Review

Mozaik, “The Long and the Short of It” – BOSTON IRISH REVIEW

Mozaik, “The Long and the Short of It” • This space sang the praises of Andy Irvine last month, with the recent release of his “Old Dog Long Road” retrospective. Well, here we go again, although in this endeavor he’s got plenty of company: old Planxty chum Donal Lunny, American old-timey musician Bruce Molsky, Dutch multi-instrumentalist Res van der Zalm, and Bulgarian Nikola Pirova. As Mozaik, these five have for almost two decades now been finding common ground between the Irish, Appalachian, and Balkan music traditions. And on this, the group’s third release (recorded in 2015 but only issued several months ago), they add yet another element: Greek folk music, in the person of guest vocalist Chrysoula Kechagioglou who, while only appearing on a quarter of the album’s 12 tracks, is an absolutely enchanting presence.

The sheer variety of instruments these guys play make up a small orchestra: bouzoukis, mandolins, harmonica, guitars, fiddles, five-string banjo, whistles, uilleann pipes, bodhran, and from the Balkans, the violin-like gadulka, kaval (a wind instrument) and the gaida (bagpipes). Irvine leads on four of the songs, Molsky two, adding Dublin and American voices to the mix. Not to be overlooked is another guest singer, Ágnes Herczku of Hungary, who vocalizes a Moldavian tune that leads into a dance melody (“Gyimes”). The overall effect is exotic to say the least: vintage Irish folk revival fretted-string accompaniment, old-timey/Appalachian drive, Eastern European rhythms and intervals – sometimes intertwining, other times set off against one another, but always holding together the vision of commonalities in cultures and music traditions.

In addition to fine renditions of traditional American songs “My Little Carpenter” and “Old Virginia,” Molsky holds forth on a pair of fiddle tunes, “The Black Hills Waltz” and “The Red Steer,” the latter at times resembling that great Irish reel “The Foxhunter’s.”  Irvine offers up a rather graphic whaling song from England, “The Coast of Peru,” the start of which features a Parov-van der Zalm duet on whistles that has a South American tint to it.

Irvine’s excellent songwriting is spotlighted here, too, with one of his trademark historical biographies, this time of the enigmatic, tragic Harry Houdini – who, as Irvine relates, for all his incredible feats most desired to escape from “the chains of eternity.” There’s also another in his series of memoirs from his youthful travels in Eastern Europe, “As Good As It Gets.” The song was on the album he recorded in 2017 as part of Usher’s Island (with Lunny, John Doyle, Michael McGoldrick and Paddy Glackin), but this was its earlier incarnation. It is particularly appropriate to the Mozaik repertoire, since this period of Irvine’s life was so integral to his involvement with Balkan/Eastern European music. And above all, it’s just a brilliant song – fun, playful, self-deprecating, a joyful reminiscence of being a young Irishman in the midst of overwhelming sensual wonders.

But the real gem is “Rainbow ’Mid the Willows,” Irvine’s take on an Ozark ballad sung by the legendary Arkansas singer Almeda Riddle – he wrote a couple of new verses and adapted a melody by UK musician Chris Algar. It’s a powerful tale of forbidden romance, lyrics full of intense, vivid emotions, yet Irvine and the band treat the song with a gentle poignancy.

Which sets the stage for the next track, Kechagioglou’s outstanding performance of “The Song of the Nightingale,” a traditional song from Thrace (translated, for the most part, into English) that presents as a parable on wealth and poverty. The delicacy and sensitivity of the arrangement complements Kechagioglou’s warm, engaging vocals. She’s also featured on “Like a Soft Breeze,” a setting of a poem by Napoleon Lapathiotis, duets with Molsky on “My Little Carpenter” and – in an indication of the band’s respect for her – does an a cappella solo to close out the album: “Neratzoula,” a song passed along to Kechagioglou by her grandmother who as a young woman, Kechagioglou writes in the liner notes, “was rough, ran faster than anybody else, and had the voice of an angel.”

However one might laud Kechagioglou, Irvine and Molsky on “The Long and the Short of It,” the artistry of Lunny, Parov and van der Zalm should not be overlooked. Like its namesake art form, Mozaik can be admired for both its carefully arranged and assembled individual pieces and the greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts picture it produces.  [andyirvine.com/disc/Mozaik-disc-new.html]

SOURCE: www.bostonirish.com

Boston Irish Album Review – Old Dog Long Road Vol. 1

If you haven’t already been thoroughly impressed, mesmerized or just plain gob-smacked by Irvine’s body of work over the years, then this double-CD set will do the trick; heck, you’ll appreciate it even if you’ve memorized everything in the Irvine catalogue from “As I Roved Out” to “Way Out Yonder.”

