Feb 11 2013

Rory Gallagher’s Jig

Published by under tribute songs

Gordon Duncan

On December 14, 2005, the world lost an incredibly talented musician. Gordon Duncan died at the age of 41, but in his short life he helped breathe “new life into traditional musical form.” He composed over a hundred tunes, with perhaps his most famous composition, “Andy Renwick’s Ferret,” being recorded over 100 times around the world and on almost every conceivable instrument. He had the most amazing fast fingers and it was that combination of a great tune-smith, incredible feel, and innovative playing that elevated his status to that of legend. If the name is unfamiliar to you, you are not alone. Traditional musicians get short shrift in the music industry. Gordon Duncan never graced the cover of Rolling Stone — but he should have. He didn’t play the electric guitar. He didn’t bang the drums or plunk the keys. Gordon Duncan was a piper — a bagpiper, and he was the closest thing to a rock star the piping world has ever known.

Gordon was widely regarded as one of the most skilled and innovative traditional performers and composers of modern times. While steeped in the art of traditional highland piping, his approach to his music was always imaginative, fresh and at times radical, to the extent that his influence can be heard within an entire generation of younger musicians across Scotland and well beyond. — Gary West, BBC Radio Scotland

Gordon Duncan

Raised in Pitlochry, Gordon came from a long line of Scottish pipers and was a successful competitor on the junior scene. His time with the Vale of Atholl pipe band changed and evolved the music and medleys of pipe bands throughout the land. “The Vale of Atholl were the innovators and before their time in pipe band music. They were often criticized by the traditional judges for being too adventurous in their tune selection,” asserts noted piper Stuart Cassells, but years later it’s Gordon’s tunes or his unique arrangements of traditional tunes that are the predominately performed selections in the competitions.
    In the early eighties Gordon moved on to the folk scene, playing sessions with many of the leading bands of the day, including the Tannahill Weavers, Capercaillie, Ceolbeg, and Wolfstone. He continued to compete in the piping competitions however, and his unorthodox interpretations of traditional tunes and his bridging of folk with traditional Scottish piping caused considerable consternation to the more rigid, elitist thinking old guard of the piping community. This came to a head in the famous 1993 piping knockout competition held in BBC Studio 1 in Glasgow. After hearing Gordon play, renowned piping judge and co-founder of the Glasgow College of Piping, Seumas MacNiel infamously said “If that’s what piping’s about today, I’m taking up the fiddle”.

Back cover to Just for Seumas album

A year later, Gordon would craft his reply to Seamus MacNiel in the form of his first commercially released album, Just for Seumas. A review of the album for the Clan Currie Society heralded the album as a tour de force in modern day piping: “It displayed the full range of Duncan’s mastery of piping, opening with a tune from Seumas MacNiell’s own collection of music, through traditional competition material, piobaireachd and music arranged with snare drum, guitar and bouzouki accompaniment, to the memorable closing track consisting of a heavy dance beat accompanying Duncan’s playing. This track also included what was then seen as sacrilege – the first line of the piobaireachd Lament for Mary MacLeod was used as a harmony line for a reel.” Just for Seumas proved a fitting response to the piping judge’s disparaging remark!

For the most part Just for Seumas was filled with unique takes on long forgotten tunes, but also included several of Duncan’s own compositional gems, one of them being a tune called Rory Gallagher’s Jig, named after one of Gordon’s musical heroes. In recent years it has become quite a popular tune in Scotland, Ireland, and even across the waters in America where it was until recently part of the repertoire of Kansas City’s St. Andrew Pipes and Drums.

Gordon loved his music. Indeed he said he gained inspiration for composing when listening to Rory’s music (loud). — Ian Duncan, Gordon’s brother

Rory Gallagher’s Jig — by Gordon Duncan


Nomos — Set You Free

The tune was quickly picked up by the Irish traditional band, Nomos, whose ranks included noted singer/songwriter John Spillane on guitar and bass, Vince Milne on fiddle, Gerry McKee on bouzouki, Frank Torpey on bodhran, and Niall Vallely on concertina. The Cork based group had previously recorded a cover of Gordon’s tune ‘Andy Renwick’s Ferret’ on their first album, I Won’t Be Afraid Anymore and now included Gordon’s Rory Gallagher’s Jig on their second album, Set You Free.


