Marty McKernan and Don Smith proudly announce “THE ROSE SESSIONS” !!!!!
The Story of THE ROSE SESSIONS:
Back in the nineties, we (Don Smith, Jeanie Cassels, Marty McKernan, and Peggy
Greene) started a recording project inspired by Don’s experiences playing with Peggy and Jeanie as the” Thorn
Between the Roses”, then later on as “Thorns and Roses”(usually with Jack Driscoll as the other male in
the group). This got Don thinking about a concept album revolving around a rose theme, as there seemed
to be many Irish songs with that recurring subject, so we started recording in a chapel in
Vernon NJ during the winter of 1999-2000, with two friends as recording engineers.
After a few sessions, unfortunately, the project stalled due to scheduling, personal commitments, etc…, and
was put on the back burner for , well, for, fourteen and a half years!
The idea however, never left Don Smith’s head, and periodically he would
try to get people interested in the project, but to no avail, the timing was never right….until October, 2014, when
Don and Marty were dis-assembling the stage they built for the FIRST ANNUAL MOONSHINE-LUMBASTOCK FESTIVAL, when Don brought
the idea up to Marty again, and Marty agreed. Two weeks later they were in the Twain Studio in West Milford,
NJ, where Marty and Danny McKeown recorded “Irish Moonshine” in 1979.
Over the next three and a half months, Don and Marty
made seventeen trips to Bob Both’s studio, and with the help of Jeanie Cassels, Peggy Greene, James Sattler, and Lynn
Panico, they were able to record 14 songs, most Irish, all with some sort of Rose theme, and an obsessive
dream became a reality.
These songs, some very old and with well-known titles, are handled very
differently on this recording. None is trite or cliché. They are sung and played with a maturity, sensitivity,
and respect that only a lifetime of learning, loving, and performing these songs can allow. A number of
the recordings on this album may very well end up being the standard by which these songs are remembered.
Hear what others have to say!
Last August I spent some
pleasant hours in the musician’s food tent at the Milwaukee Irish Fest.
It was more than a just a diner, Barry
Stapleton had decorated the space with a collection of photographs and song–sheet covers, charting an American take
on Irish culture. This album would have not been out of place as back ground music in Barry’s exhibition.
CD began was a concept almost 15 years ago, like all good ideas it was simple, ‘why not record an album of songs,
with each one having the word Rose in its title?’ Begin with a short list: The Rose of Tralee, Rose of Mooncoin, The
Banks of the Roses, Red is the Rose. Then pull in songs from out of Ireland; Roseville Fair, Rose of Allendale, and Robbie
Burn’s My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.
The production values are high and the clarity of the diction on each
track will make this an easy sing along and learning album too. Instruments featured are the tenor banjo of Don Smith with
McKenna adding in guitar, five string banjo, mandolin, bass and ukuleles. Guest musicians include Jean Cassels on guitar
and harmony vocals, Peggy Greene on accordion, whistles and vocals, Lyn Panico on vocals and James Sattler on fiddle.
The album pays homage to two giants of folk music in the USA; Pete Seeger and Tommy Makem. Due credit is given to the
original songwriters with thumbnail sketches of the writer’s contribution to the folk ballad pantheon included in the
track notes. This is radio friendly material, McKernan and Smith have rounded voices, which blend effortlessly with their
tasteful arrangements, in what has been described as a melodic and mature collection of songs.
Their material would
be very well–known to Irish American audiences and fans of the ballad boom here in Ireland. As an example of how to
dress the songs without drowning them in drink this is up there with the best of them. A collection of timeless old songs
rambles through the Rose Sessions; all blooms and no thorns.
Seán Laffey, Irish Music Magazine, May 2015
Listen to tracks from the CD now!!