The Flock ( "Ma Crow & the Flock" when Ma chose to come on board ) during my time with them, consisted of singer/songwriter Dave Gilligan, as our fearless leader. He would strum on his acoustic guitar awhile, then sing wonderful ballads about the conflicts of life and love songs about old dogs named Blue. As if that weren’t enough, he somehow found enough breath to keep from fainting, as he played harmonica on several tunes or songs each set. He managed to seam together a patchwork of musical styles reflective of his love for traditional Irish music, as well as, American art forms, such as the Blues.
Our fiddler/violinist Laura Hasek, used to join Dave on many of these melodic excursions, and was one of our a singer/songwriters. We performed a few of her songs and were adding more. She wasn’t at all our gigs, so the ones she made were special. When Dave and Laura launched into a reel or jig, you felt like you were being lifted to another place and time. Music by its very nature is somewhat magical or mystical. But when you heard these notes flying in the air, weaving in and out, performing an aural dance, you found yourself in an invisible roller-coaster, swaying and bobbing to the rhythm. If the human race ever had a nobler blood-line, Laura is one of those individuals who still manifest some remnant of her former heritage. If you’ve ever seen her smile, you know what I mean. Few bands can say they have even one good front person, let alone two. The Flock was indeed fortunate.
From time to time, when she was in town, Jen Shepherd, brought her multiple musical talents to the fold, including a voice that can best be described as a gift from God. She has groomed her voice to cover the sweetest of melodies and then turn around and knock you out with a raucous Blues number. Her range of styles is extraordinary. She may have picked up her mandolin to back Dave up with a little rhythm or run us through a few Bluegrass songs. She could grab her flute and join Dave and Laura in one of those pieces I described earlier. If you thought it was good with two instruments, imagine three different sonic forces joining together and creating an awesome orchestral effect. Amazing is a good word. When she was away from town, I for one missed her.
What can I say about Dr. Michael Sontag ? He has been an integral part of the rhythm section in several of the musical enterprises I have found myself in. Finding a drummer/percussionist who takes notes and pays homage to a certain genre’s needs, is rare. Also rare, is finding one who can not only shake the house, which he does love to do, but can rock you in the subtler regions of your being. He also, was not at all the performances. In addition to playing a full kit, he used a bodhran, an udu and bones, to transport us to foreign lands and amazing flights of the imagination...
There are few bass players I enjoy playing with as much as Jay Sofranec. And none I enjoy more. He can create a pocket so big you have room to branch out and bear fruit in any number of musical expressions. Or when he hooks up with a drummer, the groove can get tight enough to keep all the delicious juices in the pot. His sense of the tonal center is a treat to behold. Tell him the key or not, he is right where he should be.
And then there was me. I am truly grateful for my time with the musical extravaganza known as "the Flock". Their patience with me as I made the journey back and forth between Bluesman and Celtic rhythmist is worth noting. I had always appreciated the sounds of Celtic music from afar, but had never been introduced to the art form. It is not merely banging out a few chords, while some simple repetitive phrase is performed over and over again. There is the intricate weaving of melody and rhythm that creates an atmosphere of celebration, that is often accompanied by passionate and exhilarating dancing. There were many instances where listeners had been compelled to leave their seat, come down to the front and dance a jig. That is powerful stuff.
Since I am a fledgling in the field of Irish/Celtic music, I would encourage you to contact or visit the Riley School of Irish Music if you are interested in finding out more about Irish roots or Celtic flair in the Cincinnati, Ohio area.