American Special Sleevenotes

Now that Celtic music has been embraced by the burgeoning acoustic audience in this country, expectations for touring bands has risen significantly. Sighting the link with bluegrass and old timey music, we expect Irish musicians to match the virtuosity of Bill Monroe, wring the emotions like the Blue Sky Boys, and entertain like Uncle Dave Macon, without losing any of the ethnicity that Irish music so unique.

Over in Ireland, in the meantime, Stockton's Wing has been honing their craft with an eye towards America. Beginning in 1979, they developed a distinctive style around the instrumental talents of three All-Ireland champions (Paul Roche - flute; Maurice Lennon -fiddle; and Kieran Hanrahan - banjo, mandolin, bouzuoki) and an extraordinary percussionist (Tommy Hayes - bodhran, bones). The effortless grace of their playing combined with driving rhythms, gave the traditional tunes of their first album, Stockton's Wing (TARA2004), a unique flair.

Stockton's second album, Take A Chance (TARA3004), introduced Kieran's brother, Mike Hanrahan, on guitar and vocals. His singing and songwriting skills were strongly influenced by American country music, and his contemporary ballads brought a heightened emotional quality to the groups repertoire. Their traditional arrangements took on an added freedom, as the band's reputation spread throughout the folk audiences in Ireland. Appearances at leading festivals brought out a new sophistication on stage to complements their growing musical maturity.

Stockton's third album, Light In The Western Sky (TARA3009) extended their popularity into the pop market as well, with several "hit singles", TV appearances and a raft of new performing venues throughout the British Isles and Europe. Their instrumental arrangements expanded in scope and substance, the vocal harmonies grew more lavish, and Stockton's ability to entertain a whole variety of audiences became part of their skyrocketing popularity.

Now in 1984, Stockton's Wing is coming to the United States for their firct visit, poised to meet the expectations of the American listening audience. The flash, the grace and the heart are all in place, as the prospects for a lasting relationship hover tantalizingly on the eve of their debut tour. To celebrate the occasion, Shanachie Records is pleased to present this special compilation album, which contains selections from each of Stockton's Irish releases.

From the earliest versions of Sonny Brogan's and Queen Of The Fair to the sophistication of the Beltable and Dirt Track To The Sky, this is the music that has brought Stockton's Wing both critical and popular acclaim. It is a continually evolving paean to the band's creativity, and a harbinger of the exciting future we can look forward to sharing, here in America, with Stockton's Wing.

Herschel Freeman