Len Graham

Traditional singer who combines his strong vocal talents with a thorough knowledge of Irish folk tradition.
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Artist Biography

b. 20 December 1944, Glenarm, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Traditional singer who combines his strong vocal talents with a thorough knowledge of indigenous Irish folk music and tradition. His rich recording history has also given many songs to other high profile artists. Altan, Battlefield Band, Boys Of The Lough, Cherish The Ladies, Chieftains, De Dannan, Dick Gaughan, Andy Irvine, Delores Keane and the Voice Squad are among those who have learned songs from him. Graham came from a musical family, with early recollections of hearth singing sessions, and 78-RPM records from Delia Murphy and Richard Hayward on the gramophone. In 1964 he met Cathal McConnell at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Clones, Monaghan. Their friendship would prove a long-standing one, while McConnell joined up with Boys Of The Lough, with whom Graham would often perform. In 1971 he won the All-Ireland senior traditional singers competition at Fleadh Cheoil hÉireann in Listowel, County Kerry.

Graham’s recording career, meanwhile, would begin in 1975 with Chaste Muses, Bards & Sages, the first of two duet albums with Joe Holmes. The second, After Dawning, was completed in 1978, just two weeks before Holmes’ death. In-between came Graham’s first solo effort, Wind & Water. Before his second solo outing, Do Me Justice (a number 1 Irish folk album), he appeared on Boys From The Lough’s 1989 album, Regrouped. After his third solo set, Ye Lovers All, he helped form Skylark in 1986. This group, comprising Graham, Gerry O’Connor (fiddle), Garry O’Briain (mandocello, guitar, keyboards) and, since 1989, Mairtin O’Connor (button accordion) recorded several albums together, and toured widely. Outside of these activities Graham also produced a book with cassettes concerning his field collection of early northern Irish singers and musicians. This won him the Sean O’Boyle Cultural Traditions Award in recognition of his work in Ireland as a collector and singer. He has also worked with his wife, sean-nós singer Pádraigin Ní Uallacháin, on an album of children’s songs, and storyteller/singer John Campbell. As Ciarán Carson has declared of Graham: ‘By definition, any traditional singer is obliged to the past; but he assimilates the songs in the here-and-now, and re-makes them in his own voice, continually... I have heard Len praised for the ‘spontaneity’ of his voice; but there is no spontaneity without recollection. To be here, you must have been there, and Len has, many times’.