Out of the Mailbag, Comes Songs & Stories:
Roots & Stones, Scythian.
Review by John O’Brien, Jr. @Jobjr
There has never been a time where I have wanted to dance more, to see friends and have a pint over great music and past memories more and to simply let loose and forget the troubles. The last part isn’t available yet, the others are under construction, or containment.
It didn’t matter –I dropped the CD; I danced, had a Smithwicks or three, and ran a full movie in my mind of past Scythian shows that I have attended, punctuated with the memories of laughter, a few after’s parties at festivals, those friends and the fantastic music that moves me. They are my roots, and the stones of my foundation.
Despite COVID, and because of frantic livestream concerts, Scythian pulled it all together, music, funding, promotion and more, to release Roots & Stones, their brand new, fan-funded CD that is vintage Scythian, ever evolving in the march of time and personal development, but rooted in the stories of those barrier and back breaking immigrants dear to us, that came before us.
- Broken String (Trad., arranged by Scythian) – is of course a reel and the group really wanted to start off the album with a big beat. They succeeded; the toe tapping, head nodding reaction is involuntary, and immediate. I can see the boys dancing across the stage so prevalent in a live Scythian show.
- Sail Away Johnny (Alexander Fedoryka) – an emigration tune set in Ireland, Alex sings of the ache, but in a vintage Irish (and Scythian) way, with fire, crowd encouraging chorus, and music meant to dance to – the American Wake’s bitterness and hope. Catch the lyrics; you’ll know the lament.
- Duffy’s Cut (Catie Parker Fedoryka & Alexander Fedoryka) – a song about the Irish rail workers who cut a tunnel through the impassable Lehigh Valley only to be worked to death.
- Fire in My Heart (Danylo Fedoryka) – a song Dan wrote for his wife Therese. They were married earlier this year. I do believe he is in love, and so happy.
- The Motherland (Alexander Fedoryka) – a Ukrainian themed song inspired by the overwhelming support the band received during the memorable COVID stay in place orders Live Facebook concerts, i.e. Quaranstreams. It’s a nod of thanks to all the fans, who showed up online in force, and helped fund this CD. I could see Alex doing the dance of his heritage; down low, one leg out, half jump, kick out comes the other leg.
- Galway City (feat. Shane Hayes of Socks in the Frying Pan on accordion, Alexander Fedoryka) – The song was written about all the great times Scythian has had in Galway during their Irish Tours fan trips. With over 400 fans and ten trips to Ireland, the Scythian Tours have become legendary for the craic, the music, and the memories, kinda just like the band.
“Galway always produces great stories,” said Alex. – “What is to be expected from the Galway City song? If Nashville and Galway had a baby, this song would be it!” This is a very fun sing-along waiting to happen.
- Ju Suis Courier Des Bois (Danylo Fedoryka) – is a song Dan wrote about the French-Canadian fur trappers. Coreur Des Bois means “Heart of the Woods” and these men always inspired Dan; heading off into the great unknown alone and returning with pelts. They were the first documenters of the native languages, and echo the lifestyles of touring musicians.
This song was inspired by two French Canadian brothers, the Davain Brothers, who shared their music. Dan cites his exposure to Levaunt du Nord at the Dublin Irish Festival that factored in as well. He was mesmerized by their music.
- Men of the North (Alexander Fedoryka) – a poem Alex wrote after his first visit to Donegal. It sat as a poem for years until the tune finally came to the guys in time for the album.
- Sweet Maryanne (Danylo Fedoryka) – a love song capturing what it’s like to be a road warrior.
- The Bruce (Alexander Fedoryka) – a tribute to those of Scottish Heritage (the guys best friend is related to Robert de Bruce) and is the one song on the album where they absolutely let it rip.
- The Fight (Alexander Fedoryka) – a song which Alex always dedicates to the fathers in the audience for, as he says, “our mama’s teach us how to love and our daddy’s teach us how to fight.” Believe it or not, it’s a song of encouragement.
- Virginia (feat. Catie Parker Fedoryka) – Catie Parker, a Jersey girl, met Alex and soon fell in love with him and his home state. She wrote this song as a tribute to those things that stole her heart.
- Best Friend Song (Danylo Fedoryka) – This is a song Danylo wrote for his two best friends, which he has known since he was seven years old. It is a fitting closer to the album, especially during these COVID times. The song points to hope that “we’ll find our way back here again,” together.
