Faith in the process
Don Mescall will play The Orchard Bar, December 3
How multi-award winning singer-songwriter Don Mescall came to live in Belturbet has a strange and certain kismet to it. It wasn’t long after an insomnia-induced online search that the Limerick native explored moving to a 19th century church built by the 5th Earl of Lanesborough that the universe conspired as it so often does.
Don takes up the story: “I had my recording studio in Greenwich, and an Australian guy who use to come in and repair pedals and guitars was there. We were having coffee and I asked him about getting my hands on a specific pedal. He told me he’d just sold one for a friend of his, a real interesting guy, who use to have a recording studio in a old church somewhere in Ireland.”
That person was Brendan Perry, the near 170-year-old Quivvy church’s former owner, and co-founder with Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance.
“This was a week after I’d come back from that same church,” laughs Don. “Then he put me on the phone to Brendan.”
“Everyone is just so wonderful. I’ve got fabulous neighbours. It feels very much like home,” adds the Irish musician, who loves living in the Breffni county since making it his home almost three years ago.
It hasn’t all been easy, breezy, ‘The Good Life’ country living for Don however. He’s been busy too.
Among the most recent projects of which he’s most proud is his work on Aslan frontman Christy Dignam’s first solo album ‘The Man Who Stayed Alive’.
Christy is someone Don had worked with before, penning the band’s number one hit ‘Too Late For Hallelujah’, a track that appeared on their 2012 album ‘Nudie Books & Frenchies’.
The pair then had a top five hit with ‘Catch Your Fall’ (2013), before teaming up again to compose this moving collection of songs at Mescall’s Quivvy studio, and Christy’s kitchen back home in Dublin.
The recording is all the more poignant given that Christy is currently battling terminal cancer.
What they produced, critics consider, is a “legacy” album, and among the best work the Aslan frontman has ever delivered.
“[Christy] called me out of the blue one day and said he had a bucket list of things to do. One of those was to produce a solo album.”
Covid and subsequent lockdowns scuppered the initial opportunities to work together.
But what it afforded both men was a series of truncated phonecalls, from which, almost like a biographer, Don scripted a series of songs he felt best reflected Christy’s creative impulse.
When they did get to recording, and as Christy’s health worsened, Don would move a makeshift studio to Dublin where, at a kitchen table, he’d tap into a “magical hour” of where the singer was at his vibrant best between the tolls of energy sapping chemo treatments.
The album is imbued with life-lived as one of Ireland’s best-loved entertainers - an ode to his musical influences, and a middle-finger to those who might have written him off all too soon.
Among the tracks recorded is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s classic ‘So Long, Marieanne’.
“It certainly was an unusual way to make a record,” reflects Don, who says even the name of the album ‘The Man Who Stayed Alive’ is a defiant trumpet against death itself.
“He’s not in anyway looking at his own mortality. He’s a fighter. That’s the one thing you can say about Christy. He lived a very rock n’ roll lifestyle. I can say the same about myself. I wasn’t exactly saintly, living over a [Molly Malone’s] in North London for a certain amount of years with The Pogues. So there are elements of myself in there as well I suppose.”
Don himself boasts a career that reads like a roadmap of ‘who’s who’ in the industry. He has worked with everyone from Rascal Flatts to Geri Halliwell, Paul McCartney, Nick Mason, Albert Lee, as well as Backstreet Boys, Frances Black, Cliff Richard, Sharon Corr and Richie Havens to name but a few.
Individually his own compositions have amassed almost 20 million hits and counting on various social media platforms.
Don will play songs from his own number one selling album ‘Lighthouse Keeper’ (2018) at The Orchard Bar in Drumalee on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 8.30pm. Tickets, priced at €25, are available from Multisound Cavan.
It’ll be Don’s first live performance in almost two years and among the songs he’ll perform is ‘The Last Song (Song for Jim)’ - a story about true love, loss and the kindness of strangers that has been re-released with the hope of raising funds for dementia-specific supports and services.
Again, it was a strange journey of synchronicity that brought retired County Cork builder Jim Colbert, his loving wife Caroline, and Don Mescall together.
Having listened to emotionally charged ‘The Last Song’ one dark March evening, it was Caroline who reached out to Don to say thank you for creating such a wonderful song. Not expecting a reply, she was dumbstruck when the songwriter replied. What happened next was a form of divine intervention.
“They’re wonderful people, and it’s a wonderful charity,” says Don, who invited Caroline to visit Quivvy Church, after which he offered to re-record the song and make it available for release to help raise awareness of the work carried out by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI).
“‘The Last Song’ had become a catalyst of sorts that brought us all together. Caroline and Jim’s story really touched me, as have the stories of the many other people living with dementia in Ireland.
“It truly is a joy to help and I’m truly humbled by the response to the song to date.”