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John Hughes’s show to mark new album on theme of murder

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Making an album about murder and how it’s portrayed in the media is not something you expect from your average songwriter. But Jon Hughes is far from average. The Galway-based American singer launches his third album Dead Weight in Busker Browne’s, on Wednesday, July 13.

Dead Weight is informed by Jon’s taste in literature, as much as his taste in music. He explains why he went for a more narrative approach, as opposed to a personal one, on this album.

 

“There are probably a few characters – it’s not so much myself on this one,” he says. “I wanted to do something where I’m putting my ideas into it but I’m not actually experiencing it directly.

“It’s an album about murder looked through different kinds of media,” he adds. “I wanted to compare and contrast narratives from books to media we get nowadays, like 30 second blasts on YouTube. I find it troubling sometimes, in a way that I want to write about it.”

Does Jon feel that the 24-hour reporting of an often violent world has desensitised people?

“I think that’d be a fair thing to say,” he says. “Desensitised and I guess we’re becoming accustomed to not really using our imaginations. We expect things to get fed to us.”

One of the standout moments on the album is the stark but arresting Gretta’s Body. A combination of fiction and real life brought the song about.

“I was reading a book and it started with an image of a character standing on a bridge,” says Jon. “He looks across and he sees a window with a light that is sort of red. In the book, he doesn’t follow this image but I decided to see what would happen if he actually did.

“Part of it as a little bit personal as well because the character that [the man in the song] meets is a guy that I used to work with, years ago, in a kitchen. I remember meeting him and he had this look in his eyes – I don’t know exactly what was wrong with him – it was like he was pleased to meet me but he wanted to kill me as well. It stuck with me.

“I sort of like to write songs that are journeys through hell!” Jon laughs. “It keeps coming up.”

Yet it’s not all heavy-going. The music on Dead Weight adds some light to the dark tones of the lyrics. Bizarrely enough, it’s often a pleasant listen.

“These are things that I think about but I don’t think the music should reflect that,” says Jon. “The music has sort of a positive feel. It sounds funny, I don’t know why that happens. I guess I don’t feel any anger, so I can see why that would be reflected in the music.

“It’s a common thing when I write songs. The content might be a bit dark but the music is not. I’m not sure why that is really.”

Jon arrived in Galway in 2005, taking some time out of American city life. Like many people who come to Galway, he didn’t intend to stay but became enamoured with the place.

“It sounds so clichéd, but I was just travelling through Ireland,” he recalls. “I’d been working at a job for a long time, in a kitchen, and living in Madison city in Wisconsin. I just wanted to go somewhere different; it just came up by chance really.

“I decided to come to Ireland and I ended up in Galway. I wanted to relax for a while and plant myself somewhere. I found a job and a place to live immediately and I’ve been here for five or six years.”

Tackling the kind of ideas that run through Dead Weight sounds fairly demanding. Did Jon have to set aside a block of time for the writing of the album?

“I just write all the time – I feel like I have to,” he says. “I sometimes feel like I do a little more than I should, and I should be actually putting my stuff out there. But the whole music industry is changing, so sometimes I wonder if staying in my room writing albums and not worrying so much about the other stuff is a maybe a better way.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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