Yesterday I visited the Island of Inis Oírr. The day was perfect. The Atlantic was perfectly still and the Sun shone brightly as the ferry left Doolin pier. I last visited this Island in 1972 when Planxty played there. I remember that very clearly. This time the visit was part of the ongoing film project which is based on the songs. I was there to visit the memorial stone to all those taken by the sea and to sing “The Two Conneeleys”.I simply cannot find words to describe the experience. Hopefully when the film is transmitted next spring it will capture some of yesterday’s experience.
Back in The Royal Spa Lisdoonvarna to prepare for tonight’s gig here, which is also being filmed. I hope to sing quite a few songs that don’t feature very often in performance. Declan Sinnott and Jimmy Higgins will arrive in a few hours and we’ll get cracking on the songs. I hear the crew setting up down below in preparation. It’s an exciting process.
Just finished rehearsal and soundcheck. Now it’s an hour to gig time. Trying to get some new songs into the set tonight. The stage is tight. It’s a small room and it’s to be a 5 camera shoot. Hope the crowd won’t be intimidated by the presence of film crew – hope I won’t be intimidated either! I’m happy that the work is to be marked but it’s times like now that I wish it was just an ordinary gig… Still the film crew are very laid back and focused and have not interfered with the gig so far. Fair play to them
Later…the gig was very good. Hope he gets some footage from what was a great night
Last night played a Concert for the workers from The Clery’s Lockout. We organized it with Frank Connolly of SIPTU to show solidarity with the victims of the Lockout. As Mick Blake’s song says, just coz its legal don’t mean its right…
We kicked off this UK tour in Buxton Opera House – A hidden gem of a venue in the Peak District of this great country. It’s great to be back among the neighbours who turned out in great style and numbers. I last played up around here in 1968 in various Folk Clubs scattered around the region
After Buxton we rolled down from the Peaks until we landed on The Mersey and once more into The Philharmonic Hall where a mighty gaggle of songsters gathered for the songs and music
“There was lashings a drink and wine for the ladies, potatoes and cake there was bacon and tay”
Ian Prowse was there for “This Train” and the crowd loved him for it. Janice Long was there from the BeeB; always a great supporter and always a joy to meet. My longest standing listeners Margaret and Irene were there but, as always, did not wish to intrude so I never saw them.
“They were doing all kinds of nonsensical dances, all around in a whirligigig – Jimmy, Declan and I soon banished their nonsense, out on the floor for a reel and a jig”
After the gig we swooped high over The Pennines on our way to Tyneside arriving in at 2am with a free day to loiter by The Quay. Newcastle and Sunderland were hard at it so the town was empty. Being a long standing Blythe Spartan I had little interest but Michael, our TM, was devastated by the news from Roker (I’m old fashioned).
Last night we purred at the beautiful architecture of The Sage in Gateshead – One of the great venues of the world. 1,000 faithful listeners turned up on a Monday Night and surrendered their ears to the songs. Declan had a nose bleed during the gig but never missed a note. Spancilhill had a rare outing and went down a treat
After supper we galloped out the Scotswood Road, on out through Hexham astride Hadrian’s Wall, turning right at Carlisle we cantered on up to Glasgow where I pen these few words this lovely Autumn Morning
October 31st – Cairnryan Ferry Port.
Its 4 hours since we played the last song at Barrowland. It was a stunning gig for us. Perhaps my 10th time to play the old venue. This occasion surpassed all expectation. With the full house gone up a week in advance the room was rammed with loyal listeners. From the off we were all in the zone. Starting with “Come all you Dreamers” at 8.05 we wrapped it up 2 hours later with “Sonny’s Dream”. I have never before experienced audience participating to this degree. Almost every song in the 28 song set was harmonised, chorused and celebrated but great silence descended when required for the quieter songs. We sang for Paddy Hill and MoJo (Miscarriage of Justice Organisation) and all 2,000 voices joined in on “Scapegoats”. We played (not in this order)
Come all you dreamers
No Time for Love
Blackjack County Chains
Galtee Mountain Boy
Black is the Colour
Lakes of Pontchartrain
Sleep out on The Beach
Smoke & Whiskey
Rory is gone
City of Chicago
Back Home in Derry
North & South
Having been rewarded an encore we came back out and took our seats as the crowd chanted enthusiastically. After what seemed an age I attempted to sing “The Time Has Come”. I set off in the wrong key and approaching the high notes realized I was doomed. Stalling the digger I admitted my error to the audience, most of whom were singing the song with me.Their response was totally forgiving – They simply started their paradise chant again … Earlier, in the dressing room, I received a presentation from The Barrowlands Committee. It’s a new initiative to honour those who have contributed to the ongoing History of this great venue. The song myself and Wally Page wrote earned me this plaque.
We are on the ferry now and soon as the anchor is hauled we’ll be on our way to Belfast and then South to Dublin. Its 4am and the tour is done … Thank you all.
Back again on home turf with my family. After 10 days on the move through hotel rooms, concert halls, soundchecks, rehearsals, cars, buses, vans ,trains and gigs (with the occasional Rogan Josh) it was pure joy to come through the front door and be greeted by loved ones. The first pot of calming brew is very settling as we catch up on household events and swap yarns from our time apart. Home Sweet Home. Blessed and Privileged to be a part.
Here I am arais arís in The County Meath, home place of our dear Mother Nancy Power (1919-1992).She grew up on the Banks of The River Boyne near the Village of Yellow Furze. I was always attracted to the name of the place when Mammy spoke of her childhood days. I still have some cousins nearby in Stackallen. My grandfather Jack Power came from Hayestown and married Ellie Sheeran of The Cotton Mills circa 1916. I have always felt the Meath connection. My Godmother Maeve Laffan also came from Beauparc. She and Nancy remained close friends for all of their years and I could not have had a better Godmother. Whatever about her spiritual duties Maeve always welcomed me to her home and never forgot important dates. The card would always arrive with the red ten shilling note!
