The Barleyshakes first formed in Dublin. The original members all met at a local Sunday session in the town of Dunlaoghaire in 1992. There was Alan Kelly (still shakin), David Hingerty (currently working with The Frames who are based in Dublin and New York), Ray McCormac (now a member of the band Sliothar and living in County Clare), Mark Heffernan (now a father of three and a home builder in Sally Noggin in Dublin), and Mr. Eric Lang (currently living and working in London.)
The band quickly gained a happy and loyal following in and around the pubs and clubs of Dublin. Their first appearance at an international folk festival was in L’Orient Interceltique Festival in 1995.
What followed was a hectic pace of live performances and the band eventually recorded its debut album. That first CD, Gach Ean, was recorded by their friend and sound engineer, Sinead Conlan, overlooking the majestic and beautiful Killiney Bay. The album took a bit too long to finish and the launch party went on well after the support tour had finished.
For that support tour, Rene Starhon joined The Barleyshakes and Kristin Kelly who were members of Prague based Puca Rua. (Gaelic for Red Devil/ Leprechaun? Banshee)
Upon returning to Ireland from Australia and the quite beautiful coral-stained island of Fiji, Alan and Kristin along with Dave and Mark, teamed up with a young gifted musician named Alan Doherty, who could play the whistle and flute like the devil himself. The quintet experimented with new influences for traditional Irish music and then it was about time to record a new album.
CD review by Peter Harrison
The Barleyshakes play a mix of traditional Irish tunes and original material, with the latter sitting somewhat awkwardly alongside the former on this record. This is not to say their originals are bad, although their lyrics do occasionally come off as slightly clunky. It’s just that the standard and passion of performance on the traditional far eclipses the standard of the originals. The end result, however, is a very good record. The opening track “The� TravellingSong” is the weakest, and while it tells a lovely story of travel and adventure, its structure and performance is not as strong as this band is capable of. “Ireland’s for Sale” is a lament for the commercialisation of culture in a post-riverdance Ireland (although it could be argued that it’s better than Ireland having nothing to sell, which was the case not so long ago). The Barleyshakes shake at their strongest on their interpretations of traditional Irish tunes such as “The Abbey Reel” and “A Breton Dance”.