A mid 70s folk/ballad group from Northern Ireland, The Corrib Folk formed in Belfast in 1972. Founded by Barry Nelson: mandolin, tenor banjo & acoustic guitar, Jim Moran: G-Banjo (5-string Banjo) & Vocals, and Liam Barr: Guitar, bodhrán & vocal.
Tin whistle player/flautist Stevie Regan joined 18 months later. Singer/guitarist Sean O'Neill joined the group early in 1974. They appeared on the UTV talent show "You're On" early in 1975. They signed with Outlet records that year and recorded their debut album The Corrib Folk (also titled: White Stone) for Homespun Records produced by Billy McBurney and engineered by Cel Fay the album was recorded at Outlet Studios in Belfast. The Corrib Folk (Homespun HRL 107) featured the band photographed outside the Crosskeys Inn in Portglenone Co Antrim on the cover. The album featured a selection of many ten classic ballads like "The Town I loved So well", "The Cliffs of Dooneen", "Galway Shawl" and "Her father Didn't like Me Anyway". Vocal tracks were shared between Sean O'Neill and Jim Moran with O'Neill's version of "The Town I Loved so well" and Sheridan's singing of "Joe Hill" standing out. The line up on their debut album was as follows…
Barry Nelson: Plays mandolin, tenor banjo and acoustic guitar
Liam Barr: Plays bodhrán and guitar, with vocals
Jim Moran: Plays "G" banjo, with vocals
Stevie Regan: Play tin whistle, flute, mandolin and bass guitar
Sean O'Neill: Plays guitar and is lead vocalist
The album's back sleeve had some brief observations on the group members' past; Barry had played on the showband scene, Jim was an electronics engineer, Liam was the "Lig" of the group "always ready with a smile and a joke", Stevie was "the serious student of music" while Sean was "a keen student of women and drink and also tried to tell jokes on stage but the group usually manage to keep him singing".
After playing pubs, clubs and Colleges in Northern Ireland, The Corrib Folk toured America for the first time in summer 1976. They also recorded their second album Sing Irishmen Sing (Homespun HRL 117) in Belfast again produced by Billy McBurney and engineered by Cel Fay. The album's front cover shot was again taken inside the "Crosskeys Inn" and featured the group wearing the same outfits as on their debut album covers which would suggest that it was taken on the same photo shoot for their debut album. Sing Irishmen Sing featured some well known ballads like "Spanish Lady", "Singing Bird" and "Spancil Hill" while a set of polkas featured their instrumental talents.
After recording their first 2 albums The Corrib Folk settled in the USA. Based in Chicago, they were reduced to a trio with the departures of Stevie Regan and Liam Barr. The remaining trio Barry Nelson, Jim Moran and Sean O'Neill recorded their third album Ireland's Corrib Folk released on their own label in 1977. They played predominantly around the Chicago and Boston areas but Sean O'Neill returned to Belfast in 1980. In 1981 Jim and Barry regrouped with Tony Kellegher from Tralee Co. Kerry and recorded an album At the Crossroads.
Sean O'Neill returned to Belfast where he sang with The Tara Folk there. The Tara Folk comprised of Sean O'Neill on vocals; guitar and concertina, Benny McKeating on G-Banjo, mandolin and vocals. Tin whistle and bodhrán player Gerry Murphy who had played with another Belfast 70s ballad group The Batterin' Ram, bassist Bobby Stewart and Ivan Lavery on accordion and keyboards completed the group. Playing a similar ballad repertoire to the Corrib Folk, Tara existed from 1981 to 1988. They recorded two albums for Outlet Records Belfast City by The Laggan side in 1983 and Folk Ballads of Ireland in 1987. Both albums are now released on CD through Outlet records.
I don't know the present location of the group members apart from Sean O'Neill who may still be in Belfast. Tony Kellegher is still in the USA and released a solo album some years ago.
One of the lesser known Irish groups of the mid 70s The Corrib Folk were a capable bunch of musicians and singers. Both Sean O'Neill and Jim Moran had good ballad voices with distinctive Northern Irish brogues. They were a talented if underrated group who although they received TV exposure and good distribution of their first two albums particularly never really caught on in their home area. Maybe their American years have some exciting and as yet untold stories but in their day The Corrib Folk was a pretty decent ballad outfit.
© John O'Regan : December 2008.