The Influences went to Kilkenny, Ireland and invited local musicians to join them in the tower of the monumental Kilkenny Castle to record sessions. And they did. One of them is rising Irish folk singer Niamh Bury, who released two gorgeous singles recently on Claddagh Records and has an debut album on its way. For The Influences, she recorded a Leonard Cohen cover and her latest single Who Am I To Tell Him? on guitar and the 18th century song The Wounded Huzzar on harmonium.
Niamh Bury’s music is right up my alley and reminds me in some ways of Scottish folk artist Rachel Sermanni, so I was over the moon when got to film this session last month. Bury’s songs, as described strikingly on her label’s website, ‘are maps of conversations – both real and perhaps yearned for – with oneself, loved ones, imaginary characters and those who have passed on to other worlds. Each is an attempt to arrive at some kind of empathy, understanding and acceptance. The music is both lush and spacious, giving the listener room to swim, dip or fly between verses’.
“The lyrics are so evocative, dark, and grisly that it’s like stepping into a painting”
As soon as Niamh Bury started playing her JAS harmonium, combined with her voice, everyone in the room knew this was going to be special. And to be fair; we were absolutely right. Watch the video for The Wounded Huzzar and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.
“I learned The Wounded Huzzar from the singing of Niamh Parsons and Rita Gallagher. It’s a Napoleonic ballad written by Scottish poet Thomas Campbell at the end of the 18th century. It’s set to the air Captain O’Kane, which is believed to have been composed by Turlough O’Carolan, a blind Irish harper who was influenced by Irish folk tunes and Italian baroque music. The melody is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and the lyrics are so evocative, dark, and grisly that it’s like stepping into a painting.”
An ‘air’ is a song melody or compositions in Irish traditional music.
“The imagery conjured by the lyrics is so rich, sensuous, and sad.”
“The Traitor is a song that’s very dear to my heart. I would often sing it when I was busking around Europe a number of years ago with a tiny guitar and a rucksack before mics and card readers were common busking accessories. The imagery conjured by the lyrics is so rich, sensuous, and sad. It’s a great example of Cohen’s genius in storytelling and transporting the listener to another time and place.”
The Influences in Ireland.
In August 2023, The Influences traveled to Kilkenny, Ireland, to film sessions during Kilkenny Arts Festival. Over the course of two weekends, I filmed eleven sessions, with acts on the festival’s line up, and other Irish musicians that I admire. Niamh Bury’s session is the first of those eleven to appear on the website. The others will follow in the weeks and months to come. So, please subscribe and keep coming back!
Filmed by Matthijs van der Ven & David Lawson Froggatt
Edited by Matthijs van der Ven.
Audio recorded & mixed by Matthijs van der Ven.
Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle
Thank you for watching and enjoying this session. You’ll probably like some other sessions from The Influences’ archive too, like this earlier one by Rachel Sermanni.