Download John's Christmas single:
St Stephen's Day (Byrne)
For years I thought about writing a Christmas song but any efforts I made seemed a little forced. This one came to me at 4am remembering the many times I had flown home to Dublin on Christmas night itself (to save a few bucks). I thought I would have to change the line "Empty a bottle into a glass, and wait for Christmas to pass" but it grew on me and in the context of the song, it's not quite as dismal as it might seem... not exactly happy either! The recording features Andy Keenan, Rob Shaffer and Maura Dwyer, all of whom were hugely influential in the arrangement of the song, and was recorded the week of Thanksgiving 2011.
Ballad of a Thin Man (Dylan)
Recorded, along with Sunny Afternoon and Folsom Prison Blues, with a Patrick's Head lineup that included myself, Patrick Mansfield, Mike Taylor, and Joe Falcey. These unreleased "Covers Session" recordings were meant to provide a stop-gap before recording a new PH album. "Ballad" is my favorite of the three. Recorded in one take, it felt like a song I was born to sing. Helen Leicht of WXPN gave this song many, many spins. I still hear it occasionally on her shows.
Fairytale Of New York (Mac Gowan)
Recorded for the 2009 Turtle Studios Holiday Jawn with Andy Keenan (Guitar, Banjo) and Claire Wadsworth (Vocals and Piano). It was all done in an hour or so and engineered by Rob Shaffer, later to become a full time member of The John Byrne Band. It nearly didn't make the album because of a certain controversial line...I'll let you guess which one.
Folsom Prison Blues (Cash)
Part of the "Covers Session". This was a rapid fire recording of a song we'd been doing live for a while.
New Orleans (Backroom Version) (Wikander)
This is probably one of my top 5 PH songs. Written by Scott Wikander, it ended up on "Traditional Gentlemen of the Road" but I've always preferred this live version, recorded in Scott's back room...which he called Ugly Futon studios. Scott currently records and plays out with his band Ghosts in the Valley ...check them out.
One More Cup Of Coffee with Lili Anel (Dylan)
This one was recorded to celebrate Helen Leicht's anniversary on the air...I don't remember which anniversary but they wanted songs from 1975. Recorded with the same line up that played the covers sessions with the addition of Lili Anel on vocals. We had never played the song before this day. I always felt that we could have done a little more with it but it certainly stands out as a fine recording. Lili's backing vocal give me the chills to this day.
Poor Man Shuffle with Lili Anel (Mansfield)
Very simply, we took the version of Poor Man Shuffle that appeared on Traditional Gentlemen of the Road and added Lili Anel's vocal...and hey presto, this song blew up, getting almost daily play on XPN and elevating Patrick's Head way up the local ladder. We followed this with a great run of shows with Lili, playing to bigger and bigger crowds. Sadly it was the last album of originals to date that we actually got to release.
Sunny Afternoon (Davies)
The third song of the cover sessions. Patrick is a huge Kinks fan so this was an obvious choice and a song we had been playing live. I was really worried about hitting the notes in the chorus but I think I pulled it off...took a few takes this time. Again, Mike Taylor and Joe Falcey provided the rhythm section.
The Well Below The Valley (trad)
Recorded on a snowy night in Andrew Lipke's studio earlier this year (2011). We did it session style, all the musicians sitting in a circle with a few random mics picking up what they could. We had been playing this song live for a while and it continues to be one of my favorite traditional songs. It was the B-Side for the single "To Patsy" that we released at the sold out WCL Downstairs Live show in February. It was also a chance to get the wonderful Chris Buchanan into the studio before he had to move to Illinois. Chris had been my regular banjo player/guitarist for most of 2009 and all of 2010.
To Patsy (Byrne/Mansfield)
The original version of this appeared on the Patrick's Head "Traditional Gentlemen of the Road" album. This is the only real songwriting collaboration between myself and Patrick Mansfield. I had written some music but didn't really have lyrics that I liked to go with it. Patrick finished it beautifully. Years later I started playing the song again at Chris Buchanan's suggestion and with his guitar work the song took on a whole new feel. Once Maura added fiddle and cello and Freddy Berman added drums, we felt we had given the song a beautiful reinterpretation.
Your Way Or No Way (Byrne)
There is an unreleased Patrick's Head album. We made it primarily in Nashville, adding the vocals in Philly. The album, slated to be called "Hollarin at the Moon" was never finished...I suppose the term "artistic differences" explains it sufficiently. This is a pretty rough cut from the album, most of which I do not have possession. The song appeared originally on my very first CD called "One, Two, Three, Four, Five" It was recorded with a bunch of session guys in Nashville, the kind of guys with more Grammies to their name than syllables. I may have another stab at recording this one at some point in the future.