Water, Water, Everywhere!

What is life without trials and tribulations? It is not all about going to concerts and listening to your favorite Celtic music, although I wish it would be. It is also about mundane activities like cleaning the house, running errands and installing a new kitchen faucet. I bring this up today because I tried to install the unit along with a garbage disposal with disastrous results. It is almost funny and worthy of sharing. Katie was at a concert, thankfully, so she wasn’t a witness to the mess. I thought I had more talent in the plumbing department. They say that faucets are super easy to replace. I must have fallen short with the garbage disposal.

Without warning, there was a gush of water below the sink and it wouldn’t stop. Water, water, everywhere! Unlike some spills, you can’t save any of it. I ran for the huge old mop in the garage. It took many trips to the utility sink to finally see a dry floor. Everything around, however, was damp: the bottoms of the lower wood cabinets and the legs of the kitchen table. I found a fan to use as a dehumidifier. I prayed that no mold would appear. Meanwhile, I was without a garbage disposal although the stellar Hansgrohe looked divine when I saw it at https://www.kitchenfaucetdepot.net/hansgrohe-faucet-brand-review/. Fortunately, it came with instructions. Not so for the other item. Everyone I know finds videos on YouTube but for some reason, I was overconfident about my abilities. Let me warn you to avoid this pitfall. Research well before you attempt something in the plumbing arena.

A friend came over to see the new Hansgrohe and immediately slipped on the still wet floor. A few spots still remained in spite of the mop and fan. While he laughed, it wasn’t funny to see a friend go “splat.” A photo found its way to Instagram the next day. All of a sudden, I started getting tons of emails and texts from friends and acquaintances who wanted to know more about the mishap. They wanted to mock me for sure—a poor hapless creature in distress. I got no sympathy.  “Tommy, what kind of mop did you use?” “Why didn’t you notice any water at first?” “Tommy, my friend, did you recycle the water?” “How on earth…?” “Are you nuts…?” “What made you think…?”

It seemed that now the whole world knew about my bad luck in the plumbing department just because I wanted to post a single photo. There are times when you just shouldn’t share your life. This is the moral of this story. Don’t provoke people into berating you for a lack of household skill. Keep your failure to yourself! I would have preferred a helping hand, someone to come over and finish the job. Instead, I called a tech from Hansgrohe who would check the faucet and also see to the garbage disposal. He was no one-trick pony. A savior in overalls.

How Not to Smell Like a Music Festival

“Katie, yikes.” “Tommy, agh.” You two smell like a music festival. And I don’t mean like some chick’s perfume. You reek of cigarettes in the worst way. You better take a shower and change your clothes. Why do you always come home like this? Hours of sitting next to a smoker will do it, ma. “It is even in your hair.” “Get back.” Ok, we agreed to the shower. No problem. We had a great time at the McKrells concert and didn’t care a lick that people were smoking all around. Yeah, it got in the tent, too. We can get it out. We have some secret ways – strange but true home methods from https://www.nomoresmokesmell.net/strange-true-methods-remove-cigarette-smoke/. Listen up if you have this problem.

While listening to the great Celtic music, we were oblivious to what was happing in the vicinity. People were drinking sodas or beer, and most had snacks galore. If you want to know what really smells, sit next to someone with a garlic sausage.

Off go the clothes into the wash. The tent is outside airing out. We will hose it down tomorrow. Meanwhile the fresh air does its job. As for the clothes, they need washing in soap mixed with a tinge of eucalyptus oil. It has a pleasant smell and dissipates in the dryer. I prefer it to the scented sheets you can buy that have too much of a perfume odor. The same goes for Febreze and similar deodorizing products. It is eucalyptus all the way. I can also recommend lavender if you enjoy this flower. The plant and floral oils are very concentrated and you don’t need much. If you goof, just run the rinse cycle a second time.

Another secret treatment is lemon mist. You mix it with water in a spray bottle and go to town. It has a fresh smell that is very pleasing on clothing. Lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus—take your pick. Maybe you have a unique way of ridding clothing (and a tent) of smoke odor. Let me know because I am not going to stop attending concerts or visiting my family after to impart the news about the fun we had. I know they like Celtic music and Katie and I always want to share. We are not pleased to get kicked out before dinner.

