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In 1981, Helen Bevington was in the fourth year of a course at the Birmingham School of Music preparing for a career as a classical violinist when former Dexys guitarist, Kevin Archer invited her to play on some recordings of the new songs he had written for The Blue Ox Babes. Helen had flirted with popular music in the past including a group called Uncle Po which had won a few competitions but never made the big time and she had now vowed to concentrate on more 'serious' music. However her career - and her entire life - were to change dramatically as a result of her decision to play on Kevin Archer's demos.

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Archer knew that his former colleague Kevin Rowland was also experimenting with using strings in his music and recommended Helen to him. Big Jimmy Paterson was sent off to Birmingham School of Music where he tracked Helen down in a rehearsal room, using all his powers of persuasion to encourage her to come and rehearse with Dexys. When the first sessions accompanied by cello and viola didn't produce the sound Kevin Rowland was looking for Helen was asked to recruit two other fiddle players from her course and so 'The Emerald Express' were born. Changing her name to Helen O'Hara to fit in with Dexys' 'Celtic' image and sound she performed on their new album including, of course, the world-wide hit "Come On Eileen" which finally convinced her to turn her back on classical music - and an offer to join the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra.

After the Too-Rye-Ay line-up split in 1983 Helen - by this time involved in a relationship with Kevin Rowland - became an important figure in the next Dexys incarnation. As one of the 'gang of four' featured on the "Don't Stand Me Down" album cover (which had already become a gang of three by the time the album was released), Helen co-wrote much of the material and was appointed musical director for the accompanying live shows. The sensitivity of her playing was a vital element to the new Dexys sound especially on the masterpiece, "My National Pride" [aka "Knowledge of Beauty"] and the live shows featured some amazing 'duels' between her instrument and the guitar of Jerod Minnies.

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When Dexys disbanded in 1987 Helen embarked on a dual career as solo performer and much sought-after session player. The unmistakable sound of her fiddle returned to the Top Ten in 1988 on "Good Tradition" by Tanita Tikaram, (who she performed with regularly for several years) and was also heard on records by Graham Parker and Mary Coughlin. Eventually in 1990 she released her debut solo album "Romanza" (later retitled "Southern Hearts") featuring her own instrumental compositions, beautifully played by herself and a select band of musicians including Robert Noble and Mick Woodmansey - both of whom had performed on "Don't Stand Me Down" - and pianist Nicky Hopkins. A 'Celtic chill-out' album before the term was invented, perhaps unsurprisingly much of the music is reminiscent of the gentler moments on "Don't Stand Me Down" with "Southern Hearts" in particular sounding like a long-lost instrumental from that album. (Refresh page to hear a short extract.)

A follow-up entitled "A Night In Ireland",  featuring traditional Irish tunes such as "Danny Boy", followed in 1998. Even more gently-performed and sparsely-produced  than its predecessor, the album featured Helen accompanied entirely by the celtic harp of Skaila Kanga and Eddie Hession's accordion. It marked yet another stage in the long journey for Helen which all began when she agreed to perform on Kevin Archer's demos seventeen years earlier.


Helen in her own words

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HELEN ON "DON'T STAND ME DOWN"
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Solo Discography

Southern Hearts
(originally released as 'Romanza') 1990
[NWCD212]

 

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Love & Respect

Elegy

Southern Hearts

Elegy II

Romanza

Ceide (pron. Kayja)

Fiesta

Celebration



A Night In Ireland 1998
[NWCD459]

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The Dawning Of The Day

Mountains Of Mourne

O'Carolans Farewell

Women Of Ireland

The Curragh Of Kildaire

Hills Of Calheiros

The Masons Apron

Danny Boy

Carrickfergus

Hills Of Calheiros (Reprise)

Captain O'Kane

An Irish Lullaby

Three Captains

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