In Session: The O’Maolegain Rake

ALBANY – Celebrating the rich Celtic culture of yesteryear through today, local musician Scott Baldwin, recording under the moniker, The O’Maolegain Rake, delivers a jaunty and catchy collection of tunes with his album, It Had to Be Done. The record, focusing on blending styles of traditional Celtic music with those with more rock and punk leanings, serves as a great primer for looking to dabble in the genre. Fans of this style of music are sure to cling to several, if not more, songs.

I had a chance to sit down with Scott this week. What follows is our conversation.

Lucas Garrett: Scott, thanks for taking time out of your evening. How is everything going with you?

Scott Baldwin: Everything’s fine, Lucas. How are you?

LG: Doing well. I really liked the material you sent me.

SB: Thank you.

LG: I’d like to learn more about that. How’d it all start?

SB: That is an incredibly long story, but to try to put it more in a thimble… I grew up with a really good friend who was first-generation Irish. His parents were off the boat. Both spoke with a very fluent accent. His mother spoke both English and Gaelic. So, that’s pretty much the start of it. It’s what got me interested in all things Celtic. All through my life, I’ve had many friends from Scottish or Irish lineage and grew to like the music and lifestyle. I could tell a whole bunch of stories about my childhood, but I won’t bore you with all that.

LG: When listening to the music, I really like how you combined what is seemingly the Boston American Irish with traditional styles. It’s a nice blend.

SB: Thank you.

LG: How do you write these songs?

SB: A lot of it just comes to me. Probably because of the stuff I used to listen to – and still do. I gather influence from a lot of different groups and genres.

LG: Who are some of your favorite Celtic music groups?

SB: Dubliners, Flogging Molly, Rumjacks, Real McKenzies, The Chieftains… There’s a slew of them. The Tossers…

LG: You mentioned The Dubliners. One of my favorite voices of all time is Ronnie Drew. I love his voice.

SB: Yeah, he’s great.

LG: I’ve never heard of anyone else like him.

SB: He was one of a kind.

LG: You have the album, It Had to Be Done, and you’re now remixing it. Can you elaborate on that?

SB: I did everything on the album. Everything from vocals to drums, and I mixed and mastered it. But that’s my least and least educated part of it. So, I wasn’t really happy with the overall mix because I was using equipment that was not as good as I have now. The equipment I have now is better, so I’d like to try and give it a better shot.

LG: I want to hear about you as an artist in general. What is your story in music?

SB: Again, that could go way back. At ten years old, I think I probably started playing drums on a friend of mine’s kit – the Irish friend of mine. He got a drum set before I did, so I started on his kit. I was sixteen or seventeen before I got in my first band. That was a cover band; we played everything from Led Zeppelin to AC/DC to Judas Priest… typical rock ‘n roll. From there, I got into a group with guys and were playing more funk-punk, like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone. I started getting into more of the punk-rock stuff.

I was a founding member of Can’t Say from long ago. After that, I started my own ska band called The Mixers. I went into the service for a while. Once I got back, I was out of the 518. Once I returned [to the area] in 2011, I wanted to get into more Celtic stuff. I joined a band called The Keeners – I was in that for a couple of years – and then I started Hellcat Maggie. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

LG: You’ve done quite a lot of stuff. How does the last ten years in Celtic music compare to everything else you’ve done? I know when I play that kind of music, I really have to practice for it – it’s not like anything else.

SB: From a drummer’s standpoint, it’s not quite as… a lot of people get impressed with drummers because of their ambidexterity. But it’s nothing compared to knowing the notes of a jig, a reel, or a hornpipe. You’ve pretty much got to keep the rhythm. A lot of it is just as generic as rock ‘n roll with flourishes – more of a train beat. I would say as far as Celtic music is compared to typical rock ‘n roll, it is more elaborate; there are more dynamics. My experience with The Keeners was more of an Irish pub band, whereas Hellcat Maggie was more of an Irish rock band. The dynamics are much more important in regard to Celtic music.

LG: The O’Maolegain Rake… Where did that name come from?

SB: That’s another long story. That is a Celtic version of my actual last name. It’s a different spelling. I did that on purpose because I didn’t want it to be like anything else. That spelling of O’Maolegain is different from anything that anyone else has used. That’s just me being particular. Hahaha.

LG: What else are you currently involved in?

SB: I’m in another ska band called The Checkered Past, and we’re trying to get shows now.

LG: Is there anything with The O’Maolegain Rake project that you’d specifically like to cover?

SB: [The project] is focused on Celtic people in 518. One of the songs on the album is “A Song for Jane McCrae.” Jane McCrae is well known for being an upstate, infamous person. She was known before the Revolutionary War. Her murder is steeped in mystery as to whether or not it was at the hands of indigenous people or it was an accident. These songs are tied to actual people or places.

“The Paddy McLaughlin” is about one of the actual barges that used to run on the Erie Canal; “Auld Gallows Road” is about James Halligan and Dominic Daily, accused and executed for a murder they didn’t commit; “Hunters Land Rd.” is a tribute to where I grew up; “Anne Bonnie” was an actual female pirate from the 1700s.

I’m trying to focus the music on the 518 area and how Celtic people have affected the 518 area.

LG: More of a biographical record.

SB: Yeah.

LG: Alright, Scott. Well, it was nice talking to you tonight – I love this kind of music—best of luck with everything you’re involved in.

SB: I appreciate that, Lucas. You too.

LG: Bye.

SB: Bye.

1 Comment
  1. […] Story continues […]

Comments are closed.