Rising is an original 1916 concept album by Black Bank Folk, a compelling new addition to the Irish music scene. On the face of it they are a brand new act but in reality, their 2016 emergence has been several years in the making. The band’s debut album Rising sprang out of founding members John Colbert and James Sheeran’s musical upbringings and the former’s interest in investigating his great uncle Con Colbert’s role as a leader in 1916. The album, released on 26 February, has received critical acclaim from the Irish media.
Black Bank Folk aim to tell stories through their music, the album aims to highlight some of the lesser known stories of the 1916 Easter rising. Staying away from the well known political themes, the band hope to give a more human account of a major event in Irish history, piecing together individual accounts and investigating universal themes of hope, loss, love, celebration and sacrifice. The Irish Times notes that the narrative arc of the collection has, ‘an immediacy that will likely resonate with a whole new audience.’
One special track on the album titled Brother, tells the story of how Willie Pearse idolised and was devoted to his brother Padraig as he became more politically extreme from 1912. During Easter week 1916, he never left his brothers side in the GPO and although there have been claims that Willie never held a gun, he was sentenced to death for his part and relationship to Padraig. Here’s a snippet of the story behind Brother
The album delves into the human stories of the revolution. It explores themes of suppression, love, bravery, disillusionment and the realisations of shifting realities for all those affected by the fight. It allows us to consider historical figures as everyday people, whether they be Irish leaders, British soldiers, revolutionary women or children in a time of war. Aided by a powerful performance from Damien Dempsey on a song he wrote for the album called ‘Aunt Jennie’. From research into his ancestry, he discovered his great grandaunt Jane (Jennie) Shanahan who took part in the Easter Rising and inspired by her involvement he wanted to pay tribute to her with this song. The album also includes guest vocals from Paddy Casey, Grace O’Malley and Jem Mitchell the record promises much, there is something here for all.
On Saturday 5th March, Black Bank Folk celebrated the release of the album with a very special sold out show at Liberty Hall. On this evening of original music inspired by the men, women and events of 1916, the audience were treated to an incredible live music experience. John Colbert and James Sheeran were joined onstage by some of Ireland’s most respected musicians, Éamonn de Barra, John McLoughlin, Sean McKeown, Mark Colbert, Dermot O’Hanlon. Jem Mitchell and Grace O’Malley also featured on vocals, with some spoken word by the inspiring Dublin poet Stephen James Smith.
The show was an incredible opportunity to delve into some of the unvisited stories of one of Irish history’s most celebrated and debated events in a unique atmosphere, and the band left the stage to a standing ovation from the audience.
2017 sees Black Bank Folk begin work on their follow up to “Rising’ with a late 2017 release expected.