The Crooked Rose, released in 1992, came on the heels
of a major change in the history of Stocktons Wing. Throughout the
1980's 'The Wing', as they were often known had been performing
as a Trad/rock outfit with their traditional instrumentation being
backed by drums, bass, Keyboards and electric guitar. In 1990 with
the departure of founder member Kieran Hanrahan, the group decided
that it was time for a change in direction and concentrated their
efforts on a more acoustic sound, which was more in keeping with
the original sound of Stockton's Wing.
At this time also the group renewed and old and
successful partnership with Tara Music and took two months off their
hectic touring schedule to prepare and record an album in keeping
with the group's new sound. To oversee and produce the project the
group called on old friend Bill Whelan
, who later gained
worldwide recognition with Riverdance
and one of Ireland's leading studio engineers Andrew Boland. After
a month in Dublin's now famous Windmill Lane Studio the result was
The Crooked Rose, an album of contrasting moods, a refreshing collection
of contemporary Irish music.
The Crooked Rose features twelve original tracks which capture the
progressive acoustic sound of the groups new lineup which now included
Davey McNevin on Banjo & Mandolin, Peter Keenan on keyboards and
Mike Hanrahan on vocals & guitar in addition to founder members
Paul Roche on flute & whistles, Maurice Lennon on fiddle.
With six Mike Hanrahan songs on the album the vocal
content is greater than on any previous Stockton's Wing album which
proved to be a major part of the album's success. However the remaining
six sets of tunes highlight the excitement, drive and individual
virtuosity which has been the hallmark of Stockton's Wing since
their inception back in 1977.
Stockton's Wing fly back to their
By Richie Taylor
After 15 years together Stockton's
Wing have decided to drop their calling card of rocked-up ceili
music in favour of a purer, traditional form of Irish music. It's
something of a new beginning for the Ennis band who achieved country
acclaim in the 80's with hits such as 'Walk Away' and 'Beautiful
But the bubble eventually burst, and as their popularity
declined, so too did the band's interest in the music they were
performing. "The music was taking second place to the gig
and the drink, the crack as it's called" explains singer
Mike Hanrahan. "We just got tired of it. The whole Celtic
rock thing ran its course. It was very tiring, we were doing nothing
but late night gigs where we were just background music for drinking.
We felt a bit more serious about our music than that."
So they dropped the bass, drums and electric guitars
and decided to return to their roots. Now Stockton's Wing feel rejuvenated,
and hope to break into the same listening ( as opposed to dancing
and drinking) circuit as Mary Black and Christy Moore. It is some
18 months since they toured Ireland, in that time concentrating
mainly on work abroad.
In the UK, they have already abandoned the rock club
circuit in favour of the theatres. "Okay, you fall back
a bit on the first tour, but from then on, you build up. The reaction
in Britain so far to the new band has been phenomenal. I feel that
its been a great release for the band to get away from the Celtic
Rock, the whole 'Keep her goin Patsy' thing."
They're also managing themselves and feel for the
first time ever that they have control over their lives. "It's
such a pleasure," says mike, "but it's hard work.
You're talking directly to people all the time. There's no middle
man. We listened to managers for years...and in the end we gave
the electric thing a year too long."
He feels that musicianship and management skills should
not automatically be seen as totally different areas. "The
notion that musicians are musicians and their only place is on a
stage is stupid. Some people are born with organisational qualities.
We knew where we wanted to go musically and we decided to take control
of the situation. We took a chance, but learned quickly."
However it wasn't all plain sailing, and they came
close to breaking up at one point. "It was touch and go,"
says Mike, "you get frustrated with the thing and you start
to wonder, 'Jaysus, what's it all about?' We did put a lot of energy
into it and I know we played great music for years. But we didn't
get the lucky breaks. I don't know whether it was bad planning on
our part, or management, or whatever. But whatever happened over
the years, you can blame managers and record companies, but the
buck has to stop with the band for bad decision."
In 1990, Mike's banjo-playing brother Kieran who co-founded
the band, quit, apparently tired of the road. Mike himself confesses
to occasionally tiring of the travelling and performing, "But
what else can I do?" he asks. "It's in me, and
I do like the gig. In fact, I like them even better this year, we're
like young fella again now."
