Alison O'Donnell

singer, musician and writer of songs & soundscapes

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Born in Dublin, Alison made her first single, 'Feeling High' for SNP's Simon Napier Bell and David Hemmings at the age of 15 with the cult folk-rock band, Mellow Candle. The band appeared in concert with the likes of Genesis, Thin Lizzy, Donovan, The Chieftains and Steeleye Span. They signed to Decca's Deram label in the early 70s and gigged their album 'Swaddling Songs' in Ireland and Britain. In the mid 90s their highly collectable vinyl album achieved critical acclaim and is now ranked as a folk rock classic.

After moving to Johannesburg with Dave Williams, Mellow Candle's guitarist, they formed traditional group Flibbertigibbet. In 1978 the band's album 'Whistling Jigs to the Moon' was released on the Stanyan label, and the group worked for several years in South Africa and Botswana. They also performed on national television and radio. When band members moved on Alison freelanced on recordings mostly for David Marks of 3rd Ear Music and session work for t.v. and radio advertising commercials. She also worked with a number of singer songwriters, most notably Roger Lucey and Colin Shamley, on both live and recorded contributions to their albums. During the early 80s, together with a troupe of eminent actors and musicians, she helped to stage and perform a series of popular satirical revues. She toured with the musical 'I'm getting my act together and taking it on the road', appeared with a number of jazz and rock bands, including the fledging Ella Mental and recorded an album for writer/producer (Daydreamer), Terry Dempsey's band Plastik Mak. Alison then went on to assist in the running of underground Hillbrow club venue Le Chaim, which featured anti-apartheid musicians, where she performed occasionally. In the mid 80s Alison joined contemporary jazz group Earthlings, co-writing the band's material up until her move to Britain in 1986.

In London Alison spent a number of years working in public sector administration whilst also acting as promoter and publicist for the re-release and reissue of earlier recordings. In the latter part of 1997 she moved to Brussels, working with jazz and folk musicians, on theatrical productions, and giving voice coaching. In 1998 she formed traditional group Éishtlinn with Flemish guitarist Philip Masure. The band played concerts in Belgium, Holland, France and Luxembourg and recorded the album 'eist linn' on the Kissing Spell label. A year before moving back to Dublin in 2001, she worked with Flemish singers in the group, Oeda, singing their original songs in Flemish and French.

Since returning to Ireland in 2001, Alison sings and plays bodhrán in sessions, festivals and gigs including a long-standing residency at The Wishing Well in Blackrock. She is also a member of the traditional singer's club An Goilín and TAC (Traditional Arts Collective). In 2005 the BBC filmed her in a documentary about her grandmother entitled 'Mother of Pearl' for the Family Ties series, directed by BAFTA award-winning director and producer Claire Faragher. In 2006 she released a first album under her own name, 'Mise agus Ise', comprising original songs and tunes with multi-instrumentalist, Isabel Ní Chuireáin. 

2007/8 brought collaborations with Dave Colohan of Agitated Radio Pilot on his 'World Winding Down' double album and Steven Collins of The Owl Service (EP and vinyl) entitled 'The Fabric of Folk', Static Caravan, and on tracks for 'The Burn Comes Down' and 'The View From a Hill'. In 2008 indie prog/psych folk label, Fruits de Mer issued a vinyl double A-side single of cover versions of Nick Drake's 'Day is Done' and Nico's 'Frozen Warnings' by Alison and Head South By Weaving. In 2011 a copy of the single sold on eBay for £74.00. Alison became a member of the acclaimed psych folk collective United Bible Studies in 2008. This collaboration has resulted in a slew  of recording projects and albums, and occasional live performances. 2010/11 saw the formation of her band Bajik, which headlined at their maiden concert in Spain at the Datura Folk Festival. Between 2010 and 2013 there has been a solo album 'Hey Hey Hippy Witch' on Floating World Records, which includes songs written with Michael Tyack of Circulus, Kevin Scott of Canadian band, Mr Pine, Graeme Lockett of Head South By Weaving and Dave Colohan and Gavin Prior of United Bible Studies and an album with Head South By Weaving entitled 'The Execution of Frederick Baker', Ritual Echo Records. Contributions have also been made to the Mr Pine album, 'Rewilding', 'Freedom and the Dream Penguin' by The Fieldmouse Conspiracy, a project run by Belfast based author and musician Colin Harper, 'Towards Abstraction' for British contemporary electronic psychedelic band Big Dwarf and 'Songs From The Black Meadow', Compilation, (Black Meadow Song) 2016 Mega Dodo. She also guested on doom metal band Cathedral's ninth album, 'The Guessing Game'  and two albums by fellow UBS student Richard Moult, 'Last Night I Dreamed of Hibrihteselle' and 'Sjoraust'. 2015/16 marked the release on CD and vinyl of 'Anointed Queen' with British folk noir group Firefay. Solo album written and created with Dave Colohan, 'Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace' is due to be released in July 2017.

 

Thanks to Frederique Callet (RIP) for setting up my first website and Marta Sikora for its maintenance between 2007 and 2016. Here, I'm on my own. Thanks also to all the photographers who have provided images during my long career. Herein they are: Rodney Barnett (RIP), Martin Sauvage, Ken Garland, Jessica Hilltout, Tony Campbell (RIP), Ani McNiece, Seán Kelly, Dan Retter, Niall Reddy, Erik Anthierens, Ronan Healy , Robin Parmar, S P Collins, Colm Keating and a touch of jiggery pokery by Laura Sheeran to the home page photo. 

Acknowledgement and thanks also for collaboration and inspiration through the years to: Clodagh Simonds, Dave Williams, Ted Carroll, David Marks, John O'Regan, Colin Harper, Isabel Ní Chuireáin, Dave Colohan and my Brower family.

 

2016 alisonodonnell.com