Various Artists – Fire Draw Near (An Anthology of Traditional Irish Songs and Music)
River Lea – October 8, 2021
Fire Draw Near – An Anthology of Traditional Irish Song and Music was released on River Lea Records (a division of Rough Trade) and is an important and commendable collection of Irish songs and melodies.
Curated by Ian Lynch, perhaps best known as a founding member and singer of Dublin-based band Lankum, the selection includes recordings spanning almost seventy years. It's a passion project for Ian in many ways. For the past few months, Ian has hosted a monthly podcast and radio show called Fire Draw Near that deals with traditional Irish music and has done extensive research on it. The anthology is a result of this project.
With an MLitt in Irish folklore and a lecture at University College Dublin on traditional music and songs, Ian is the ideal ambassador for those songs and melodies. The album comes with extensive cover notes, meticulously researched by Ian, which give a valuable insight into the selection of tracks as well as the individual artists.
Ian's knowledge and passion have resulted in the ability to select a few favorites and unique tracks for this significant collection. There are a number of rare tidbits here, as Ian notes: “This LP is a collection of thirteen rare, strange and wonderful jewels from the Irish tradition. Recorded in different parts of the country over a period of over 60 years between 1947 and 2013. They show us a strong, diverse and vibrant musical tradition in the country; one that still exists today. The settings are diverse – bars, living rooms, campsites, recording studios – as are the backgrounds of those who perform. The music of the Travelers, who leaned towards the flame of tradition while the rest of society began to lose interest, is well represented, as is styles such as Sean nós singing in Connemara, Donegal violin, uilleann piping Dublin and English language vocals are rich in ballads that are both crude and beautiful from all over Ireland. "
The collection begins with a tune from The Raineys; Paddy "Big Rainey", his brother Stephen "Spare Parts" and Paddy's wife Bridie. The Raineys were a family of travelers who busied the Connemara fairs and markets. Her rendition of the traditional song "Woman of the House" was recorded in 1956 by Tony Knowland, a visiting professor, at Freeney's Pub in Letterfrack, Connemara.
While "Woman of the House" is a short little tune of just under a minute and a half, it's a thorough introduction, the sound of the pub crowd and the general buzz of voices adding to the atmosphere. Both brothers played the violin, and Knowland noted that Paddy's bow was "strung not with horsehair but with carpet thread attached to the heel by a cotton roller nailed to it". It may have been recorded 65 years ago, but its energy and enthusiasm feel so immediate and fresh that it could easily have been recorded today.
The traveler tradition plays a major role in Fire Draw Near. Mary Doran, a traveler from Waterford, starred in When I Was In Horseback, shot at a travelers camp outside Belfast in August 1952.
Mary's song is a shortened version of "The Unfortunate Rake", with her interpretation focusing on the tragic, emotional climax of the song, the funeral of the rake.
It's a pure, unaccompanied song. Mary's rough, emotional voice draws us in with a nuance and tone that seems older than her teenage years. Taken by collector Peter Kennedy, his original notes noted that Mary Doran, Winnie Ryan & Lal Smith, 21, 22 & 23 years old, with their babies in their arms after the men had had their fill and fell asleep, take turns picking up the microphone and sing their oldest love songs in a highly decorative manner. "
Fellow traveler Johnny Doran can also be seen with his fiery role set "Colonel Fraser / My Love is in America / Rakish Paddy / The Bunch of Keys", which was recorded in 1947 at University College Dublin. It is a rare recording, in fact the only one of Johnny existing. Shortly after the recording, Johnny was paralyzed in an accident and died a few years later.
Doran was known as "the cream of the crop" and you can hear that he was a singular talent. As he develops his skills as a street musician, it is tragic that only this recording of his playing exists. Still, one also wonders how many other incredible artists found their way to trade shows and races that were never recorded.
