Here are the vocalists featured on The Weather at World’s End: 1997–2022 anthology along with Colin Harper’s notes on each. Most of the photos were taken in early 2023 at a couple of sessions with Mark Case. Those who were abroad or couldn’t make it very kindly sent their own pics in, though the whereabouts of Ruth Balmer, who sang memorably on ‘My Heart is Broken’ in 1997 (remixed for the new anthology), remains mysterious.
After the vocalists are the four key collaborators in the long tale of the Legends: songwriter Colin Harper, pianist/producer Cormac O'Kane, bass sensation Ali Mackenzie and graphic design wizard/promo director Mark Case.
Ruth was a great character on the 90s Belfast bar music scene, singing with Ali Mackenzie’s Bush Turkeys for a while. She only recorded on one Legends track, ‘My Heart is Broken’, though also appeared at the 1996 Empire gig. Haven’t seen her in years.
Sensational singer/bass guitarist in all-girl folkish fivesome Wookalily – along with Adele Ingram (BVs on ‘Northern Ireland Politicians’) and Cardiff Lou (drums on ‘All We Need’ and ‘Better Weather’). The other two must be getting nervous…
I used to joke that Ciaran was a stadium rock god and then he became one – fronting INXS on a comeback tour down-under. Ciaran lives there to this day, a full-time artist/songwriter with many projects. A great voice and a kind-hearted fellow, Ciaran recorded three tracks with me in 2007, ‘When It’s Gone’ being the best. When struggling with it he uttered the immortal line ‘Colin, your melodies are… instantly unmemorable!’ We both collapsed in merriment.
I was in awe of Janet’s gospel-rock band SOS in the early 80s – the band was great but the quality of her singing was on a different level – and thrilled when she agreed to have a go at singing an alternative version of ‘Be The One’ in 1997. We reconvened in 2000 for the Legends’ contribution to the Bert Jansch tribute album, made a couple of recordings with Duffy Power after that and then a slew of recordings towards what became The Road to the West (2004). ‘Free! Free at Last’ in 2007 reunited her with brother/former SOS sidekick the legendary Ivan Muirhead. Somewhere in all of this activity Janet became a prolific and talented songwriter where previously she was ‘only’ a singer. Her songwriting, which arrived fully formed from the start, seems only to get better with every release – dusted with Celtic soul, informed by Americana but in no way beholden to Nashville. ‘Going Home (2018) is the most recent of her four albums, with a new single in late 2022 ahead of a 2023 album. She’s far too relaxed to have a website or a Bandcamp situation.
Janet's Facebook profile
A voracious Beatles and Bert Jansch enthusiast, I know ‘Carol from Luton’ from that world. Amazingly, she turned out to have a beautiful voice. I think ‘Squirrel’ may be the only recording to her name.
The only Legend living in Nashville (!), Susan is from Peterborough and lived in Northern Ireland in the 90s, painstakingly crafting solo EPs and organising all-women musical collaborations. A great pal, she only ever appeared on one Legends track, ‘Be The One’, and the 1997 Rotterdam Bar gig. The only Legend alumnus, to my knowledge, who once opened for Tony Bennett.
No relation to Alison, Mia (pronounced Mia-luin) is a daughter of Tíona McSherry and has certainly inherited the 24-carat musical gene from the maternal line – Tíona’s brother John McSherry is also a Legends alumnus / international virtuoso on uilleann pipes, and the other siblings, Paul and Joanne, are fantastically talented on their instruments. Famously fussy about her own performances, Tíona thought there might be a tuning issue with one of her tracks here. Thinking it was ‘Letting Go’, I had the multi-track digitised… and then, as a cartoon lightbulb appeared above my head, thought ‘Miadhachlughain!’ (It’s easier to think it than spell it.) Mia is the youngest of the Legends. Her debut EP was released in January 2023 and she has since become a member of the legendary Afro-Celt Sound System. She’s the youngest of that lot as well!
