards. (for more info on the Eagle Wing, click here and scroll down the page to "Page 102" in blue type)

For me, these demonstrate the religious/spiritual foundation of Ulster-Scots history, which for a variety of reasons is often ignored. I'm neither an historian nor a writer, but I hope that somebody out there is inspired enough by these connections to do some "proper" research on them.


Update: Crawford Gribben has written about the three revivals in his book The Irish Puritans. Order it from

Dark Afore Dawnin

Since we started out we've been inundated with songs, hymns, choruses and poems, all sent to us by people who'd found out about the sort of stuff we play. There's a real treasure of old Ulster-Scots and Scots language gospel material out there in people's collections. If you have any please send it to us as we intend to completely revamp our website and post a lot of this material there, musical notation and all.

Meanwhile as a wee taster here's one my da (Eric Thompson) gave us a while back, from an oul book he has somewhere at hame:

Dark Afore Dawnin
(by Etta Gracey Stoee - supplied by Eric Thompson July 03)

Dinna ye ken the signs o His comin?
Dinna ye hear the soun o His feet?
Ken ye na this is the dark afore dawnin?
Dawn o' the morn sae braw an sae sweet?

The nicht has been drear, but ne'er was it lanesome
E'en through the valley when shadows lay lang
His rod and His staff thegither gied comfort
Fitsair an weary, we aye had a sang

Can we forget, when we were aa greetin
The touch o His haun that wiped awa tears?
The promise He gied us, nae, niver tae leave us
Ne'er tae forsake us, it banished oor fears

Oor herts are sae sair, an' nigh sick wi langin
For the soun o His voice, an the sicht o His face
But the nicht is faur spent, an a bonnie day breakin
An then we shall meet Him - aye - saved by His grace

We have about 80 odd pieces like this gathered up. Hopefully the new site'll be live before Christmas with the whole lot online.

Back Soon!

The blog's really taken a back seat for the last while - far too much to do but all of it good stuff. Played at the Fraserburgh Gospel Music Convention in Scotland back in April, and were back across in July for the Moniaive Gala Weekend Festival. Wonderful experiences! The Low Country Boys hit our usual 50+ performances during 2005 and look like doing easily that again by the end of 2006. To be honest it's hard, gruelling work, but we've had so much encouragement from people we've met along the way that we're going to keep going for as long as we can.

So we're currently in the studio starting work on our second CD, which may well be a double CD, provisionally titled "Sangs o Bairns an Hame (an a Wheen Aboot Drink Forbye)". The first one "Gran Time Comin" has shifted 3000 copies in under 18 months - tone deafness is sweeping the nation!

We're aiming to record 35 tracks, from which we'll choose maybe 26 to go on the double CD and then post the leftovers as free MP3s at - all live dates are listed here too but we're fully booked till March 2007. Graeme's wife Judith is due to have their second child in mid January, so our bookings in early 2007 will be limited.

So this blog is just a short update to give you all some idea of what we're at. Look forward to hearing from you all soon.

(Meanwhile make sure you check out what Colin Maxwell is up to, and even Dr Crawford Gribben gave us a mention last month.)