Red gui­tar paved way for ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’

Wexford People - - NEWS - By ANNA HAYES

THE RE­TURN of a long-lost red gui­tar has proved to be the ge­n­e­sis of a new album of mu­sic by Billy Roche which will be launched this Fri­day night.

‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ is the first album, re­sult­ing from the Red Gui­tar Tour which fea­tures Billy, Mike Od­lum and Pete Mc­Cam­ley, per­form­ing all new, orig­i­nal tracks.

By Billy’s own ad­mis­sion, he has touched upon al­most every cor­ner of the per­form­ing arts spec­trum, from mu­sic to fic­tion to play­writ­ing, and back around again. The only thing, he says, that he hasn’t re­ally tried his hand at is po­etry, though many would con­tend that the lan­guage and im­agery in his play­writ­ing is as rich as any col­lec­tion of po­ems.

This new album of songs stems from the re­turn of a red gui­tar which Billy sold over 35 years ago in or­der to buy a new Yamaha gui­tar. Al­most four decades later, as Billy was about to play a solo gig in the Red Ket­tle cafe, his first in many years, and he was in Trax mu­sic store to pur­chase strings.

While there, staff mem­ber Matthew O’Brien, of Cor­ner Boy fame, ap­proached him to say that he had Billy’s old red gui­tar, hav­ing been gifted it by a woman who found it in her at­tic.

‘So this lit­tle beaut of a gui­tar came back to me and I think it started to pos­sess me, to the ex­tent that I’d be go­ing to bed at night and I’d see it out of the cor­ner of my eye and have to go in to mess around on it.’

Billy says that the mu­sic spilled out of him; he didn’t know where from, but since get­ting the in­stru­ment back nearly two years ago, he has writ­ten 30 plus songs on it.

‘It had been years since I’d writ­ten any­thing worth talk­ing about in terms of mu­sic so it gave me some kind of in­spi­ra­tion. It’s like any story - they come along and ask how they should be pre­sented and these just hap­pened to be songs.’

Amongst the se­lec­tion of songs are: a mur­der bal­lad, strange love sto­ries, a song about refugees that may also be about how we are all on the run from some­thing (a com­mon theme in Billy’s work), and laments about feel­ing lost and wish­ing to turn back the clock.

‘I was at a stand­still in terms of writ­ing at the time so the gui­tar came back to me, I sup­pose, when I needed it most. Mind you, if I hadn’t got it back, maybe I’d have an­other play writ­ten by now!’ he joked.

From there, Billy ap­proached Mike Od­lum and lo­cal ac­tor and mu­si­cian Pete Mc­Cam­ley whose abil­ity to play an ar­ray of in­stru­ments, along­side Billy’s open-tuned gui­tar play­ing, adds to the unique sound of ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’.

‘It’s a mix­ture of folk and an East­ern sound, along with some psy­che­delic stylings. I’m not play­ing for peo­ple to dance any­more, I al­ways had a lean­ing to­wards folk mu­sic and have been in­flu­enced by var­i­ous artists like Nic Jones, The Yard Birds, Pen­tan­gle, Donovan, and many oth­ers.’

Billy says that the album is not a case of hark­ing back to the old days, adding that no one has asked for that which is a good thing.

‘We’ve too much to do with­out hark­ing back to older times and mu­sic. I’m a bit like Rob­bie Burns now; if noth­ing else sur­vives me, maybe a song or two might, and that’ll lead back to every­thing else.’

‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ will be launched at Wex­ford Arts Cen­tre on Fri­day night at 8.30 p.m. En­try is €20 and in­cludes a copy of the album.

Billy Roche (cen­tre) with Mike Od­lum (left) and Pete Mc­Cam­ley.

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