I had known Gordon Duncan for a while and learnt the tune from his Just for Seamus album. We had recorded one of Gordon’s tunes called “Andy Renwick’s Ferret” on our first album and I had subsequently met Gordon a few times. He wouldn’t have been that well known in Ireland back then, but I was very interested in Scottish music as well and had been learning quite a lot of bagpipe music at the time. The fact that the tune was called “Rory Gallagher’s Jig” was somewhat coincidental – I’m not sure I had seen the title when I heard the tune first – but then it did feel good to make the connection. John was certainly a big fan of Rory’s and I’d say a couple of the other lads would have been as well. Most people in Cork seem to feel some connection to Rory anyway! — Niall Vallely

Rory Gallagher’s Jig — performed by Nomos


John Carnie’s Far From Home

In 2009, Scottish flatpicker John Carnie became the first to translate the jig to guitar, performing the tune to thunderous applause at the annual U.K Rory Gallagher tribute at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Probably the first time a bagpipe tune was ever played in the Cavern! He included the jig in his first acoustic album, Far From Home. “It is the first album of its type to feature entirely Scottish material on flatpicking acoustic guitar and covers the entire spectrum of Scottish fiddle and traditional tunes, adding a jazzy and bluesy twist to many of the compositions.” — Ross Macfadyen, Celtic Music Radio

I got into blues pretty early on. I was lucky to go to a Rory Gallagher concert when I was 12. I was only allowed to go because it was a Sunday afternoon 4pm show as the evening show in Edinburgh had sold out! His acoustic playing also struck me as well as the electric stuff…
I was the first to translate Rory Gallagher’s Jig to guitar and Dave Moir and myself also put a very short acoustic slide number called Edinburgh City Blue at the very start of the tune to pick up on the Rory blues influence. We also included blues harmonica and jazz double bass on the track to help it rock out a bit…I have just written the first ever tutor book for Scottish tunes on the guitar and I was extremely fortunate to get permission to put Rory Gallagher’s jig in the book. — John Carnie

Rory Gallagher’s Jig — performed by John Carnie


Brian Friel

In 2011, Award winning Kerry banjo man, Brian Friel released his debut album, Karusell. A previous winner of All-Ireland titles on the banjo and mandolin alike at the Fleadh Cheoil Eireann, Ireland’s biggest and most prestigious annual competition for musicians, Brian’s debut album features mainly Irish material with a taste of Swedish folk in the mix.
   “It’s a collection of old tunes I grew up with and some Swedish folk in there too — fused together with Irish Trad.”– Brian Friel
   The Album was recorded in Stockholm by Kieran O Loughlin from Sixmilebridge, Co Clare in 2011 and launched at St Johns Theatre and Arts Centre Listowel, Co Kerry.
   “Karusell is a highly enjoyable album, solid playing and great tunes,” notes reviewer Alex Monaghan of Living Tradition. Of interest to Rory Gallagher fans is the inclusion in the album of, as Alex puts it, “a driving version of Gordon Duncan’s ‘Rory Gallagher’s Jig’.”

There will only ever be one Gordon Duncan. The man was a pure genius. — Brian Friel

Rory Gallagher’s Jig — performed by Brian Friel


Gordon Duncan: A National Treasure

In 2007, The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust was set up by a group of family members and friends, with the purpose of promoting piping and other forms of traditional music in Scotland, with a particular emphasis on young musicians. On Saturday 29th September 2007, the Trust presented a Concert in the Perth Concert Hall to raise funds for the Trust. The concert was an unqualified success with the capacity audience being treated to a galaxy of talent from the piping and traditional music scenes, gathered together in Gordon’s native Perthshire to celebrate his music, his influence and immense contribution to Scotland’s musical landscape. The annual event continues on to this day.

    And in the past couple of years BBC Alba has aired two programs on Gordon Duncan:

  • Dha Gordon a-mhain (Just for Gordon) a documentary about Gordon’s life, and his tunes which became a mainstay of the Scottish traditional music repertoire
  • Cuirm-Ciuil dha Gordon Duncan (A National Treasure) which included feature performances from the fourth concert held in Gordon’s memory, in Perth in 2010


Famed Scottish musician and bagpipe maker Hamish Moore once said of Gordon Duncan: “This man is precious and should be one of Scotland’s national treasures.” – no truer words were ever spoken. Like the Rory Gallagher he idolized, Gordon Duncan is a true legend, the likes of which we’ll never see again in our lifetime. To learn more about Gordon Duncan please visit the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust.

