Saturday, March 20, 2010

Erin Go Bragh: Last Call at the SMM Pub

The Waterboys: Why Look At the Moon


Mary Black: Columbus


We're nearing Last Call at the Star Maker Machine Pub - I offer up two more raised glasses of mayhem and melody to help close out this festive St. Patrick's Day week!

Mayhem comes in the form of The Waterboys - I was not familiar with them until I bought the Sweet Relief tribute, which I wrote about here... but I'm so glad I educated myself. This song immediately comes to mind any time I'm outside at night looking skyward, which is often - no matter the phase (full, half, crescent or new), I can't help but sing this to myself (and sometimes out loud, depending on my company and condition). Catchy and fun - I predict it will become an earworm for many of you as well...

Melody can't come much sweeter than Mary Black - although she doesn't write much of her own material, she is a song stylist extraordinaire. Her gorgeous voice has you believing every word - this tune is one of the most melancholy I know... and I use it as wallowing therapy when I really just need to feel something in my heart... before I move on to process it in my head...

May you have warm words on a cold evening,

a full moon on a dark night,

and the road downhill all the way to your door.

Erin Go Bragh: Hollywood

Thin Lizzy: Hollywood


Seventies hard rock icons Thin Lizzy sound so americanized in songs like classic radio staple The Boys Are Back In Town, with blazing riffs, driving drums, and stereotypically anony-metal vocal accents, it's easy to forget that bassist, primary songwriter, and lead singer Phil Lynott formed the band in his native Dublin. Late-career album Renegade, which came out in the early eighties, is not always considered the most cohesive remnant of their sound, but the core that made them famous is still there in spades in Hollywood.

Certainly, the early-era Thin Lizzy version of traditional Irish pubsong Whiskey In The Jar would seem to better befit our theme. The '73 release was, after all, their first real hit on the European charts. And adoption of a tradsong fits the founder's backstory: Lynott - born of an Irishwoman and an African-Brazillian father, and as such, one of few black men to make it in the world of hard rock - was born and died in England, but he was raised by his Irish grandparents, and always identified himself as such. But fittingly, the band itself generally disdained the cover, claiming it was not representative of their sound or their image. See if you agree.

Thin Lizzy: Whiskey In The Jar


Erin Go Bragh: The Green Blues Edition

Despite his oh-so-appropriate last name, Peter Green is not from the Emerald Isle. But a couple of Irish covers seem appropriate this week.

Rory Gallagher: Leaving Town Blues


Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher died well before his time in 1995. He sold millions of albums, but remains relatively unknown in the U.S. Like many guitarists from the British Isles who learned their craft in the late '60s, Gallagher was influenced by Fleetwood Mac founder (and Eric Clapton's replacement in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers) Peter Green.

Not long before Gallagher passed away, he recorded two tracks for Rattlesnake Guitar: The Music of Peter Green, a tribute album (and a benefit album for Wille Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation) that was released in 1997. "Leaving Town Blues" is my favorite of the two. His singing is rough but right, and his playing (on mandolin and slide guitar) is magificent.

Gary Moore: The Supernatural


Two years prior to the release of Rattlesnake Guitar, Irish blues/rock guitarist Gary Moore released his own album of Peter Green covers, Blues for Greeny. Like Gallagher, he fell under Green's spell in the late '60s. Moore spent much of the '70s and '80s playing hard rock (including a couple of stints with Irish rockers Thin Lizzy), but in the '90s, Moore returned to the blues and has since released a string of successful albums in the genre.

For Blues for Greeny, he played Green's legendary Gibson Les Paul, and with it faithfully covered ten clasics from the early days of Fleetwood Mac, plus "The Supernatural", Green's instrumental showpiece from his days with the Bluesbreakers.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Erin Go Bragh: No Mermaid

Sinead Lohan: No Mermaid


Earlier this week, our own Boyhowdy presented a cover version of No Mermaid here. He did an excellent job of introducing Sinead Lohan, so I will not repeat his comments here. Suffice it to say, her absence from the music scene is sorely felt.

The song itself presents a portrait of tension in a relationship between a risk-taking woman and a play-it-safe man. This tension is represented musically by a setting which evokes the ebb and flow of the tide. Lohan’s use of percussion particularly enhances that effect, and really puts the whole thing over.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Erin Go Bragh: Snakes/Mná na hEireann

Susan McKeown: Snakes/Mná na hEireann


Happy St. Patrick's Day to all - wishing you beer and shamrocks and corned beef and cabbage, oh my!

I have written of Susan McKeown before - she is from Dublin, Ireland and, although I do not consider myself a fan of traditional Celtic music, her style is more contemporary... and there's just something about her rich voice, layered phrasing/instrumentation and mysterious lyrics that captivate me...

The song Snakes weaves together vivid imagery of desire... plus, the lyric "gone where the goblins go" makes me think of Ding Dong!, The Witch is Dead - I also love the Gaelic chanting at the end...

I chose this photo because Susan is wearing a green sweater - Erin Go Bragh!

Erin Go Bragh: Western Culture Collector

Compulsion: Western Culture Collector


Before Garrett "Jacknife" Lee produced everyone from U2 and R.E.M. to The Hives and Weezer he played guitar in experimental punk rockers Thee Amazing Colossal Men, a merry bunch who in 1992 changed their name to Compulsion.

Western Culture Collector is in my humble little opinion the standout track from their second album The Future Is Medium, released on One Little Indian in 1996. It is a wildly uneven album with sixteen tracks ranging from Beatles-esque melodies, stomping rockers, raging punk and sonic experiments.

Western Culture Collector would fall somewhere inbetween "stomping rockers" and "raging punk" with its heavy drumming, screamed chorus and bulldozer riff. A most excellent song, one I always seemed to include whenever I made a mixtape back in the day. Especially those I made for other people whom I wished to impress with a cool track by an artist they had never heard of.

This song and a couple of others on The Future Is Medium demonstrate just what a great band Compulsion could have been if only they had focused and tried a little harder.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Erin Go Bragh: The Limerick Rake

Mick Moloney (with Eugene O‘Donnell): The Limerick Rake


Yes, I know. Music this week can be in any genre. But that doesn’t mean that traditional Irish folk shouldn’t be represented. The key is to avoid the corny pseudo folk one hears so much of this time of year. So Mick Moloney and Eugene O’Donnell strike me as an excellent choice.

Moloney grew up in County Limerick, and began his musical career there. In 1973, he moved to Philadelphia, where he remains to this day. Moloney, in addition to his music, has also made himself an expert on Irish music in the United States. His recent albums have featured songs about the immigrant experience in America, but The Limerick Rake, from 1978, presents a tour of part of Ireland in the company of a rascal.

Incidentally, I saw Moloney and O’Donnell perform this song in 1979, so my memory may be faulty. But, as I recall, the one line in Gaelic, “Agus fagaimid siud mar ata se”, roughly translates as “We must all take things as they are.”

1979 / Erin Go Bragh: Alternative Summer

It´s an easy step from last weeks theme to the current one, as two polar opposites from Northern Ireland released their excellent full-lenght debuts in 1979. Stiff Little Fingers from Belfast took the political route, commenting ferociously on all that was rotten in their troubled country. Meanwhile in Londonderry, the Undertones opted for escapism and sang perfect punkpop songs about anything but politics. Clever punters simply enjoyed both.