Christy Moore – On the Road
Columbia – 17 November 2017
In 2007 Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster, RTÉ, named Chrisy Moore as Ireland’s Greatest Living Musician in their ‘People Of The Year’ Awards, a heavy yoke perhaps? Now, some 50 years into a career encompassing playing with the seminal Planxty and Moving Hearts bands, together with extensive solo work, this icon of modern Irish folk music has released 24 live tracks, recorded over the past three years in 17 venues across Ireland and the UK, on two discs.
Whilst never being a particularly prolific writer, more often than not being a sympathetic, and at times innovative, interpreter of the work of others, this collection nevertheless comprises nine self-penned/trad. arr. songs along with three co-credits, (in addition to the 12 covers), in what is, to all intents and purposes a Live ‘Best Of’ collection. This release thus could be seen as an ideal introduction, or taster, (assuming that there are still people unaware of the man and his prolific output), however, those well-versed and already in possession of his music should not be put off, the high quality of the recordings and the exceptional standard of musicianship, together with variations from previously recorded studio versions make this an indispensable addition to his canon of work.
The musicians credited on this release are Christy Moore – vocals & guitar, Declan Sinnott – guitar & vocals, Jim Higgins – percussion &vocals, Máirtín O’Connor – accordion, Cathal Hayden – fiddle & banjo, Seamie O’Dowd – guitar, mandolin, harmonica & vocals, Andy Moore – vocals and Vickie Keating – vocals. All contribute greatly to the overall sound, with some sublime guitar solos from Declan being of particular note.
With such a vast repertoire at his disposal it is not surprising that differing musical styles are well-represented, and what is offered over the 90 plus minutes is as varied as an individual Moore live performance. The running order has been carefully arranged, with the music ebbing and flowing between light and shade, humour and gravity in a well-balanced way. At the risk of vastly over-simplifying, three or four broad categories might be identified over the course of the two discs.
Firstly, there are a handful of traditional songs delivered in a straightforward, traditional way, Black Is The Colour, Cliffs of Dooneen, a song that has been in his set since his very first gig in 1966, and Raggle Taggle Gypsy being good examples of this.
Performing contemporary, or near-contemporary, songs of others, Christy often elicits nuances either missing from, or different to, those of the original, thus Richard Thompson‘s Beeswing and Fairytale Of New York, the now-staple Christmas favourite made famous by The Pogues & Kirsty McColl, might not be to everyone’s taste, however sympathetic and well-meaning the delivery. One highlight, of the many on this set, must be his version Barney Rush‘s Nancy Spain, a moving interpretation, beautifully performed with a glorious fiddle solo and fine audience participation.
A third area, and one for which Moore is rightly lauded, is that of combining social history with comic satire, be that with specific reference to Ireland or beyond. It will be no surprise then to find Joxter Goes To Stuttgart, a rousing tale of the Republic of Ireland’s first foray into a European Football Tournament in 1988, (complete with a memorable win over England), appears along with Weekend In Amsterdam, where little imagination is required as to content together with the popular If I Get An Encore.
Lisdoonvarna, written to appease Rory Gallagher fans at the eponymous Festival, and Christy Hennessy‘s Don’t Forget Your Shovel also fall broadly into this category, as does his own Delirium Tremens, a paen to previous alcohol issues and having the same melody as the aforementioned Joxter, and all confirm the undoubted talent of the man.
His left of centre political and social commentary, often from an Irish Republican perspective, is more than fully in evidence here, with at least eight tracks falling under this umbrella. The opening song on the set Ordinary Man, by Peter Hames recounts the travails of an ordinary worker losing his job due to a factory closure, and would, unfortunately, seem to be as apposite now as it was when it was first written. Coincidentally this song was also the opening track on his 1985 Ordinary Man LP, although the liner notes to this release state 1987 – is this a misprint? In a similar vein, Go Move Shift by Ewan Maccoll, which concerns travellers being moved on despite the imminent birth of a baby, is delivered with passion and conviction. Such emotion is replicated in Viva La Quinte Brigada, recounting as it does the Irish who left their home country in 1936 to fight Franco and fascism in Spain. Firm live favourite, City Of Chicago, referencing the emigration of Irish to America during the famine years of the late 1840s also gets an outing here, along with the only new song to appear, Lingo Politico, written by Pat Quinn, which manages to convey barbed acerbic comments through its humour.
The 1984 Ride On album is further represented, both with Jimmy MacCarthy‘s Ride On, and Mcllhatton, which was banned after it was discovered that it was written by Bobby Sands whilst in prison. A similar outcome also befell the final track on the collection, Time Has Come, describing the last meeting of a hunger striker and his mother, and was also banned, but here it makes for a perfect bookend to the album.
In the liner notes, Moore affirms that ‘Songs need singers, singers need listeners, listeners need songs. We’re all in this circle/cycle together.’
At the time of writing, his next 27 live shows are all sold out, and on the evidence of this release, the ‘yoke’ mentioned above is indeed rhetorical. A quintessential release from a national legend.
Order On the Road here