© Suzanne Swanson 2016
Founder and lead guitarist/vocalist of Kailyarders, Collin Wade, arrives from generations of musicians in his family. The Celtic influence was strongest coming from his paternal grandmother, who was a pianist and organist, as well as his grandfather, who played brass instruments and composed music for the Welshmen’s Choir. Nurtured in a home with music as a daily occurrence because his mother sang “all the time” and father who played drums, especially in weekend bands, Collin naturally has taken it one-step further by composing literally thousands of songs.
We are now fortunate enough to enjoy two albums of Celtic Folk songs that show the depths and twists of life that present themselves in lively jigs and reels.
In spite of what happens to us in our lives, the music lifts you and the lyrics transport you to times when people had to face the realities of their lot, accept hard choices, or live with the consequences of decisions made. Life today is not much different but with the Celtic touch, it all seems less harsh.
Celtic Folk music, known to give tales of melancholy as well as laughter in heaping spoonfuls at a time, is offered here with vitality. Kailyarders sets forth nine songs, eight original, in reels, jigs, and strathspey (a dance tune in 4/4 slower and statelier than a hornpipe). The narratives may have settings of generations gone by, but somehow the vocals delivered by Collin Wade, with one song sung by Bruce McKillican, are so fresh they touch a nerve. The lilt of “A Mile Straight Down” is full of harmonies, bodhrán, including a raging sea, begins THE BLACK WELL. The second track takes us to a 1922 family affected by a coalmine, thus the album title. The lively blend of instruments by Chris Willicroft, Bruce McKillican, and Collin Wade, balanced with Wade’s straight-ahead vocals, sets a serious yet wistful tone that roams throughout, finishing with a Christmas refrain that certainly could become classic. Yarns of courting, questing for love, regret of lost opportunities, philosophical resignation, weave a lyrical pattern by this trio that explores the humanity of life.
With varied influences from Billy Joel, Lennon/McCartney, Neil Finn, to Townes Van Zant most prominent, the interest in Celtic music came when Collin listened to Planxty, Christy Moore and Andy Irvine, specifically inspired though their playing of traditional music. Later on it was the Dubliners, Runrig, (I used to sing in the Vancouver Scottish Gaelic Choir), and the Pogues.
The Sirens' call has lured Collin to travel to Nashville twice for further instructions in writing and polishing songs as well as collaborating with band mates Chris Willicroft and Bruce McKillican. Guidance for Barbara Sedun and Terry O’Brian at SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) has also been helpful.
Collin describes his association with Chris as having known him since his ‘Three Row Barley’ audition. We kept in touch, hung out, and wrote together. “I’d written St. Stephen's Green and dropped by for a visit. I played it for him and the next thing I knew he began playing his mandolin along with me. I wrote it in a 4/4 time signature and was fingerpicking. He was strumming the mandolin in 6/8. I thought, "What the hell is he doing?", but changed over to match him. The song took off and I built it to a power strum. Chris comes from a Rock and Punk background”, said Collin, smiling at the thought.
Bruce has a military background and is musically very traditional. One evening at rehearsal, Bruce picked up an accordion and played the intro to "Broad Majestic Shannon". “Chris and I just stared in shock and disbelief. He said he used to play but thought he would practice up a bit. I asked if he could play ‘King of The Jolly’ and he rattled that off too!”
Bringing different aspects of themselves balances the tunes out. Bruce is the only member of the band who reads music. Collin and Chris play the chords. Collin writes most of the material incorporating the ideas given to him by the other members. Chris has performed extensively, and handles the sound.
They are a motley crew to behold, as Bruce is over six foot four inches, Chris is six foot seven with Collin coming in at exactly six foot four inches. Collin shares, “Our nickname is the twenty foot trio and our motto is we don't play any 'short' songs. Seriously, I can't make this sheet up”.
Inspiration comes from everywhere. For instance, 'Stornoway' came from thinking about Collin’s Great Uncles going off to WWI and leaving the Isle of Lewis. ‘Married to the Sea’, was motivated by losing his wedding band while swimming with the family. Trying to joke about the lost ring, he said that he was now married to the sea. That song turned into a tragic tale about abandonment, loneliness, with a sailor having a physical relationship with the sea. The prolific writing comes from the fact that Collin always carries a notebook to jot down song titles. His method is to write song titles in the first three pages. He then fleshes out the lyrical ideas. At that point, if they are suitable, he transfers them to his computer. Once printed, he takes his guitar to work the melodies that drive the song. From there, Chris and Bruce build with what they have as ideas, and then the songs move to the studio to hammer out the instrumentation. Other collaborations with Roger Buston are song lyrics Roger had written and said to have a look and see if there were any useful concepts that would lend themselves. Within four days Collin had written and roughly recorded ‘Ghost Ships’, ‘Molly at the Rail’, and ‘Stinkin' of This 'n That’.
Realizing that with every song written there is a piece of Kailyarders as a collective in each one, Collin shares, “I guess my hope is that someone will listen to each song and start to assemble a mental jigsaw puzzle of who I actually am. At least through my writing I am being true to myself”.