One of the most exciting new ballad groups in Dublin at the moment has to be Dubliners “Whiskey Still” I had the privilege of sharing the stage with them in Switzerland a few weeks ago & the reaction they got from a packed audience each night of their shows, said it all. It was fabulous! With some changes in personnel along the way, “Whiskey Still” have been together as a band for over 6 years now. The most senior member (& founder of the original group) is BRENDAN LEESON.
BRENDAN has bucket loads of experience in the ballad business. He started with “The Weavers” back in the 60s & since then has been in “The Quare Fellas” featuring Patsy Watchorn & Sean McGuinness, which later became a little known trad outfit called “The Dublin City Ramblers” 🙂 Brendan also founded “The Buskers” with Paul Furey & Davey Arthur, with whom he toured England, Scotland & Canada throughout the 70s. Paul Furey & Davey Arthur joined up with “The Furey Brothers” & the rest is a story for another day. From there, Brendan joined “Rakish Paddy” in the 80s, which I personally believe, in their day, were the best ballad group in Dublin with Sean Og McKenna (Barneys brother) on tenor banjo, Gerry Crilly on guitar, Noel Carroll also on guitar & Brendan Leeson, himself on five string banjo. As with “Whiskey Still” now, each member of “Rakish Paddy” shared the vocals, of course & every show was one to remember. “Rakish Paddy” made one LP which is now a collectors item. In the year 2000, Brendan joined up with Paddy Leonard, Karen Doherty & Martin Dempsey to form the original “Whiskey Still” line up, which I believe has reached it’s definitive peak since Martin Dempsey was replaced by Paul Holohan. Brendan has an extraordinary repertoire of ballads at his disposal & leads the band, as they take in the familiar, fun & crowd-pleasing tunes, jigs & reels alongside the more mysterious, contemplative, storytelling ballads.
PAUL HOLOHAN is bass player & singer with “Whiskey Still” Paul also plays keyboard & is an excellent songwriter. His background is varied, but most notably took shape in the vibrant 60s pop/rock scene of Dublin’s hip & trendy. Paul was originally a member of the poll & chart topping sixties Irish beat group “The ByeLaws” ..& I should mention that I have great admiration for the guitar Paul plays. It is a classic old school Rickenbacker bass guitar (the same model as Paul McCartney played through most of he days in Wings & clutches in the cover artwork of ‘Pipes Of Peace’) In the 60s, “The ByeLaws” were actually managed by the same management company as “The Dubliners” & after his time with “The ByeLaws” had ended, Paul moved to Canada with his own band “Lola and The Gipsies” who’s extensive tours took in nightclubs, theatres & prisons (yes, prisons! ..move over Johnny Cash!) in the U.S. & Canada alike. On his return from Canada, in the late 70s, Paul made a foray back into to the Irish music scene which felt like a return to his roots as he grew up playing Irish music on his very first instrument, the piano accordion
Frank Kearney started playing with the mandolin” at the tender age of 15! Frank has played and recorded with many of the leading groups in Ireland and has since recorded an album of Irish traditional music With the expertise of a seasoned musician. Frank showmanship is renauned wherever he plays bringing his own style and personality to the show.
Collectively “Whiskey Still” are one the finest working live groups in Dublin today.