My mother approves of my smoke solution and says I should bottle it. Why bother. It is easy to make at home. There isn’t really a recipe. What is nice about home remedies is that they work, don’t harm any fabric, and last a long time. The big plus is that there are no toxic chemicals like the ones that come with store-bought products. You can mix up a batch of your preferred scent and don’t even need preservatives. It will last for a while if you keep it in a dark closet. This is my advice for the day.

Gotta Spend Money to Make Money

While looking for some old sold-out McKrells albums (or even any good Celtic music), we were scouring the thrift stores and pawn shops. We had made good finds in the past. All this shopping costs money in the long run, so when we spotted a metal detector for a good price, we jumped at the chance. What on earth you must be asking? You aren’t going to find CDs with it, are you? Ha!

We have a good explanation. Having found ourselves a little short of cash to support our musical interests, including travel to concerts and tickets, we devised a unique plan. Using a metal detector to find gold – in other words, we would look for buried treasure in the form of gold coins or pieces of jewelry. We had heard that someone in another town had made a good haul this way and we wanted to follow suit. Spending on a detector would be worth it. As the old saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. We buy that. The device went home and we looked up methods and places for metal detection within a hundred-mile range. Where this other fellow had gone, we didn’t know so we gave ourselves a wide berth. Our goal was to make enough to cover the next music trip. We only had a week. Spending a day in the forest or a fairground was better than panhandling for sure. At least we wouldn’t get dirty looks.

We selected a nice day when the weather was fine and we dressed casually wearing sturdy boots. We weren’t sure what kind of terrain we would encounter. We put the detector in a pouch so we wouldn’t lose it. We could put anything we find inside as well. Some would call us naïve but we set out.

We enjoyed our hike, starting first with the forest as it was farthest away. If we had success, we could forget the hard concrete fairgrounds. We had a picnic lunch to share and a bottle of wine. After traipsing through some underbrush and bumping into a few trees, we sat down to enjoy the wine. We finished the bottle and resumed our search, feeling a little tipsy. I started to question whether this bloody metal detector actually works. They sell tons of them online so it must. We got our instructions on the Internet which is there for fools like us. We were getting discouraged after a few hours. On the way out, I stumbled and fell and the detector suddenly went off with a kind of buzzing sound. “X marks the spot,” I laughed with glee. I was both drunk and ecstatic. There was definitely some type of metal in the ground. We dug quickly and shouted “eureka” in unison. We pulled out a box that was sealed. Someone had buried it to hide the contents no doubt. If you drop something like this, you can easily retrieve.

I almost don’t want to tell you what was inside. It was a beautiful gold heart locket with a name inscribed on the back. We took it to a jeweler who set a value and also informed us that he knew who owned it. In short, we had to give it back.

Sometimes I Hate Being an Adult

Hey’s it’s Tommy here with today’s blog post. I will give up most anything to listen to Celtic music live at a music festival. They are few and far between so I jump at any chance. I can go without a vacation, a new mattress, a dinner or two out, or new clothes. I cannot go without a water heater however. Why am I even making this difficult choice: hot showers or my favorite bands? It is a bit of an issue since the festival is far away and Katie and I will need transportation and lodging. It can add up what with the high cost of tickets to get the best seats. If the venue were in town, it would be a slam duck decision. But really! I can’t heat up water for bathing in a tea kettle like they did in antiquity. What would you do? Put up with cold showers?

You might say: bargain hunt for a new appliance to replace the one that malfunctions. I agree. As for me, I need to budget for the trip and deduct it from my savings. What is left over goes into a new water heater. I hope it is enough for a new one, but it doesn’t have to be top of the line. Sure, I can buy a used model, but that is what I have now. It can be repaired, but the plumber warned me that it likely to go on the fritz in the near future. He would be doing patchwork at best and I would be wasting money. It isn’t worth for such a short period of time—a mere stop-gap measure.

