THE LONG HARD ROAD

The Long Hard Road was the debut album from Tom McElvogue (Flute) and Paddy Kerr (Bouzouki, Guitar, Bodhran) features original compositions from both Tom and Paddy as well as traditional tunes.

01-Master McDermott’s, Gan Ainm, Boys of Ballisadare
02-Tom McElvogue’s Slip Jig 01, Gan Ainm, Swaggering Jig
03-CastleTown Conners, Tom McElvogue’s Jig in G 09
04-Peter Wyper’s, Walshes
05-Tom McElvogue’s Jig in G 01, Tom McElvogue’s Jig in D 10
06-Charlie Mulvihill’s, The Man of the House, Mullingar Lea
07-The Old Walls of Liscaroll
08-Baltic Rocks, John Brennan from Sligo
09-Colonel Frazer
10-The Gallowglass, Tom McElvogue’s Jig in EMin 02, Tom McElvogue’s Jig in AMaj 04
11-An Cailin Rua, The Peeler’s Jacket
12-The Chattering Magpie, Pidgeon on the Gate, Gan Ainm
13-The Golden Eagle, The Mathematician
14-Thrush in the Storm, Jackie Daly’s Reel, The Watchmaker

  • All tracks arranged by Tom McElvogue and Paddy Kerr
  • All tracks recorded during September/October 2003 and June/July 2004.
  • Tom McElvogue’s Slip Jig 01(track 02), Jig in G 01 (track 05), Jig in D 10 (track 05), Jig in E Minor 02 (track 10), Jig in A Major 04 (track 10) composed by Tom McElvogue.
  • Baltic Rocks (track 08) composed by Paddy Kerr
  • Master McDermott’s (track 01) composed by Sean Maguire
  • Cacodemon/Jackie Daly’s Reel (track 14) composed by Jackie Daly
  • The Mathematician (track 13) composed by James Scott Skinner
  • Tom McElvogue: Flutes (B. D, E, F)
  • Paddy Kerr: Bouzouki, Bass Bouzouki, Guitar, Bodhran
  • Paddy’s Bodhran’s made by Seamus O’Kane
  • Tom’s B Flat flute by Chris Wilkes

 

  • Engineer: Norman Holmes
  • Mixing: Paddy Kerr (Tracks 5, 7, 9, 11, 14)
  • Paddy Kerr (Backing)/Tom McElvogue(Flute)(Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13)
  • Mastering: Robyn Robins, Robyn Robins Productions
  • Sleeve Design: Tom McElvogue
  • Cover Photographs: Tom McElvogue

 

4. THE LONG HARD ROAD by Tom McElvogue (self-issued)

Earle Hitchner Ceol Columnist, Irish Echo, New York City
Born and bred in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England, Tom McElvogue has distant Irish lineage on his mother’s (Connemara) and father’s (Tyrone) sides of the family. Highly respected as a flutist and composer in England, where his admirers included fellow flutists Kevin Crawford and Michael McGoldrick, McElvogue deserves far wider acclaim, especially with the release of this long-awaited solo CD. Playing B-flat, D, E-flat, and F wooden flutes, this All-Ireland senior champion from 1990 delivers “pure drop” music of the finest nectar. His playing is technically flawless and articulate but avoids flash, even though he could readily dazzle if he wanted. The emotion in his playing is honestly won; he conveys passion without any overheated effects. Backed unobtrusively by Sligo native Paddy Kerr on bouzouki, guitar, and bodhran, McElvogue, now a resident of Dublin, renders five of his own compositions with uncommon skill. No matter how long and hard the road was to get to this point (all 14 tracks were recorded in 2003-2004), this is the best solo flute album I heard in 2010.

— Earle Hitchner, “Ceol” Columnist, Irish Echo, New York City; column was entitled “Top Ten Traditional Albums of 2010” and published on January 12, 2011; Tom McElvogue’s “The Long Hard Road” finished #4 in Earle Hitchner’s top ten list.

For full review of the top ten of 2010 visit Irish Echo

Siobhán Long The Irish Times, February 11th, 2011
….Essential listening for anyone with an ear cocked for finesse….

For full review visit The Irish Times

also see

Siobhán Long The Irish Times, The Ticket Awards, January 27th, 2012

Coming in a close second is flute player, Tom McElvogue’s and guitarist, Paddy Kerr’s superb The Long Hard Road.

Both albums are a refreshing reminder that trad fans seem to favour subtlety over sledgehammer production values.

A timely cue to nascent musicians too: small scale productions can ably match bigger budget releases.

For full article see The Irish Times.

Ellen Cranitch, Grace Notes, Lyric FM CD of the Month, February 2011

February’s CD is The Long Hard Road, by Tom McElvogue and Paddy Kerr. It’s the long awaited debut CD from a master flute player and composer, featuring old favourites alongside new gems.

