Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla are putting an extensive tour together for 2008.


5 Apr 2008, 18:31

Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla are putting an extensive tour together for 2008.

Joe O'Donnell, born in Limerick, Ireland is regarded as one of the finest Celtic violin players and he's also an excellent mandolin-player, singer and composer.

To book the band to play email mark at or call 07974 746810

The captivating sound of Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla brings together the spirit of Celtic tradition and the dynamic grooves of modern rock and jazz.

Joe is a virtuoso on electric fiddle with a reputation as one of the finest Celtic violin players on the planet. He has worked with Rory Gallagher, Phil Lynott and Terry and Gay Woods and was a member of celebrated progressive rock band East of Eden for five years. Gallagher was among the many top musicians featured on Joe's classic concept album Gaodhal's Vision, first released in 1977. The album was re-released in 2004 and a live performance of the work was performed and recorded at Warwick Folk Festival in 2006.

Joe's band, Shkayla was formed in the late 90s and has seen various line-ups going down a storm with concert, club and festival audiences.

The current line-up is:
Joe O'Donnell - electric violin, mandolin, vocals
Si Hayden - guitar, vocals
Martin Barter - keyboards
Mark Fulton - bass
Brendan J.Rayner - drums, percussion
Forthcoming gigs include:

Saturday 31st May 2008 - Newbold Comyn Arms, Leamington Spa
Saturday 7th June 2008 - Crown Inn, Bond Street, Nuneaton
Sunday 6th July 2008 (afternoon) - Godiva Festival, War Memorial Park, Coventry


Joe O'Donnell is regarded as one of the finest Celtic violin players around and he's also an excellent mandolin-player, singer and composer. Born in Limerick, Ireland, Joe began taking classical violin lessons at the age of twelve. After seven years of study he won two scholarships for the Royal Irish Academy of Music to study orchestral work.When Joe left the Academy, he took up playing lead guitar but returned to the violin two years later. During this time he played for various groups, including Decca's Granny's Intentions, who had also featured Gary Moore on guitar.

In 1971, Joe moved to London and joined Woods Band for nine months, featuring Terry and Gay Woods, founder members of Steeleye Span. It was at this time that Joe started making electric violins for his own use, including violectra and 8-string violins.

In 1972, Joe joined the Dublin-based progressive folk band Mushroom, playing violin and mandolin and providing vocals.

In 1973, Joe joined East of Eden stepping into the shoes of their celebrated fiddle-player Dave Arbus. He was featured on their hit album Another Eden and toured Europe with the band until they split in 1978.

In 1977, Joe released Gaodhal's Vision, a concept album of his own compositions, heralded as a fusion of Celtic music with jazz and rock. Drawing on Irish Celtic mythology, the music tells the story of the exodus from the Carpathian Mountains to Ireland by a race of people known as The Milesians. The project followed a deal with Decca after Joe approached Tubular Bells producer Tom Newman and Jon Field. Joe was joined on the album by Rory Gallagher, Steve Bolton, Theodor Thunder (Alan Price Band) and David Lennox (Ginger Baker, Blodwyn Pig, The Equals). The album was re-released in 2004 on BMG with three new bonus tracks.

In the 1980s, Joe lived in Guernsey and formed folk-rock line-ups, which played at various festivals in Brittany and the Channel Islands.

In 1998, Joe moved to Coventry, to work with producer and musician Martin Jenkins, former member of acclaimed folk bands, Dando Shaft, Hedgehog Pie and Whippersnapper. Joe released his album, Shkayla and around this time formed the first line-up of the band, Shkayla with Martin and his guitarist son Ray Jenkins.

In 2004, Martin and Ray left the band and a new line-up of Shkayla was established, when Joe recruited guitarist Dave Perry (ex-US band, In Athens and Norwegian prog-rock band The Truth Monkeys) and keyboards-player Martin Barter (ex-Birmingham band, The Alliance).

In 2006, the expanded five-piece line-up of Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla performed Gaodhal's Vision at the Warwick Folk Festival. This introduced new band members, drummer Paul Johnston (of Midlands folk-rockers Meet On The Ledge) and bassist Mark Fulton. The show also featured The Celtic Vision Orchestra conducted by Head of Music for Warwick School, Trevor G. Barr plus dancers, Sinead Lightley, Amardeep Nanra and Indigo Dance & Performing Arts. The show was recorded and CD and DVD releases will be out shortly.

Joe uses Skyinbow Electric Violins and a unique ceramic violin made by John Stevens.

