Gregory Grene
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FlipSides Notes

In its acoustic element FlipSides marks a return to Gregory's more traditional roots – he trained with Liz Carroll, won the Midwest Fleadh Ceoil in both Junior and Senior divisions, and founded the Dublin University Traditional Music Society.  At the same time, the highly eclectic nature of the tracks reflect the wide array of influences absorbed on his musical road, from Cajun to jazz to singer-songwriter.

On this album he is joined by an extraordinary all-star array of musicians, among them: John Doyle on guitar and backing vocals, Darren Maloney on banjo, Joanie Madden on whistles and flute, Mattie Mancuso on fiddle, and Tony Cedras (from Paul Simon's band) on trumpet, as well as Prodigals' bandmates Ed Kollar (bass) and Chris Higginbottom (drums/percussion) - a line-up that would only be possible in the close-knit musical community that builds up through years traveling the musical circuit.


The Album 

(Gregory’s Notes)

The concept behind the album is that of the title, FlipSides.  Not only are the tracks flipsides in terms of exploring a more acoustic approach to the music, but the songs themselves express a number of flipsides. The only perpetual truth about Truth is that it’s mutable - as soon as it becomes frozen, it starts to ring false.  

So the tracks are diverse musically, thematically and mood-wise; but the through-line, to me at least, is that they are my truth – for now, anyway.  And listening to it after the dust has settled, I hear that has its own cohesion, and a kind of story that I didn’t expect, and couldn’t have planned.

 

The Tracks

Work's Too Bloody Hard

A song from the Acadien, or Cajun, tradition, which I heard in La Poussiere dancehall in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.  I’ve translated and adapted the lyrics from French.

This rendition is one of the ‘big band’ tracks on the album, and features not only the rhythm section from the Prodigals (Chris Higginbottom and Ed Kollar) supplemented by Daniel Chaudin’s washboard and percussion, but also the wonderfully crazy trumpet of Tony Cedras, from Paul Simon’s band.

 

Whiskey Asylum

Stripping it down – a song about refuge, alcohol, and life, and not a drinking song.  This is one of the tracks that feature the extraordinary talents of Joanie Madden, one of the greatest flute- and whistle-players, ever, in the Irish tradition.

 

Camera

A song of images burned on the mind, as light burns images on photographic paper, and how the images and all that is attached to them endure.  Mario Grigorov’s piano is beautifully evocative.

 

Austin Tunes

Three tunes that I wrote: the first one, “Jim and Mary’s,” for a lovely musical couple from my hometown of Belturbet, Co. Cavan; the second, “Book-a-Boat Box,” for my first accordion teacher, Sean Donohue, also from Belturbet, where he worked on the River Erne; and the last, “Louisiana Lady”, for Donnelle McKaskle, a promoter and radio host originally from Monroe, LA, who has created an extraordinary home for Irish music in Austin, Texas.

 

Crazy

Sometimes you write a song which you don’t know if you can record in such a way that it keeps its truth. I think this one does, and a large part of that is Ed Kollar’s astounding bass playing.

 

Liverpool Pandora

The Leaving of Liverpool used to be a staple at every long night in town beside me growing up.  This track starts from there, and takes a turn in the opposite direction, with the help of a full-fledged Prodigals-style attack. 

 

Cluan Meala

A song from the 1700’s, translated and adapted contemporaneously from the Irish, about a prisoner in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary – most likely one of three men, John Quinn, Patrick Tobin and Michael Delaney, hanged for Whiteboy activities in 1771. The bass on the accordion, which I use sparingly when playing with Ed, has found a more prominent place here.

 

Nancy Brown

My father got this song from Felix Frankfurter, who befriended him when my father was in Vienna, penniless, and living largely on watermelon.  

Frankfurter had helped to draft FDR’s New Deal legislation along with an Irish-American named Tommy Corcoran, who used to sing this song at FDR’s request.  It's an American folk song that exists in many versions; this one must have been updated after 1899, when the first Packard rolled into being.

It’s a nice antidote to a tradition in folk music where the women characters seem to be invariably punished for any deviation from their prescribed path.

My father used to sing Nancy Brown on long car journeys, and hated watermelon for the rest of his life.

 

Liverpool Lou

An adaptation of a song by Dominic Behan, brother of Brendan, and a major songwriter in his own right.  A number of his 450+ songs have entered the tradition, the Patriot Game being one of the best-known.  Liverpool Lou made it into the charts in the UK in 1974 when sung by The Scaffold, a band fronted by “Mike McGear”, Paul McCartney’s brother.  

 

Paper and Pins

A song that I picked up from a lovely old recording of Peg and Bobby Clancy, when I was introducing my then 3-year old daughter to Irish music, followed by one of the standard seisiun tunes, the Kerry Polka; this track is recorded in a way that I hope conveys the earth and warmth of this tradition.

 

Emily   [The GPS Lament]

Three years ago, the band was playing in the Lincoln Theater in Napa, California, and were heading to the San Francisco airport, when we got the urge to explore the nearby vineyards en route.  Our GPS system, which had been loaded with a British voice called “Emily” in honor of our UK-born drummer, had the airport programmed as her destination, went into a frenzy of "recalculating.”  We ignored her, and eventually she stopped speaking…forever.  

Because of the unrelieved pathos of the tale I thought it would translate well as a country ballad.

 

Andi's Tunes

Two tunes divided into three broad parts: the first tune is Andi’s Tune, written for my daughter, and played as a slow air; the track goes into hornpipe time, with a tune called Alexander MacAndrew,  written for my nephew; and it then reverts to Andi’s Tune, first in hornpipe, then in reel time. 

John Doyle’s guitar- and mandola-playing is a phenomenon throughout the album, and wonderful here.

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