Val Cooke is your quintessential Corkman yet he has stepped beyond "the county bounds" in this contemporary arrangement of traditional songs. This giant step was both real and metaphorical when he teamed up with Kerryman Francie Conway and a host of other fine musicians to create Boss Murphys Spirit of Cork. In their own way Val Cooke and Francie Conway with The Works have given these songs and tunes a new lease of life.
Musically this album leaves a lot of baggage behind. But then what would you expect from an album teeming with experience and diversity — Finbar Furey on uileann pipes and whistles, Kevin Flynn on guitar, Gerry O'Connor on violin and banjo, bassist Martin Curry, Gerry Simpson on piano, keyboards and accordion and drummer Peter Lundgren.
This album is also full of surprises. It's hard to pick one track above another but four stand out — new arrangements of Whiskey in the Jar, An Poc ar Buile and a rivetting arrangement of The Walls of Liscarroll. And, of course, Churchtown folk in the Ballyhoura area of north Cork can shed a tear as they listen to Finbar Furey's haunting new Song for Churchtown. So, welcome to the new world. The new world of traditional songs and tunes of Cork, produced, arranged and performed by some of Ireland's greatest musicians.
Boss Murphy (1831-1911) was born in the small parish of Churchtown in north Cork. He was a tenant farmer of the Earl of Egmont (or 'ould Egmont' in the song) until he purchased the family homestead at 'The Leap' under the Land Acts of the late 19th Century. As well as a farmer, Boss and his son, were deeply interested in Irish music and both played the violin. Boss even made his own musical instruments.
In recent years, a hundred or so sheets of hand-written tunes by these two musicians were dusted down and served as the inspiration for this album.
While Boss Murphy may have been the trigger for the original idea it was Francie Conway who grabbed the concept by the neck and decided to produce an album that would change the way we listen to these songs and tunes. He knew they needed to be respected but he also knew they had to be interpreted for a new generation and a new millennium.
And so, Boss Murphy's Spirit of Cork.