“Let’s just say we’re both Live Music Capitals of the World.”
As Ireland’s Consul General in Austin, Adrian Farrell naturally struck a diplomatic balance in his opening remarks to a room full of music fans who squeezed into church pews at Austin’s renowned Arlyn Studios last weekend for tapings of the Irish television show “Other Voices.”
From a cross-cultural Friday schedule that featured traditional Irish music alongside hard-core country twang, to Saturday’s sardine-packed special appearance by an Austin City Limits Music Festival headliner, to a Sunday slate that highlighted some of Austin’s homegrown acts, the “Other Voices” crew captured more than a dozen performers that they’ll boil down into several episodes of an upcoming season.
“Other Voices” currently doesn’t air in the United States, but the Austin tapings were partly an effort to make inroads toward that end. The show’s creator, Philip King, spoke in detail about what he sees as common bonds between Texas and his home country, at one point citing lyrics from the late Guy Clark’s “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” to underscore the connections.
Austin musician Shakey Graves, who has played the show on its home turf at an ancient church in the small Irish town of Dingle, shared emcee duties for at the tapings. Frequent playful references were made to the similar pronunciations of “Ireland” and “Arlyn,” suggesting the studio was perhaps fated for such an auspicious pairing.
It proved to be a perfect location, indeed. The studio’s 2014 foray into a similar venture with its as-yet-unplaced “Inside Arlyn” pilot shows, which featured Willie Nelson teaming with Merle Haggard and Gary Clark Jr., probably helped lay the groundwork for how “Other Voices” used the main studio room for capturing performances on video.
Nelson did his own private taping for the show out at his Pedernales Recording Studio west of town earlier in the week. Friday through Sunday, the crew captured sets from Mumford & Sons, Margo Price, Cage the Elephant, Conor Oberst, Gregory Porter, Margaret Glaspy, Asleep at the Wheel, Wild Child, Dale Watson, Sweet Spirit and Carson McHone.
One of the most indelible moments, and the lone set that stressed the sounds of the show’s home country, was a Friday evening stretch that featured a cappella singer Iarla O Lionaird, inventive fiddler Colm Mac Con Iomaire (best known for his work with Dublin band the Frames) and New England singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, an American born to Irish parents.
“Usually I’m the most Irish person in the room, but it’s not even close here,” O’Donovan joked as she began her set. But when her crystal-clear soprano cut through the 19th-century traditional tune “Lakes of Pontchartrain,” as Mac Con Iomaire’s fiddle runs looped in and out of her acoustic guitar picking, it felt like the crowd at Arlyn was transported to the show’s home church. As it turns out, “Other Voices,” in any other room, sounds just as sweet.
A few more photos from the sessions:
Update: This post has been update to identify Cage the Elephant correctly in the story and photo caption.