Raymond McCullough
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Raymond McCullough

Newtownards, N Ireland, United Kingdom | INDIE

Newtownards, N Ireland, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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Nov
21
Raymond McCullough @ Common Grounds Cafe, 12-24 University Avenue

Belfast, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

Belfast, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

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It's easy to see how the beautiful landscapes of China could awaken the creative spirit in you, but singer/songwriter Raymond McCullough did it the hard way. In October 1999, Raymond went on the Mencap China Bike Ride - despite not having been on a bike for 29 years!

"I thought I'd never do it," he said, "The journey was 444 kilometres long over four-and-a-half days. On the first day we did 40 miles instead of 40 km which was tough, but the following morning, we woke up in this beautiful hotel with the sun shining down on the pomegranate trees, and I had a shower, put the shorts on and thought, ‘I can do this’. By the third day I had caught up on the lead riders," says Raymond with obvious pride.

The scenery was breathtaking, he recalled, but going up 18 hairpin bends to get the views wasn't all fun!

Even on the flight to Beijing, though, there was a song brewing in Ray’s imagination. "Making our way over the Mongolian mountains, about six in the morning, I got this wee tune, three chords, in my head, and that became the chorus of ‘Ballad of Beijing’.

In the second week, whever I went I heard this particular tune played by three percussionists and I incorporated that into the song as well."

The ‘Ballad of Beijing’ can be found on ‘The great China Bike Ride’, a mini-album with five other songs from Ray’s vast repertoire.

‘Smoke goes up’ is a lovely song about Ireland’s smell of turf, which Ray wrote on a journey home from Cork through Ireland’s towns and villages. "The smoke goes up, the rain comes down," is an image many will find familiar!

‘1989’ is about the fall of the Berlin Wall and there is a lovely instrumental called, ‘Ar tir seo aguinne (Our Land)’. - Irish News, Belfast - Robert McMillen


The main track, "Ballad of Beijing", I can best describe as a fusion of Chinese/Celtic/rap - really different. Two versions of it also on the album - the 8 minute one just a bit long for my taste, but still a great idea.

"Smoke goes Up" - a song I’ve heard Raymond sing many a time - is perhaps my favourite, a song about Ireland in the Irish folk ballad tradition and of course dealing with our little problems here in the North.

The collection finishes with a nice little instrumental, ‘Ar tir seo aguinne’, translated ‘Our Land’ - a piece of music that grows on you.

Well done Raymond! - Rodney Cordner - for CDBaby.com


"... an Irish gem. I've wanted to feature this talented Irish songwriter for a long time ago. Raymond combines traditional Celtic music with contemporary songwriting while fusing musical styles from China and Israel with Celtic Christian themes. He has a totally unique musical style that's had him topping the charts on various Celtic Christian internet radio stations." - Celtic MP3s.com, Texas - Marc Gunn, editor


Into Jerusalem -

This is a truly different CD than you might expect for one with Celtic music on it. If you put it on and listen without expectations you should walk away quite happy! You'll find Scottish and Irish music, bluegrass, rock and Jewish/Israeli worship music, all carrying a spiritual message.

The music is uplifting, and the mixture of styles is interesting. Don't miss the first track, 'I Will Lift My Eyes Up', which leaves you feeling really good with it's Celtic sound and spiritual message.

The Celtic songs worked better for me than the rock-style ones, but the lyrics overall carry a positive feeling throughout the CD which is actually a nice change from the standard fare.

The Jewish/Israeli worship songs worked well too. Even though they had a totally different feel, they weren't such a stretch that those who like the other tracks would want to pass on them.

The spiritual messages throughout this CD were really what tied it all together. Don't expect your typical Celtic-style album and you will be pleased with the variety offered here. A good choice for those who would like a little bit of a lift and something different. - Celtic MP3s Music Magazine (Catherine L. Tully)


I will Lift my eyes up -

"Immediately identifiable as Celtic, but original ... Ray's Irish origins can be heard in his voice, which was nice. (Not an Americanised delivery). The instruments were well balanced and the sound was tight. A very enjoyable song" - Steve Bridges, Radio Cherwell, Oxford, UK


I will Lift my eyes up -

"beautiful Celtic taste" - Pietro Giovanni Scazzola, Radio Gold Network, Italy


Into Jerusalem -

"Singer/songwriter, Raymond McCullough, has been playing traditional Irish gigs around the country for years, fitting in his own brand of Celtic ballad ‘protest songs’ between the jigs and reels, His previous release, "The Great China Bike Ride", spawned the instrumental hit track, "Our Land", which reached No.1 for 14 weeks on one internet Celtic station.

This new album begins with an infectious reel called, "I Will Lift My Eyes Up", and drew quite a response from listeners when I played it on air. "Battlecry" has similar qualities, but "Lift Your Heads" sees Raymond go more retro-rock.

In our busy lives, how many times do we put prayer on the back burner? That‘s the question asked with "Pray", and it‘s a timely reminder that we need to remember. "Lord, You Are My Inspiration" is a Celtic march and "Prayer for Ireland/Pipe Major’s Jig" both go down well.

Raymond then changes style and includes three Hebrew worship songs that, personally, I didn’t think were suited to his voice. He finishes with the folky number, "Thank You For Your Mercy", and that works well. All in all, it’s an interesting album, that was a pleasure, on the whole, to listen to. If you’re a fan of Celtic music, or just want a change from the norm, try this one for size. 7/10" - Geoff Howlett, Never For Nothing (e-zine) & BBC Radio Humberside, UK


Into Jerusalem -

"... just received the CD!
... we're excited to feature it on Wednesday ...
This is a huge blessing to us
... it sounds great." - Scott Albright, KWPB 98.7 FM, Newport, Oregon


‘Ar tir seo aguinne (Our Land)’ - "This is a great instrumental tune from Raymond that forms many images when you listen to it.

