A brand-new studio album!

Fifteen tracks! (Two previews can be found on SoundCloud and YouTube.)

To preorder this exciting new work, click here.
(Projected release date: December 2016)

     
Click on a picture to read individual reflections on "Step Forward."

Good People / Step Forward (Sean McCann / Marcille Wallis)
Don: vocals, guitar
Marcille: harmony vocals, hammer dulcimer
Matt: fiddle, bass

From Marcille: When Matt and I first heard this song, by Newfoundland-based band Great Big Sea, we knew immediately that THIS was a song that was meant for Don Pigeon to sing! And he really does it justice. We love the positive and cheerful message: No matter how bad things seem to get, there'll always be Good People to cheer you and help you on your way.

An interesting note: The chorus says, "Good People aren't hard to find; they're right around the corner at the end of the line." The End of the Line is a real place -- a pub frequented by the songwriters.

Silver Spear / Lexy McAskill / Music for a Found Harmonium (Traditional / Dr. John McAskill / Simon Jeffes)
Matt: fiddle
Don: guitar
(Click here to get a preview on YouTube.)

From Matt: I love this set, and I challenge you to find something more fun than playing some fast fiddle tunes with one of your best musical friends. Go ahead, I'm waiting ... While I wait though, I want to give credit to Don for being such an awesome and dynamic guitar player. When we play this set, he always makes me sound better than I should. Thanks, Don!

From Don: I love the arrangement in this set. Full of fiery delights.

Paddy Kelly's Brew (Tommy Makem)
Don: vocals, guitar
Marcille: harmony vocals, hammer dulcimer
Matt: fiddle, mandolin

From Marcille: Don and I were listening to an album by the Makem and Spain Brothers when we came across this fun song touting moonshine as a cure for whatever ails you!

Galway Girl (Steve Earle)
Don: vocals, mandolin
Matt: fiddles, bass
Marcille: guitar

One of the Long-standing favorites from our repertoire, "Galway Girl" tells the semi-autobiographical story of singer/songwriter Steve Earle's reaction to a beautiful black haired, blue eyed girl he met on a visit to Galway, Ireland.

The Outlander (Lyrics: Robert Louis Stevenson, Melody: Traditional)
Marcille: vocals, hammer dulcimer
Don: guitar, flute
Matt: fiddle

From Don: I love the composition of this song. So beautifully haunting.

Inspired by the TV series Outlander, which uses Robert Louis Stevenson's poem set to the traditional melody of the "Skye Boat Song" as their opening theme. We eliminated one verse of Stevenson's original text, but here's that "missing verse":

Mull was astern, Rum on the port,
Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
Where is that glory now?
Mull, Rum and Eigg -- along with Skye -- are all isles of the Inner Hebrides, a chain that lies off the west coast of Scotland. 

The Jolly Breeze / The Humours of Tampa Bay (Don Pigeon)
Don: mandolin, flute, guitar
Marcille: hammer dulcimer
Matt: fiddle

From Don: Jolly Breeze was written to pay honor to my friends' -- Rob and Joanne Carney -- tall ship, "The Jolly Breeze." I wrote "Humours" back in '93, while sitting in a motel room observing an oil tanker which had run aground in Tampa Bay.

Rollin' Over (Daniel Heptinstall)
Don: vocals, guitar
Matt: harmony vocals, fiddle, bass
Marcille: harmony vocals, hammer dulcimer
Kate: harmony vocals
(Click here to hear a preview on SoundCloud.)

From Don: A fun song the whole band gets to sing!

From Matt: One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands -- Skinny Lister. There was no way I wanted to do a new album and not include this tune on it; it's just too much fun to play! Singing on it was fun too, and maybe a little terrifying, but mostly fun.

Factory Girl (Traditional Folk Song)
Marcille: vocals, mountain dulcimer
Don: banjo
Matt: fiddle

With the exception of mining, no industry has produced as many songs as the textile industry. "The Factory Girl" dates back probably to 1820 - 1840, when the city of Lowell, Massachusetts began "The Lowell Experiment" and quickly became the largest textile center in the United States. Lowell is considered the "Cradle of the American Industrial Revolution" and thus had an undeniable role in changing parts of the New England landscape from rural to urban. Our version of "The Factory Girl" expresses longing for a cheerier way of life, and perhaps a bit of defiance toward the regimental structure of factory work.

