It’s autumn in the southern hemisphere and therefore the perfect time for an Australian band called Raglan Road to re-form after almost three decades.
For two nights in July, Anna Brown (flute, whistle, saxophone, percussion), Martin Doherty (guitar, bodhran), Jim Donnelly (harmonica, 12-string guitar), Tony Hystek (upright and electric bass, cello) and Kirsty McCallum (violin, keyboard) are going to party like it’s 1987. Oh, and as well as being multi-instrumentalists, they all sing too.
Doherty and Donnelly are Irish, McCallum is Scottish, Hystek and Brown are Australian, and the band incorporates influences from all their different backgrounds, along with some English folk music too.
As well as the band getting back together, they have also roped in their manager Peter Russell.
“It came from a conversation Martin and I had at the St Albans Folk Festival last year,” Russell says.
“I was walking down a laneway there and, lo and behold, Martin and his wife Lynn were coming down the other way.
“We went for a beer at the Settler’s Arms pub and Martin said, ‘Peter, do you think it could ever happen that we’d all sing together again?’ An hour later we’d convinced ourselves that we wanted to make it happen.”
The only one that presented any difficulty in tracking down was Tony Hystek, but even that wasn’t too hard given the scarcity of Hysteks in the phone book. “I was working my way through about 30 Hysteks and found his cousin on about the fifth call,” Russell says. “It turns out for the past 20 years Tony has been running a sound and vision production company. When I broached the idea of a reunion with him, he straight away said yes and also said he would do the sound and production for free.”
Though Raglan Road released both singles and albums – including 32 Irish Songs For 32 Irish Counties, a double LP released by EMI – during their original 13-year career, the records are long out of print and were never released on CD.
Russell is hoping to rectify this once he can sort out copyright issues.
“We will make a commemorative CD for the concert, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.
There will also be another shiny disc available soon.
“What we are most looking forward to is we are going to record a three-camera video at the concert and a month or so after a DVD will be available through the website,” Russell says.
Raglan Road toured with the likes of Christy Moore, The Fureys, Mary Black, Paddy Reilly and many others, but one memory stands out above them all.
“We were staying at a hotel in Adelaide when we were touring with the Dubliners, Christy Moore and Stockton’s Wing,” he says.
“The Dubliners arrived a few hours after us at the hotel, and spending an evening with Ronny Drew and Barney McKenna and John Sheehan was terrific. John Sheehan said to me, ‘You know you are the only man I’ve ever seen who can drink Barney McKenna under the table’. Poor Barney was jetlagged, so I think I had an advantage. Those guys were some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in the music industry.”
The Raglan Road 28-year reunion concert is on Saturday, July 11 at Petersham Bowling Club in Sydney at 8pm. A week earlier, on July 4, they play at the Lithgow Workies Club in central west NSW. The Petersham show is already more than half sold, while the Lithgow show is free entry.