I toured Ireland every July from 2005 to 2019. I love the music, people, scenery and their July weather. A very special and magical place for me. During that time I met so many great writers, singers and musicians. This project is a result of all those trips, and writing with some of the writers that I've met along the way.
There is one exception to all the co-written songs; Colin Henry wrote a lovely farewell instrumental for me. Thank you, Colin! We first met in a back room at The Carlton Hotel at the Athy Bluegrass Festival in 2007. We had a short jam, and I knew from the first note that we had a definite 'sound'. Together, we continued that sound for six tours and beyond. I could write a book (and I do have a journal from each year) about our travels. Suffice to say, he is my best friend in Ireland and this project could not have happened without him. It would be impossible to count the miles we've traveled, and the notes we've played. Oh aye!
I first met Charlie McGettigan in Longford at the radio station where he was doing his long running radio show, The Saturday Connection. That year I was touring with David Miner. We stopped in Shannon Side Northern to do an interview, play a few tunes and plug the tour. Charlie suggested we might write via email and mp3's. We have written 6 songs now. Charlie got me hooked on writing that way and I have been hooked ever since. Little did I know (years before we met) when I heard Maura O'Connel do Charlie's song, “Feet of a Dancer”, that I would get to meet the writer, let alone write and play shows with him. What a pleasure and an honor!
When playing the Athy Bluegrass Festival in 2007 I heard the Sullivan Brothers for the first time. Great brother harmony from Shane and Adrian Sullivan. They introduced themselves and bought one of my CD's. The next day on their set they played a song off my CD, “Here I Go Again”. It just floored me! Since then Shane and I have written 6 or so songs. My wife and I just love his voice, and I asked him to help me write a “Song For Taf” and to sing it. Thank you so much, Shane! It went down well on our 40th anniversary! That was very special.
On my very first tour of Ireland I was playing a show with Gail Wade at the Wren's Nest on the Quay in Wexford for Senan O'Reilly and the Hooves and Grooves Festival. In the audience that day was Mary Greene and Noel Shine. After the show they came up and introduced themselves. So happy they did. We have been friends ever since. Mary has been invaluable over the years with gig tips and just good common sense advice. In 2013 I made a trip down to visit and we wrote “Slow Lane”. I love Mary and Noel's version and so happy to see this song see the light of day.
Tony O'Brien booked my first tour in 2005. Much gratitude to Tony and to Richard Hawkins for setting that all up. The first gigs were at Enniscorthy's Strawberry Festival. Another festival booked by Senan O'Relly. A that festival I met Niall Toner. We would bump into one another at various shows over the years, but never really spent much time getting to know each other. That all changed in 2019 when I spent three days hanging out with him. A lovely gig in Bunclody and three days of nothing but music and nice long walks at his place in the Black Stair Mountains in Carlow. Colin Henry was there and John (Johnny G) Gleeson would pop in and out. An unplanned songwriter retreat that yielded three songs Niall and I wrote together. Fair play, Niall!
Janet Henry is without a doubt one of the best singers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. To quote a drunk from one of our gigs in Westport at Geraghty's Pub years ago...”you're voice is like a golden drop of honey from a silver spoon”...lol. What a “come on” line. That was back in the days when she was Janet Holmes before she and Colin were married. I always spaced our songs on the set list so I didn't have to follow her. You know the old expression, “never follow dogs or children”. Well, you can add to that...never follow Janet! I am so glad we recorded the “Ferguson, Holmes and Henry” CD back in 2009. A treasured keepsake. But even more important to me than the music, we have become friends over the years and she is a sweet caring person and a great mum to two very beautiful and talented children, James and Olivia.
In 2013 I was touring with Kathy Barwick and we played in Ballymore Eustace for Roy Thompson at one of his Ballymore Acoustic Gig (BAG) shows. Roy did a continuation of the shows that Larry Roddy used to promote there. I had played for Larry on my first tour with Gail Wade in 2005. I got to know and write with Roy through the years. I had no idea when we first met what a great writer and singer he was. If you aren't careful his songs will sneak up on you and have you in tears. Roy is a big guy with a big booming baritone voice. Also an avid gardener and a great cook. One of my favorite days in Ireland was just hanging out at his house before one of our shows. Roy cooked a fantastic lamb dinner, with fresh veggies from his garden and I spent the day just playing songs at the dining room table. I could think of worse ways to spend a day.
Joe and Donna Murray. What can I say?! Two of the most kind and giving people I have ever met. Also two of the most talented. I first met them in 2018 as part of the Ferguson and Henry (Colin and James) tour. We stopped in their place in Castledawson to do a song for Sessions in the House. As is the usual, I was a bit burnt out from the travel and not sure how well I could do at recording that day, but Joe and Donna's calm, laid back and friendly nature put me right at ease and brought out the last ounce of music I had in me for the session. Absolute pros and “Good People”. So happy to be writing with them and have them on this project.