Roots & Stones is a true representation of Scythian’s eclectic live show, full of power, dance, and fan feeding interaction that flows both ways. Dan noted they are pleased with how many Celtic inspired tunes are included. I’m struck again, by the shared experiences so many of our cultures have lived through, in their journeys, evident in the lyrics and emotions contained in the songs on Roots & Stones.
Roots & Stones is highly recommended, and I suggest getting two or three, for the car, the family at Christmas and the safe for work headphones too.
You can get it on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/scythianmusic
Alexander Fedoryka: Vocals, Fiddle, Viola, Mandolin, Harmonica; Danylo Fedoryka: Vocals, Guitar, Accordion; Ethan Dean: Vocals, Electric Bass, Upright Bass, Guitar, Banjo; Johnny Rees: Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Hammond Organ; Catie Parker Fedoryka: Vocals, Harmonies (Sail Away Johnny, Best Friend Song).
Engineer: Frank Marchand Studio: Waterford Digital Studios
Record Label: Scythian Fans
Scythian raised $52,300 through their indiegogo campaign. The final $11,000 came during a St. Patrick’s Day live stream from Ethan Dean’s kitchen just days after everything shut down due to COVID! The epic three-hour rally got Scythian over the hump and beyond, to fund a CD that absolutely shines. Dan reiterates: “We have the best fans on the planet!”
By Cahal Dunne, 2020 324 Pages. Review by John O’Brien, Jr. @Jobjr
My favorite singers always are those who tell the best stories, in their songs, preamble’s or explanations of connections and emotional or physical prices we pay. Our history comes alive to us. We remember the songs and lyrics long after, because of the impact they create in us. Perhaps the song or background educated us for the first time, or, changed or challenged our perspective.
Author Cahal Dunne weaves a tapestry in Athenry – perhaps what has become the very fabric of our being. Most know some of the history of the Irish; An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) is the authentic name of the hell that the mid-1800s Irish lived through. It was a hunger, not a famine, because it was an act of man, not of God.
Shiploads of grain, cattle, and more left Ireland day after day, while the people wasted away on the docks, the roads and the ditches. They had limited choices – emigrate, if they could afford it, and were not banned from the boats for already being sick; they starved; or they were sentenced to death or slavery in Van Diemen’s land for the horrible crime of stealing food for their families. Athenry treads softly through the very real and hard obstacles they faced in effort to survive.
It wasn’t the first famine, it wasn’t the last, but 1845 to 1850, and the epicenter of Black 47, certainly contributed to the reasons the Irish Diaspora adopted emigration to survive the genocide and ended up all across the world. Now, the sun never sets on the Irish, no matter where they live at that moment.
Some books are masters in immersing us in a time we only hear about incomplete snatches or clips. My dad, raised in Ireland, never heard about An Gorta Mor in school. Cahal’s book makes sure the true depth and deliberation of man inherent in genocide, lives on.
“Between 1788 and 1886, approximately 164,000 convicts – 80% men and 20% women – were transported to the Penal Colonies in Australia from England and Ireland. Fewer than 5% of them made it home.”
Dunne walks the far too typical personal journey with a family trying to survive, despite the attempts to stop them. The absolute hate for the Irish, in Ireland, lived by the ruling British government is no exaggeration. Nor is the length that most of those rulers would go; the obstacles were extensive and designed to crush, to drive the Irish Catholic, for the most part – not off the land, but off the planet, has been illustrated time and time again.
But we, and some of the great characters in Athenry, survived and often, flourished, over time, and across the oceans. Athenry is a book of hope, inspiration and an illustration of what was overcome.
We cannot condone what was done, but we must learn it, to not repeat it. Athenry is a captivating and yes, even entertaining read, no matter the centuries old heartache the Irish are all too familiar with. The Irish pronunciations and name meanings included throughout the book, and in a handy index at the end are illuminating and appreciated.
Cahal Dunne is a singer, songwriter, pianist, storyteller and author, from Cork City. He earned his Bachelor of Music from University College Cork and represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest with his own song, Happy Man, in Israel. He now lives with his wife and family in Pittsburgh and performs throughout America.
Athenry: An Odyssey of Sacrifice, Survival & Love is recommended, both for your knowledge and for your library. It makes a great Christmas gift as well. You can order Athenry on Amazon/Kindle for $8.99, or order the Hard Copy for $19, at Cahaldunne.com.