Far From Home CD

1 Dance of the Honeybees (Lennon) 2.27
2 Snowy Path - Foxhunter’s Jig (Kelly - Trad) 2.57
3 Mountain Road - Cooleys - Jacksons (Coleman - Trad) 3.51
4 Old Hag You Have Killed Me - Shandon Bells 3.12
5 Far From Home - Foxhunter’s Reel 4.40
6 Women of Ireland/The Legacy (O’Riada - Trad) 2.49
7 The Boy in the Gap - Jacksons Reel 3.08
8 Homebrew - Homeruler - Kitty’s Wedding 4.37
9 Tommy Bhetty’s Waltz - The Munster Cloak 3.32
10 The Maid Behind the Spinning Wheel - Old Blackthorn 3.55
11 Kerry Polkas 4.00
12 Nine Points of Roguery - The Star of Munster 3.44

Our first proper album was originally released in 2004, but got a new lease of life when it was re-issued by Hobgoblin Records in 2007. It is distributed by Proper Music Distribution and is available through all major outlets and websites.

Read the Reviews!

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February 2006: Keltika Magazine (Italy) featured Blackthorn with a rave review and a 2 page colour spread, and two tracks from Far from Home appear on the cover CD.
12th August 2005: Irish Dancing Magazine featured Far From Home as their Album of the month with a full page review.
24th October 2004: Blackthorn's Far From Home CD was featured as the CD of the week on BBC Radio Scotland's "Reel Blend".
Far From Home - Blackthorn’s debut album, and a collaboration with whistle maker Phil Hardy - is a collection of our favourite Irish traditional tunes played on a wide variety of instruments :

Concertinas by Charles Jeffries, Bouzoukis by Fylde and Manson : Flutes by Altus and Arie de Keyzer : Whistles and Low Whistles by Phil Hardy of Kerry Whistles : Guitars by Tom Waghorn, Taylor and Martin : Uilleann Pipes by Dave Williams : Banjo by Maybell : Mandolin by Gibson : Fiddles made many years ago in Markneukirchen and in Paris.

The Band plays a wide variety of tunes and songs from all around Britain and Ireland at live gigs, but for this album we have given our Irish tunes the stage. The tunes have been inspired by many of our favourite players over many years.

Blackthorn 2001 to 2003:

  • Philippe Barnes : Flute, Guitar, Whistle and Bodhran
  • Sarah McClelland : Guitar, Flute, Bodhran & Uilleann Pipes
  • Fergus McClelland : Bouzouki, Mandolin, Tenor Banjo & Fiddle
  • Mannie McClelland : Anglo Concertina

  • Phil Hardy : Whistles in low and high D, G and A, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Djembe and Bodhran

    Special Guests:

  • Nick Pynn : fiddle on track 12
  • Triona Joyce : tin whistle on track 6

    After this album was made, Sarah left the band to work and make music in the USA and was replaced by Alex Percy. In 2005 she returned and the band grew to its current five members.

  • Far From Home CD - reviews

    Keltika Magazine (Italy) 2005 'First of all congratulations to the Band, "Far From Home" is really a good album, very fresh, "positive", if you may understand what I mean, and the sound of the recording is very good too. Brava la Blackthorn Band!' Alfredo di Pietra, (Keltika magazine)