My farewell tour of Ireland was 2018. I had no intention of doing another, but someone surprised me with an airplane ticket in 2019. Thank you, “Someone”! I set up a songwriter tour with Johnny Tanner and Roy Thompson. I did not rent a car and relied solely on the kindness of friends for lifts from gig to gig. Thank you Roy and Colin Henry, both great travel mates! On landing at Dublin airport, I met a new friend. Gillian Tuite. She was my taxi from the airport to my Ballymore Eustace B/B with Mags and Joe Tutty. My favorite B/B. We made a stop for breakfast and had a nice long chat. What a sweet and gifted singer/songwriter. I told her she had to come visit Taf and me. We could show her off and tell people she was the daughter we never had.
I've only met Errol Walsh through the magic of the internet and facebook messenger.. We did a couple video chats to talk about everything under the sun and for me to give him a virtual tour of the old homestead....lol. A nice guy and a great songwriter. We talked a lot about co writng compatibility. Sometimes co writes just don't work. I was beginning to think that might be the case with us. They say third time a charm. Two ideas we tried together just did not fly. I am happy one did, something we both know a little about, the “Old Man in The Mirror”. I regret that we never met in person, I have probably driven right by his house. Cheers, Errol!
I can't remember exactly how I became aware of Ted Ponsonby's music. Probably through You Tube and Sessions in the House videos. At some point I began to either email him or message him through facebook. He was one of those “friends” I never really knew. I instantly realized what a good and tasteful player he was. Before a couple tours I would contact him and see if we could hook up. Regretfully, that never happened. I contacted him not long ago about playing on a Bruce Springsteen song I was working on, “Mansion on the Hill”. I have been recording at home trying to learn a program, mic placement etc. Ted added Hammond organ. Perfect playing and nice effect for the song. Ted did all the guitar work in “A Song For Taf”. I asked him if he did any songwriting. He sent me his unfinished song “Solitaire's Dance”. I loved it and I loved his playing and singing. I really wish he had sang it, but he insisted I do. We struck up an instant friendship on our first video chat. A funny guy with an infectious smile.
I recently became aware of Carrie Haskins from a post I saw on facebook of her singing Janet Henry's song, “Scared”. What a powerful voice! I met her online through Gillian Tuite. I sent Carrie some songs of mine and she covered two of them. I asked if she might be interested in co writing for this project. She sent me a song from an idea that she and her music partner, Paul Costello had put on a phone recording. I really liked the melody, but couldn't quite make out the lyrics, so I just came up with a first verse from a memory of a day on the beach recently with my wife, Taffy. Then we just kicked it back and forth on the internet till we were both happy with it and as usual, Carrie knocked it out of the park with her vocals.
Thanks to all the writers, musicians and singers. A very special thanks to George Hodgkiss for all the mixing and mastering and to Colin, Joe and Donna for going way beyond the call of duty.
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"I've been writing songs about getting old since I turned 40. Now I'm about to turn 70 and it was kind of reassuring to find that Gary isn't far off that particularly roundy birthday himself. We shared our different ideas and came up with "Gettin' old". It's always interesting writing with Gary because there are certain terms that are different in his vocabulary. I remember in another song the term "Spring peepers" appeared. I had no idea what they were (still don't). This time the word "Queue" was a difficulty. Gary would say a "Line" of cars whereas I would say a "Queue" of cars. As usual though, it was good to write with Gary" (Charlie McGettigan)
The Ballad of Benny Freeman is a rootsy, bluegrass murder ballad about an unwanted child born to parents who neglected him during a childhood illness. As a result Benny spent the remainder of his life deaf & mute.
Not wanted by his family Benny leaves home looking for the love he never had but instead finds himself in trouble with the law when he is accused of shooting a man.