From Marcille: I first took note of this song when my friend Mazz O'Flaherty -- owner of Ireland's smallest record shop, in Dingle -- gave me a CD by Co. Kerry singer Éilís Kennedy. Éilís's version of the song is very jaunty, unlike many versions that sound like laments. THIS is a girl who's making plans to -- dare I say it? -- Step Forward!  

Bucks of Oranmore / Ashplant / Galtee Rangers (Traditional Reels)
Don: whistle, guitar
Matt: fiddle
Kate: Irish step dance

Back to our band's roots with these three lively pieces -- Marcille Wallis & Friends began as an all-instrumental band playing jigs and reels and airs.

Charlie on the MTA (Lyrics: Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes, Melody: Henry Clay Work)
Don: vocals, guitar
Marcille: harmony vocals, hammer dulcimer
Matt: fiddle, mandolin

This song has a well-deserved place in "Irish music," 1. because it tells a great story, in the best Irish tradition, and 2. the story is centered in Boston, arguably America's "most Irish" city.

In 1949, Progressive mayoral candidate Walter A. O'Brien hired songwriters Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Hawes to come up with a catchy campaign song that would emphasize his campaign promise to simplify Boston's subway fare schedule and make it more uniform. The song was recorded and played (along with several other of his campaign songs) from a sound truck that drove around the streets of Boston.

Alas, all O'Brien got out of the deal was a $10 fine for disturbing the peace with his sound truck. Unless, of course you count his immortality in song! 

The Luck Penny / Leitrim Fancy / Rambling Pitchfork (Traditional Jigs)
Marcille: hammer dulcimer
Don: flute, guitar
Matt: fiddle

From Marcille: I learned "The Luck Penny" from Co. Clare fiddler James Kelly, "Leitrim Fancy" from a recording by influential Irish traditional musicians The Bothy Band, and "Rambling Pitchfork" from Don Pigeon.

I don't know what the original composer of "The Luck Penny" might've had in mind, but the song always makes me think of my dad, who would always stoop to pick up a penny, saying, "Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck. Find a penny, leave it lay, bad luck will follow the rest of the day." Nowadays, whenever I find a penny, I do pick it up, considering it a little token of encouragement from heaven.  

Belfast Mill (Si Kahn)
Don: vocals, guitar
Matt: harmony vocals, fiddle
Marcille: whistle, mountain dulcimer

The song "Belfast Mill" was written by activist/folk musician Si Kahn. Originally titled "Aragon Mill," the song laments the loss of mill village culture in the small Georgia town that eventually became a thriving city whose life and livelihood centered on its mill. The Aragon Mill, originally built in 1898, grew and expanded its operation many times until its closure 1970. It resumed operations under different ownership in 1972, and its fortunes rose and fell through a series of mergers and buyouts until 2002, when a fire destroyed the complex.

Recognizing the sad universality of its theme, the song was recorded and retitled "Belfast Mill" by the Fureys and Davey Arthur. 

Nathaniel Gow's Lament for the Death of his Brother / Farewell to the Creeks (Nathaniel Gow / P/M J. Robertson)
Marcille: hammer dulcimer
Matt: fiddle, guitar

From Marcille: The name "Gow" is revered in Scottish fiddle circles. Nathaniel Gow (1763-1831), the fourth son of legendary Perthshire fiddler Niel Gow, composed this heartbreakingly beautiful lament that seemed to beg to be set on the dulcimer.

I learned "Farewell to the Creeks" at the suggestion of my friend, the Antipyper, Neil Anderson.  

Risin' of the Moon (Traditional Irish Ballad)
Don: vocals, guitar, whistle
Matt: fiddle
Marcille: hammer dulcimer

Ask anyone who knows Irish music about the top Rebel Songs of all time, and "The Rising of the Moon" will almost surely be on their list. It's #1 on our list! This ballad tells the story of the ill-fated Irish Rebellion of 1798, and while folk music remembers what history often forgets, there's also a touch of prophecy in this song's final verse: "Yet thank God, e'en still are beating hearts in manhood burning noon, who would follow in their footsteps at the risin' of the moon." Éirinn go Brách! 

Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be? / Lady Charlotte Murray / Pet of the Pipers (Traditional Jigs)
Matt: fiddle
Marcille: piano
Don: guitar, mandolin
Kate: Irish step dance

We don't often get to use piano in our performances, but when we do we take full advantage! This set of tunes is our take on Cape Breton music. 

From Matt: When a person finds something intangible that excites them and makes them happy, they sometimes say, "If only I could bottle that feeling and sell it!" This tune set is our attempt to recreate that one session at that one pub -- you know, the night that all the right players were there, and all the right tunes are being called. You're not sure what, exactly is happening, but it's almost intoxicating, and your fingers feel charged with electricity. Maybe the idiom for what we wanted to accomplish with this set was that it's like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

Dedicated to our families and to our many friends and fans, who’ve given us so much support and encouragement over the years!
Special dedication to the memory of Greg McGrath.

Recorded September 2016 at Back 40 Studios, Freeport, FL
Marcille Wallis: hammer dulcimer, guitar, vocals, piano, whistle, mountain dulcimer
Don Pigeon: vocals, mandolin, whistle, flute, guitar, banjo
Matt Miller: fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass, vocals
Kate Valley: Irish dance, vocals

To preorder this exciting new work, click here.
(Projected release date: December 2016)

Click here to connect with us on Facebook.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Michael DeLalla, Falling Mountain Music, Boulder, CO
Recorded at Back 40 Studios, Freeport, FL
Graphic Design by Jeanette Gander, Buffalo Graffix, Port Charlotte, FL

Marcille Wallis & Friends: The Band

Marcille Wallis: Hammer Dulcimer Artist and Multi-Instrumentalist

Live Performance Schedule

Recordings

                 

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About "Step Forward"

The band, Marcille Wallis & Friends, has been around for almost 20 years. What began as a revolving collective of Celtic musicians with hammer dulcimer artist Marcille Wallis at its nucleus has evolved into a close-knit group of friends with a genuine passion for sharing music and putting smiles on faces. Each of us has been singing/playing music/dancing since childhood, and we bring a wide variety of influences and musical interests – classical, rock, bluegrass, gospel, to name but a few – to our “sound.” Our live performances are energetic, interactive, family-friendly and great fun. We often hear, “You guys always look like you’re having so much fun up there!” And it’s true. We do have a lot of fun.

Prior to the solidifying of our current musical lineup of Marcille playing dulcimer and occasionally guitar or piano, Don Pigeon singing and playing guitar/flute/pennywhistle/mandolin, and Matt Miller playing fiddle and sometimes guitar, Marcille -- on her own Celtic Heritage label -- released eight studio albums (featuring dulcimer) and extensively toured the eastern half of the United States as a solo artist. Don, meanwhile, was landscape foreman at a PGA tour facility; Matt was a full-time student working toward a degree in engineering. Working with award-winning Irish soft-shoe/Scottish Country dancers Ann and Cal Lloyd, we played numerous festivals, Celtic celebrations such as St. Patrick’s Day and Tartan Day, and our own original “Christmas With The Celts” annual concert series. Eventually we recorded the CD, “Marcille Wallis & Friends Live!”

A great deal has happened in the five years since we recorded that CD.

As a band, our performances underwent a change with the retirement of Ann and Cal from appearing with us full-time. Through Ann and Cal, we had met Kate Valley, herself a champion Irish dancer now retired from competitive dancing, and Kate now is our featured dancer.

Don and Matt both have undergone personal changes, including Don's retirement from the workaday world and Matt's graduation from university. Both have been left with the unique -- and welcome -- opportunity to pursue music as a full-time vocation. Marcille also has faced change, with the untimely passing of husband, touring partner, and long-time business manager, Greg McGrath.

Change: sometimes welcome, sometimes difficult or painful ... always inevitable.