A good turn out in The Headfort Arms, Kells last night. I played here before in 2003 and 1981. I clearly recall the 1981 gig for it was during the Hunger Strike of that year. The gig was part of the Anti-Block campaign and the guest speakers Goretti McDonnell whose Husband Joe was soon to die on day 63 of his Hunger Strike. Many of last nights audience were not born back then, others among us will never forget those dark days.
Last night we introduced some new songs. Mandolin Mountain, Oblivious and The Tuam Beat are making their way into the set. We also played Scapegoats after its resounding outing in Glasgow last week. It feels like we are playing well, Jimmy Higgins has tightened us up with his rock solid percussion and Declan and I now have a more solid groove in which to rattle the auld ramalama and roll along with the boogaloo… you know yourself
How often did we travel slowly through Newtownmountkennedy down the years? Before by-passes and Motorways were opened, the main road to the Sunny South-East wound its way through the main Street of this Wicklow Town. Having waited 70 years to play a gig in N T M K Y we were welcomed royally last to The Garden County. Never known to be a regular gig county, Wicklow has bucked that trend in recent months with 2 fine gigs…Kilruddery was a funky groove and tonight was perfect for a windy November Night as Abigale rattled the slates and we 3 did our best to stay in tune with the passing storm. New songs are slipping into the set as we prepare to record the next collection. We had a lively crowd in from near and far. Hilary came from The Kingdom, Lar was out from The Rock, and Adam came all the way from Arklow. The Curator of the Box Set (1964-2004) was also present in the room. His ears may have popped coming through “The Glen of The Downs” for he spoke later of hearing pedal steel during the set. The only time I ever sang to pedal steel was back in 1979. Back then, Jimmy Faulkner and I were driving through Castleblayney when Jimmy remarked that Basil Hendrix, that legend on Pedal Steel, was living in the Monaghan town and had a studio there. I did a quick handbrake turn in the old Peugeot 404 diesel and before you could say Bo Diddley we were recording a song in Basil’s studio. It was all done, mixed and dusted in 2 hours and featured subsequently on that rarest of recordings, the 1979 12”Anti-Nuclear album. (not too many possess that one!) After NY we tracked the Wicklow Mountains crossing many rivers til we rived into Maryboro where the whole process was to begin yet one more time.
Martin Egan has passed from this life. He will be missed. I first met him when he followed Planxty to Innis Mór in 1972 (along with Mary Coughlan).A few years later we connected again in The Meeting Place, Dorset St, Dublin. We became friends. Martin was a very special man who endured many setbacks in life but laughter was never far from his lips. He wrote and sang songs and poems; he painted and also wrote plays. He ranted and railed against injustice but also calmed and soothed the oppressed and depressed. He was a wild man in his heyday and we rollicked together betimes. A great friend and comrade in later years when we both found a different path. He reached out to many and helped us with his compassion and wisdom. He never shied away from the hard ball, he’d pull on it and drive it straight back. There was never a dull moment in the company of Martin A. Egan. The world is a quieter and darker place since Martin’s flame went out.
Here in Tullamore, County Offaly, reuniting with the Trad Outfit. Jim Higgins won’t be with us – he’s laid up for a few days but hopefully will be back in jig time.
We played the final gig of 2015 in Galway last Saturday. 72 gigs this year and, to the best of my memory I enjoyed every one of them. I also spent many days filming with Mark McLoughlin for the forthcoming Documentary “Journey” which will be shown on RTE 1 next Spring. I also filmed a documentary with The High Hopes Choir directed by David Brophy that will be shown on RTE this month. I recorded “Quiet Desperation” and “Fairytale of New York” with the choir. This is for release anytime soon. I recorded a documentary for RTE Radio on the Life and songs of Ewan MacColl which is due for broadcast around Jan 1st. I was scheduled to commence recording the next album this week but this was postponed when Jimmy Higgins took ill. Thankfully he is now on the mend and making a full recovery. We will reschedule as soon as he is back behind the traps
Thank you for all your good wishes and greeting over the Christmas and New Year. It has not been possible to reply to you all individually. I wish all songsters, linnets, 4711ers and friends all the best for 2016. Hopefully, we will be united in song… We will commence work on the next album in early January. If all goes according to plan it will be released in The Spring.
February 28th 2016.
Wishing all our Listeners a Happy New Year… I have been rehearsing, recording, and mixing the next basket of songs. Gigging has re commenced. I have just played 6 gigs with The Trad Outfit. We finished in The Opera House in Cork last Saturday night. I’ve not had time to chat these past months. This one may seem a bit erratic and disjointed, but what matter – judging from feedback, the chats are reaching decreasing numbers as social media develops onto other platforms, but I appreciate those of you who take the time to respond.
See you later.
PS … A little light reading …
Browsing the net I came across this article written by Bent Sorenson some years back. The subject of his study was an album called “Listen” which I recorded in 2008 – Thanks to Hilary Scanlon for pointing it out. I was intrigued to read such an analysis of my work. I labour long and hard (willingly and enjoyably) over these collections. To find such a searching and in depth study was both surprising and very rewarding. It’s a treat when people engage with the work like this. They reveal dimensions I never imagined. Click HERE to read the piece. Thank you Bent Sorenson, wherever you may be … should you read this, get in touch – it would be nice to say hello
On we go, heel to the toe…