John O'Leary is one of the pioneers of the art of the blues harp in the UK. Originally from Ireland, John's family was part of the massive migration to England in the aftermath of World War 2. In London's thriving jazz clubs of the 1960's he first heard blues harp player Cyril Davies with Alexis Korner's Blues Inc. John bought his first instrument in 1962 and learned to play by listening and watching Davies. Inevitably, he discovered the great masters of the blues harmonica; Sonny Boy Williamson No.1, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Noah Lewis, James Cotton, Shakey Horton and Junior Wells. John's career has seen his involvement with numerous bands and musicians over four decades. Beginning in 1965 with Savoy Brown's Blues Band through to the present day John O'Leary & Sugarkane, John has continued to maintain a prominent position on the British and European blues scene.
Ernest John Moeran was born in London but grew up in Norfolk and had strong ties with Ireland. While still a student at the Royal College of Music he was inspired by a performance of Vaughan Williams’s Norfolk Rhapsody that seemed “to breathe the very spirit of the English countryside”, and was soon collecting folksongs for himself. Moeran’s transcriptions were taken from English and Irish traditional singers with both rural and seafaring backgrounds, rescuing music and words both entertainingly earthy and sublimely beautiful which would otherwise have died with the artists who performed them.
The pieces brought together on this CD range widely, from ceremonial works associated with affairs of state to intimate compositions addressing moments of great personal significance. Two of the three pieces by Parry best exemplify this contrast: if I was glad – written for the coronation of Edward VII and premiered in chaotic circumstances – fits into the former category, ‘My soul, there is a country’ (from Songs of Farewell) – composed in the year of his death – belongs in the latter.