    The Irish Band of the McClelland family has only one album out but it has over ten years of being on the road. We are introducing it to you in occasion of the return of the “prodigal daughter” Sarah that emigrated in the States for two years. Fresh like spring water is the music of the Blackthorn Band of Far From Home released in 2003. Today the group consists of Fergus and Mannie McClelland, co-founders back in 1995, Philipe Barnes ,who joined the group six years ago, Alex Percy and the daughter Sarah McClelland Mooney, just recently back after being in the Band from 2000 to 2003 and spending some time in the States playing with the Trefoyle in Buffalo. Mrs and Mr McClelland have been playing together for thirty years and with Barnes they also play with the Thingumajig Band, one of the most appreciated bands for the ceilidh and barn dance. To the CD debut of the Band, which we are featuring this month for the Keltika’s readers, are contributing Triona Joyce on the tin whistle with a wonderful version of “Women of Ireland” and the whistle player Phil Hardy, also a greatly appreciated whistle maker. As it usually happens in Ireland, all Blackthorn musicians ( ) are able to play different instruments: flutes, tin whistle, guitar, bodhran, fiddle, uillean pipes, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, and concertina. All these are the instruments that are pleasing our ears while we are listening to this CD. This music seems to be positively influenced by some of the most famous groups of traditional Celtic music: De Dannan, Planxty, Battlefield Band and Flook just to name a few. The style of playing is smooth and effortless: the string instruments, the concertina and the whistles are the main instruments and they occasionally intertwine with the fiddle and the banjo that in turn enrich the music with more notes and melodies giving the tunes a happy and lively vibe. Every tune played becomes a real delight and the biggest surprise is that the Band is little known even to people in the field. The excellent result of a very promising debut has been reached with a series of tunes, mostly traditional, well arranged, that includes jigs, reels, polkas, slow airs and waltzes. The beauty of the Blackthorn Band can also be found in the way the musicians push the music to the extreme of personalisation being at the same time completely loyal to the traditional tune. Many tracks, like the “Dance of the Honeybees”, a Charlie Lennon’s composition, are lively dancing tunes played with passion infectious to the listener. This very version of the Blackthorn Band is one of the most interesting ever heard and can easily sustain the comparison with the more well known Band of Altan. For our this month sampler we have chosen two sets: the first includes “Mountain Road, Cooleys, Jacksons” while the second one includes a tune that names the album “Far From Home” as well as “Foxhunter’s reel” and suggests defined echoes of the sound of the first Battlefield Band with a strong presence of whistle and bouzouki completely supported by Phil Hardy’s percussion. The string instruments are played for the first part, then the whistle joins in and then the fiddle and soon all the Band lifts the music sharing the chaotic joy of an unforgettable melody. A real little gem that makes us move forward and back in a reel step without us realising it. Another set considered by the critics as one of the best interpretation of the traditional tunes includes “Tommy Bhetty’s Waltz” and “The Munster Cloak”: here the sweetness of the flute seems to flow like a stream in the mountain, during the summer months, through a green valley depicted by the sound of Mannie McClelland’s concertina. And, of course, there is a track in which Sarah’s uillean pipes take us to the depth of the typically traditional Irish sound: “The Maid Behind The Spinning Wheel”. As the tracks are being played the album progressively gains weight with an overlapping of flutes and whistles and this is a characteristic that makes the album even more exquisite. The fiddles are always in evidence during the sequence of the tunes but they never follow a strict path. So in the last set consisting of “Nine Points Of Roguery” and “The Star Of Munster”, thanks also to Nick Pynn at the fiddle, Blackthorn runs wild into a truly Irish sound, eminent sound of its passion for the traditional. It’s just not the ability of the musicians that makes this CD, published by Hobgoblin Music ( ), special, but it is the pure and honest enthusiasm that they bring us. We can say that after such a debut the future for the Blackthorn seems to be very bright. Listen, enjoy, and dance.

    Radio Voce Spazio (Italy) 2005 'Blackthorn Band plays very well, with a great instrumental virtuosity but also a lot of imagination in the arrangements of always beatiful tunes from the Celtic tradition. Be sure that more music from "Far From Home" will find some air time here in the next weeks!' Massimo Ferro

    Irish Dancing Magazine 2005 'This Band is another derivative from what must be the busiest couple in the UK - Pete and Mannie McClelland - founders and owners of the thriving music instruments business, Hobgoblin, which has done so much for promoting music worldwide. Not only that but they're also members of Thingumajig - a Band we reviewed last month. But, here they are with their daughter Sarah, Philippe Barnes and Phil Hardy, as members of this second Band. They play for all sorts of functions, gigs, sessions, barn dances and festivals, and their range encompasses the complete folk and Celtic spectrum. Their ability to flex in such a manner is remarkable however, their ability to Home in on traditional Irish music and make it their own is extraordinary - and this CD is testament to that.
    Here, we have a dozen tracks of the finest, with many of them double tunes, as is the habit - with matching sets of jigs, reels, polkas etc.. It's a nice mix of the bedrocks, as well as the slightly lesser known. What comes across though, is the steady pace of the tunes. It may be them stretching their musical intellects to produce the tunes, rather than an inborn session speed that might well be deployed in Clare or Sligo as 'de rigeur'. The CD opens with Charlie Lennon's fine hornpipe, 'Dance of the Honeybees', with beautiful flute and concertina (the latter being Mannie's speciality) before the whole Band joins in with all sorts of instruments, which sets the tone for the entire album -
    it's superbly rich and colourful with a fullness of instrumentation. The album is heavy with flutes and whistle players, but delightfully so! Young Sarah plays these, as does Philippe Barnes and the special guest aboard - famed flute maker and player, Phil Hardy. Phil, in another life, manufactures the highly respected Chieftain and Kerry Whistles range, that meet with favour on all five continents (see
    Gems in the album include the superbly paced Foxhunters Reel with flute, whistle, mandolin and others. A special treat comes from invited guest, Triona Joyce, on tin whistle, who plays 'Mna na hEireann' (Women of Ireland). 'Tommy Bhetty's Waltz' typifies this band's forte - a lovely paced version of this popular tune, with prominence to whistle, mandolin and a rich background, full of colour. Track ten features Sarah playing splendid Uileann pipes, that most complex bag of tubes and bellows, as she plays a faultless rendition of the Maid Behind The Spinning Wheel', which is very well complimented by flute and guitar.
    Kerry polkas are often fast dance tunes that need a breed of greyhound to keep up with the tempo - but not here! There's a nice, steady pace, that's pleasing on the ear and great for accompaniment if you're in learning mode.
    Fiddles are in evidence all the way through the album, but never really unleashed, so on the last track, they're let rip for 'Nine Points Of Roguery'' and 'The Star Of Munster' - no better sign off to a great traditional Irish Album.
    Buy this album for the spot-on tunes - if you need any further encouragement it's being sold at an almost giveaway price, don't ask me why! '

