Johnny Boy — I met Gary Moore briefly when he came to a Planxty gig in Cecil Sharpe House, London in 1972. We met again at Jimmy Faulkner's Memorial Concert in the Olympia Dublin in 2008. We did not know each other, but I have long since loved his soulful music. A true Master of his instrument, his playing is simply beautiful; his memory lives on. I spent a long night last year listening to Gary Moore's legacy. Late that night this song appeared, a simple, soothing, soulful ballad. It evokes different emotions, recalls different events in my own life. Johnny Boy creates a space that any listener can inhabit.
Clock Winds Down — Jim Page arrived at Carnsore Point, County Wexford in 1978. He came with the dawn and left on the wind, leaving a basket of good songs in his wake. Some of us sang them. (I sang "Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette" on the 1981 album Moving Hearts). Last time Jim showed up was at a gig in City North, County Meath in March 2020 (my last gig before lockdown). Afterwards we shared a few songs over strong tea — that's when I first heard "Clock Winds Down". The inevitable happened. I wanted to cover Jim's song. He gave me the nod. I've messed it around a bit, juggling lines and verses, but Jim is a patient man and the song will always be his.
Greenland — I've previously recorded two Paul Doran songs, "Natives" back in 1987 and "The Gardener" in 2016. I fell beneath the spell of Greenland when Paul shared it with me last year. It took months for me to find my way into this landscape. The melody stretches to the upper and lower limits of my vocal range but I was determined to sing Greenland. Not since "Lord Baker" have I been so transfixed by a song, 'floating on a picture of the sky'. An extra pleasure to sing this song with my son Andy.
Flying into Mystery — Previously recorded as "Sixteen Fishermen Raving" back in 2005, I first heard Wally sing this in The Cobblestone, Dublin in 1999. I played it in last year's lockdown sessions and again at a streamed gig from Vicar St. Dublin. Since then the song has gained greater popularity and newfound interest. A different version 16 years later. My hairy ears seem to detect variations in the timbre of this ancient voice box. Perhaps this 76 year old instrument gains fresh intonation from the experience and the trauma of recent events. (Pseud's Corner here we come). I still carry my own caul. Safely tucked in my breast pocket alongside a double-michelle-pfizer- vaccination-passport.
Gasún — This beautiful song was sent to me by Tom Tuohy. I recorded his "Honda 50" some years back. Two songs that illustrate the diversity of his writing. Tom has flown from the boglands of sweet Kildare and now resides with his family somewhere over on the European mainland. While Gasún is laden with the hopelessness and despair of homelessness, other elements appear in its short verses. I hope Tom continues to write and record. Every time I hear from him, his music has developed, his skills advanced, yet he remains a Bog Man to his very core. Ride on Tom Tuohy.
All I Remember — Previously recorded with Moving Hearts in 1981, Mick Hanly's opening verse brings me right back to my first day in infant school (Sept 1949). Sister Philomena sought to comfort us with Honey Bees. Sister Rose lurked in the background. Those Brides of Jesus were primed to prepare us for the 15 years of doctrine and programming that were to follow. Patrician Brothers and Dominican Priests continued the process, some with decency and kindness, others with violence and frustrated intolerance. Some of us slipped the net, others took the cloth, some lived on blissfully, a few unfortunates took the high jump or made for the river. Mick well describes elements of our early lives as we grew up in a culture that was tightly controlled by the power from Rome. Over the past 10 years Jim Higgins repeatedly called for this song at sound checks. It began to drift back into the set list. He remembers seeing the sleeve of the 1981 Moving Hearts single in his father's record store (Music City, Shop St. Galway).
And still they keep on ringing the bell.
December 1942 — I thank Ricky Lynch for sharing his song with me. It is a privilege to have been given the opportunity to sing it. I dedicate this recording to Tomi Reichental. Tomi's lifelong dedication is an inspiration. For decades now he has been commemorating the six million Jews murdered by Nazi Fascists in the Holocaust of 1939-1945. Tomi's life story is well described in his book I Was a Boy in Belsen (O'Brien Press). I recommend it. Ricky Lynch is an artist at the heart of the Cork music scene for many years. He sings, writes, paints and nurtures the live music scene in his native city.
Van Diemen's Land — I played Waterson's Folk Club in Hull in 1968. Later, Mike Waterson sang this song for me. A unique and influential singer, Mike was a member of the Watersons. Their sound still reverberates around this poor old head. Verse 6 always gets me. Earlier verses describe miscarriages of justice, slavery, savage cruelty and terrible exploitation but the heart-breaking loneliness of Rosanna from Wolverhampton has kept me singing this song for over 50 years. I recorded it once before in the 1970s. There are many different versions of Van Diemen's Land. One which has a Tipperary setting. I sometimes get to sing this song in the Góilín Singers Club. It lifts off when 80 singers join in the chorus and harmonise with gusto.
The Bord na Móna Man — What more can I say. Growing up we were surrounded by Turf; "cuttin it, footin it, clampin it together, bringing home the turf no matter what the weather" - Luka. Those great black sods would glow in the hearth all the year round, centre point of the Dowling household. Thousands came to harvest the black loam. It fuelled the nation, but like all good things it has (almost) come to an end. I still love to walk the bog.
Myra's Caboose — I arrived into Miltown Malbay, County Clare in the winter of 1964. It was there I met the Uilleann piper Willie Clancy. Seeing a guitar, Willie asked me did I know "Liverpool Lou", a Dominic Behan song then riding high in the charts. I sang and Willie backed me beautifully on his legendary chanter. Sadly (or gladly) there was not a single smart phone in the house. Later in the night he sang this song which is known locally as "The Gander". It has always remained with me and resurfaced in recent lockdown times. I always felt that Myra was overlooked in the narrative and decided to re-name the song. I imagine an old railway carriage repurposed as a trailer and parked in verdant forest. A rambling House where Myra and Bill were the most welcoming of hosts.
Zozimus and Zimmerman — We've been attending Zimmerman gigs for over 40 years. We've been singing Zozimus songs even longer. Valerie and I have long since followed Bob whenever given the opportunity. Nights at the National Stadium, RDS, The Point, Vicar Street, Slane, Kilkenny, Finsbury Park come to mind, but best of all was that night in Slattery's of Capel Street, Dublin when he got up and played with Myself and Wally. Disguised in his suit of Pearly King, no one recognized him nor realised the significance of the moment. He's been on our case ever since. You can't get too much of a good thing. Last time he busted his skull off a gable wall at the end of a top shelf stagger.
Zozimus — Michael J. Moran (c.1794-3 April 1846), popularly known as Zozimus, was an Irish street singer.from The Liberties. He wrote, among others: "Praise of Poitín", "The Twangman", "Finding of Moses", "Pharoah's Daughter", "The Night Before Larry was Stretched", "St. Patrick Was a Gentleman" (this list is neither precise nor complete). We await correction.
Zimmerman, Song and Dance Man (still delivering the goods) "Whack Fol de Diddle", "Ar Fol de Dol Doh", "Toora Loora Loo", and "Wid Me Toorim Minya" etc.