Niall Toner has been a Bill Monroe fan ever since the late 1950s, when as a young man in his native Dublin, he was introduced to Bill’s Bluegrass Music by the son of a neighbour in Harold’s Cross, Fran O’Donnell.
This early introduction led to a lifetime of devotion to this unique brand of American Acoustic music, and also to many meetings with the Father of Bluegrass, most notably in Belfast in 1975, Cork in 1984 and at Bean Blossom, Indiana in 1985.
Bill Monroe died in September 1996, and left a musical legacy that is today, revered, collected and performed the world over. This year, 2011, is being celebrated as the 100th anniversary of his birth in Rosine, Kentucky, in 1911.
It was in Rosine, Kentucky, at the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Festival in 2006, that Niall began composing his tribute song to the music and life of his music hero. Niall says “I was walking up the hill, towards Jerusalem Ridge, with the sound of the bluegrass bands on stage fading into the distance behind me when I got the idea for the chorus of this song. I had been reading some of WB Yeats poems, and I was struck by Yeats’ description of “peace dropping slow”, in the Lake Isle of Inisfree, as it seemed to be doing in the woods of the Ridge, and by the time I got back to the Festival site, I had the chorus complete. It took me another five years to write the four simple verses in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains, 3000 miles away!” (Perseverance!)
William Smith Monroe was recorded in the Toolshed Studios in Nashville in April 2011, and was produced by Keith Sewell (Dixie Chicks, Sam Bush, Lyle Lovett).
WSM is released worldwide on July 4, 2011, and is available on iTunes, amazon.com and Niall’s website: www.nialltonerband.com. WSM is also being distributed to 550 radio stations in the USA and Canada on New Cuts of Bluegrass Volume 3, (in good company with Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, Grasstowne, Kathy Kallick and others), and is also available for radio station download from Air Play Direct.