For details see Grace Notes, Lyric FM

Alex Gallacher Folkradio.co.uk, Album of the week, January 2011
What I love about this album is that there is nothing fancy about it, no special effects, no egos, but there is masterful playing from both Tom and Paddy. Anyone who listens will come away with a new found respect for the Irish tradition, Tom McElvogue and Paddy Kerr.

For full review visit Folk Radio UK

 

Pete Fyfe Pete Fyfe, February 2011
TOM MCELVOGUE & PADDY KERR – The Long Hard Road (TMc Productions) Flautist Tom McElvogue is a name highly regarded by many musicians on the Celtic ‘session’ circuit. His tunes are often credited by those that should know better as traditional but in a back-handed sort of way what finer compliment can a musician have than for your own melodies to be soaked up sponge-like into the tradition. Come to think of it the same thing happened to Hughie Jones “Ellen Vannin Tragedy” many years before.

On this CD, Tom is accompanied by Paddy Kerr’s precise, but never boring bouzouki, guitar and bodhran where required and it’s really refreshing to hear the full beauty of the melody unadorned by flashy displays of decoration. This recording proves to be a real joy as the emphasis is placed on sets of tunes which wouldn’t be out of place performed at an Irish Step Dance class bringing back many fond memories of my own experiences working with accordionist James Montgomery and ‘Doctor’ Michael Moriarty who often used Tom’s tunes in their sets as well. This is an album that perhaps non-musicians might judge too quickly as stark but personally speaking if you are looking for an articulate and artistic approach without all the bells and whistles I’d say you’ve come to the right place.

For full review visit Fatea magazine

 

The recordings for this CD took place during September/October 2003 and June/July 2004. The “studio” was actually the bedroom of my flat mate at the time (Tom Morrow) who was on Tour with Dervish. The idea of the CD started in the late eighties/early nineties when both Paddy and myself were living back in Newcastle Upon Tyne. We had always discussed the idea of making a CD and put it on a list of things to do. We attempted to record some demo tracks back in Newcastle which didn’t turn out too well for a number of reasons. Needless to say, the experience gave us both time to reflect upon whether this was ever going to happen.

Shortly after that, Paddy and I both left Newcastle and it was not until the late nineties/early 2000’s that we both ended up in the same country again – Ireland. Things were never simple, I was in Dublin and Paddy was in Galway! We did however send mp3’s and wav’s back and forward trying out ideas for recording and eventually decided to book in some time to put down some tracks.

In all honesty, we ended up starting from scratch with most of the tracks and the bulk of the CD was recorded in 5 days. The remaining time was used to re-record two or three of the tracks to “fix” the settings in some of the flute playing. Unfortunately, I am an absolute control freak. A number of things I learned from our first run at the recording back in Newcastle was:

  • I didn’t enjoy the experience of the studio (time is money etc)
  • I didn’t know or understand the equipment being used
  • I didn’t know enough about mixing/engineering (and probably still don’t)
  • I play better when I am in relaxed surroundings
  • I play better when I know what I am playing next

 

Taking all this into consideration, I decided that I was going to try and record this at home with my own equipment. The only problem was, I didn’t have any equipment. To remedy this I researched and bought the following:

Recording (Tom)

  • 4 x Boom Mic Stands
  • 1 x Neumann TLM103 Large Diaphragm microphone
  • 1 x Rhode NT2 Condenser Microphone
  • 1 x AKG C1000s Condenser Microphone
  • 2 x dBx386 hybrid valve/solid-state preamp units
  • 1 x M-Audio Omni I/O
  • 3 x Delta 66 sound cards
  • 2 x HHB Circle 5’s
  • 1 x Cubase Score software
  • 1 x Headphone amp with 8 outputs
  • 2 x Sennheiser professional headphones
  • 1 x Waves Diamond edition software plugins
  • 1 x DT150 headphones Lots of cables

Mixing (Paddy)

  • Roland VS2480CD hard disk recording desk
  • 2 x Sennheiser professional headphones
  • 2 x HHB Circle 5’s
  • 1 x Patience of a saint and determination not to give up!

I then spent about a year learning how best to configure and record the flute to a point where I was happy with the sound going in and coming out. I got a huge amount of knowledge from Norman Holmes on this as he had an equally expensive addiction to “Sound on Sound” magazine and he helped me enormously with the kit selection. I am also a bit of a computer geek so I was able to figure out how to stop Windows 2000 from interfering too much with the audio hardware (basically building a PC and turning off all the operating systems bell’s and whistles – not recommended).

