Irish bluegrass songsmith, Niall (Neil) Toner, has released his first U.S. album,Onwards and Upwards, on Pinecastle Records. Growing up in Ireland, a childhood friend of Toner's introduced him to the music of Bill Monroe, and from then on he was hooked on bluegrass music. Through the years he has befriended, and written songs for bluegrass musicians who have visited Ireland in addition to being Ireland's bluegrass ambassador. He even has his own radio show, Roots Freeway, which is broadcast on Ireland's national radio station, RTE Radio One. With Toner being a lifelong songwriter,Onwards and Upwards is full of stories from his masterful pen. In preparation for the album, Toner wrote or co-wrote each tune on the album. He collaborated with Keith Sewell on four tunes with Sewell also producing the album. The deluxe booklet included with the CD version includes Toner's own accounts of writing each song as well as photographs from the studio sessions.
"We cut nine new songs of mine, including a tribute to the late Earl Scruggs, called 'The Pride and Joy of Shelby', and an instrumental I composed called 'Burren Backstep'. Other new titles include 'Million Dollar Bill', 'Judge and Jury', and 'Bling', and the project was produced by Keith Sewell (Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs). We also recut 'William Smith Monroe' and 'Tomorrow', which will be included.
Keith also played guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and piano; Ashby Frank played mandolin, Viktor Krauss played upright bass, and Rob Ickes played Dobro and Weissenborn guitar. I sang lead and played mandolin, and Wendy Buckner, Fiaz Farrelly, and Keith sang harmonies. The sessions were engineered by legendary Nashville whizz-kid (and old-time clawhammer player) Jake Burns. Thank you, guys, for all your talent." Niall Toner, The Bluegrass Ireland Blog
Niall Toner recently spent nearly a month touring the Southeastern United States beginning with several performances at the International Bluegrass Music Associations' World of Bluegrass in Nashville, TN. During the tour he interviewed with Jim Lauderdale on WSM radio in Nashville, TN, taped a performance for the "Song of the Mountains" TV show, performed on WDVX's "Blue Plate Special," and performed on WCYB-TV in Bristol, VA. As well as numerous other tour dates in the Southeast.
For months Toner's AirPlay Direct profile occupied the #1 spot on the service's all-time bluegrass album chart and is currently #3.
Niall Toner's composition credits include songs recorded by artists like Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones), The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Albert Lee, Special Consensus, Keith Sewell, The Swanson Family and more. In 2003 Toner was nominated for a Global Artist Award by the CMA. His composition, “Nuns Island Reel” was included in one of the bestselling video games of all time, "Grand Theft Auto IV." To date, Toner and his Band have recorded and released three CD albums, and they perform their original songs and tunes on a regular basis at Festivals and Venues in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the USA.
(Photo above L-R: Jake Burns - Engineer, Keith Sewell - Producer, Niall Toner, Rob Ickes - Dobro, Ashby Frank - Mandolin, Viktor Krauss - Bass.)