In facing the challenge of our changes, the four of us -- Marcille, Don, Matt, and Kate -- have decided to step forward into a future of exciting possibilities for our band. Symbolizing our embrace of change, our CD is called “Step Forward.” We've included music that has been part of our performances for the last several years, along with new material learned specifically for this project -- plus some of our own compositions. We play the instruments that we're best known for but you'll hear us demonstrate some of our other musical abilities, and that may come as a bit of a surprise to all but our most devoted followers.

It's a fun collection of music, and we're very excited to share it with you!

Marcille Wallis's Thoughts on "Step Forward"

Preparing for and executing this project should've been routine for me. It's my tenth CD overall, my fifth with an ensemble, and you'd think I'd be rather blasé about the whole process. But I'm as excited to see this thing come to fruition as I was with my very first CD sixteen years ago!

I guess it's the adoption of "Step Forward" as not merely the title of an album, but as a Life Motto. So I've decided to tell you how the title came about.

Matt, Don and I agreed -- especially at the urging of our right-hand-man, Rob Adolph -- that it was high time to record a new CD. Our last one, a live project, was recorded five years ago, and since that time we'd introduced not only a lot of new material into our repertoire, but our sound had evolved too: I'd started singing backup vocals on a few songs; Don had started learning how to play clawhammer banjo; Matt had started playing guitar on some tune sets. At first we thought little more than to capture all of that new material for fans who'd been asking for it.

But then I had a conversation with new-college-graduate Matt, who said that, for him, this CD symbolized a new beginning not only for our band but for himself. He pointed out that maybe Don, newly retired, was feeling the same way. And the unspoken words hung heavy in the air, until I blurted out that as a newly-widowed person I, too, was facing a new beginning. "Yeah," Matt said, "I'd thought about that but just didn't want to say it because I didn't know how you'd feel."

So the three of us set about finding a name for the CD that would capture the spirit of recommitment and new beginnings. We came up with dozens of names, discussing their relative merits, but when I read the whole long list to Rob he picked up on "A Step Forward." "It's a natural," he said; "your band's unique because you have a step dancer as a regular member." Of course! (Sometimes, you need that outside perspective for a fresh point of view.)

"A Step Forward" was too passive.

"Stepping Forward" was a little wishy-washy.

"Step Forward," with its bold imperative, was just right.

One of the earliest decisions was to include Kate's dancing on a couple of tracks. And it's funny how, besides her dancing, many of the songs ended up fitting the Step Forward theme: "Rolling Over" is sung from the perspective of a soldier who's returning home for a new life with his sweetheart ... the "Factory Girl" wants to get away from her grim routine at the textile mill ... "Belfast Mill" is the lament of a worker who's going to have to Step Forward, even if not of his own desire to do so. "Good People" had already been chosen for the project, but when the project found its name, there was no other choice but "Good People" for the opening track. Good people step forward to do good for other people.

I can't tell you how many times in the last few months I've reminded myself to "Step Forward." Just saying (or thinking) those two simple words helps to move me past indecision and doubt, to forgive when I think I've been slighted, to try something new and exciting.

#stepforward

God gifted me with music, and He gave me Camille and Marsden Wallis to help me develop that gift. Greg McGrath came along, with his business savvy and passion for music, to help me share that gift with the world ... and when he left this world, my wonderful band mates -- Don, Matt, and Kate -- kept me playing and singing and smiling through the tears. There are no words adequate to express my gratitude, to them and to our many friends and fans.

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Matt Miller's Thoughts on "Step Forward"

I think I was an explorer in a past life. I mean, I don’t know if I believe in reincarnation necessarily, but it’s difficult to rationalize why a man of mostly sound mind and body would regularly abandon creature comforts in the pursuit of an office that has no desk or walls, an income that is consistently inconsistent, and a work commute that can span many miles and state lines.

But here I am, trying to do just that. I often daydream about fictional adventurers that I can identify with as having similar values and goals to mine, and I wonder: did Bilbo Baggins have to think about navigating a treacherous economy as a Millennial? I guess Orcs were bad enough.

Did Thelma and Louise worry about vehicle safety while they were on the road, and how many stars were in their car’s crash rating? Maybe that’s a bad example.

