Artwork/Collage by Colette Blanchard
Sleevenotes for The Shelly River re-release
... Some of these songs were written while we were recording, while others probably began before I could write at all ... and only listen to my father telling his stories of growing up in Sligo, of his boat journeys across the Irish Sea to Liverpool as a young teenager.
Of walking the roads of Yorkshire looking for work, cutting beet in the freezing winter fields of Lincolnshire, working on the streets and underneath them excavating the tunnels for the Underground in pre-war London.
His family, my family ... the power in blood ... the wells of memory that fill up over generations and travel in the genes.
It seems that any road I travel in the British Isles and Ireland to play music, he's been there before, working on the road or digging the fields alongside it.
... Everybody's got a story to tell, some live them, some tell them, some write them down, some dream them, some make them up, some sing them and some of us try and do it all ...
... these stories and songs had their roots on the banks of 'The Shelly River'.
They're all wild seeds now.
From the original sleevenotes by Terry Clarke 1991
Joseph Clarke, James Clarke and George Edmonds by Mick Grady at Annough Tobercurry Sligo 1946
Around 89/90 while preparing for the release of my first album & Call Up A Hurricane I began work on the follow up which at that time was untitled. My friend J,D, Foster who had produced the first album in Texas in 88 was in London working with Green On Red and had a little time free.
So we went in the studio and began work on some tracks; Frankie O’ Sullivan & The Fields Of Vietnam, Patrick & Irene In New York and Steam Heat. None of which incidentally have ever been released.
Those sessions were; J.D. on bass and synthesiser, Dale Marshall on drums, accordionist Slim and Wes McGhee on electric guitar.
Steam Heat was a Stax/swamp styled workout while the other two songs were in a more Irish narrative ballad style.
So ... J.D. went back to New York, the record company ran low on funds and time passed.
After a few months I picked up the threads and began working alone with engineer John Burns, carrying on with the feel and ideas we’d established on the band tracks.
In Kilkenny 1994 Photograph by Terry Clarke
My template for working this way was Donal Lunny’s production work with Christy Moore ... using synth pads; with acoustic instrumentation and percussion grooves allied to my love of Stephen Stills acoustic guitar overdubs and Don Everly’s rhythm guitar stylings.
A lot of times I missed the band sound and the input people such as J.D. and Wes would have given the recordings but at the same time feel something was created that wouldn’t have been the possible with other musicians.
In fact to this day I still use a lot those techniques when working with other players in the studio and combine the two.
The Shelly River was well received when it was first released in the summer of 1991 albeit with limited distribution and availability and I am very pleased that it’s now been released again by Catfish Records, hopefully to a much wider audience.
A lot artists will say that their records are like children in that they are all different but we love them all, I am no exception in this but this collection of songs has always been somewhat special inasmuch as there are a lot of true stories here and the fictional ones were for the most part inspired by events rooted in truths of some kind.
Mostly from my own father Joseph Clarke.
Some of the songs gained another dimension when I began touring to promote the original release, especially in Ireland, the Republic and Northern Ireland.
In Dingle Kerry, 1994 Photograph by Terry Clarke
I did a lot of those miles in the company of guitarist/singer Henry McCullough., who while we travelled would tell stories of the same miles many years before when he worked with the showbands. Met many of his friends, great Irish musicians such as Johnny Moynihan and James Delaney. James who played some of the Dublin gigs, playing piano like a rock & roll Thelonius Monk.
I met people whose stories and experiences were almost exactly the same.
To be expected I know but wonderful nonetheless.
I met a lot musicians on the road who became and have remained good friends, some of them have now recorded these songs as well.
In Cork 1992 Photograph by Terry Clarke
Ger McGrath in Tramore, County Wexford, who sings Last Summer At Cloonacool.
Sings it so well that when I play in that town I invite him on stage.
He sings it and I sing harmony.
Ger, whose sweet brother Eamon passed away in the spring of 99.
Eamon would send me Christmas cards telling of walking on Tramore’s beautiful beaches with his children, The Shelly River playing on his Walkman.
A lot of these songs were born of memories and in turn have already given me many more.
Ron Kavana on Galway to Graceland did The Edge of Shamrock City.
Ronny Elliott, a great writer from Tampa in Florida gave another dimension entirely to Irish Rockabilly Blues on his album Poisonville ... American Lipstick is in the stage repertoire of Butch Hancock from Lubbock, Texas.
Sligo to the high plains is a long way but songs can travel well.
Butch ... one of the greatest songwriters/storytellers I know ... it’s a thrill to hear him sing of my own relations.
In 99 I played a show with him at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, Texas that his mother Louise attended.
That night I sang the old Irish song Maggie, afterwards Butch introduced me to her and she told me that song was her favourite from when she was growing up in Lubbock ... songs do travel well.
So, if songs and collections of them are like children then The Shelly River must be almost grown ...
It’s got some new shoes and I have the feeling we’re going walking together again.
Terry Clarke, Reading, Berkshire, England July 2001
Joseph and Florence Clarke by Mick Grady at Strand Hill Sligo 1946
Sleevenotes for projected single release of 'Sligo Honeymoon 1946' in 1993
These were incorporated into the notes for the 2001 re-release
Life to the rhythm of;
Glenn Miller and Michael Coleman,
Handball down by the Moy,
Pistons and steam of the Great Western Railway,
Perfect hammer blows bouncing off the head of a wire nail,
Sigmund Pulsometer pumps,
Shining bobbins stitching Burberry raincoats,
A beat up Mini on the Devon and Dorset border
With rowan berries flashing by &
A mandolin thrown on the back seat,
Looking to see John Fowles house
through the trees across Lyme Regis bay,
Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep,
Two generations to pull one mackerel out of the sea.
Lovers love the sea.
Take your photographs and remember &
There are some things you should not forget.
Terry Clarke Berkshire, England 1993