At a local home improvement store, I look for sale items and wish to heaven that they include the new tankless styles that I’ve seen on Water Heater Watch. There seems no point in repeating the same mistake twice. Tanks leak and the pilot light goes out. It is tricky if the heater runs on gas. The clunky tanks take up so much room. They used to put them in garages, attics, basements, and on the roof. I prefer the simple installation afforded by the small tankless versions. Maybe I can do it myself and save the $100 for the plumber.

I am in a hurry and in a panic since the concert tickets are soon going to sell out. Do you ever hate being a responsible adult? Sometimes necessity is a priority over entertainment. You have to maintain your residence to proper standards. I can see keeping an old stove if only half the burners work. I can see keeping a car until it collapses. I can see buying a used vacuum, but I can’t see letting the hot water provision go by the wayside. I made my decision and bought a bargain (last year’s tankless model) that will serve me well for years. Guess who is going to the festival? I am so excited that I started to sweat bullets and had to take a hot shower. It was no problem.

For the Guy Who Has Everything…

We are a close pair, Tommy and me. We are both authors of this blog. Most often you will find us relaxing in the rec room listening to Celtic music. The McKrells are of course our favorite group led by Kevin McKrell, the noted bluegrass songwriter. Perhaps you know that various leading groups around the globe have recorded and performed his music. We know every song. In America, the Kingston Trio are the most admired. Back to Kevin. I have to tell you that he is lead vocal and plays a mean guitar and bodhran (Celtic design Irish drums). You will learn some esoteric things on this site. You will get some trivia and personal stories of interest only to us. But I am compelled to relate things in my life. Who doesn’t want a listening audience? To whom do you tell the details of your existence? Sure, we all have friends and family; but there is something particularly rewarding about confessing stuff to the public.

Getting back to my obsession with things Celtic, I wanted to give Tommy a unique birthday present of an authentic recreation of a helmet. The reason is that I can’t believe I found a website that makes custom-made items to your specifications. They are accurate to every last detail as they know history and their craft. I am dying to see their handiwork. They make Scottish and Roman helmets of the battle kind and armor and breastplates to go with them. The Celts were no strangers to war and never went into battle unprotected. On the websites, the samples looked impressive with all the requisite detail. I love the Celtic designs and want a helmet that features them. For three or four hundred dollars, you can give your true love the experience of an ancient warrior. He can reenact life in a long-lost age. I adore the unique shape of the typical style. The classic look is called “coolos.” This traditional helmet has a rounded appearance and a flared back. Be sure to ask for hinged cheek guards. I am going to leave no stone unturned as for authenticity.

Tommy was ecstatic when he saw the helmet. How on earth, he cried. I told him it wasn’t easy and that I was going to make my own version, using cool welding helmets as the starting point. It would have been a travesty and unlikely to please his keen eyes. He loved that I went the extra mile and had spent so much money. He would treasure it; and while it might never get worn, he would mount it on the wall in a very strategic place. I definitely got the right thing for a guy who has everything. I know most people are laughing right now, but this is my world. It is full of Celtic stories, history, lore, music, and replicas. We all have our passions. My will never be slated. I am happy that Tommy shares my love.

Giving the Gift of Time

I am sitting in my workshop, a kind of makeshift space in the garage, listening to my favorite Celtic music. It inspires me to create. Today I am making a clock, not an easy task, for a friend. It was to have traditional Celtic decorations hand painted on the wooden surface. First things first. I have the task of cutting a perfect circle in wood for the clock face. I found a guide to help me here: https://www.woodworknation.com/a-quick-guide-to-cutting-a-circle-in-wood/. This will inaugurate the project and set it in motion.

There is a tool for every woodworking job and I grab my circle cutter. Your wood should be fairly thin, but even then, don’t try to use a paper or cardboard circle maker. They are sold in craft stores alongside the heavier type such as a Jasper circle jog tool. This gadget converts a plunge route into a precision circle cutting devices, making holes of various diameters. For a clock face, it will have to be set on the larger end of the spectrum. Make sure the one you choose can be adjusted to a six or seven-inch opening. The Jasper, by the way, is pre-drilled to fit most plunge router and no trial cuts are necessary given the precision of the instrument. I can testify to the fact that this calibrated marvel is easy to set up and use.

