Blackstone Cúil

BC in the Worcester T&G

Blackstone Cúil CD release party at Fiddlers' Green

  • ·  Blackstone Cúil Joe Miglionico photo
  • ·  ·  By Richard Duckett
    Telegram & Gazette Staff


Posted Jun. 19, 2015 at 6:00 AM
Updated at 12:35 AM

 

John Guertin, Myra MacLeod and Mike Ladd didn't quite find a quiet corner.

The three are experienced area musicians, so when they started together on some tunes there was going to be the sound of guitar, fiddle and drums - quiet, loud or otherwise.  

They've played different musical styles over the years, but with Irish music there was also the sound of something else.  "It just clicked, let's put it that way," said Guertin of their musical revelation. "We got together and played Irish tunes and it just took off."

Blackstone Cúil, as the group has become, will have an album release party June 26 at Fiddlers' Green Pub,  19 Temple St., Worcester, for its self-titled debut CD. The event, which is free, is sponsored by Guinness and Atlas Distributing. The band will perform around 9 p.m. 

"Cúil" (pronounced "kool" or "cool") is Irish for "corner," Guertin said.  Worcester's Blackstone corner is roughly defined by Shrewsbury Street and Water Street,  an area where many immigrants from Ireland lived while working on building the Blackstone Canal from Worcester to Providence in the early 19th century.  

"There's so much about the building of the Blackstone Canal and Irish history," Guertin said. "And after that the railroad." 

It's an inspiration.

Ladd's lyrics to the song "Blackstone Cúil" capture the feel and spirit of the times. "We settled where we can raise our families/Our shovels help the railroad rise to rule/And I will find my way, homesick but not astray, a new life in our home called Blackstone Cúil," Ladd sings at  one point.

Blackstone Cúil is composed of Ladd, vocals and guitar; MacLeod, fiddle; Guertin, drums, bodhran, percussion; and newcomer Steve Harnois (not featured on the album), bass. The CD includes another composition by Ladd, a couple of contemporary Irish songs, including the well-known "Irish Ways and Irish Laws," and also a rendition of George Gershwin's "Summertime." The latter is a number Ladd always wanted to record. "Why not?" Guertin said.

  That spirit reflects something else about Blackstone Cúil. The band describes its style of Celtic music as "Irish Mod" - "not too light, not too heavy, never boring." Rather than coming across as traditional Irish folk music, the sound could be said to be  more folk-rock. The vocals and the playing (especially the texture of MacLeod's fiddle) are always expressive. 

"We're doing it our way. It gives us our own twist," Guertin said.

Guertin and Ladd were members of the popular local rock band Chimera in the 1980s, which released the critically acclaimed EP "Coming Into Color" and was seen on an episode of the television series "Spenser For Hire."  

Guertin and Ladd have also played together in other bands such as Leslie Buck & the Change  and the funk/R&B group No We Don't. Ladd has been involved with a number of musical projects, including the Ladd Foundation, which Guertin has played in. Ladd and MacLeod, meanwhile, have performed as a duo. MacLeod has won recognition for her consistently enthralling fiddle and violin playing over the years, and is also an innovative teacher. 

Guertin, Ladd and MacLeod getting together to play Irish music in a corner wasn't a total accident. Ladd had discovered his Irish roots and wanted to form an Irish band, MacLeod has an extensive background playing Celtic music, and Guertin is more than half Irish. He brought along a bodhran (an Irish drum).     

 "People seem to like it," Guertin said of Blackstone Cúil's sound. The band has been performing for about four years at Irish festivals and other related events. Guertin, in turn, likes the Irish music scene.  "The music is so much fun. Everybody has a story. It's a neat way of life. We're enjoying the ride."

The CD is being released to help keep the ride going. "We're not looking to go to stardom with it.  We want to show what the band is capable of doing," Guertin said. The album will be given to potential promoters toward that end, but will also be available on CD Baby and sold at  Blackstone Cúil performances.

"We're just hoping to expand our territory. Making some friends and spreading the word," Guertin said. That could include a three-week tour of Ireland.   

"Most bands don't really last a very long time. This (Blackstone Cúil) is gonna get a few more years of playing it out - hopefully longer than that," Guertin said.

 For more information about  Blackstone Cúil visit www.blackstonecuil.com 

Contact Richard Duckett at Richard.Duckett@telegram.com