Sunday School Sessions – A folk/eirecana collective exploring the genre

It’s a wet and clod day here on the west coast of Ireland. It’s confined me indoors. So what better time than to explore some new music. This week I feature, what I think is probably Ireland’s first americana supergroup: Sunday Sessions.

Sunday Sessions was formed by engineer and producer Ian McNulty. Ian spearheaded the formation of the group. The group came together based around sessions between 2011 and 2013. The members consisting of Tim V. Smyth and Carol Anne McGowan from folk duo Hidden Highways; Marc Gallagher who usually drums with The Ambience Affair; then there is George Guilfoyle who plays bass with The Crayon Set and Ger Gormley who plays with Master & Dog as well as contributions from Christophe Capewell of ‘Harry Bird & the Rubber Wellies’ and Aisling O’Connor of ‘Henrietta Game’. You can see why you might be tempted to call them a supergroup of Irish americana and folk.

The name came about as the collective saw the Sunday Sessions as a “kind of like an extra curricular activity to our other bands.” as Tim Smyth explains. Recording and touring for the outfit happened between working with their regular bands. The band dtnamic was to record songs in the traditional flok style found in the U.S. as Smyth and McGowan’s Hidden Highways do. In an interview with entertainment.ie, Smyth stressed the influence of the likes of the Carter Family and the Louvin Brothers but also the Irish aspect of it. It’s nice to hear eirecana being used as a description and I think it does fir nicely in with what the Sunday Sessions are doing.

The group have a democratic process in writing with each of the members contributing to the songs on the eventual album that came out of the sessions. “We tried to write session by session with each of us writing one song per session,”. It’s a very collective approach and one to be admired. The self-titled album was launched in Whelans last November. It is as the members suggest a nod to earliest popular folk of Amierican radio. While the harmonies follow that line, the melodies on some of the tracks take a more modern route. “Being Strangers Never Suited Us” is a great example of this sublime combination.

The group do a lovely cover of my favourite Echo & The Bunnymen song: The Killing Moon. Turning what is a song that epitomises the post-punk era into what feels like a traditional murder ballad, led by the affecting fiddle licks and the atmospheric harmonies the song manages to develop a paranoia in its listener.

The songs are warm, homely and, without sounding too sentimental about it, feel like they come out of a period of enjoyment. I can imagine that being in a collective like this can be a great release, where there might not be the same pressure to create as there might be in the group members regular bands. These sons feel like they were created for the pure enjoyment of it and that goal should be applauded.

You can find the collectives song’s to but on BandCamp or on iTunes. The group are still going and you should check out their Facebook page for more on what they are at.

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