Philadelphia-based Celtic folk and Americana collective River Drivers present their new album ‘Big Oak Road’. Influenced by the likes of Billy Bragg, Christy Moore, Ewan MacColl, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Paul McKenna Band and Altan, River Drivers’ distinct flavour of music is a sum of its parts.
A four-piece, River Drivers’ unique passion-infused style of music draws from Celtic, Americana and Appalachian influences and features powerful and distinctive vocals. Their repertoire strikes a fine balance of original songs and more obscure folk songs, resurrected from deep folk vaults.
Anchored by Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass) and Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass) with accompaniment by Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, melodica) and Meagan Ratini (fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle), their high energy music explores pervasive themes of hard-working men and women and social justice.
They earlier offered several tasters of the new long-play: the high-energy double A-side single ‘Children’s March (Mother Jones) / Going Once’, which present two tales rooted in U.S. Irish history – stories of what people suffered through and what they did to overcome, followed by their rendition of the traditional ballad ‘Isn’t It Grand Boys (Look at the Coffin)’.
“As we were choosing what was going to be on this record, we felt very strongly that we wanted to continue in the same vein as our first record—songs of workers who were taken advantage of by their employers, of those who fought for their rights, and of men and women who struggled in life to make a living for themselves and their families. But this record is different from our first in that half of the songs are originals. Only one of the songs on the first album was original,” says Mindy Murray.
“Two of the songs have very personal significance to me. I wrote them about my father’s family as they lost their farm to back taxes on the eve of the depression (‘Going Once’), and what became of my grandmother and her ten kids in the 1940’s (‘Big Oak Road’). The inspiration for these was my dad, who gave me the oral histories. ‘Big Oak Road’ is dedicated to him.”
Here is the text of that dedication:
This album is dedicated to Paul Murray, who wasn’t yet born when his parents stood arm-in-arm while their Bucks County farm was auctioned off for back taxes on the eve of the Depression, and who met his sweetheart under the big oak, and who never did have to go farm for the Kings.
Kevin McCloskey chose most of the folk and traditional songs on this album from his large repertoire of songs from Ireland and Britain. His passion for songs portraying the plight of working men and women was kindled by a childhood of performing Irish standards with his father, Irish tenor Tommy McCloskey.
Mindy Murray’s works are infused with the music of the mountains and the miners, having witnessed firsthand the struggles of day-to-day life in Appalachia during medical school. Years later, she and daughter Meagan Ratini formed the duo Port Murray. Meagan herself fell into Irish music over many years of mastering instrument after instrument. She became further immersed while helping to run the New Jersey Folk Festival.
Marian’s roots lie in Ardara, County Donegal, an epicenter of Irish traditional music. Whenever she can break away, she steals back to the rugged coastline village to recharge at its nightly sessions and music festivals, eventually bringing River Drivers over to perform.
As of October 18, the album ‘Big Oak Road’ is available across digital stores and streaming platforms such as Spotify. It can also be ordered via Bandcamp. That same day, River Drivers commence a series of album release celebrations in Trenton and Waretown, NJ, as well as Philadelphia.
ALBUM TRACK LIST
01 Children’s March (Mother Jones)
02 Going Once
03 Crooked Jack
04 Sí, Se Puede
05 Isn’t It Grand Boys (Look at the Coffin)
06 Big Oak Road
07 Cumann na mBan
09 Union Man
10 Farewell Johnny Miner
CD RELEASE TOUR
Oct. 18 Trenton, NJ (CD release concert) – Tir na nOg (8 pm)
Nov. 02 Waretown, NJ – Albert Music Hall (10 pm)
Nov. 23 Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia FolkSong Society’s PFS Venue(8 pm)
Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass)
Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass, frame drum)
Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, melodica, background vocals)
Meagan Ratini (fiddle, tin whistle, frame drum)
Produced by Richard Hartline and Tom Murray of Tulipomania
Recorded by River Drivers and Richard Hartline
Engineered and mastered by Richard Hartline
‘Children’s March (Mother Jones)’ written by Mindy Murray and Kevin McCloskey
Crooked Jack by Dominic Behan
Isn’t It Grand Boys (Look at the Coffin) by Liam Clancy, Pat Clancy, Tom Clancy and Tommy Makem)
Going Once, Si Se Puede, Cumann na mBan, Big Oak Road by Mindy Murray
Moonshiner – traditional
Union Man by Tim Stafford
Farewell Johnny Miner by Ed Pickford
Dedicated to Paul Murray
Photos and single cover by Ron Donocoff