Although Benny was innocent he was sentenced to prison where he was abused and killed by inmates because he couldn't speak. The song is written from the perspective of his brother who vows to avenge Benny's murder.(Donna Murray)
Gary and I had met several times at festivals in Ireland. There was a natural camaraderie, so one beautiful Summer's day Gary drove the long road from Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare to Renaniree, Co. Cork. He may or may not have gotten lost on the way but his time in the slow lane inspired the jumping off point for this song. We had a lovely time getting images together for this one and I was truly delighted to be asked to co-write it with such a fine songwriter as Gary Ferguson. The recording of it was a lovely project for myself and Noel Shine, my partner in music and in life."(Mary Greene)
Gary sent me some initial audio and lyrics for this song... I asked him if he had a specific theme in mind and he replied “Yeah. The retired old fart sitting on his back porch rocking in his rocking chair thinking about the good old days.” I thought “Yep... right up my street ... I qualify on the basis of experience ?...... job done!” (Errol Walsh)
Once I heard Gary’s album “songs of mine” and his particular track, “all along the gooney”, I just knew myself and co-writer paul would love to write and have a song with Gary. I sent Gary some melody ideas Paul and I had lying around that we were stuck on lyrics for. Our new found friendship grew as we worked away on the song. Gary immediately had the beautiful imagery of boats on the shore along Baltimore from a trip he once took, and we decided to use this as our starting point. He came up with the tile “drifting away” and we quickly brought the song to life. It’s brilliant to work with such a writer who can just add to a song without hesitation and also make you feel so comfortable, as when writing with someone new can be very daunting at times. Gary is a master lyricist and we are truly blessed to be apart of such a wonderful collection of artists and songs on this album. (Carrie Haskins)
I have known Gary Ferguson for quite a few years, but it has only been in recent times that we have finally got around to doing some serious writing together. Like so many things in life, there's no point in having regrets about not doing this much sooner, and maybe the best way to look at things is to say, 'better late than never', and that has been the case with us. We have written three of four Songs together, recently, and MYSHALL MORNING MELODY is one of those that means a lot to me, personally. I am privileged to live in a beautiful part of Ireland, in the shadow of the Blackstairs Mountains on the Carlow/Wexford Border, near a small Village called Myshall. The actual name of our location is COOLASNAUGHTA, which loosely translated from Gaelic means Field-Of-Snow, so-called for the likelihood of Snow accumulating in Wintertime, because of the Winds swirling in the 'lee' of Mount Leinster.
Gary came here on a visit, and we spent some great times, playing at a Songwriter's Gig in Bunclody, and generally exploring the locale and it's inhabitants. Gary loves to walk and explore, and on one such occasion he returned to my house with an almost fully-formed idea for this gorgeous Song. We sat with it for a while, and I pitched in a few ideas, and hey, presto, a result, and a good one, at that ! Mention should also be made of a stray Cat called MOLLY FURBALL, who features in our Song, as she followed Gary on his rambles, up the hill, by RAHEENLEIGH.
Great Song, Gary, and a great memory of your visit. Niall, June 2020 (Niall Toner)
Gary and I have been writing for years and I was delighted to be part of making his and Tafs big day and wonderful milestone(40th wedding anniversary) very special with "Song for Taf" ......a pure love song straight from the heart......to hit the heartstrings" (Shane Sullivan)
A few years back Gary suggested we should write together. Co-writing was something I'd never really done, so I was happy to try, and to see what might come out of it. I sent Gary a tune I'd had for ages; it was kinda my warm up piece, and I had no lyric for it and no idea to add one. Gary dug it, saying it had "a very reminiscent feel to it", and he sent me a few ideas, along with the bones of the first verse. It took me down a road to a subject that almost unbeknownst to me, I'd been trying to write a song about for years - one that's close to my heart, growing up farming. I wrote more verses and choruses, and together we pulled them into shape, editing and tweaking it til we were happy. To Say So Long is essentially a song about nostalgia, revisiting the narrator's homeplace, a farm now sold on out of the family, but it's also a commentary on the loss to 'progress' of traditional family farms, and their replacement with intensive/industrial holdings. No song stands still, and we both do slightly different versions. Songs speak differently to every listener, and to every writer. We're proud of this one, and I'm delighted to contribute my part of it, and my version of it, to this wonderful project. We hope you like it." (Roy Thompson)
BROKEN WING was first born on 21st April 2019 as I sat in my sunroom with my guitar, as I usually do when I’m in a writing mood. As I played, a melody emerged that I liked, along with a few lyrics that fitted. The imagery I was getting was about going forward, leaving the things behind that hinder us.... going from the dark into the light and being strong. I never performed it, nor recorded it, and it needed a verse to resolve it, so it was perfect when Gary asked to co-write a song with him for his project. So after Gary’s verse was added, along with a couple of other tweaks, BROKEN WING was re-born on 17th June 2020. (Janet Henry)
I met Gary on his most recent trip to Ireland (he said it was going to be his last, but I'm not so sure). Having so many songwriter friends in common, I offered to pick him up from the airport early one morning. We stopped at a cafe for breakfast and had a great chat about life and music. I went along to one of the shows on that tour and loved hearing his wonderful songs.
I was delighted when Gary asked me to be involved in this project. I suggested we might write about looking back on our younger selves, and our collaboration was born. While we were both able to approach the theme from different perspectives, I always felt that Gary completely understood where I was coming from. His experienced touches in getting the song 'just right' were invaluable. It truly was a pleasure to write with him." (Gillian Tuite)
Gary and I have never met but he feels like someone I've known a long time. I think we first met through the internet on facebook and through Colin Henry. I love his writing and singing. I sent him an unfinished song of mine (Solitaires Dance) and we kicked it back and forth via the internet on music and word files till we were both happy with it. i hope we get the chance to meet and play live sometime when its all safe to do so. A big thanks to Gary for helping to complete my song. I'm happy to be a part of this CO write album and wish him n Taf all the best in the future......... (Ted Ponsonby)
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