“Old Dog” comprises rare, mostly heretofore unreleased recordings – made in studios, concert halls, pubs, and even at home – dating from 1961, when he was still a promising young actor (with TV and film appearances alongside the likes of Peter Sellers and Laurence Harvey), to 2012, by which time he had established his considerable legacy not only as a gifted singer but as an innovative musician capable of integrating seemingly disparate musical genres (Irish, Balkan, American/old-timey), an astute collector and skillful arranger of traditional ballads, and an eloquent songwriter who draws on historical figures, social issues and his own life experiences.

“Old Dog, Long Road” is not a greatest hits-type compilation: There’s no “Never Tire of the Road,” “My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland,” “The Blacksmith” or “Indiana.” But you get solo versions of “Viva Zapata,” “Sweet Lisbweemore,” “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Kilgrain Hare,” certainly no less deserving of attention, as well as “King Bore and the Sandman” (taken from the “Rainy Sundays/Windy Dreams” album), which demonstrates Irvine’s well-crafted sense of humor. In addition to solo tracks, there are others that offer tantalizing glimpses of, or antecedents to, his renowned partnerships, such as with Johnny Moynihan (Sweeney’s Men), Donal Lunny (Planxty, Mozaik), Rens van der Zalm (Mozaik) and Gerry O’Beirne, Kevin Burke and Jackie Daly (Patrick Street).

One thing this album underscores is just how strongly Irvine was influenced by American folk music in his younger days – in particular Woody Guthrie, whose “upside-down” harmonica style (a welcome presence on much of “Old Dog”) Irvine learned – and how it has remained a part of his musical identity even as he explored other vistas: from the brush-style Carter Family guitar stroke, as heard on 1971 recordings of him playing Guthrie’s “Lost Train Blues” and “Dublin Lady” (which Irvine co-authored with American poet Patrick Carroll), to his renditions of “The Titanic” (recorded 2012) and Guthrie’s poignant, autobiographical “Seamen Three” (1981). A must-listen is his take on “Truckin’ Little Baby,” a Blind Boy Fuller song he taped at home in 1961 – complete with bluesy guitar accompaniment and affected American accent.

“Old Dog” is not arranged chronologically, and that’s one of its many virtues. Sure, on the one hand it would be interesting to witness Irvine’s musical development over time – how did he progress from straight-backed American-style guitar to melodic, intricate bouzouki, or from old-timey songs in 2/4 to Bulgarian tunes in 7/16 – all the while equally at home in traditional Irish instrumental music? But the non-linear sequence of tracks drives home the point that all these incarnations of Irvine, instead of being temporary destinations along the way, remain present in the man, even if some are more readily seen than others.

Besides, it makes for some fascinating and revealing juxtapositions. For instance, on the second disc there is a live track of Irvine and Zalm (on fiddle) playing “Chetvorno Horo,” displaying Irvine’s prowess on bouzouki; this is followed by an astounding home recording from 1968 of Irvine singing an American traditional song, “Reuben’s Train,” with modal, old-timey mandolin; and then a cut from “Rainy Sundays/Windy Dreams,” as Irvine (on mandolin, harmonica and hurdy-gurdy – the latter sadly gone now from his instrumentation) sings the splendid “Longford Weaver,” joined by Lunny, Frankie Gavin on fiddle and Rick Epping on jew’s harp, and segueing into a wonderful turn on the reel “Christmas Eve.”

Dedicated Irvine fans, of course, no doubt have their own wish-list of rarities they’d like to hear, and some may wonder about the absence of one prominent Irvine collaborator here: Paul Brady. It bears pointing out that “Old Dog” is in fact sub-titled “Volume 1,” and in the liner notes Irvine writes, “If this album is well received, there will be a clatter more!” Hard to imagine Volume 2 being able to meet the standard set by 1, but many of us would love to find out for ourselves. [andyirvine.com]

By Sean Smith

Andy Irvine, “Old Dog, Long Road Vol. 1”

source: www.bostonirish.com

MOZAIK: THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT – Folk Radio UK Review [2019-11-21]

MOZAIK: THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

by David Kidman 21 November, 2019