THE RETURN OF “JIMMY CROWLEY AND STOKERS LODGE”
Stokers Lodge is both a band and a place. The place is the gate lodge to the Stoker estate in Frankfield, Douglas, Co.Cork where the local huntsmen often met on Sunday mornings and where singer Jimmy Crowley grew up. Those same Stokers are indeed related to the famous Gothic writer, Bram Stoker.
The band are far from Gothic and are the hand-picked crew that Jimmy Crowley choose to accommpany him on his ethnographical journey to collect,compliment and present the Cork Urban Ballads, a labour of love that began when Chris Twomy handed him the words of “Connie Doyle’s Armoured Car” in the early seventies.
The band were spotted by Mulligan records in 76 and asked to record a couple of albums under the wonderful direction of Mícheáll Ó Dómhnaill of the Bothy Band. Their main objective was to bring an entirely Cork accent to the music and to avoid at all costs, sounding like anybody else.But while Stokers Lodge were distilled out of local spirits, the band was very aware of the international context and relationships between songs . Chris Twomey is perhaps the finest singer of authentic, American Old Timey music outside of America and brings a richeness to the band with his sensitive autoharp and concertina playing and knowledge of the larger cross-currents of tradition. When he first heard Cork band, Paddy’s Goatskin and Stringband in the sixties,Jimmy Crowley was smitten by the harmony of double stringed instruments like mandolin and mandola as played by Jim O’ Donnell and Niall Toner.
Mick Murphy’s complimentary mandolin and mandola calls answering Jimmy Crowley’s bouzouki evince a distinctive motif in the song arrangements of Stokers Lodge and bears testimony of their affection and respect for the original bouzouki/mandolin duet staged by Sweeney’s Men.Mick is also a fine guitarist and has played with influential bands like Plumduff, The Lee Valley Stringband and the Carter Bros.He teaches guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo in Cork city.
Johnny Murphy’s warm,distinctive guitar sound is an essential third member of the string section. Johnny “Fang”, as he is better known, found a new direction with the amazing jazz trio The Stargazers and more recently has made a name for himself as a songwriter in the company of fellow ‘gazer, Chris Ahern. The foot-pumped reed harmonium has always been featured in certain songs by Johnny, an integral part of the sound of such poignant ballads as “The Bantry Girls’ Lament.”
Piper Eoin Ó Ríabhaigh brings a world of priceless tradition to the Stoker sound, breaching the urban mileu and relaying the echoes of the Gaelic world outside.He has recorded with the most respected musicians and singers on both sides of the Atlantic and has recently turned his hand to the intricate craft of pipe-making.Recently Stokers have been complimented by the unmistakeable melodeon playing of Dave Hennessy of Any Old Time who needs little introduction for his understanding of songs and the tunes from the hinterland of Cork , Kerry and beyond.
Stokers Lodge, since their humble beginning in the Phoenix Bar, (the O’Donoghue’s of Cork!) in the early seventies have played the major folk festivals in Ireland and Britain and toured America. Their two albums, “The Boys of Fairhill” and “Camphouse Ballads” are now considered to be classics of the folk era and for no better reason that the fun they have always had and work yet un-done, the band are back together.