Bob McNeill is a musician in Wellington, New Zealand who plays with the group Project Feijoa, with Canadian fiddle player Gillian Boucher, and the Celtic groups Triskele, Criu and Crossroads. His latest recording Lost Stars, a collection of songs written and recorded during lockdown in New Zealand, was released on 5 October 2020. It's available to download on Bandcamp free. Check out the music page.
Inspired by the classic songwriters and the New Folk wave from the 90s, his particular influences are people like Mark Knopfler, Lori McKenna, Natalie Merchant, Patty Griffin, Jimmy Webb, Tori Amos, Chris Rea, Jason Isbell, Lionel Richie, Robert Cray, Jeffrey Foucault, Shane Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Gretchen Peters, Richard Shindell, Jay Farrar, Emmylou Harris, Mike Rosenberg, Nik Kershaw, Neil Finn, Mark Nevin and Bap Kennedy in... no particular order.
McNeill began playing in his teens. He made most of his mistakes in other people's bands before releasing a series of solo albums in the 2000s, two of which won Best Folk Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. His three year collaboration with Orcadian fiddler Kenny Ritch, Ben the Hoose, resulted in the album The Little Cascade, which also won Best Folk Album. In 2010 he released the retrospective Me and Mary Ann, and moved on to non-music projects. People thought he'd died.
After an extended sabbatical he returned to music in 2016 and began to record a backlog of rediscovered songs, mostly written before Me and Mary Ann but never worked up. Most of the songs were written during extended stays in California and were influenced by the Spanish-tinged music he fell in love with in Santa Barbara. He recruited the prodigiously talented Emily Roughton and Rob Henderson for the recordings. The group turned into Project Feijoa, and the recording into their debut album The California Tapes, which was released on 1 September 2019.
Around the same time, he ran into Cape Breton fiddler Gillian Boucher, who had just moved to New Zealand but neglected to bring an accompanist. The two are old friends and had played together briefly, 10 years before, and soon found the old groove, playing festivals in New Zealand and Australia. They released their first album Race for the Sun in 2019 and toured it in North America, playing Celtic Colours in Nova Scotia, Yachats Celtic Music Festival in Oregon and, in between, a series of concert shows in New England.
During the US part of their tour, in New England and Oregon, Bob began writing the songs that became Lost Stars. They're inspiring places, and gave up several of the songs on the album. He was also working on songs started at various stages over the previous two years, in France and back home in New Zealand. Lost Stars became an album of love songs for places and people we might not see again for a while. Working alone in lockdown, he decided to release the album track by track, as the songs were finished, and make them free to download.
In Wellington - at least in normal times - Bob also plays with the Irish music collective Criu, and Celtic groups Crossroads and Triskele. But they only want those old rhythm chops in DADGAD, and one day soon will find somebody younger, cheaper and less fussy.