read the full interview over on hotpress.com
read the full interview over on hotpress.com
read the full interview over on hotpress.com
Rather fatuously billed on the CD sleeve as “the ultimate global stringband”, Mozaik are Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Bruce Molsky (USA), Rens Van Der Zalm (Holland) and Nikola Parov (Hungary), and this album was recorded live in Brisbane two years ago with the lads playing 18 instruments between them. The recording quality thankfully captures all the rapture of a terrific gig.
As with anything Irvine and Lunny get up to, there are exhilarating tracks here (‘Sandansko Oro’, ‘Mechkin Kamen’) in the kind of Eastern European time-signatures that would move your pocket calculator to meltdown. ‘Pony Boy’ boasts some terrific fiddle duetting from Molsky and Van Der Zalm, and serves as a handsome build-up to Irvine’s gritty vocals on his own zestful ‘Never Tire Of The Road’. The versions of both ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me’ and the complex ‘Smeseno Horo’ stand comparison with the Planxty covers of yore.
The latter is a veritable stringfest, with Parov’s kaval going head to furious head with the instruments of Lunny and Irvine. But perhaps the most touching of the material is Irvine’s heartfelt tribute to the legendary Willie Clancy in ‘My Heart’s Tonight In Ireland’.
The quintet on this performance may not be as pioneering as Lunny’s short-lived Coolfin project, but their unquestionable virtuosity and sheer joy in playing together makes this a memorable memento of what must have been a live gig to remember.
According to legend, the term “World Music” was apparently coined by a group of record label marketing executives at a dinner held somewhere in London sometime in the mid-1980s. However, if such an event ever took place, none of those present could possibly have envisaged the existence of a band like Mozaik, even in their wildest brandy-fuelled, post-prandial deliberations.
For Mozaik, dear reader, is that rarity, a truly international band which consists of the London-born of mixed Scots/Irish parentage Andy Irvine, Kildare alumnus Dónal Lunny, American old-timey fiddler and banjo player Bruce Molsky, Dutch multi-instrumentalist Rens van der Zalm and the similarly skilled Hungarian Nikola Parov. Add to that brew Irvine’s well-documented affection for the music of the Balkans and all manner of quirky time signatures and the fact that the Powerhouse in question is in Brisbane, Australia and those marketing executives would be chortling into their glasses and calling for trebles all round.
It was Andy Irvine, of course, who was behind the original Mosaic (presumably, someone else now has the licence for the name) which first appeared after the final break-up of Planxty in 1983 and featured, alongside Dónal Lunny and uilleann piper Declan Masterson, and various European musicians.
That band never recorded, but thankfully this one has, though the concerts from which this album are drawn took place in March 2002. Nevertheless, a recent conversation with Andy revealed his desire for the album to achieve some recognition and, on the evidence provided, you’d be well advised to take heed.
One of the attractions of Planxty was the band’s never to be replicated line-up of instruments – uilleann pipes plus the various stringed instruments of Irvine and Lunny and the bodhrán of Christy Moore – and this is equally where Mozaik’s innate attractions lie. Apart from Andy’s occasional harmonica and Nikola’s whistle and clarinet, this is very much a string driven band (though any connection with the lamentable 1970s UK progressive band String Driven Thing should be firmly avoided). Like Planxty, Mozaik seem to be masters of all they survey, although it’s a substantially different landscape – one in which they can move from Aegean Macedonia (Suleman’s Kopanitsa, in the extraordinary time signature of 11/16) to Bruce Molsky’s Tennessee-inspired version of The Rocky Road to Dublin which itself segues into a wild Kentucky breakout, with Nikola’s whistle blowing hell for leather, on Indian Ate the Woodchuck. And from there it’s off to a Dutchman, Rens, playing a Rumanian tune on the fiddle which Andy once heard on a tour of Italy with the Breton band Gwerz!
If this all sounds as though musical passports are an essential requirement, fear ye not! Every listening unearths gems which possess an inherent commonality, but it’s Andy’s songs which, ultimately, provide the coat peg on which this truly international and thoroughly enjoyable musical exploration can hang its hat (and, as Marvin Gaye wrote, “Wherever I hang my hat is my home”).
So amidst all the musical exploration there’s a wonderful reading of A Blacksmith Courted Me and perhaps everybody’s favourite Irvine composition, My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland “in the time of Sweeney in the sweet County Clare”, to which Dónal adds Robinson County, learnt from Pumpkinhead, and Bruce finales with a splendidly exuberant Trip to Durrow. Then there’s the Macedonian song Mechkin Kamen and a stirring tribute to Woody Guthrie – Never Tire of the Road.
Naturally, the album has to include the tune with which Planxty opened ears to Eastern Europe, Smeseno Horo (in a bizarre mix of 15/16 and 9/16 signatures) and the CD aptly closes with an evocative clarinet-led rendition of the Hungarian tune The Last Dance.
All told, this is a stunning confection and an extraordinary collaboration which should be valued and cherished. More treble brandies all round!
No Disco pay homage to groundbreaking Irish post-trad band Planxty in an hour long special (tonight, Wednesday, March 5th, N2, 11.50pm)
In not-so-typical No Disco stylee, tonight’s hour’s-worth of unknown televisual pleasures takes the unlikely form of an hour-long Planxty special.
