Carrying the legacy of the Clancy family name into the 21st century, Donal Clancy has established himself at the forefront of a new generation of traditional Irish musicians. He first rose to fame as a founding member of the Irish supergroup Danú, and later cemented his reputat... more
“…the hottest new guitarist in the Celtic Realm.”
– SCOTT ALARIK, BOSTON GLOBE
Innovation combined with tradition: that’s a hallmark of Clancy family musicians, and it’s one that guitarist Donal Clancy is carrying forward into the twenty first century with his first solo release, Close to Home.
The title is no accident, either. “These are songs I grew up with, songs I can’t truly remember learning,” Clancy recalls. The tunes include the slow air "An Buachaill Caol Dubh", the hornpipe "Kitty’s Wedding", and the jig "Ask My Father". Donal did indeed ask his father, Liam Clancy of Clancy Brothers fame, to show him a few chords on the guitar when he took up the instrument as a young boy after starting out on the tin whistle and trying out the mandolin. He’d found a home. “Something about the the sound of the guitar, the plucked strings, just appealed to me,” he says.
That’s where the innovation comes in, too. The acoustic guitar adds many colors and textures to Irish music, but there’s no long history of it in Celtic tradition, as there is with the fiddle and the accordion. Donal Clancy is one who’s bringing the guitar forward to its rightful place as a strong part of Irish tradition. He’s been involved with the best bands in Irish music, starting out in Clancy, O’Connell, and Clancy with his father Liam and his cousin Robbie O’Connell, helping to found the band Danu and then moving on to become part of Eileen Ivers Band before taking a pivotal spot playing guitar with one of the hottest Irish and Irish American bands around, Solas. When it was time to make a change, he found his old band Danu in need of a guitar player again, and that’s still one of his main gigs. “It was like coming home again, bringing it all back home,” he says, laughing.
Band work isn’t the only thing he’s done, though: Donal is an in demand session guitarist and road warrior, supporting top Celtic artists including Kevin Crawford, Cherish the Ladies, Aoife Clancy, The Chieftains, Niall Vallely, and Cathie Ryan. That may explain why it has taken him a while to get aroudn to making a solo album, but it was worth the wait.
Close to Home is a chance to hear one of the finest guitarists of this generation in a quiet, intimate setting, just the man and his guitar. Donal produced the disc himself and “I just went into the studio and played. I just wanted to capture the way I played the tunes on that day, without a lot of editing and things that you often go through in recording,” he says.
Though the tunes are all traditional, he’s still the innovator: they are all melodies Donal heard first on other instruments and brought over to the guitar with his own arrangements. “ I just absorbed this music over the years,” he says. “This is a record I’ve always wanted to make.”