If you’ve made it this far through this self-indulgent and entirely too conversational piece, then I feel like I can trust you with something: I’m terrified basically all of the time, but I guess every explorer had to come to terms with that before anything else.

That’s why the thesis statement of this album, Step Forward, resonates so much with me. I am a recent college graduate, stepping out with sweaty palms, chronic anxiety, and clenched butt cheeks into a world that does not really seem ready to receive me. I’m artistically influencing the first album of my adult life, and I hope that everyone loves it as much as I do (spoiler alert: you will). Almost every facet of my life is dynamic and changing, but I don’t think I’m alone in this journey; odds are you’re experiencing something like this too.

I’ll share this last thought with you: it’s basically impossible to have a conversation these days without someone asking what the future holds. I hate this question, but I don’t hate you for asking it. I think that most great explorers may have set out with a destination in mind, but almost never got there in the way they thought they would. The one thing they did manage to do was keeping moving, one step at a time.

#stepforward

I would like to thank my family for their unconditional love and support through my years of music, college, and then music again. Also, a special thanks to my parents for the use of their Katrina cottage as a home, musical dojo, and sometimes studio. I’d like to thank my band mates for being not only inspiring artists and people, but also wonderful friends for the last umpteen years. And a special thanks to Michael DeLalla for his wisdom, cooking, and life-affirming late night talks during the recording.

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Don Pigeon's thoughts on "Step Forward"

"Sitting on a fence and playing it safe won't change anything for the life of a band, or its audience, that is true. However, sitting on that fence looking ahead and planning with the band for ourselves and our listeners most certainly will.

"Our latest CD project, 'Step Forward', represents that exciting transformation of our band. Small in size but big in voice and music, we have moved forward with powerful harmonies, complex musical arrangements and original material all true to the tradition of Celtic music and all echoing the years together as a band. 'Step Forward' brings new instrumentation to the band, allowing each of us greater growth; a good indicator of a healthy group which continues to flourish and evolve.

"Generally, nothing of great achievement will come from sitting on a fence for too long. One has to jump off. Move ahead. I'd rather wear out the soles of my shoes than wear out the seat of my pants!"

#stepforward

My greatest thanks goes upwards to my God who has blessed me with a musical talent. I believe music is medicine for the soul and as such, an obligation to share for the purpose of healing and for celebration. Secondly, I thank my bandmates for being the persons they are. What a joy it is to share the stage with each one of these incredibly talented performers! There is magic onstage and offstage whenever we gather together. Each one of them is responsible for my growth in all things music and I cannot thank them enough for that. Lastly, I thank my wife for her support and understanding! For without her love and encouragement I think I would have given up music long ago!

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Kate Valley's thoughts on "Step Forward"

I have always known that I need to dance. More specifically, I have always known that I need to Irish dance. Up until age 14, I just assumed that I would always have dance, there was no question. After some bad injuries and extenuating circumstances I had to stop competing and taking lessons and that constant in my life just went away.

I was completely lost, but about a year later Marcille and Greg gave me an opportunity that I am eternally grateful for, and asked me to become one of the dancers for the band Marcille Wallis and Friends. Marcille, Don, and Matt quickly became a second family to me. I have gone through so many changes since then and I have grown so much as a person and I attribute that to the wonderful, inspirational people that I get to surround myself with as a result of being a part of this amazing group.

Step Forward, as a project, is happening in a part of my life that is full of transition. I am in my final year of college and trying to figure out where I will be going next. During this stressful time, it is very comforting to know that I am still able to dance, and I am still able to do it with people that I care about so dearly. Not only that, I am beginning to try some new things through this project. You might even hear me sing a tiny bit on this CD, and that is something that I would have never had the opportunity, or confidence for that matter, to try in the past.

In recording this CD, I have been reminded that I never have to be finished dancing, I never have to stop learning new things, and I never have to stop creating fantastic things with incredibly talented people. Most importantly, being a part of this incredible band has reminded me to always #stepforward.

I would like to thank my family for always supporting the things that I love to do. I would like to thank Marcille, Don, and Matt for the incredible music that they create and for allowing me to dance to it. I would like to thank Michael DeLalla for producing this wonderful recording and for making me feel so welcome during my first recording experience.

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