    fROOTS 2005 'The Blackthorn Band features the talents of Philippe Barnes, whose An Feochan solo debut reached my ears some years ago. Being suitably impressed then, I viewed his involvement here with some degree of interest. The Blackthorn Band - comprised of Sarah, Fergus and Mannie McClelland, handling guitars, bodhran, concertina, fiddle, banjo, pipes, and Barnes's flutes - make a commendable musical collective. The predominant influences incude elements of De Dannan and Planxty from the Home front, and Battlefield Band, Flook and other Anglo-Irish and Irish-Scots crossovers. The ensemble playing is loose and fluid: strings, concertina, and flutes out front, laced with occasional fiddle or banjo adding extra melodic colouring. The Planxty-like rhythmic drive of Charlie Lennon's Dance of the Honeybees promises much. The effective title track has echoes of early Battlefield Band with strong whistle and bouzouki upfront, heightened by Phil Hardy's percussion. While not earthshaking, the album's victories Far outweigh its defeats.'

    Tradition 2005 '..The sort of album that creates a folk party even while you're hoovering the house ... the vibe has moved on from 'friendly slightly laid back folk club' to 'fully professional and impressive radio-friendly'. I particularly liked the flute let Tommy Bhetty's Waltz but all tracks are fine and mostly up-tempo.'

    Surrey Folk News 2005 'Here are twelve tracks of superb Irish traditional tunes, each redolent of mist rising over dark green meadows and peat fields stretching out below distant dim blue mountains. If you haven't heard this CD yet - it was released in July 2004 - run out and buy it today. This is ThingumaJig's other Band, in a debut album: Every track is a delight. Old favourites are linked with interesting finds. Being multi-instrumentalists, the tunes are individually orchestrated. The result is a beautifully arranged compilation of all the varieties of the genre: slip jigs, reels, 6/8 jigs, polkas, slow airs and waltzes. The title track exemplifies their technique: picked strings play the first phrase, whistle joins in, fiddle follows and soon the whole Band is taking up the tune and sharing the riotous joy of placing the notes of an unforgettable melody. It is not just the musicianship that makes this CD special, it is the sheer enthusiasm they convey.'

    Around Kent Folk 2005 'This debut CD from Sarah, Fergus & Mannie McClelland and Philippe Barnes is a collection of Irish tunes. The addition of whistle player and maker Phil Hardy adds to the joy. All the good ones are here - Cooleys, Kitty's Wedding, Kerry Polkas, Nine Points of Roguery, Snowy Path, Jackson's Reel and two of our favourites 'Dance of the Honeybees' and 'Far from Home'(Nic Jones). With concertina, bouzouki, flute, guitar, banjo, mandolin, uileann pipes, fiddel and low whistle, the sound could be confused but it's not - a delightful stream of sound washes over you from start to finish. The band's live set combines English and Irish. Listen, enjoy and dance.'

    Folk London 2004 'A strong collaboration with whistler (and maker) Hardy, this presents the trad aspect of Sarah, Fergus and Mannie McClelland's and Philippe Barnes' broad repertoire and includes several classics: Old Hag, Nine Points of Roguery, Star of Munster and Foxhunters Jig (an excellent version). Mostly at a nice speed forplaying along to if you aren't driving - which you might well feel like doing to this - how does it manage to be soothing and lively? ....extremely accomplished.'

    Fiddle On Magazine 2004 'This is an excellent CD of traditional Irish tunes. Sarah McClelland's and Philippe Barnes' flutes and whistles are well supported by a good tight group of instruments including bouzouki, mandolin, anglo concertina and fiddle. Nick Pynn's fiddle playing is shown at its finest in 'Nine Points of Roguery - The Star of Munster' where his light bowing enhances the jaunty appeal of the piece. Many of the tracks, such as the opening 'Dance of the Honeybees' are lively dance tunes, played with a vigour that is infectious to the listener whatever mood they are in. In contrast, Triona Joyce's tin whistle shows the gentler, plaintive side of the instrument and at its best in 'Women of Ireland'. Here it is achingly haunting, making it one of the most beautiful tunes on the disc. Truly an enjoyable album.'

