Left Behind draws its inspiration from learning to cope with grief

Groove Tube with Cian O’Connell

Over the last few years, Karen Kelly and Simon McCafferty have been cutting their teeth on the acoustic folk scene as Without Willow. Drawing on inspiration from Irish and American country, the duo established themselves in Donegal before exploring more of the country via support slots for the likes of Declan O’Rourke and Mick Flannery.

They have played sold-out shows in Germany and Canada, and built a catalogue of material that dates back to a self-titled, 2018 EP.

Now, as of last Friday, they can celebrate the release of a full-length debut album. Left Behind is a nine-track LP that deals with themes of grief, loss and resilience.

It showcases the collaboration that has developed between Karen and Simon – her lyrical narratives sit atop his distinctive, often fingerpicked guitar.

“It’s definitely a collaboration,” Karen explains.

“We get together. I play guitar myself, but Simon is an amazing guitar player so if he has something that I can kind of add to lyrics-wise, or then if I have a song that needs a little bit of sprucing up, we kind of work together that way.”

One of the key figures on Left Behind was Ted Ponsonby, the legendary Letterkenny multi-instrumentalist who sadly passed away in September of last year.

Though he never saw the project fully realised, Ted’s role in the songs remains a huge influence on Without Willow. Karen and Simon recorded the album with Ted and a handful other players in small chunks over the course over the last year or two.

“It’s very exciting,” Karen says of Left Behind finally reaching audiences.

“We’ve been kind of working away on it for about the last two years. We recorded it with Orri McBrearty in the Blast Furnace in Derry. So, we’ve just been kind of tipping away. We’d do a few gigs, get a bit of money and then book the studio so we kind of took our time with it.

Pictured: Without Willow…debut album.

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