Niall Toner Band’s There’s a Better Way

cover art for There's a Better WayDublin’s Niall Toner has been called the father of Irish bluegrass music. Certainly, his dedication to playing and preserving American folk and old time music has proven both a vocation and a calling card. Having played for four decades with many leading Irish and American bluegrass musicians including Bill Monroe, and presenting country music shows on RTE radio and Lite FM, Niall Toner’s name immediately commands respect.

Toner has also played with various string bands and country-rock bands including Hank Halfhead & The Rambling Turkeys, and now leads his own Niall Toner Band, playing mostly original bluegrass and country standards. An accomplished songwriter, he is a regular on the Nashville songwriters circuit. However, as regards solo recording, although this first album is credited to the Niall Toner Band There’s A Better Way is, amazingly enough, Toner’s first solo album in his long career. Backed by double bassist Dick Gladney and acoustic guitarist/vocalist Clem O’Brien, Toner and company deliver the goods.

Toner’s absorption in American country, folk, and bluegrass allows for a series of original songs that capture the best elements of the classic bluegrass genre. There are trains, broken hearts, and gospel affirmations a-plenty here but none of it sounds contrived or second hand. The songs are performed with an honesty and respect for the music and its subtle nuances. In short, the band’s heart is in the right place. The sprightly “Ocean of Teardrops” gallops along with typical high lonesome vitality belying a broken hearted lyric. Meanwhile, “Chainsaw Country Blues” travels along the trail, the songwriter trying to make a living, again rendered in straight up bluegrass fashion. Musically “Drunken Daisy” proves Toner a mean guitar picker. There’s A Better Way also possesses one of the cleanest sounding recordings to caress my ears in ages.

The Niall Toner Band turns in a rock-solid performance carried off with a quiet unassuming authority.

(Avalon, 2002)

John O'Regan

John O'Regan, Senior Writer, is a broadcaster and freelance journalist from Limerick, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines such as Irish Music, Folk Roots, Rock 'N'Reel, The Living Tradition and Hot Press. He has also had articles and reviews published in the USA, Canada, Germany, Norway and Australia. John is one of the contributors to Clancy's Irish Music Radio.Com an internet Web site and Radio service devoted to Irish music. He contributed to The Companion to Irish Traditional Music (Cork University Press 1999). Through his broadcasting and journalistic work, John O'Regan has achieved a reputation as an authority on both Traditional and Contemporary music. He presents "Regan's Rambles" with Radio Galtee on Sundays from 7.30-9.30pm. John has appeared as a guest contributor on RTE Radio One, 2FM, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Radio Derby, Downtown Radio (Northern Ireland), 98FM (Dublin), and Radio Kerry. He appeared as a guest contributor on the BBC Radio 4 Arts Show "Kaleidoscope" in October 1997 and on "De Groote Boodschaap" on VRT Radio 1in Brussels in September 1998. John O'Regan has written liner notes for albums by Irish and International artists. He wrote the liner notes for The Celtic Heartbeat Collection and A Winter's Tale released by Celtic Heartbeat. His most recent compilation album projects include A Magical Gathering -The Clannad Anthology for which he compiled the tracks and wrote both the liner notes and track notes featured in the 46 page colour booklet attached with the 34 track double CD compilation released in the US on April 16th 2002. John has also lectured on Music Journalism and Media Analysis to City &Guilds and N.C.V.A. Sound Technology /Sound Engineering students in Pulse Studios Dublin and Carrick On Shannon V.E.C. During July/August 2002 John led workshops on ‘developments in Irish Traditional Music’ at Cleveland Irish Festival in Cleveland Ohio and Peoria -‘Erin Feis’ in Peoria ,Illinois USA. For John, music is life and spreading its good vibes his vocation.

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