His music is always from the heart, whether it is from his experiences whilst travelling abroad or his faith or from his life growing up in a troubled country. An excellent variety of styles and influences make his work unique." - Al Mann - Celtic Folk Podcast


Into Jerusalem is the latest CD from Raymond McCullough, a singer-songwriter based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This worshipful album incorporates influences of Celtic, Bluegrass, Rock, and Hebrew music. All the music and lyrics are written by McCullough, except for "My Lagan Love", a traditional air. The main vocals are by Raymond McCullough, and he and his band play the many instruments on the recording.

McCullough also designed the liner notes, which include lyrics to all the songs and feature photographs of Jerusalem embellished with Celtic art, providing a fitting visual complement to the music.

The songs with the strongest Scottish-Irish influence are tracks one, six, seven, and eight. "I Will Lift My Eyes Up", based on Psalm 121, is backed by fiddle and flute and also has a bluegrass influence. "You are My Inspiration" is rockier, with a percussion and synthesiser introduction, but it becomes more Celtic sounding with the entry of the singers, and ends with an instrumental section reminiscent of a pipe march. "You Fill My Life" is relaxed, contemplative, and inspirational and includes beautiful instrumental sections featuring flute and fiddle. McCullough's voice seems strained in places in "Prayer for Ireland", as if the key was too high perhaps, but the lyrics, about the need for peace in Ireland, are both true and important not only for Ireland, but the rest of the world. The Celtic/rock song goes into "The Pipe Major's Jig", a lively tune written by McCullough in memory of David Warnock.

"All My Needs" comes straight from the bluegrass tradition, complete with banjo and fiddle, and is a cheerful song about having faith in God to supply our every need. "Thank You for Your Mercy" blends bluegrass and Celtic influences, and, though the intonation of the backup instruments is not always perfect, the words to this laid-back song are a fitting close to the album.

Track three is a combination of Celtic and rock, while four and five are the rockiest tracks. "Battle Cry" begins with a flute introduction, but gets rockier as the piece progresses. It is followed by "Lift up Your Heads", a rock anthem introduced by synthesiser and rock-organ and reminiscent of '70s music. "Pray" reminds the listener that God is always there through our every need and that no matter what goes wrong, we need to pray.

Tracks nine through eleven are very Hebrew/Israeli in style. "Ride Into Jerusalem" has a great tune and arrangement, but as with track eight, McCullough's vocals sound strained in a couple of places; however, they are the exception, and only detract slightly from the arrangement as a whole. "Worship the Lord" compels the listener to do just that, and features strong vocals by both Raymond and his daughter, Connaire McCullough. "Oh, Ephraim" is a very enjoyable track, and though the meaning of the chorus is not immediately apparent, the lyrics come from Isaiah 11:13 and 12:1-2; they proclaim that God will deliver his people bringing peace and unity.

On the whole, McCullough presents an enjoyable and diverse collection of music on Into Jerusalem, which is well worth hearing.

Sample tracks from both Into Jerusalem and McCullough's previous album The Great China Bike Ride, as well biographies and other information can be found on his website.
- Stephen Beckmeyer, CelticChristianTunes.com


Discography

'The great China Bike Ride', (2004) - Tracks 1, 2 & 6 have received extensive airplay, from Istanbul, Turkey; to Germany, UK & Ireland; to Monterrey, Mexico and all over USA. (all tracks streamed from website & available from iTunes)

'Into Jerusalem' (Nov. 2004) - Album playlisted on KWPB FM, Oregon and Celebrate Radio (Satellite across Europe, Russia, Middle-East and North Africa. (all tracks streamed from website & available from iTunes, HMV, etc.)

New 4-track EP/single, 'Different', coming shortly!

Photos

Bio

Singer/songwriter, Raymond McCullough, has been writing songs since 1973. He plays guitar - "a George Lowden acoustic/electric; actually!" - mandolin, bodhran and, now and then, a little keyboard.

He has travelled and performed in Israel, (on one occasion literally singing for his supper!), China (Beijing), Canada, USA, Scotland and Ireland, north and south - playing pubs, concerts, churches - on the street, if required! At the Rostrevor International Festival in 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. "Friends said just because I'd gone to China, I didn't need to make a song about it - of course, that’s exactly what I DID do!" he says. 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 lecturing in computing, selling French perfume, running an Internet cafe, publishing a magazine and two books, hosting his own radio show, 'In tha Name a' Gawd!', producing TV and corporate video, and restoring his own classic wooden boat.

In 2004 he set up Precious Oil Productions - a media production company, which is now in process of becoming a Limited Company. POP are currently raising funding and filming for a new TV documentary linking Scots/Irish settlers, Native Americans and Israeli Jews! Several other TV productions are also in the pipeline.

The lsecond album, ‘Into Jerusalem’, is now available from iTunes, CDbaby, etc. It contains twelve Celtic and Hebrew worship songs, written by Raymond, and varying from rock, to Celtic, (Scottish, Irish, Bluegrass, folk/rock), to Jewish-style songs. Some reviews and comments are already available.

** A new 4 track EP, 'Different' - 3 Folk/Rock songs and an Irish jig instrumental - is now available. **