# Mushroom: Early One Morning, 1973, plus 2 singles
# Riff Raff: Original Man, 1974
# Headstone: Bad Habits, 1974 and Headstone, 1975, plus 2 singles
# Woods Band: Backwoods, 1975
# East of Eden: Another Eden, 1975, plus 2 singles
# Henry McCullough: Mind Your Own Business, 1975, plus 1 single
# Jade Warrior: Kites, 1976
# Joe O'Donnell Band: Gaodhal's Vision, 1977, plus 1 single
# Electric Ceilidh Band: Ceann Traigh Ghruineard, 1983 (also nine-part TV series and selected TV appearances)
# Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla: Shkayla, 1998 (Folksound Records)
# Joe O'Donnell Band: Gaodhal's Vision, re-released with added tracks, 2004


Woodman Folk Club, 13 May 2005 - Bryn Phillips

Shkayla, or as described in their promotional fliers, Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla comprise Joe O'Donnell on fiddle and mandolin, Martin Barter on guitar and Dave Perry on keyboards. Shkayla perform a mixture of music and songs, most of which are sung in Gaelic. We get a lot of different acts at the Woodman and it's interesting to pick out the old pros - Joe O' Donnell has been around a while - he's played with some heavyweights and it shows. The fiddle playing was out of this world; complex and articulate with a tonal quality not usually associated with amplified fiddles. Now, the sound quality could be attributed to Joe's ceramic fiddle, but that wasn't the whole story. There was a fourth member of the band, Anja Rudi, who was their sound engineer. She was working for them tirelessly throughout the evening, making sure the balance was just right, and adding subtle sound effects, which gave that atmospheric unearthly quality. Martin Barter's guitar work was precise and complimented Joe's fiddle playing perfectly. The keyboards (yes, there were two!) filled in the music to give a complete musical experience.

As well as the music, they performed a few songs, with Joe treating us to some accomplished vocals. Most of their songs were in Gaelic, although they did throw in a couple of standards; Star of the County Down and Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore. I was particularly taken by a couple of the songs; Ag Sugra Lies An Ghaoit and Sullivan's John

I would like to see this band in the wider folk festival environment - I think this is where they would really shine. I'm not sure if they are booked anywhere local, but if you get the chance to see them in a big marquee, don't miss them!

Attic Folk Club, Chesterfield, 15 March 2003

Joe O'Donnell returned to top the bill at The Attic's St. Patrick's event after fronting 'Shkayla' at the January 2002 concert… Joe has a significant musical CV covering more than 30 years working with some of the finest musicians around as a composer, violinist, guitarist and founder of various folk-rock bands including Shkayla.

For this Attic concert, Joe performed alone and treated the audience to some of his unique talents playing the violin, both Arco (bowed), and Pizzicato (plucked), as well as singing. Joe's repertoire covers traditional and modern arrangements of tunes, including hornpipes, jigs, reels, airs and polkas… Joe started with 'Munster Cloak' and 'Madame Bonaparte' before playing the 'Limerick Rake' pizzicato. Two jigs, 'Gareth Barry' and 'The Hag at the Well' followed before Joe played and sang 'Sullivan John' to great effect. By now he had thoroughly warmed to his task and played a slow reel before singing and playing the well-loved 'Star of County Down' with the audience joining in.

…Joe plays the electric violin and produces some beautiful atmospheric effects. The second set started with the marches 'Brian Boru', 'O'Neill's Cavalcade' and 'Tralee Jail', followed by Joe singing and playing the Poteen maker's hymn 'Gather Up The Pots', followed by a mixture of Breton tunes, laments, airs and hornpipes before ending by dancing down the aisles amongst his audience with the 'Dublin Streets' set of jigs to great applause.

As was to be expected after such a performance, Joe was asked back for an encore to round off the evening. He finished with 'Cunla' or 'Frieze Britches'. The Attic audience may not be Irish but this St.Patrick's concert will certainly be remembered for a long time to come.

The New Album by Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla
Joe O'Donnell Shkala Celtic Cargo album Cover

Track listing:

01. Brian Boru / O’Neill’s Cavalcade [March Set]
02. Sullivans’ John
03. Dublin Streets [Jig Set F Wrens Nest, Dever the Dancer, Cordial Jig]
04. P is for “Paddy”
05. Gareth Barry / Hag at the Well
06. Cam Ye O’er Frae France
07. The Maid I Ne’er Forgot [Reel]
08. Farewell to Old Ireland
09. Breton Set
10. Song of the Nations
11. Scottish Set

Joe O'Donnell Press Kit

To book the band to play email mark at or call (UK+44) 07974 746810

For interviews and further information about Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla, contact: Pete Willow on 07887 552896 (any time) or Chele Willow on 01788 832608 Email: info at
Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla
Joe O'DonnellRory GallagherPhil LynottThin LizzyEast of EdenshkaylaMushroomRiff RaffHeadstoneWoods Band


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