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Sep 07 2009

They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore

Published by under commentary

I was emailing with a fan of the late Rory Gallagher and he mentioned that next year will be the 15th anniversary of the great one’s passing, and that we should do something special to celebrate the event. He thought that a tribute CD with famous artists doing covers of Rory’s songs would be just the ticket. One stipulation: the artists would have to be true Rory fans and not just people cashing in on the Rory groundswell that seems to have taken place over the past few years. It’s been just that, a groundswell, a Rory Renaissance with more CD’s and DVD’s coming out these past few years than in the previous ten before that. It use to be you had to scour the internet to find any video at all of Rory. There was the official releases: the Irish Tour DVD and the Cork Opera House DVD, but for anything more you’d have to forage among the trader sites to get your fill of Rory — a Rockpalast show here, a Montreux show there, some grainy footage from Vienna or maybe a copy of someone’s VHS tape of Rory on the telly, playing a couple of songs on the German “Beat Club” or Don Kirschner’s “Rock Concert”. In fact, I first decided to do a Rory Gallagher fan site after viewing Dave Gaviotti’s web site. He had a short video clip of Rory doing Shadow Play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I had never seen it before, but watching Rory pore his heart and soul into that song made me want to do something so people would remember him. Hence shadowplays.com.

In the past few years there’s been a flood of Rory Gallagher media. It started at the end of 2004 with the official release of the 3-DVD set of his Rockpalast concerts: 5 concerts, 9 hours of Rory at his finest, spanning the years from 1976 to 1990. Then came the release of the 24-track 2-CD compilation “Big Guns” in 5.1 surround sound, and it just snowballed from there. Eagle Rock Entertainment brought out Rory Gallagher Live at Montreux a 2-dvd compilation of his 5 appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival and even released an audio CD of the shows. More importantly, they released the videos, along with a second release of the Rockpalast shows, in NTSC format, so the starving masses across the pond in the Americas could see them. Then came a tell-all book by Rory’s former bassman, Gerry McAvoy, and a coffee table book by photograper Fin Costello, a re-release of a the “Live at Cork” video with bonus features, 2 songbooks, and a signature Martin guitar, and suddenly the world had gone nuts for Rory. And just this past month Eagle Rock puts out a 2-CD compilation called, “Rory Gallagher: Crest of a Wave!” It just keeps getting better and better.

So a 15th Anniversary tribute to the greatest blues and rock guitarist that ever lived would be a nice addition to the ever-growing Rory media juggernaut! That being said, it should be pointed out that there is already a tribute CD out there. It was recorded a few months after his passing and was filled with wonderful renditions of his songs. Songs performed by true fans that mourned the loss of their hero. It wasn’t a commercial CD filled with Pop stars using the occasion to promote their own fame. The bands who played on the tribute CD never graced the cover of “Rolling Stone”. And you didn’t buy this CD in your local record shop or at Amazon.com, it was more a communal thing. It was shared. If you wanted a copy all you had to do was ask and some Rory Gallagher fan would send it to you. It all started with an email by Rick Oppegaard to a Blues newsgroup:

Rick Oppegaard's email got the ball rolling

The original idea started in Nov 1995. I posted a message on a newsgroup rec.music.bluenote.blues, and within days I started getting replies. Kimmo Hagleberg and Volker Grupe were a big part of getting the news out, because they had the only two Rory Gallagher pages at that time. In fact Volker’s page was the very first Rory website.

