Sweetwood is the name of the area in Co. Leitrim where his father hails from, and Sweetwood is the name of Dervish flute-player Liam Kelly’s debut album.
Celebrating his twentieth year with Dervish, one of Ireland’s most successful traditional-music groups, which Liam co-founded in 1989, Sweetwood is a culmination of thirty years of flute and whistle playing and of his experiences in travelling the world, meeting people and playing music.
Liam didn’t start playing flute until he was sixteen – he began on accordion – but once he did he didn’t look back: ‘Music became a big part of my life from then on. I started to play in the Shoot the Crows bar which was where the best sessions in Sligo town could be found in the 1980s and 90s. I soon realised that music was something that I wanted to make a career of, not just a hobby.’
Liam formed his first band, Poitín, as a teenager, which gave him a taste for the life of a musician, and after a period in London in 1980s, he returned to form Dervish: ‘Dervish is now a very big part of my life and music is still a passion for me. I am privileged to be able to travel the world, bringing traditional Irish music to a global audience as well as keeping alive a tradition that I feel very lucky to be a part of.’
He cites Matt Molloy, Séamus Tansey and Mary Bergin as major influences on his music: ‘When I was a young musician these were the leading names in flute and tin whistle music and they inspired me to continue playing at a time when I could just as easily have drifted away from music altogether.’
Sweetwood also includes a lament written by Liam entitled ‘Sweetwood’ and a tune co-written with Dervish bouzouki player Michael Holmes, ‘Bethnal Green’, which recalls their time in London.