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Grada Makes Irish Music New

It was a cold, snowy day when Grada came to visit. Two of its members are from New Zealand, while the rest of the band is Irish. I was about ready to walk in and meet them when a stranger showed up at my office door begging for any kind of candy. He had mistakenly put salt into his coffee, and he needed to remedy the disaster happening in his palate. He was Grada’s flute player, Alan Doherty. I did happen to have a few of Christine Lavin’s chocolate espresso beans, which did the trick.

Why did Alan put salt in his coffee? The answer is a bit complicated. It turns out that singer Nicola Joyce had forgotten her bodhran and other percussion instruments, and there was no time to return for them. The singer-turned-inventor began scavenging the station storage room and kitchen for replacements. A cardboard box became the bodhran, some chopsticks her mallet. A cardboard salt container became her shaker, but it was too full. Time was running out, so the excess salt ended up in the sugar bowl, and you can figure out the rest.

All of this extemporizing actually loosened all of us up, and I think that comes through in the set and conversation. Even the normally stage-shy guitarist Gerry Paul was very talkative. We became so friendly that Alan made me sing with the group during the chorus on one song, without advance warning. For a second, I remembered the time I was in a traveling string band; I had almost forgotten why I did it. I thanked Alan, but hopefully I’ll be buried in the mix.

More about Grada

The world travelers in Grada now call Dublin and Galway home, but they originally hail from New Zealand and Manchester as well as Ireland -- drawn together in 2001 by their shared interest in playing Irish music in a new way. The contemporary Celtic quintet is composed of five equally talented musicians playing a variety of traditional instruments; each has little trouble finding side projects when Grada is off the road. Along with Grada originals, the band's 2007 album Cloudy Day Navigation stretches Grada's sound with covers of songs by Scottish songwriter Emily Smith and American neo-folksinger Suzanne Vega.

Listen to the previous Favorite Session, or see our full archive.

Copyright 2008 WKSU

Jim Blum
Jim Blum has been sharing his love of folk music as a radio host on WKSU-FM for more than 25 years and, since 2003, also on FolkAlley.com. Blum graduated with a B.A. from Kent State University, played bass in a bluegrass and swing band and used to be a landscaper. As host and music programmer for Folk Alley and WKSU's weekend folk music, Blum has nearly three decades of experience broadcasting to a folk community that is now, thanks to the Internet, global in scope. His broadcasts include his own mix of musical influences featuring classic folk heroes, acoustic instrumentals, world rhythms, contemporary singer/songwriters, Americana, bluegrass and other roots-based sounds. He also acts as a valuable resource for area venue owners and concert coordinators as well as holding the position of artistic director for the Kent State Folk Festival, the nation's second oldest folk fest held on a college campus.