There wasn’t much of a Celtic music scene in the Comox Valley when Irish-born singer/songwriter David Somers first arrived, in 1991.
Things have changed somewhat in the past 30 years.
“There wasn’t much at the time, that I am aware of, but there are a few Celtic bands around who play, for sure,” he said. “They are people I am acquainted with. I will oftentimes go listen to them, they come listen to me, and we steal each other’s material ha ha… when you are doing that sort of thing you are all mining from the same canon of songs.”
Somers and his long-time musical partner Chris Manuel have been regulars on the live music circuit for a couple of decades – first as a duo, and then with the band Celtic Cargo Cult, since 2007.
“The Comox Valley has always been an amazing place for live music,” said Somers. “Originally it started out with me singing and he was my lead guitarist – just the two of us. One of the first things I looked at was the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market, which was pretty young at that time. So we kind of went from there.
“After our first appearance at Vancouver Island MusicFest, we picked up a bass player and a drummer to make a four-piece band, then played MusicFest again as Celtic Cargo Cult. We went from there and continued to play gigs around the Comox Valley.”
That stopped abruptly on March 16, 2020.
“I recall Bonnie Henry, whom I admire tremendously, said ‘No more live music.’ So the day the music died was March 16, 2020. The reason I remember the date is because of course March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day… so I was to have a gig at the base, but the music just came to a halt.”
Although the pandemic caused enormous disruptions and challenges in day-to-day life, it also created some opportunities. For Somers, it provided the chance to get back into the studio with Manuel. The result is the 13-track album In a Dream, released Sept. 12.
As with his first album, At The End of the Day, many of the songs have a Celtic feel to them, despite most being original compositions by David and/or Barry Somers. For example, David wrote Rogue’s Disguise for a Musicfest workshop entitled “Songs of Tradition, Old and New.”
“The canon of Irish ballads is replete with cautionary tales about amorous gypsies, but better write one more just to be on the safe side,” said Somers in a press release for his CD release.
The album is bookended by two versions of Hastings Street, the first a limited-release single from 2008 and the second recorded this year.
“I wrote this song in Vancouver, November 2004, walking along Hastings Street,” said Somers. “I was aware how crowds of people, including me, don’t see, or pretend not to see, the homeless people. At the same time, people were wondering how so many women could disappear unnoticed from the Lower Eastside. When we pretend they are invisible, how can we notice they are gone?” To hear Hastings Street, visit davidsomers.ca
While they couldn’t get together in person, Barry and Sinead Somers recorded vocals for three tracks in Dublin and three tracks feature duets or harmonies with another Irish-born singer, Mary Murphy, recorded by Paul Keim at their studio in Dove Creek.
The album is only available on CD and can be purchased at Bop City Records in Courtenay, at Celtic Cargo Cult shows, or through davidsomers.ca
“It is a solo CD… so it is somewhat different from Celtic Cargo Cult,” said Somers. “With the band, depending where we play, like if we are in a pub, it is very up-tempo, Irish ballad things, things you kind of expect. So this CD is a chance to (expose) some of my original music.”
Somers said he is hoping to get more Celtic Cargo Cult gigs, now that he is retired from his work in the healthcare field, but he has been respectful of fellow artists.
“I’ve been very aware not to compete for gigs with people who are struggling, people who use this as their income – a lot of these people are my friends through the music world,” he said. “So I have, until very recently, just taken what has been offered. Royston Pub, the farmers’ market, Woodlands, house concerts and stuff like that – people inviting us rather than me phoning people. So we put the energy into the new CD.
“Now that the CD is finished, we will start advertising and get some gigs. So I have been spending some time updating the website, rehearsing and stuff… it’s time to get busy now. This was the retirement plan, after all.”
Anyone interested in hiring Celtic Cargo Cult can contact Somers through his website. Fair warning though – he is already booked for St. Patrick’s Day, 2023.