Founder, frontman and songsmith for Coalisland colossi The Minnows, formerly Tiberius Minnows – who caused a sensation in the early 90s as a band most likely to… Well, they didn’t. But the world’s loss is the cognoscenti’s gain, as the Minnows have periodically reformed or awakened from slumber to perform locally or release something new. On one occasion they released ‘Something New’. Their 2021 album Californian Poppy may have waited years for release, as Mickey polished his golf handicap and checked The Blue Nile’s record for tardiness, but he was only toying with us – for it was a masterpiece. The Minnows played their first gig in ten years in April 2023, a month after The Weather at World’s End was released. Mickey contributes superbly to Days Full of Rain (2022) and fronts ‘Don’t Go to Nashville’ (2019), albeit admitting that he’d quite like to. In August 2023, Mickey sang lead and played guitar on a new Legends recording, ‘The King is Dead’, also featuring Ali Mackenzie (bass), Colin Harper (guitar), Brian Houston (lead guitar), Linley Hamilton (trumpet), Dave McLarnon (backing vocal) and Feargal O’Kane – the very first Legends drummer from 1996–97 – back on drums.
A gnomic, wizardly figure at the epicentre of community arts in Northern Ireland, the Con man has a long history on the local gigging scene and suffers terribly from GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome). That said, he has focused most passionately on protest performance poetry in recent years. Proficient on vocals, guitar and drums, Conor recorded on several Legends-related tracks in the early 2000s. He can be heard here on ‘The Fields of July’ (a fabulous live vocal) and on ‘Ride, Ride’ (lead guitar).
An events producer and music/arts workshops facilitator besides being a singer, bass player and multi-instrumentalist, Karen’s company Basslines helps others with fundraising bids. Cormac O’Kane recommended Kazza for co-vocals on some rather downbeat CH songs in 2010, including ‘Testament’ herein. We reconnected in recent times, with one café session in 2020 – with kingpin impresarios Cormac O’Kane and Scott Flanigan – leading to the national-level phenomenon of Scott’s Jazz Club in East Belfast.
Karen's Linkedin Profile
I became aware of Katie only in 2021, through her partner and fellow Yorkshire songwriter/performer Henry Parker, whose music had caught my ear online. I was stunned to find out that they had each been reading my Bert Jansch biography when they met. Sounds pretty karmic to me. I travelled to Yorkshire in October 2022 to see them live, separately, on adjacent nights – and both nights were wonderful. Hearing Katie, I imagine it must have been how people who heard Sandy Denny on a good night in the 70s must have felt. I’m thrilled that she’s a part of this.
A contemporary gospel singer with pop panache, Susie is a friend of a friend, Karen Bousfield (as was), who has also appeared (on violin) as a Legend, though not on the present anthology. I needed a certain type of singer on ‘Underachievement’ in 2008 and Susie very kindly obliged. Currently absent from public platforms, her husband Paul Campbell is a splendid and active arranger, orchestrator, composer, producer and conductor for hire.
The voice of Strawman, a blue-collar, blustery Belfast bar-room combo that brought building site chic and barnstorming anthems to the cognoscenti in the 90s with two albums and various singles. Bruce disappeared into teaching for a while but slips out occasional solo albums these days as ‘Bruce Joseph’. One of them can be found here and a new one will arrive in 2023:
A vocal sensation and songwriter from an obscure location near Maghera, Helen was associated with the scene around prolific songwriter/bandleader (and future Legend) James Devlin in the late 80s before moving to Belfast and ‘stopping’ as an active music maker. I met her in a bar and somehow in due course heard her voice. I couldn’t believe her talent. I feel like I might have done posterity a service by capturing Helen’s elusive singing on several tracks recorded in 1996/97, three of which are here. I reunited her and James for a track on the Jansch tribute album in 2000, after which she focused on being features editor of a regional newspaper. Under anyone’s radar, Helen reunited her 80s band White Lies as Vertigo Bird in the mid-2000s, with the canny addition of Cormac O’Kane, recording an album that sneaked out on Bandcamp years later. A mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a hack’s beige mac.
Notable for his increasing resemblance to Gandalf, Dave is a music lifer – despite a career-long sojourn at the top of NI’s podiatry tree, which must have been a bit of a distraction. A veteran of numerous bands from the 70s onwards (Sunset, Shock Treatment, Five Boys, Peacefrog et al.), two of which he has reformed in recent years, Dave currently has fingers in the pies of periodic recording projects such as the Sacred Heart of Bontempi, Bourgeois Fury, the Legends and live supergroup Dave McLarnon’s Hat Band. During lockdown, he formed the Auld Gods with two guys in Winchester and Kent and recorded the acclaimed album Older, Wiser? Dave has occasionally turned the tables on Colin by having him stand in on bass at dental surgery rehearsals by Sunset, his characterful ‘classic rock’ school band resurrected, when regular bottom-ender Petesy Burns is elsewhere. A new ‘Shock Treatment 21’ album is anticipated in 2023.