The collection is very personal to Ian. What is the heart of the tradition? For Ian it is “family and community; It's about embodying a different state of mind and nourishing the soul during the dark seasons. It's about aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, neighbors and friends. "
The passing on of the songs is also essential, and this anthology is an important tool in this handover of the torch. Hopefully the listeners will add these songs to their own repertoire. As Ian notes growing up, “Everyone has their own song to sing and you're so young that you've never heard most of them before. People sing to the pieces they know and laugh and smile and joke when they don't. The later the night gets, the better the songs get and the faster the repartee gets. Your older cousins teach you dirty words and you're surprised that your nana tells even dirtier jokes. You laugh until you cry and then you cry until you laugh again. "
Nora Cleary's “The Codfish” is a perfect example of the Nana telling a dirty joke. Nora was in her early 50s when she recorded this at The Hand, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare in July 1976, but it sounds a lot older. It's an old song that was first printed in 1643 as "The Sea Crabb". It's a naughty story too; the earliest text sees the woman pregnant and longing for crabs. As Ian notes, it ends with a description of the creature that hangs from the woman's lower parts before grabbing the man's nose and grabbing the man's nose: "Oh," said the good man, "that always I come here came, he joined my "Tayle and my nose together."
It's also hard not to smile at John Reilly Jr.'s & # 39; The Jolly Tinker, & # 39; recorded at Co. Roscommon in 1971. As can be seen from the notes on the sleeves, Reilly was in his twenties and living in an arched tent on a bog in Cloongrehan, Cootehall, Co. Roscommon when he was picked up by collector Tom Munnelly. It's a fun song, Reilly starts with a laugh and you can hear his smile on his face as he sings. And it's contagious.
With thirteen tracks from the anthology, there's a lot to enjoy here, but Joe Holmes ’version of" The Dark-Eyed Gypsy "is a cute highlight. Recorded in the north of Ireland in 1975, it captures the fiddler, lilter and singer in a solo song, just his voice but what an evocative voice it was. Then, in his late 50s (he died in 1978), you can hear a hard life in his voice. Sometimes the singing stops, sometimes it wobbles, but the seam of youth is still there. The shine still shines.
The anthology closes with the melody "The Cat That Kittled in Jamie's Wig", played by the violinist Francie Byrne. Recorded in Kilcar in August 1983, it's a short little Strathspey, but another recording by a master violinist that may be a little overlooked today. As a side note, Ian notes that at the time of writing the sleeve notes (December 2020), Francie's widow Kitty had just died at the age of 107. She was considered the second oldest person in Ireland.
In his notes, Ian looks back on his childhood and his first introduction to tradition: “These are some of my best and earliest memories, and although it took me years to realize them, my subsequent dismantling of the seam of tradition was a search for the raw material to rediscover those magical nights. That strange, undiluted something is in the air. I still can't do it justice in words. Instead, I listened carefully and tried to relive it. The tracks I chose for this album come closest to me. Wild, but never out of control, simple in structure, but infinitely complex, sometimes gloomy, but always calming. In the music of The Raineys and Johnny Doran I feel the same unmoved energy of those nights; the same diabolical humor in the mischievous singing of Nora Cleary and John Reilly Jr .; the same tones of distilled emotion in the singing of Mary Doran and Grace Toland. It's music that speaks directly to my soul. I hope that you will find out a little bit about it yourself. "
For anyone new to or already interested in traditional music and songs, Fire Draw Near – An Anthology of Traditional Irish Song and Music is an indispensable and worthy release, but also a thoroughly entertaining, irresistible and inspiring set of Songs and melodies.
There are also several performers here that I didn't know, and one sign of the anthology's success is that it makes you want more. I will certainly be checking out Ian's podcast and looking for more footage of many of the cast on Fire Draw Near. The legacy lives on.
Pre-order Fire Draw Near: https://ffm.to/firedrawnear
Fire Draw Near album tracklist:
- The Raineys – lady of the house
- Mary Doran – When I was on horseback
- Tom Lenihan – Paddy's panacea
- Tommy Reck – The Kilfrush / The Trip to Durrow
- Frank Harte – The Discovery of Moses
- Nora Cleary – The Cod
- Joe Heaney – Amhrán na hEascainne
- John Reilly Jr – The Jolly Tinker
- Grace Toland – Flora
- Johnny Doran – Colonel Fraser, My Love Is In America, Rakish Paddy
- Luke Cheevers – Ulysses
- Joe Holmes – The Dark Eyed Gypsy
- Francie Byrne – The cat who tickled in Jamie's wig
Learn more about Ian's “Fire Draw Near” podcast: https://campsite.bio/firedrawnear
Album compiled and researched by Ian Lynch.
Compilation produced by Tim Chipping.
Artwork by Huargo.