Everything seemed to be going fine with my research and testing except I lived on a road which had buses and lots of traffic going by constantly, the flat below had a loud washing machine, and because I lived on the seafront in Dublin, the seagulls would occasionally sing their heads off! At this point I realised that I needed to figure out a way to quieten down the background noise sufficiently in order to record in good enough quality for CD – cue Norman again. He suggested using some household items (mattress, duvet’s etc) to dampen external noise and reduce internal reverb etc. It certainly didn’t look pretty but it worked.

Once we had the music on disk, we then had to mix the CD. I had first attempt at this with Cubase and spent the guts of a year without much success. I realised I was either too close to the mix, not skilled enough at mixing, didn’t have good ears for understanding what I was listening too or possibly all three. At this stage, Paddy had his own Roland VS2480CD hard disk recording desk and was producing some great work from the desk. He was keen to mix and I was close to giving up. Over the next period of time Paddy made great progress with the mix and we got to the point that we thought we were ready to master. We booked into Robyn Robbins Mastering in the North of Ireland and headed up for the day’s mastering. We got about 5 hours in and Robyn informed us that he couldn’t go any further for technical reasons in the mix. He advised that we had “digital elastics” in the audio – something I still don’t fully understand but apparently it is a form of digital distortion. The bottom line was that we had to ditch the mix and start again from the original audio. That didn’t sit well with either Paddy or myself. 

Thankfully, after a year and a severe loss of momentum, Paddy had the whole thing re-mixed again from scratch – an absolutely huge effort. The whole mixing process was largely comlplicated by the number of instrument tracks to mix – eg Colonel Fraser has at least 30+ different instrument tracks, although from first listening you may not appreciate that. This meant that to mix more than 22 tracks on the Roland, multiple tracks had to be bounced into one track – a one-way process that cannot be reversed. If you want to change any of the components of the bounced track you have to go back to the beginning – pre-bounce and start again. Added to that, there were a number of minor edits which are always very time-consuming and due to the nature of these, they have to be done right otherwise the listening experience would be lessened. Time for another run at the mastering then. We now had to get the mix off the desk as WAV files which is not a quick task on a VS2480CD. As Paddy was tweaking the last track on the album, the desk crashed and wouldn’t start up. I got a call from Paddy concerned that he had not only lost our CD but also a number of other personal projects he had worked on over the years. My geekery intervened and I had volunteered to attempt to repair the VS2480CD as I couldn’t bear the thought of all that effort being in vain from myself and Paddy.

One week later, the desk was working again and I had to start exporting the finished tracks from the desk to CD so that they could be sent to Robyn Robbins (who had since moved back to the USA). After the first few tracks came back from mastering, I realised I wasn’t entirely happy with the mastered version of the mix. The flute had more reverb and compression than I had wanted and had lost some of the expression in the playing as a result. I then tweaked the compression and reverb in the mix on the track’s which I felt needed tweaking (mostly the Rudall D tracks) and resent the tracks back to Robyn. This time all was sitting much better for my ears. 

The cover photograph was taken in January in the Dublin/Wicklow mountains specifically for the CD. Myself, my wife and a good friend of ours drove up to the mountains to take some photographs. My car at the time was a big heavy Chrysler 300c and it got stuck in the snow! We thankfully got help in the form of other motorists who were similarly stranded and thanks to my wife’s ingenuity in using some cardboard I had in the trunk, we managed to get the car moving and made it home safely. That evening nine people were rescued by helicopter from the mountains. We were quite lucky to back in one piece. I had to use one the photographs I took that day for the album as it was so in-keeping with the general theme of the whole project.

The layout and artwork was then put together by me using Adobe Indesign/Illustrator/Photoshop and printed/duplicated by Dutec in Limerick and Sony in Austria.

I hope you appreciate all that went into “The Long Hard Road”!

Lessons learnt:

  • Being a control freak is expensive, frustrating, annoying
  • Studios aren’t all bad, some are actually really good
  • It doesn’t have to be either studio or home, it can be a bit of both
  • Recording a CD at home can be just as expensive as a studio (if not more!)
  • Mastering is not magic, it requires a great mix to achieve a great master (thanks Paddy!)
  • I’ve since converted to Apple Mac and Pro Tools and life is much simpler (they just work!)

Whilst searching through my hard drive to re-convert some wavs to mp3 format, I found the following audio files. These are either tracks that didn’t make it onto my CD or tunes I was just messing around with. They are not to be taken too seriously as the standard of play on some of the tracks leaves a lot to be desired, however, they may be of some use to people looking for tunes to learn or examples of how not to play! (in some cases). If you want to use the samples below as examples in technique (good or bad in some cases), teaching resources, please feel free.

They are not to be used for any commercial recordings or any other activity in which my playing is re-sold commerically.

Please contact me by email and provide feedback if you found them helpful. I can be reached at tom(at)tommcelvogue.com.

I hope you enjoy them!

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