Singer/songwriter, Raymond McCullough, has been writing songs since 1973 - "Hopefully," he says, "they have improved a little over the years!" He plays guitar (a George Lowden acoustic/electric, actually!), mandolin and, now and then, a little bit of keyboard.
He has travelled and performed, (literally busking for his supper, on one occasion!), in Israel, China (Beijing), Scotland and Ireland, north and south - playing pubs, concerts, churches - on the street, if required! At the Fiddler's Green International Festival in Rostrevor, Ireland recently he was described by one of the organisers as "the discovery of the festival!"
He travelled to the People's Republic of China in 1999 - their anniversary year - to take part in a charity cycle event, organised to raise funds for MenCap. He says, "Friends said just because I'd gone to China, I didn't need to make a song about it - of course, that is exactly what I DID do!" The 11-verse saga, 'Ballad of Beijing', unfolded bit by bit over the two weeks he spent there.
"As we flew over the Mongolian mountains into Beijing, I just happened to be talking with the beautiful Irish girl who had the seat next to me - about my music, of course! - when a little tune came into my head and sort of stuck there. I added a traditional Chinese rhythm, which I heard performed every afternoon on the streets of Beijing - on Taiko drum and two cymbals - and the words just seemed to write themselves!"
When he returned home he spent the best part of the next month in the studio, just recording that one song - he nearly drove the engineer mad! He then spent the next month adding another four to make up the mini album, 'The great China Bike Ride'.
Raymond has had a very varied career; including college lecturing in computing, selling French perfume, running an Internet cafe, publishing an Irish magazine and two books, hosting his own radio show, producing TV and corporate video and, recently, restoring a classic wooden boat!
He has just set up 'Precious Oil Productions' - a media production company, and has been busily recording for two future full-length albums of Celtic music. He is also producing some documentary video, plus a DVD version of 'The great China Bike Ride'.
The album has gone down well so far in his native Ulster and beyond:
Gerry Anderson - BBC Radio Ulster:
"Isn't that good? .... Very good indeed! Excellent! I must play a wee bit of that again";
Tommy Sands - Downtown Radio:
"A very interesting man! If you ever come across him you could do well to spend a few hours with him!"
Robin Elliot - CityBeat, Belfast:
"Good song ... 'Ballad of Beijing'. 'Smoke goes up' ... great stuff!"
Colum Sands - 'Folk Club', BBC Radio Ulster:
"captures some of that Canterbury Tales-like feel of travelling with fellow pilgrims in a far off place ... the atmosphere coming through on it very well"
Jim Larkin, WBET Radio - Brockton, Massachussetts:
"What I heard sounds great! I would love to play [it] on my Radio Shows. Many thanks! I loved it."
Lee Templeton, One Night at McSorleys - Irish Music Internet Radio/Live365.com:
"Very cool! Planning on buying the album and giving it some spin on the air. Thank you again for thinking of McSorleys."
Sarah Meier, Radio AENA, Germany:
"I am always very glad when artists write us and even more if their music fit as well as yours. ... a fantastic enrichment to our program!!!
Marc Gunn, Celtic MP3 Music Magazine, Texas:
"includes an absolutely fascinating mix of Chinese and contemporary Irish songwriting."
Naim Cinar, Radio OGU - (Osmangazi Univ.), Istanbul, Turkey:
"My favourite songs are 'Ballad of Beijing' and 'Ar Tir Seo Aguinne' ... I feel the sound of 60's rock in your songs ... 'Wake up, you sleeper' reminds me of the sound of Dire Straits, ( I'm a fan :) )."
Ciro Velazquez, Radio Eufonia, Monterrey, Mexico:
"McCullough's ... is the kind of voice so characteristic, (but different among them), of the traditional singer/songwriter. A lot of feeling ..."
Barry Nothstine, 'Soul Frequency', WDNS, Kentucky, USA:
"very good stuff! Thanks so much for considering us to showcase your fine music. God Bless"
Genevieve Tudor, BBC Radio Shropshire, UK:
"Enjoyed it - it has style."
*'OUR LAND' NO. 1 ON INTERNET CELTIC STATION!!
'Ar tir seo aguinne (Our Land)' has now been in the 'Celtic' chart for 42 weeks on CMRadio.Net and spent 14 weeks at No.1!
This track has also won two 'Reviewers Picks Awards', (best 'Potential Soundtrack'), at GarageBand.com - http://www.garageband.com/song?|pe1|S8LTM0LdsaSkYlizZms - and is currently all-time No. 45 on their Irish chart.
A second track, 'Smoke goes up', has spent 10 weeks in the chart and has now reached No.2 on CMRadio.Net - Celtic. Check it out (and rate it!) at: http://cmradio.net/charts/20_weeklychart.html
(Photos, MP3 streams, reviews and merchandise available - see website)