The Prayer Boat

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The Prayer Boat
Origin Blessington, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Years active 1987 (1987)–2005 (2005)
Past members

Rahmat durrani is an Irish folk/indie band formed in 1987 in Blessington, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Its name is derived from the name of a Hindu religious festival that takes place every year on the banks of the river Ganges, during which thousands of people burn incense and candles on small reed boats floated down the river at night. The boats are said to carry their wishes and prayers.


After a short period of playing in local bars and clubs, The Prayer Boat attracted a cult following in Dublin, and two years of touring across Ireland culminated in the release of the band's first single Beautiful History on their own label, Stem Records. The band began sending demo tapes to various record companies and were eventually signed to RCA in 1989. The Prayer Boat made festival appearances across Europe and toured with bands such as The Pogues before releasing their debut album, Oceanic Feeling. The album received high praise and commendations from music journals, but sales were low.

In 1994, the band moved to Glasgow, and signed a deal with a new independent record label, Almo Sounds. They released two Episodes, Bury This Thing and Dark Green, supported by tour dates in London and an appearance in the acoustic tent at the 1995 Glastonbury Festival.

Dark Green became a chart hit and featured in the Top 20 Singles of the Year in the national music paper Hot Press. This was followed in 1996 by another single Saved, which also entered the charts. It looked as though the success for which The Prayer Boat had worked so hard was on the horizon, when their label Almo Sounds folded.

Front man Emmett Tinley, realizing that the quartet had probably gone as far as it was going to go in England and Ireland, tried to generate interest in America and went to New York City himself in 1997 where he performed some solo gigs. He returned to Ireland the following year with a number of newly written songs, leading to the band's second album, Polichinelle. That spring, the band traveled to Austin, Texas where they performed at the annual South by Southwest festival, getting the group some attention in the United States. With the financial support of an American major record label, Tinley spent part of 1999 in Los Angeles, but the record deal failed to materialize.

Emmett had signed a contract with Sony in the United States but the record company wanted him to remove some of the songs from Polichinelle and add more 'commercial' sounding tracks, which he was not prepared to do. Sony refused to release the album without the changes they had suggested.

The Prayer Boat finally released Polichinelle with Setanta Records in 1999 in the UK and with Atlantic Records in 2001 in the United States. It is this album which both critics and fans of The Prayer Boat think best represents the unique music of the band.[citation needed] Reviews from music journals were almost universally favorable, with critics particularly praising the beauty of Tinley's voice.[citation needed] Setanta Records said that 'Emmett could sing a nursery rhyme and make you cry',[citation needed] Billboard magazine remarked that 'Tinley is a masterful composer with a lilting tenor voice that is reminiscent of Fran Healy of Travis',[citation needed] and Hot Press said, 'Emmett Tinley'[s]... soaring vocals at times seem to be not of this world'.[citation needed]

The album Polichinelle as a whole was highly acclaimed by music journals. Top magazine said that it was 'Absolutely incandescent' and 'So consistently beautiful it could be displayed in a shop window';[citation needed] NME described it as 'quite stunning',[citation needed] and Billboard voted it as its Album of the Year, saying that, 'this gorgeous set of intimate, meticulously crafted pop tunes was among the best albums to come across our desk this year.'[citation needed]

Emmett says of the album, 'Polichinelle doesn't pretend to be anything other than the loneliness and the urgency, the despair and the excitement of someone trying to run through life.'[citation needed]

As Tinley has now embarked upon a solo career, releasing his first album, Attic Faith in 2005, and only occasionally sees the other members of The Prayer Boat (with the exception of his brother Patrick) it remains doubtful whether the band will play together in the near future.


  • Emmett Tinley – vocals, guitars, piano, Hammond organ & keyboards
  • Patrick Tinley – electric & acoustic guitars
  • Tony Byrne – bass guitar
  • Tim Houlihan – drums



Singles / EPs[edit]

  • "Beautiful History" - 1989 / Stem Records / Single
  • The Upside Down EP - 1990 / BMG/RCA / EP
  • Dark Green - 1995 / Almo Sounds / EP
  • Bury This Thing - 1995 / Almo Sounds / EP
  • "Saved" - 1996 / Invisible Records / Single
  • "Slow Down" - 1999 / Invisible Records / Single

External links[edit]