A lot of people use this tool to make or add to a sound system. It is so accurate that you can’t go wrong when building custom speaker cabinets for example. For my clock, it is ideal. The brand is famous for well-engineered accessories like the circle jig series. It comes with a guide and overall is a very useful addition to any serious woodworker’s toolbox. My clock will have the perfect face. After achieving perfect results, the circle is cleaned with sandpaper to touch up the rough edges. If you go freehand, this is a must. Some people create a circle in pencil and work just a touch outside the line so they can clean a fraction of an inch with the sander. I recommend keeping your eye ahead about a half of an edge of the blade so you will stay on track. It reminds me of what I learned in driving school: look ahead of the car in front. This way if you veer off course, you can react appropriately.

My clock is moving along and soon I will give the gift of time. There is a lot of work ahead now that the circle is done. Clocks have a myriad of tiny parts to create movement. It is not a novice job. You can also take an existing clock and create a new body to your specifications. A gift is usually customized to the taste of the recipient. The idea is that it is hand-made and one of a kind. With my handy wood working tools, I can fashion virtually anything from simple and modern to an alpine-style clock.

The McKrells

Although the McKrells are not creating new music or performing anymore, they are still one of our all-time favorite bands. They successfully combined two different genres of music—American Bluegrass and Irish Celtic—and created a whole new sound. We heard them for the first time at an Irish festival here in town. That was all we needed to hear to decide they were incredible. We became fans for life.

A short and sweet background on the band:TheMcKrells formed in Saratoga, New York in the mid-1990s. Kevin McKrell’s band, Donnybrook Fair, was winding down. He added ChrisLesketo the group. The personnel change helped their sound evolve. Chris was an award-winning banjo player.Prior to hooking up with Kevin, he had been playing withguitarist Craig Vance in a bluegrass band called Summit.When their guitarist left the band, naturally Kevin and Chris looked to Craig to fill the slot. And with that, the band we know as The McKrells were born. Together they played an entirely new type of music—Celtic Bluegrass.They started by playing in local bars and were immensely popular. Then came sold out shows at small theaters around the country, festivals, and toured Ireland. Their songs raced up the charts, winning over both bluegrass and Celtic music fans. They were able to play at some famous venues in the United States: Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Their songs have been covered by various other artists, including bands like The Kingston Trio and Hair of the Dog.Other bands have followed in their musical footsteps but none as successfully as the original!

The McKrells, sadly, broke up in 2006. It was a breakup in the usual way. The band members all wanted to move in different directions and it was easier to go separate ways. The breakup was fairly ugly, according to interviews we have read with Kevin. Most band members quickly moved on to other projects. For example, Kevin McKrell has become a portrait painter and still performs, often with his daughter Katie. He also gives tours of Ireland. Other band members have found their way in and out of other groups as well.

The McKrellshave performed very small ‘reunion’ shows in the New York Capital region a couple times. Most recently was February of 2017 at the Saratoga Racetrack. So if you haven’t seen them or you want to again, don’t lose hope. The lineup will vary—sometimes musicians have other obligations or simply would rather not play together—butyou’ll hardly even notice. We try to keep our ears open to hear of shows, and if we hear of anything with enough notice, we will try to get it on the blog.

In the meantime, much of their music is available for download at places like Amazon or iTunes. There are also plenty of videos available on YouTube.

Celtic Fusion

Most current artists with Celtic folk influences fall under the general umbrella of Celtic Fusion. Meaning they take elements of Celtic music and incorporate it into another style. The McKrells did this with bluegrass and Celtic music to perfection. However, they aren’t the only group we like. Here are a couple other bands that we listen to and why we like them:

