(Ross Hamilton, vocals, banjo, guitar, mandolin), Emma Hamilton (vocals, accordion, piano), Ray Schloeffel (1957-2002) fiddle, Mark Oats (fiddle), Garry Steel (accordion, keyboards), Darryl Neve ( double bass), Michael Vidale (double bass), Dave Mason-Cox (electric bass), Kirk Steel (piano accordion), Brian Wilshire (drums), Mike Kerin (vocals, fiddle, guitar) and Thomas Hamilton (vocals, piano, keyboards, electric bass, drums, percussion).
Produced By Thomas and Ross Hamilton.
1. The album begins with the traditional Irish song “Whiskey In The Jar”, a rollicking tale of warning about good whiskey, stolen gold and a treacherous woman! Featuring a lively bluegrass-styled guitar solo by Mike Kerin and some mighty-fine Mark Oats fiddling!
2. “Molly Malone”, the lilting Dublin ballad, sees the late-great Australian fiddler Ray Schloeffel, in his final recording session captured for all-time with his haunting and inspiring fiddle playing. Father and daughter, Ross and Emma duet on verses and are joined by son Thomas on the choruses for some true family-style harmonies!
3. On “The Whistling Gypsy”, a love song with a surprise twist at the end, Emma and Mike join for chorus harmonies and Garry imitates a striking whistle with his piano accordion.
4. Eric Bogle’s formidable anti-war ballad “The Greenfields of France” tells the compelling story of one, Willie McBride, the unknown slain warrior who perished in 1916 on the gruesome French battlefields of W.W.1. Emma joins Ross on the powerful choruses that resonate with the eternal unanswered questions about war. Ray’s ethereal fiddling is heard throughout.
5. A complete turnaround with “The Reverend Ray’s Polkas”, a jaunty set of Ray’s favourite fiddle tunes to play with the band. Joined by Emma on grand piano and Thomas on drums and percussion, the audience are invited to put on their dancing shoes and start jumping!
6. “The Wild Rover”, a favourite pub song not only in Ireland but in bars around the world, tells the story of the prodigal son returning to his family after a life of hard-living and even harder drinking! Mike and Ross roar on the choruses and Mike plays some lovely licks on lead guitar.
Sing till you’re hoarse on this one!!
7. David Mallet’s thought-provoking “The Garden Song” has travelled the world and been lovingly claimed by the Irish as one of their own. This clever lyrical metaphor about gardening and life, features Ross, Emma and Thomas harmonising on the choruses and includes a jazz-inspired piano solo by Emma.
8. Emma joins Ross on the much-loved Irish ballad “The Mountains of Mourne”, about the hardships involved in leaving Ireland to find work in London and leaving a special girl behind.
9. Shortly before the untimely passing of our wonderful fiddler Ray Schloeffel, we were performing at the Windsor Markets on the outskirts of Sydney and Brian Wilshire (Radio 2GB), who was doing a guest spot on drums, happened to turn on his portable recorder and capture Ray playing his haunting and unique interpretation of “Danny Boy”. (Thank you Brian for capturing Ray at his most daring and captivating!)
10. The traditional Scottish ballad “The Skyeboat Song”, about the legendary Bonnie Prince Charlie includes more haunting fiddling by Ray, who transports the listener to the misty Scottish highlands. Emma features on some of the verses and Thomas joins for more family harmonies.
11. The song made famous by Al Jolson in the 1930’s and again by The Fureys fifty years later in the early 1980’s, James Thornton’s romantic, autobiographical poem about his wife “When You Were Sweet Sixteen” features Garry on piano and Mark on fiddle. Emma sings a mellow harmony on the choruses.
12. The ancient, sweet-sounding air “For Ireland I’ll Not Tell” begins with Ray’s soaring fiddle before he is joined by Kirk Steel on accordion and Emma on piano. Ray segues seamlessly into the lilting and uplifting old Celtic tune “The Three Sea Captains”. One of our all-time favourite Ray Schloeffel recordings.
13. “Black Velvet Band” is another of those swaggering and bold drinking songs that has traversed the globe and found itself sung with great gusto in many a packed and happy tavern. Mike joins Ross on the choruses and we invite you to charge your glass and sing out loud!
14. “Leave Her Johnny” the traditional song that marked the end of a voyage, sung by the crew to the ships’ Captain, is a powerful ballad with subtext-laden lyrics and a sweet easy-to-sing melody. A sea shanty of sorts, our version features another arrangement by Thomas Hamilton, who also takes the vocal honours with a set of soaring multi-tracked harmonies and backings that were inspired by the works of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. One more time Ray delights with a key change and his multi-layered towering fiddle solo.
15. To complete the album, once again lucky for us, we captured a live recording of Ray playing at a sold-out Sydney concert as he led the band with his marvellous interpretation of Jay Unger’s Civil War tune “The Ashokan Farewell”. Ray spars playfully with Garry on keyboards and piano as they trade verses on this airy and moving instrumental. (Ray left the stage as he finished to a well-earned standing ovation from the audience!!!).
This album “Swan Songs” is lovingly dedicated to his memory – Ray Schloeffel (1957-2002). We hope you enjoy the record.