Cliodhna and Phelim would like to thank Gavin Ralston, Hugh Buckley, Mary Coughlan, Damien Dempsey, Emmanuel Lawler and all the musician friends involved in the recording of this album. We are aware of the enormous boost that being in their company, creating something new and exciting, gave to our tether at such a difficult time.
Thanks also to Dave Kavanagh and Elaine Massey and all at Celtic Collections without whose concern and enthusiasm none of this would have been possible. Special thanks also to Aengus Fanning for his friendship and commitment in seeing this project through from the beginning. We would also like to express our gratitude to Michael Fingleton and The Irish Nationwide Building Society for providing the crucial finance necessary for carrying out the recording.
Finally we would like to thank family, friends, colleagues of dad's and countless others who have been of such support to us as a family over the last couple of years. We hope you enjoy what we think is a wonderful recording, displaying dad's spirit, his strength in the face of adversity and his talent in communicating a song
Cliodhna Drew Dunne & Phelim Drew
Nobody Knows You When You're And Out (Cox)
Ronnie loved the Bessie Smith version of this song. He had sang this one on numerous occasions over the years but never with this swing type backing. A guitar/scat solo is followed by a lovely Louis Armstrong esque trumpet solo by Paul Sweeney. Ronnie sounds really at home on this one.
September Song (Weill)
The beautiful Kurt Weill composition 'September Song' was one of Ronnie's first choices of song for the session. He really gets inside of the song and renders a very powerful and emotional performance. had recorded this song before but had specific ideas with regard to tempo and feel for this version. Myles Drennan's beautifully sensitive accompaniment is its perfect foil.
Rainy Night In Soho — duet with Damien Dempsey (MacGowan)
When I approached Damien Dempsey about doing a duet with Ronnie he was delighted. Ronnie was and is a longtime hero of his. The admiration was mutual. I called Damien and he informed me that he had just recorded this song that very afternoon. An even more amazing coincidence was that he had recorded it with John Sheahan and Barney McKenna.
For Ronnie — guitar solo Hugh Buckley (Buckley/St. John)
Ronnie was a big fan of guitar music and I thought it appropriate that I play something in his honour, I loosely improvised around the melodies of 'Molly Malone' and 'The Rare Auld Times'. Gavin lit some candles and dimmed the lights in the studio and I went at it. This one is 'For Ronnie'
The Last Wave (Fanning)
This the only previously unrecorded song on the album. Aengus Fanning wrote the melody and lyrics and I arranged it. On the day, we recorded it at a faster tempo than previously intended but Ronnie was up for the challenge. This Ronnie Drew as we've never heard him before.
We Had It All — duet with Mary Coughlan (Mike Hanrahan)
Aengus came along with the inspired idea to pair Ronnie with Mary Coughlan. Ronnie suggested this lovely song written by Mike Hanrahan. I revamped the harmony to give it a jazz-like flavour. Both voices really complement each other in what is a really powerful yet relaxed rendition of the song.
The Auld Triangle (Behan)
This was the song Ronnie performed with us in JJ Smyths a few years ago. It's a unique take on the song and Ronnie leads the way with great authority. Sax, piano and guitar follow and improvise various paths never previously explored on this song. Ronnie really enjoyed this one.
Molly Malone (Trad. Arr. Buckley)
Ronnie Drew singing Molly Malone — what can I say? Voice and guitar for the verse, then piano and bass join in for the chorus. We couldn't resist joining in to sing.
Loves Own Sweet Song — duet with Emmanuel Lawler (Kalman/Cushing/Heath)
This old chestnut, said to be the favourite song of James Joyce, was the song of choice for the duet with Ronnie and Emmanuel Lawler. An unusual meeting of the trained and untrained voice is carried off with aplomb by all involved.
Inspiration For The Bards — 'Until Spring' (poem) (Buckley)
Here Ronnie recites a poem written by Willie Buckley, the subject of which is a certain dark drink associated with Ireland. Ronnie is accompanied by guitar and Ciaran Wilde's beautiful tone on clarinet, The music is a piece I had written some years previous entitled "Until spring".
For Ronnie and Deirdre's children, Phelim and Cliodhna, it was heartbreaking to lose both parents over such a short time.
"I was in the house on those Thursday mornings when Aengus called for Dad to make the short journey from Greystones to Newtownmountkennedy. As always, he dressed immaculately and, after a cup of coffee at home, set out in good spirits for the work and camaraderie of the studio. For Dad, it was a very hapy enterprise."
Cliodhna Drew Dunne
The collection on this album is no more, nor no less, than Ronnie Drew's musical epitaph, the music he wanted the public to hear after a lifetime of playing and recording in the world-renowned style of the Dubliners and their associates.
This album is different, the musicians backing Ronnie are jazz players, the duets are with some of our leading singers in a diversity of styles, including classical; and Hugh Buckley inspired arrangements place Ronnie in a setting he has never had before. It, is also something of great historical importance Ronne Drew's last record, made between November 2007, and May 2008, three months before he died of cancer.
The idea was born-from an interview Aengus Fanning did with Ronnie for the Sunday Independent in August 2007, not along after his wife Deirdre's death, also from cancer, a few months earlier. Ronnie had over the years been a frequent caller to jazz gigs at JJ Smyths in Dublin where he sat in with Hugh and Richie Buckley, and Myles Drennan. Around the same time, he frequently came to the late Peter O'Brien's gigs and did shows with him in the National Concert Hall in jazz style.
He loved the idiom and on more than one occasion he lamented the fact that he had spent most of his life playing what ha called 'diddly aye' music. After that heartbreaking interview in Dali's restaurant, Aengus suggested to Ronnie that, if he could get sponsorship, they might enlist Hugh Buckley's musical genius and get a record done in that style. Michael Fingleton of the Irish Nationwide Building Society came up with £25,000 and the show which became 'The Last Session A Fond Farewell' was on the road.
On a cold morning in November 2007, Aengus picked Ronnie up at his Greystones home to drive to Gavin Ralston's studio in Newtownmountkennnedy. 'I'm fucked' said Ronnie as he sat into the car. 'In the long run, we're all fucked,' said Aengus. An hour later, Ronnie was as happy as Larry in Gavin's studio, surrounded by his friends Hugh, Myles, and Dave Fleming, working with dedication, love and fun on Kurt Weill's 'September Song.'
Over the following seven months, there were eight sessions in all with the initial band being joined by Richie, Paul Sweeney, and Ciaran Wilde, and singers as contrasting as Damien Dempsey, Mary Coughlan and Emmanuel Lawler. Hugh recalled the unique atmosphere in the intimate studio during the sessions. 'We were alt friends and there wris a great vibe of mutual respect in the air. 'Each day in the studio was full of that wonderful feeling that something special was happening.' All the guest singers loved the project and were honoured to record with Ronnie. Damien said "Now, I've finally made it. I've recorded with Ronnie Drew. Emmanuel said afterwards: "This was one of the very best days of my life." Mary said it was a once in a lifetime thrill."
The choice of songs was Ronnie's call. Hugh Buckley's brilliant and sensitive arrangements breathe new life into even the best-known of these songs, and the musicianship of Richie Buckley, Myles Drennan, Dave Fleming, Hugh Buckley, Paul Sweeney and Ciaran Wilde imbues the album with a unique quality that Ronnie loved when he heard the playbacks.