  • For traditional Irish music, you don’t have to look anywhere other than at The Chieftains. They’ve been around forever (they formed in 1962) and have performed with many other artists—Van Morrison, The Decemberists, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Pavarotti, and Roger Daltrey, to name a few. Their first 10 albums are conveniently numbered so you know where to start. But if you only buy one album, get The Long Black Veil.When you think of Celtic music, this is probably what you’re thinking of.
  • Many other bands will cite them as an influence, so rather than list all of those bands (Dropkick Murphies, Flogging Molly, etc), we’re going to talk about The Pogues. They were an early Celtic Punk band formed in London in the early 80s. They had a hard, punk rock edge but still used traditional Irish instruments like the tin whistle. Their song, with Kirsty MacColl, “Fairytale of New York” is one of the most popular non-traditional Christmas songs out there. Alcohol abuse and other issues caused the band to have a bit of a revolving door of musicians, and by the seventh album, many of the originals had left the band. They briefly reunited from 2001-2014 but didn’t record anything new. Some of their best songs are “Dirty Old Town”, “The Body of an American”, and “Tuesday Morning.”
  • If you are more into the hip-hop style, start with House of Pain. They were the first ones to generate any kind of notoriety. They stood out not because they used traditional Celtic instruments. Instead, they used time signatures more reminiscent of a Jig than the standard hip-hop 4/4 time. Their most famous song was 1992’s “Jump Around” and it rocketed them to stardom in their home of the United States but also in Ireland. It was difficult for them to reach the more traditional urban markets, although “Jump Around” is still used in movies and at sporting events.
  • When you are looking for soothing and relaxing music, the sounds of Enya are probably what you’ll reach for. She started out in her family’s Celtic band and has gone on from there. Behind U2, she is Ireland’s most popular artist. All that and she has never actually gone on tour! Her last album, Dark Sky Island was nominated for a Grammy award. She is best known for songs like “Orinoco Flow” the “Book of Days” song featured in the film Far and Away, and May it Be, the theme song to the first Lord of the Rings movie.

We hope this list gives you a short list of a variety of artists that have influenced what is considered to be Celtic Fusion.

A Quick History of Celtic Music

Traditionally speaking, Celtic music is the folk music of the Celts: those from Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. Since those tribes and people are no longer around yet their music has lived on.Now the term has taken on a broader, looser interpretation. Nowadays people will claim something is Celtic if it has any hint of an Irish sound in it. A band can consider themselves Celtic by using Gaelic or Welsh words in a name.

Each of the regionsgave birth to a style all its own but generally fall into one of two major styles: those of the Gaelic style (preferred by the Irish, Scottish, and Manx) and the Brythonic, played by the Bretons, Welsh and Cornish. There are several differences, including instruments and languages spoken, but we’ll stick with one major difference: from a strictly melodic standpoint, Gaelic has more range. It is also more interesting to listen to if you ask us. Of course, we are Irish in heritage and grew up listening to it, so we could either be considered experts or biased (or both). We like to say that if the Irish didn’t invent Celtic music, they certainly have perfected it. Therefore, we take most of the credit for it.

Okay. So now you know who invented the music and what the various regions brought to the genre. But what else is there to know?

How about what makes it different from other types of music? Sure, we can get into that. What sets Celtic music apart from something like pop music is that it is melodic and not harmonic. In other words, musicians all play what are essentially solos—the sounds are not harmonized. Often, the instruments are playing the same melody simultaneously and not blending together to make one sound. The structure is also different. There is less of a structured verse-chorus-bridge format. Most Celtic music had only a few parts, and they were mostly variations on the same melody as opposed to separate parts.

Celtic music has evolved over time. There is the traditional folk music style, which each country has a different take on. There are crowd pleasing Jigs and Reels and working Waulking songs. The Celtic style lends itself to more modern-sounding music as well. There are successful rock and metal bands, hip-hop artists and pop singers with Celtic influences. Each artist puts their own twist on the Celtic sound, which has opened up the genre even wider and brought more of an audience to Celtic music.

There are lots of Celtic music festivals out there—many in the month of March, naturally—and a variety of artists perform. It is one of the best ways to hear the music live, especially if you are looking for a diverse group of artists. Another good option is to look around online. There are always podcasts and internet radio stations that have different types of Celtic music. YouTube even has videos you can check out. And if you are interested in Celtic music, be sure to check out our favorite band, The McKrells!