So, as the months went on, various bands signed up, then dropped out, and I started getting their tapes in the mail. My whole idea was, it didn’t matter how good you were, everyone who contributed would be included, because if you had a love for Rory’s music, that’s what counted. My original thought was to compile all the music sent to me, then send it back to all the contributors. —Rick Oppegaard

I thought it was an excellent project. This was only a few months or so after Rory had passed and long before websites. It was all done with a few e mails flying. The track [Barley & Grape Rag] was recorded in my house in Aberdeen and recorded live with a long term musical collaborator Janice Clark. Janice & I had played in an acoustic blues band with Spider Mackenzie called Off the Tracks for some years. Spider plays blues harmonica on my cd. Janice is rated as one of the top traditional folk singers in Scotland, but as we had played blues for a long time B&GR was no problem to her.. — John Carnie

I’m a big fan and jumped at the chance to contribute to
that tribute. It was pretty low-fi…we recorded it in our drummer’s
bedroom, I think. I remember we came in late [into the project]
and all of the tunes I had in mind to do were taken by other
bands. “I Wonder Who” was a centerpiece of The RedHot Blues shows and
was always a crowd favorite–I stuck to Rory’s arrangement because I
couldn’t imagine anything better. So I started out wanting to do that, as I
think a ton of bands did. But I think the deal was the tunes had to be
written by Rory. We also did Too Much Alcohol and Shin Kicker and a few
others I can’t remember over the years. I continue to do his version of As
the Crow Flies in my acoustic sets, though I have never been able to match
his fever…he was really such a consummate blues musician. I’ve always
thought “blues rock” was a bit misleading for him…he was a blues musician
and he was a rock musician…the difference being that he was a master in
either form, whereas most “blues rock” players often are masters at neither
but excel only at their intersection. I think he would have been a killer
solo acoustic act when acoustic became all the rage, and though jaws dropped
for him during his live shows, I don’t think a lot of people would have been
prepared for his fiery solo act. — Junior Lee Klegseth, RedHot Blues

The project took on a life of it’s own as musicians from all over the world sent in tapes to be included. Bands such as the Fenton Brothers, The Boz Roz Band, The Loop, RedHot Blues, Nothingface and individual performers such as Dirk H. from Germany, John Carnie & Janice Clark from Scotland, and Marianne Murphy from the USA sent in their songs which Rick then compiled onto two tapes, one 90 minute and one 60 minute. Originally meant to be distributed only amongst its contributers, fans heard about it and started requesting the tapes. “The Irish Voice,” an East Coast newspaper aimed at the U.S. Irish demographic, wrote about the project as did Ireland’s “Hot Press” magazine. In the end, over 300 sets of tapes were sent out.

It was Åge Ericsson’s [from Nothingface] idea to give the project a name, and make it something more than what I had orginally thought to do. Tom Clancy had done “They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore”, so that seemed like a great name for the project. Patrick Kennedy contacted me and offered to pay for the printing of the covers for the project. There’s a cover [designed by Phil Rossner of the Boz Roz Band] for each tape of the set, with a different photo on each. Tape one, the 90 min tape, had a sentiment that I wrote, and tape 2, the 60min one had a sentiment that Patrick wrote. —Rick Oppegaard

A few years later, Rick revisited the project and compiled a CD with highlights from the tapes, handing them out at the Hammersmith Tribute for Rory in 2003. He also uploaded them to a server on the web so anyone who wished could have a listen. Rick’s web site, Phattydomain, is no longer out there, but I’ve re-uploaded the songs that were included on the tribute CD to my server. You can have a listen to them below, or download higher quality mp3’s on my downloads page. Maybe some weren’t professionally done in a studio, but they all come from a deep abiding love for Rory and his music, and that means more to me than a big “star” doing it for the money.

   They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore

A Tribute to Rory Gallagher

Blister on the Moon – Nothingface
Don’t know where I’m goin – Dirk Hoffman
I’m not surprised – Matthew Coughlin
The Loop – Boz Roz Band
I’ll Admit You’re Gone – Marianne Murphy
Shadow Play – Fenton Brothers
Out on the western plain – Matthew Coughlin
They don’t make them like you anymore – Tom Clancy
Barley and grape rag – John Carnie and Janice Clark
Same old story – Red Hot Blues
Laundromat – American Zen
Continental op – Fenton Brothers
The cuckoo – Dirk Hoffman
Cradle rock – Tom Clancy
Calling card – The Loop
Too much alcohol – Fenton Brothers
In your town – Fenton Brothers
Hero from the emerald isle – Marianne Murphy

   ©2000, Phattydomain, Inc.

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