Another naturally gifted vocalist/harmonist, whose confidence in this gift is in direct disproportion to its quality, Tíona toured and recorded (but not enough) in the 90s with all-girl acapella quintet the Wildflowers and family trad/Celtic-rock band Tamalin. We attended the same university in the late 80s though my memory of this is vague. Tíona was a great and much needed encourager when I was moving from a failed public sector decade into following a better path. She has appeared on three released tracks within the Legends milieu (in 1997, 2005 and 2008) along with several unreleased items from a tentative late 2000s period of collaboration with myself and Ali Mackenzie (though we did get on TV). Still a highly regarded figure in the Irish trad world, Tíona founded and has been running the annual Soma Festival in home-town Castlewellan in recent years. Although retired as a public performer, new studio recordings are planned for 2023.
An international man of mystery, Rick may often be shaken but has not stirred (in the musical sphere) in years, preferring to build his reputation as a UX design guru. I don’t really understand this, but I’m certain it’s impressive. Rick sang and wrote for popular Belfast progressive hard rockers Sweet Mary Jane in the 90s, releasing (I think) four EPs and one live track. Intriguingly, nobody has curated their legacy in the digital era – except (imperfectly) for me, with a YouTube upload of whatever of this oeuvre I happened to have. Rick will be encouraged to sort out a Bandcamp SMJ retrospective forthwith. In the early 2000s, he recorded an EP and played one gig with Norman Boyd’s Lidsville – at which point he gave up rocking. There’s time yet.
Alison’s recording career dates back to 1968, a single recorded in London with her prodigal (Irish) school trio Mellow Candle. In 1972, an evolved Mellow Candle released the widely acclaimed folk-rock classic Swaddling Songs on Decca – although nobody noticed at the time. One of those rare ‘lost gems’ that really is a masterpiece. She moved to South Africa shortly after this, recorded an album in 1978 with Flibbertigibbet in Irish trad style. Returning to Dublin in 2001, Alison has since recorded an astounding amount of music – seven solo/collaborative albums, an EP with the Owl Service and something like 28 albums with psych-folk experimentalists United Bible Studies. And we thought Dave McLarnon was busy…
A very humble Belfast bar band veteran who should be famed the world over. Ali has survived years in blues bands, the Bush Turkeys (his 90s yacht rock band) and dead-end jobs to become a confident creator of his own music and collaborative projects. Appeared as an integral player on four albums in 2022: his own second solo album, Sanctuary Wood; the Legends’ Days Full of Rain; and albums by two of his collaborative bands, Rag Bone and the Mighty Mojos. Rarely out of studios or hospitals (his day job). First recorded as a Legend in 2000 on the Bert Jansch tribute album People on the Highway. Yet to escape. Colin’s all-time favourite bass player.
Multi-instrumentalist (keys, guitar, bass, percussion) and recording/mastering maestro known as ‘the Wizard of Sound’. A member of the New Brontës in the 90s. Played on the earliest Legends recordings in 1996, sabotaged their first gig with an overabundance of refreshments, escaped to London for a while. A central figure in one capacity or another in all Legends projects during 1996–97 and since 2004. Along with fellow Legends Colin, Karen Smyth and Scott Flanigan, founded Scott’s Jazz Club in East Belfast in 2020, in between lockdowns. Responsible for its extraordinary success from September 2021 reopening onwards – along with the sensational restoration/mastering on Colin’s Horslips and Bert Jansch box set projects, released in 2022. Just some of many plates he bafflingly yet wizardly juggles.
The wizard behind the curtain – multi-award-winning design guru from the Nottinghamshire area who wound up in Northern Ireland and fell in with Colin via 70s gospel-rocker Baz Bynum in 1995. Designed Colin’s various-artists 2CD project Alive in Belfast: The Warehouse Sessions that year (featuring many future Legends in one band or another) and has been his go-to CDs, books, posters, photos, promo videos man ever since, bar a brief period in 2010 when Colin momentarily felt that the Markmeister must surely run out of ideas and/or patience fairly soon and tried someone else. This moment of madness soon passed. Mark provided both the CD package design and the studio shoots for The Weather at World’s End: 1997–2022, along with pretty much every other album you'll see in this website. He also shot and edited promo videos for ‘All We Need is Love’, 'Northern Ireland Politicians' and 'Smash the System' (and has been known on occasion to justly add ‘ the occasional invoice’).