14 Sep 2015
In 2004 Julia McPeek Campbell & Ian O’Donnell met at the North Georgia Celtic Festival where Ian had been performing solo for a couple of years. Julia was with the Border Collies at the time and the two musicians hit it off immediately and began playing together soon thereafter. Julia’s driving fiddle paired well with Ian’s musicianship & repertoire, and with their voices rounding out the music the band was formed.
The name Toucan Dubh comes with several meanings. The toucan is a lively bird, representing the fun aspect of the band & the spirit felt in their music & live shows. Dubh means ‘black’ or ‘dark’ in Irish, referencing both the mystical black birds of legend, representing the traditional side of the band, as well as a tip of the cap to the iconic black toucan seen in traditional Guinness ads! Another way to break down the name is ‘Two-can-do’. With the band being a duo, Julia and Ian get a kick out of the extra double (or triple) meaning built into the band name.
With the group formed & ready to rock, Toucan Dubh went on to perform at the Atlanta Celtic Festival and returned to play the North Georgia Celtic Festival the following year. The Toucans have also played at a variety of other venues & events in the Atlanta area, as well as private & college parties, including: Limerick Junction, Atlanta History Center, Mac McGee’s, Atlanta Celtic Christmas, Bradley’s, Gwinnett History Center, Java Monkey & more. Toucan Dubh has also performed at the Renaissance Festivals in Georgia and Tennessee.
In 2012, Toucan Dubh had designs to expand and met Linda Hoopes through a mutual friend. After playing a few times together informally, things clicked, and she came on as the third Toucan. With Linda on guitar and bodhran, and with her voice added to the mix, the band enjoys added flexibility and variety.
Ian played solo at PiratePalooza™ in its second year and Toucan Dubh played PP starting in 2007. After a brief hiatus, Toucan Dubh returned & has been on board ever since.
Some of the band’s favorite songs to perform include: Biddy McGrath – Parodying a protest song called ‘Mrs McGrath’, ‘Biddy’ is a humorous tale of a girl, accosted by sailors at the docks, who defends herself using her undergarments. 🙂
Chi Mi na Mòrbheanna – In English, called Mist Covered Mountains, this is a song of homecoming and all the wonderful aspects of home the singer has missed, including hearing their native language again. Written by John Cameron in 1856, this song’s haunting melody and lyrics almost transport you back to the old country.
I Want Guinness – With original lyrics by Ian, this upbeat song is an homage to the wonderful black beverage from Ireland, famous the world over, and needless to say, enjoyed by the band. 😉
Carrick-a-Rede – This song came to the band via Cathie Ryan, and references a rope bridge that’s quite high above the rocks & water, connecting Ireland with a small island. The fear and excitement from crossing this kind of bridge is akin to that ‘jumping off’ feeling of falling in love.
And basically anything that’s an “audience participation tune” – Toucan Dubh love engaging the audience and inviting them “into the show”.
Toucan has played with lots of other bands, including some of the usual suspects of PiratePalooza™, and many at renaissance and other festivals. They recently played a joint show with Palooza alums The Lost Boys, where each band played their own sets, then closed the evening with a combined set with both bands playing together (all 8 band members on stage!).
Ian mentions that “As far as ‘on the way’, the main thing on the way has been Julia’s new baby (The tiny Toucan!) who arrived last week! He was a little early, so we’re not sure if that means he was eager to get here & start drinking, or if he’s missing the ‘lateness’ gene that many musicians have. :)”