The Art of Kevin McKrell

Kevin McKrell is a talented guy. He is a gifted folksinger and a songwriter. He founded the bands Donnybrook Fair and The McKrells. He has been on tour all over the place and played some of the most popular Irish and Celtic festivals. His bands have played on famous stages and performed in front of huge crowds. All kinds of other well-known artists have either recorded or performed his songs.Such an accomplished musical career would probably be good enough for any one man.

However, it is not enough for Kevin. In addition to being a world-class musician, he has a whole other career. He is also an award-winning painter. He specializes in portraits. He is probably more well known for his music, but his paintings are quite good.His work has been exhibited in places like the West Side Gallery in Saratoga Springs and the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, New York.You can also buy prints of his paintings through the Fine Art America website.

Kevin turned to art when he was having health difficulties. Around 1998, his asthma made him unwell and he was forced to slow down.Ever the artist, instead of doing nothing, he started to draw. By 2001, he was painting. Many of his portraits depict his Irish and Celtic roots. He has painted portraits of a Saint Patrick’s Day parade, horses, bagpipers, and James Joyce. Many of his subjects are wearing Irish caps and holding a pint of Guinness. He has also painted several pictures of Santa. One of our favorites is a portrait of Santa and some elves holding up pints in an apparent toast. The title of the portrait is December 26.Some of his pencil designs have even been printed on clothing, including one portrait of three brothers stumbling out of a bar entitled Feckin’ Wrecked.He has claimed that it is fairly easy for him to draw old Irish men, and you can see that they are a frequent portrait subject for him.

He also used his paintings to help raise money for an artists’ coop in Saratoga Springs back in 2009. In order to help pay for upkeep and keep the studio affordable for local artists, he participated in a large benefit they were hosting. He had a painting there for sale. He ran the auction for some of the more expensive paintings available for salethat night. He also performed with the McKrells as part of the benefit.

If you are interested in seeing some of his work, click this link. Drop us a line and let us know which one is your favorite!

Why We Love the McKrells

Have you ever had a favorite song? You know the kind we are talking about. The kind of song where it doesn’t matter what kind of day you are having. You hear it and everything is better for those few minutes you hear it? What about a favorite band? Is there anyone you would see every single time they came to your town? The McKrellsand their songs are that for us.

We both like Celtic music for a few reasons. First, it’s just good music! It’s lively and fun, emotional and soulful. When it is done right, there isn’t anything better out there. Period. Second, it is the music of our homeland.We both grew up in Irish-Catholic households and are proud of our roots. That includes parts of our Irish culture that survived the trip across the Atlantic.Fur us, Celtic music was constant background music at home. Our grandparents played it, our parents listened to it. It was hard to get away from even if we had wanted to. It was the soundtrack playing as we grew up. Some families have traditional recipes that provide comfort. Others have activities that are family traditions. For us, it is Saint Patrick’s Day and bagpipes, the fife and drum. If there was a family get-together, there was Celtic music. That was life. We like it just fine that way, too.

We were at an Irish Music festival the first time we heard The McKrells. We had been enjoying ourselves—if you aren’t enjoying yourself at an Irish Music Festival in the month of March, you’re doing something very, very wrong—and then The McKrells took the stage. It was amazing. Our mouths may have hung open for the entire set. It was that good. The sound was there but it was also something else. Something brand new. When we got home from the festival, we immediately started looking for information on The McKrells and when we would be able to see them again. We were able to catch a few more shows before they broke up and we have all of their CDs.

One of the reasons we both like The McKrells so much was because their music wasboth familiar and yet new and interesting. They took Celtic music in a whole other direction, blending it more with our own American roots. It felt more like our music than what our grandpas listened to as they sat around with a pint complaining about the weather together. Not something they would have sitting in their dusty old vinyl collection, in other words. The songs had more of a contemporary feel and a unique sound. We didn’t realize that this was something we were looking for until we heard it for the first time. Don’t get us wrong, we love Danny Boy but it’s nice to hear something different!

It was one of the first bands that we “discovered” together and so they will always have a special place in our hearts.