Laugh While You May
Gráinneog’s first album
It never takes very long for a band to start dreaming of the day when they release their first album. When you’ve put in the work to build a set of songs and played them in pubs and village halls, you know it becomes real the day you hold that CD case in your hand.
We began planning our first album in the summer of 2019 and decided that it would consist entirely of New Zealand folk songs. Recording them began as autumn turned to winter that year and we were still tinkering with the collection when the events of March 2020 suddenly overtook us and caused the whole project to be put on hold.
One song was dropped due to a copyright issue, and another found to replace it. Another song was dropped after someone else made a huge HIT of it. (We really didn’t expect that!) But finally we had it all ready to print, and on the 19th of June, (Helen’s birthday) three large and sturdy boxes arrived at Gráinneog headquarters.
The local paper here on Waiheke were kind enough to publish the following review;
‘By putting out and album fully comprised of New Zealand folk songs, these Waiheke stalwarts mark themselves down as much for their conservation work as for their musicianship.
The dozen tracks range from 19th century whaling, sailing and gold mining tunes, via early and mid 20th century narratives tales of Wellington brawls and burning pubs, right up to the present day with their own title track penned by Alan Knight to include pointed references to the gig economy, unions and the pandemic.
And though they’ve purposefully aimed at (and squarely hit) ‘a pub singalong atmosphere’ to their recording, that informality actually adds to the authenticity of a style of music that’s as much oral history as it is pure entertainment.
The collection contains some true gems – bawdy opener ‘Empire Star’ is delivered with understandable relish, Helen Cobbett offers a beautiful rendition of Phil Garland’s 1971 bucolic revery ‘Down a Country Road I Know’, and dark-yet-dutiful closer ‘In The Morning’ is the perfect farewell to band member Stefan Clist who discovered its century-old text and composed its melody before his death in 2018.
There’s a tendency for such geographically specific songwriting to fall by the wayside in a world’s worth of folk standards and recordings made famous by the likes of Bob Dylan or Sandy Denny – even the Gráinneog crew don’t know how long it’s been since anyone released a full-lengther of entirely New Zealand songs, and between them they reckon they own most of the ones that do exist.
But by choosing to record ‘Laugh While You May’ before launching into a second album of original and more far flung songs, they’ve proven their own passion, heart and undeniable musical skills are firmly tied to the land where they live.
(James Belfield in The Waiheke Weekender, 1/7/21)
Laugh While You May can be downloaded from our Bandcamp page, or you can purchase the CD for NZ$25 (includes $5 postage and packaging).
Laugh While You May – Gráinneog CD
Traditional New Zealand folk songs from 18th century to the present day, performed by Gráinneog.