Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Dervish is one of Ireland's most exciting tradition-rooted bands. With its combination of virtuosic instrumentation, high-energy arrangements and the ultra-sweet vocals of Cathy Jordan, Dervish continues to weave its own path in Ireland's great musical heritage. Although the group formally came together in 1988, the roots of Dervish trace back much further. Flute and tin whistle player Liam Kelly and accordion player Shane Mitchell first collaborated at the age of seven and nine, respectively. Within three years, the duo was playing regularly at a pub owned by Kelly's father. During high school, the two musicians formed a band called Pointin. Although the group placed first in a contest at the Ballyshannon Folk Festival and appeared on popular Irish television program The Late Late Show, the group failed to record. While attending college in Sligo, Kelly and Mitchell performed with a rock band called Who Says What. The band also included Michael Holmes, a bass player and songwriter who later added guitar and bouzouki to the band's sound. A turning point in Dervish's history came when Kelly, Mitchell and Holmes were joined by mandola and mandolin player Brian McDonagh, a founding member of Oisian. After recording three albums with Oisian, McDonagh had left the group and moved to Sligo. Although the musicians were temporarily separated into two camps in the mid-1980s, with Kelly and Holmes moving to London and Mitchell and McDonagh remaining in Sligo, they reunited when Sligo-based label Sound Records sought to record an album of local musicians. The resulting all-instrumental album, The Boys of Sligo, was released in 1988 and featured Martin McGinley on fiddle, and helped to establish the group as a working ensemble. Following the album's release, the group added Jordan on vocals and adopted the name Dervish. McGinley was subsequently replaced by Shane McAleer, a fiddler from County Tyrone who had won the All-Ireland Championship in 1990. Due to technical problems, Dervish's second album, Harmony Hill, released in 1993, was recorded twice. Two years later, Dervish released two albums (Playing with Fire and At the End of the Day and toured in the U.S. Live in Palma, released in 1997, is a 22-track double CD, recorded during a concert in Palma, Majorca. Although the majority of their repertoire consists of traditional tunes, Dervish has been increasingly performing original tunes by Kelly and Holmes. The duo's songs have been covered by Irish bands such as Capercaille.