    The Folk Mag 2004 'Pleasant, melodic, and beautifully produced, this collection of twelve traditional Irish music tracks marks the debut CD from the Blackthorn Band, Jigs, reels, waltzes and polkas all feature in a display of accomplished musicianship.
    The Band consists of Fergus and Mannie McClelland who are founder members and also feature in Thingumajig; Philippe Barnes, likewise in Thingumajig; Sarah McClelland who played with Trefoil last year; and Alex Percy, a member of Beltane. Together with whistle-maker Phil Hardy, they play a wide range of instruments, including, bouzoukis, flutes, guitars, uillean pipes, fiddles, banjo and bodhran. Flutes and whistles lead the melodies - Triona Joyce gives an especially touching performance on Women of Ireland - and each track builds to a neatly arranged, foot-tapping medley. The band's live performances may well give full rein to their spontaneity and improvisations.
    For those particularly appreciative of instrumental groups and high quality session-type tunes, the intricate melodies and interwoven harmonies will repay careful and repeated attention. For the more casual listener, there is the danger of a sense of repetition, although each track individually is commendable. Tommy Bhetty's Waltz stands out for its lilting whistle and sensitive accompaniment.
    The group have been around since 1995, performing tunes and songs all over the UK and Ireland. Musicianship of such a standard deserves recognition and success. With such a well-crafted debut, the future looks bright for the Blackthorn Band.'

    Folknews Kernow 2004 'How would you like a four-piece Irish group playing quietly in your front room whenever you wanted? Two flutes, mandolin and concertina flake out wonderful music; they also use various guitars, pipes, whistles and fiddles while guests bring yet more fiddles and whistles. All the two-dozen tunes except four are Irish traditional, and this is another Hobgoblin triumph -- pop into Wadebridge for a copy. The whole CD is a delight.'

    Shreds & Patches Autumn 2004 'This album is a collection of pretty tunes and arrangements, and many tracks have a fine presence. There is some lovely whistle and flute work, with beautifully understated backing on plucked strings and bodhran; we have the occasional lead from concertina and fiddle. There are some finely judged tune changes and instrumental contrasts, and the dynamics are interesting. ..on track 9 they play two of my favourites, Tommy Bhetty's Waltz and The Munster Cloak as well as I ever hope to hear them. The last track is probably the best, starting with superb fiddle on Nine Points of Roguery, The material is as Far as I know, Irish throughout, and fairly typical of the English Irish-session repertoire, though played at a more sensible pace, and with more musicality. Altogether a thoroughly pleasant CD.'

    Hi everyone. I was lucky enough to receive one of the giveaway CD's from the Blackthorn Band. It is called "Far From Home" and is a nice mixture of Irish tunes. I enjoyed it straight away without any of that "getting used to it" phase. I would gladly have paid for a copy and would recommend it to anyone who likes whistles and folk music. Thank's to Phil for sending it to me.

    Two of the tracks from the album were released early for inclusion on the Hobgoblin Music 25th anniversary CD and got some good reviews which you can read below...

    Folkworld 24/12/2002 '..Blackthorn's spirited instrumental music..'

    Pay The Reckoning January 2003 'Our personal "faves" include the two tracks by Blackthorn (which features Pete and Mannie McClelland, founders of Hobgoblin). "Dance Of The Honeybees" – of Charlie Lennon’s compositions – just happens to be one of our all-time favourite hornpipes: Blackthorn’s rendition is among the most interesting we’ve heard and bears useful comparison against Altan’s version. (Compare the bouzouki parts: Ciaran Curran’s style and Pete McClelland’s differ greatly – and yet both players are absolutely spot-on. The beauty of this music is the extent to which players can personalise tunes while remaining completely true to the tune itself. We can’t explain this phenomenon – but , by Christ, we can experience it!) Their polka set is lively without racing ahead at a demonic pace, the slight off-centredness of the polka form being given its due.'

    Folk in Kent – Oct-Nov-Dec 2002 '..I liked Blackthorn’s Dance of the Honeybees'

    Folk News Kernow Oct 2002 'fine music from founders Pete and Mannie McClelland'

    Shreds and Patches issue 26 – Oct 2002 'Also highly recommended are a couple of tracks by Blackthorn, a lively bunch led by Hobgoblin founders Pete and Mannie McClelland'

    Folk London, June - July 2003 issue '..Blackthorn do a nice version of 'Dance of the Honeybees'