"This album moved me like no other", Eileen McCabe, Irish Music Magazine.
"Spectacular", Lynette Fay, BBC Radio Ulster.
"Unwavering boldness" 5*. Allan Wilkinson, Northern Sky.
"Brave, groundbreaking and experimental". Nicky Crewe, Penny Black.
" A striking coherence across a multiplicity of influences and styles", Dave McNally, Folk Radio UK.
"Art Music for the Soul", Colin Irwin, Mojo Magazine.
A Quarehawk: Music from Stockport, Sligo, Asturias and beyond...
Born Manchester and raised in Stockport England, I grew up learning Sligo style music from Marian Egan. In my teens I was tutored by the wonderful Tony Ryan. My music reflects these origins, my Yorkshire home and my love for the music of the Iberian peninsula and beyond. My flute playing is inspired by Roger Sherlock, Tony Howley, Michael Tubridy, Peter Horan and Kevin Henry.
As well as being a busy dad and music teacher, I am a Doctoral reseacher at the University of Sheffield Department of Music, Supervised by Dr Simon Keegan-Phipps and Dr Fay Hield, researching identity and music in the contemporary Asturian Folk Scene in northern Spain. Occasionally I can be spotted with the mighty Leeds Céili Band.
My new album "Quarehawk" is out now. The album charts the last three years of my life. Celebration, loss, moving on and finding my own voice.
Quarehawk is in no sense just another traditional album. The phrase Quarehawk, used by Michael’s father Patrick, can mean many things: crafty, clever, a bit odd, a bit strange. Michael Walsh’s debut album is all of those things and a lot more besides.
That celebrated Irish Mancunian multi-instrumentalist Mike McGoldrick, legendary Basque Trikitixa (accordion) player Kepa Junkera and the incomparable Armagh born singer and flute player Ríoghnach Connolly all play a part in Quarehawk is testament to the richness and rare individuality of Michael Walsh’s musical vision.
Michael grew up learning Sligo style Irish traditional music in Manchester and, whilst tunes and songs from that tradition make up much of Quarehawk, a multiplicity of influences abound. In and amongst there are tunes in the English traditional style - “I’ve grown to love English folk music” Michael says (having married a Morris Dancer) – together with players and tunes from Asturias and the Basque country, an Irish and a Salford song, and a couple of poems, one written and spoken by Michael and one written and spoken by Mike Garry.
The Shores of Lough Bran, an Irish song, best known from the version sung by Dolores Keane on De Danann’s 1975 debut album, exemplifies how effectively Michael and his co-producer Mike McGoldrick make the eclectic elements of Quarehawk work as a whole. It begins with Michael playing a Chinese Hulusi (gourd flute), supported by quiet, murmuring keyboard. He then sings the first verse solo, with the second verse sung in Irish by Ríoghnach Connolly – who Michael describes as having “encouraged me to find my own voice”. Leticia González Menéndez then sings a verse in Asturian, followed by a haunting cello break from Liz Hanks (who has played with Martin Simpson and Liam Gallagher amongst others) and a final lovely four part harmony verse sung by Michael, English fiddle player and singer Bryony Griffith, Ríoghnach Connolly and Leticia González Menéndez from Asturian group L-R.
Michael wears his Irish traditional flute playing inspirations on his sleeve, citing “Roger Sherlock, Tony Howley, Matt Molloy, Michael Tubridy, Peter Horan and Kevin Henry”, with tunes on the album learnt from some of those players and also from Josie McDermott and Michael Dwyer. The Asturian connection comes Michael from spending time in Asturias and for the last 4 years undertaking a PhD in identity, nationalism and music in the contemporary Asturian Folk Scene in northern Spain.
What unifies the wealth of components parts on Quarehawk is the personal, the story of Michael Walsh’s life and music. Michael describes the album as charting: “the last three years of my life. Celebration, loss, moving on and finding my own voice.” Family is central to what matters most for Michael: the title track is a set of three jigs he wrote in tribute to his two children and his wife, and he describes Mike Garry’s poem The Visitor as helping him deal with the loss of his father Patrick who died in 2017 and to whom Michael dedicates the album.
It may have taken Michael Walsh a long time to make his first album, but he has delivered exceptional performances of warm, unassuming collection of tunes, songs and spoken word. Quarehawk has a striking coherence across a diversity of influences and styles - you can never be quite sure what is coming next, but every track has its own rewards. Michael describes the tune written for his son in the title track set as, in part, offering “encouragement to be his own man” – on Quarehawk Michael Walsh is without doubt his own man.