Stockton's Wing first got together in 1977, with Mike
joining the lineup some two years later. Prior to that he had been
playing and singing in a country band called Tumbleweed with fellow
Ennis native Maura O'Connell. Around the same time as he was invited
to join the Wing, she was made an offer by De Dannan. Both accepted.
Maura subsequently relocated to Nashville, while Mike and the rest
of the band have been based in Dublin for some years.
He looks at the current return to their roots as a
new beginning for the band. The diddley-aye crack has been displaced,
with the band now tackling thornier subjects such as drug addiction
and alcohol abuse. The new album also features a song in the ecological
vein. "I'm actually environment-friendly," smiles
Mike, who in the 1970's was involved in the Anti-nuclear lobby.
He recalls some flamboyant managers they have had
down through the years. "Some of them thought that they
were going to turn us into the next Wet Wet Wet or something. Then
we met Oliver Barry, who actually brought us back to earth and taught
us an awful lot about the business. His was the most professional
office we ever worked with."
There have been several highlights in the band's career,
but none better than when we joined Sammy Davis Jnr. on stage at
the 'Ultimate Event' concert in Lansdowne Road a few years ago.
"We're quiet boring in that we actually do
get on well together," admits Mike, "we have a
good time. We're mature enough now to get on with things. What I'd
love to do now is make a few bob. Yeah, we did make money down through
the years, but we were young."
"Sure, didn't I meet you many's the night
down in Leeson Street?"
The Sunday Press, April 26th 1992
Stockton's Wing At The Barbican
Stockton's Wing took the audience by
storm at the Barbican last Wednesday night. Apart from the short
break at half-time there were two hours of first-class entertainment
from one of Ireland's best traditional folk groups. The Barbican
hall, which has played host to some of the world's leading classical
musicians, did not over-awe the boys of Stockton's Wing.
These five hugely talented musicians simply got on
with the job of making music, as if they were playing in a pub in
Kilburn or Kilkee. And there was a minimum of small talk and blather
and wise cracks, at which musicians can be just plain boring. They
played, and, what's more they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Maurice Lennon of Leitrim played the fiddle, crouching over it,
moving with bent knee and bent back around the stage holding each
member of the group in turn with his elfin eyes, encouraging them
to play better. He played so whole-heartedly himself that smoke
actually rose from the strings. How they did not snap is the unresolved
mystery of the evening.
Mike Hanrahan, guitar and vocalist, put in a few soft-spoken
words here and there to introduce the numbers and to throw in the
odd plug for their latest album 'The Crooked Rose'. If it's anything
as good as what they played in the Barbican, there will be brisk
sales and it will surely top the charts.
Mike Hanrahan has the kind of voice you don't get
tired listening to. He never shouts and when he sings songs like
'Take me home Lonesome Roads' he plucks at the heart strings of
the Irish Exiles, whether they are in London, Sydney or New York.
Another Beautiful song that many a man might identify
with is 'Angel' ('She sees the child in me and won't abandon me...')
'When you smiled' is a song that will please everyone that cares
for the environment. The 'You' in the song is mother earth, threatened
by pollution and the weakening ozone layer. "When you smiled
it must have been heaven...from the steppes to the streets of Washington"
But the sweetest sound of Stockton's Wing comes from
the tin whistle of Paul Roche, the man from Clare. Paul stands four
square on the stage and delivers those haunting sounds that bring
to mind the wild mountains and valleys of the West of Ireland. He
seems to breath music into that instrument like a new James Galway.
The little man on the wings Dave McNevin had some
trouble with his banjo strings, but good musician that he is , he
knelt down in the corner and re-tuned it quietly on the spot, no
trouble to him and then he was back with the rest of them plucking
away, filling the Barbican with his dulcet notes and unerring rhythms.
The quiet man on his right was Peter Keenan on the keyboard. He
smiled and kept playing, keeping everything moving harmoniously.
There was no need for drums. Everyone in the Barbican that night
went home happy. It had been a feast of first-class music, the kind
that Ireland could be proud of.