“On tonight’s No Disco, we pay very special homage to Planxty, one of the great groundbreaking and rule-breaking bands of Irish musical history,” explains Cork’s redoubtable disco-free massive in a press release this morning. (hmm, maybe it IS “typical No Disco” after all)
“Featuring exclusive interviews with three of the original members – Andy Irvine, Christy Moore and Liam Og O’Flynn – we trace their formation in Prosperous, Co. Kildare in 1971, right through their glorious first period, taking in stunning live performances and TV appearances from the RTE archive, as well as the various lineup changes, business mishaps and landmarks, the 1978 reformation, following the ongoing saga to this very day. The program also features performances from Planxty’s ’70s contemporaries such as Paul Brady and the Bothy Band.”
Even more enticingly, non-Planxty guest interviewees on tonight’s programme – that is, Planxty fans with whom hotpress.com readers might just be extremely familiar – include David Kitt, Richie Egan (The Redneck Manifesto), Jimi Goodwin (Doves) and Colm Mac An Iomaire (the Frames).
“The program is not intended as a definitive Planxty documentary by any means,” the ND boys add, “but is merely No Disco’s perspective on one of the most influential and joyous bands of music makers this country has ever seen or heard.”
Tonight’s No Disco Planxty special airs at the later-than-usual time of 11.50pm (N2), just after the Meteor Awards. Synchronise VCRs, peops…
Short of The Smiths burying the hatchet anywhere other than firmly in between their respective shoulder blades, I generally don’t approve of bands reforming and screwing their fans one last time to top up their pensions. More often than not, what ensues is a sub-standard offering – take the recent shambolic Pogues Christmas karaoke. To put it mildly, I am underwhelmed at the prospect of catching Planxty, the privilege of which is costing me 65 euro (including the outrageous Ticketmaster charges?deep breaths, deep breaths). Still I have promised an exiled friend home for the holidays, so it is off to the Point with me.
As a general rule, I have a fondness for all genres of music, but as with jazz and blues, I usually enjoy trad for about fifteen minutes before I grow weary. As Planxty take to the stage, the crowd of a couple of thousand is attentive to the Point of being able to hear a pin drop – a complete atmosphere bypass, so all of the omens for an enjoyable night are bad. And then the music starts. The first thing of note is that the sound is absolute perfection, probably the best I’ve heard at a gig; precisely balanced, particularly in ensuring that Liam O’Flynn’s pipes do not drown out the delicate string playing. Christy Moore takes us through instant crowd pleasers of ‘The Good Ship Kangaroo’ and ‘Little Musgrave’ with Donal Lunney and Andy Irvine’s intricate mandolin and bouzouki complimenting each other beautifully. O’Flynn chips in with some excellent pipe and tin whistle and Christy is at his understated best, clearly relishing not being the centre of attention.
The first real show stopper of the night is O’Flynn’s rendition of the ‘Dark and Slender Boy’, an air that showcases the power and depth of harmonies a master player can extract from the pipes. As the songs roll on, you can only sit there and appreciate that you are listening to four musicians who if anything have only got better as time has passed. The fragility the years have brought to Irvine’s voice only adds to the charm. The tunes are timeless and their execution exemplary.
At the close, the Planxty standards of ‘The West Coast of Clare’ and ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy Rose’ bring the house down – two hours have passed in the blink of an eye. It has been thoroughly captivating. The encore includes Andy Irvine’s recently penned ‘O’Donoghues’ a reminiscence on their heyday when you couldn’t get arrested for playing this sort of music. I can only take it all back. Planxty have been worth every penny. They are masters of their craft and who could begrudge them their day in the sun having each spent thirty years championing this music.
You know, it would be easy to consider Planxty a little naff. They play a mix of folk and trad, sing songs about the ‘West Coast Of Clare’ with lyrics that mention shillelaighs and were entertaining your parents before many of you were even born. But Planxty are much more than just a sentimental relic of the past…
You know, it would be easy to consider Planxty a little naff. They play a mix of folk and trad, sing songs about the ‘West Coast Of Clare’ with lyrics that mention shillelaighs and were entertaining your parents before many of you were even born.
But Planxty are much more than just a sentimental relic of the past, and it was perhaps the fact that it was No Disco’s premier indie boffin Leagues O’Toole who made the docu which lead to their reunion that made many in the younger generation sit up and take notice. Last year’s triumphant run of sold-out Planxty reunion shows in Vicar St. earned such a reception that the trad supergroup were bound to do an encore, which materialised recently in the shape of yet another run of packed concerts.
This time The Point was the venue for the veteran folk collective to weave their spell, and when Christy Moore prompts the assembled throng by describing how the crowd on the group’s first reunion night sang along to every word of ‘Cliffs Of Doneen’, the audience responds accordingly, providing perhaps the most spine-tingling moment of the evening.
This is about as far away from souvenir shop Irish muzak as it is possible to get. You go to a Planxty gig and not only do you get a whole world of balladry and songs opened to you, it comes with a compelling history lesson as well. Some groups pillage the ’60s for inspiration. These guys at times go back to the 1760s, but breath life into the songs by the vigour with which they play them.
The musicianship is simply incredible. Indeed, when Liam O Flionn starts blowing on the uileann pipes the other three look almost as mesmerized as the rest of us, providing the core around which Moore, Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine weave their guitars, mandolins, bouzoukis and bodhráns in different rhythms. He’s also the main wisecracker, going on about the “erotic experience of the double bodhran intro”, although all of them pipe up with a joke or story at one stage or another, the audience hanging on every word.
And when Christy relates the background to one song, when the four of them were in a pub and heard “songs we’d never heard before, and time stood still for a few hours”, you know exactly what he’s talking about.