The rolling hills of Monaghan are home sweet home to Damian Davis. The young country singer is carving out his own special niche on the music circuit in the county best known for people like Big Tom McBride and the great rural poet, Patrick Kavanagh, from Inniskeen.
Both legends were moulded and shaped by their upbringing in drumlin country. Big Tom sang about “Back to Castleblayney, my own people and my home.” Patrick, or Paddy as he was known to the locals, penned the famous line, “O stony grey soil of Monaghan, you burgled my bank of youth!”
Damian Davis is the proud bearer of a new generation of Monaghan people steeped in the rural tradition. It also helps that he is a grand-nephew of Big Tom and he has inherited that lovely down-to-earth gentle manner and serene disposition that made Big Tom the undisputed king of Irish country music.
“My grandfather Seamus was a brother of Big Tom and my mother Deirdre would always have songs of Big Tom on in the house and in the car. He was easily my biggest influence and we all had such a huge regard for Tom,” says Damian.
“When you combine the music and the man, there was something very special about him. He was absolutely unique. There was such a love for him in the hearts of the people. Everywhere I go, people love to speak to me about Tom. He was always so encouraging of me and my music.”
Along with his brothers Adam and Craig, Damian took his first tentative steps in the music business playing local pubs around the region. The brothers have a special fondness for bluegrass music and this has manifested itself in various ways over the last decade.
Almost five years ago, Damian was a contestant on the TG4 show, Glór Tíre, which helped to increase his profile and introduced him to many around the country.
His debut album is due out in the coming weeks and is a big milestone for this most natural of entertainers. “I recorded it with Willie Dunne over in Mohill in Leitrim. It included some of my previous singles such as Until This Ring Turns Green, Breaking Ground and The Stony Clay.
“I have included Lonesome Fugitive [Merle Haggard] and Nothing I Can Do About It Now [Willie Nelson] as well as a catchy song, Today’s Teardrops, recorded many years ago by Ricky Nelson. Slaney Valley is there too and a good few more and also a new song, The Man They Call Big Tom, composed by my brother Craig.”
Outside of the music scene, Damian has a passion for farming. He works with his uncle, Jerome McBride (a member of the Declan Nerney Band) on the farm where his grandfather Seamus and Big Tom spent their growing years on those very same fields.
“The old house is still there. I love farming and I am well used to the baling machine.
“We have a tradition of that kind of work in the family and have taken care of the baling requirements of neighbours over the years. We concentrate on beef, sucklers and sheep. I always feel very much at home on the land.”
The warm nature and authentic style of Damian, coupled with his amazing rapport with all generations, has seen him amass a loyal following on the circuit. “I am now playing shows all over the island of Ireland and the main thing is that I am being invited back to all the venues.
“I enjoyed a great night in recent weeks over in the Ard Rí Hotel in Tuam where I played support to Gerry Guthrie and his band. It was a brilliant night and I want to thank Tom and Sally McHugh from the hotel for their most warm of welcomes for me.
Tom has a background in farming and we got on famously.”
Watch out for the forthcoming release of Damian’s debut album, Breaking Ground. Further details about shows and guest appearances can be had from the Damian Davis page on Facebook.
Effie keeps it country down Beara way
The summer of 2023 will hold cherished memories for Effie Neill from Ardgroom on the lovely Beara Peninsula. Effie (20) took the top honours at the Cowboys and Heroes Festival near Ballinamore in Leitrim on the June Holiday weekend.
The release of her debut single, Country Is The Best, an original penned by Niall O’Brien from Cork, along with radio plays and some appearances on the Sky country music shows, have ensured a surge in the recognition stakes for Effie in recent weeks.
The youngest of a family of five, Effie is no stranger to the farming scene. Her parents, Declan and Catherine, run a busy suckler farm close to the sea. She also works part-time at Kenmare Mart as well as in Berehaven Pharmacy in Castletownbere.
“It has been a great few weeks since Cowboys and Heroes and I am absolutely loving it,” says Effie. “They even got me to sing the Rose of Tralee for all the farmers at Kenmare Mart! I was delighted with the great response to my guest spot at a recent show in the Gleneagle in Killarney. Life is good right now.”
Effie will officially launch her country music career, along with her second single, at a gala night in The Village Inn, Enniskeane, Co Cork, on Sunday, 8 October. She will be joined by Barry Doyle and Stevie Hamilton along with special guests, Crystal Swing. Watch out for Effie Neill as she spreads country sunshine in the times ahead.