Larry Kirwan of Black 47 has  the history of Irishmusic beautifully written

Larry Kirwan of Black 47 has the history of Irishmusic beautifully written


I recently got a copy of a new book by Larry Kirwan of the famed Black 47. The book is titled A History of Irish Music. It is one of those books you would grab if you are a music history fanatic. Or if you are just a casual music lover who happens to share a love for Irish music, then this one is for you too! I think I love this book for both its educational merits and its prose. And you will find out more in this interview as you read Larry Kirwan’s witty answers.
1. Why did you write this book?

Black 47 toured constantly from the announcement of disbanding in Sept. 2013 to the actual final date in Nov. 2015. Because we were going back to a lot of places we’d played over the years my memory was stirred, with the result that a lot of thoughts of growing up in Ireland and the various types of music I’d heard back there came to the fore. These memories were all fresh, so I decided to write them down and put them in a narrative form – a history of what I’d seen and experienced. I also wanted to tie in the social and political changes that had occurred in Ireland and the diaspora, and tie them in with the music that had been created in tandem. Since I was both political and a musician, I thought I had a pretty unique perspective on the times and wished to share that with other people.
2. Was it a challenging experience putting everything together: lyrics, references etc?

Not really, since I could choose whatever subjects and songs I liked. The real problem was with photographs. I had intended to illustrate the book with old prints but found that it was hard to get the rights to many of them. Even when I possessed photos I wasn’t always sure who took them; and even when I was, many of the photographers were either dead or retired. I didn’t want to use their work without permission, so in the end chose not to use any images. A shame! But there’s talk of the book being turned into a documentary, and if that happens I’ll update the work and add photos then.
3. You discussed at length the Travellers and I think that part about a tall man singing his heart out gave me goosebumps. It’s beautiful!

Thank you. It’s very kind of you to say so. I was never less than aware that that particular memory was precious, young though I was. Music was interwoven in the lives of the travellers and the Wexford townies of that time. Everyone sang and I was very aware of the specialness of the moment as it was occurring. Of course, I wasn’t thinking in terms of writing about it so many years later. It was more like experiencing the Irish scene in the Bronx in the 70’s and 80’s – I knew no one else was likely to write about it in detail – and eventually I did in the novel, Rockin’ the Bronx. I wrote a play that detailed my early life back in Wexford – The Poetry of Stone – it was only produced once. I’ve been thinking of turning it into a short novel, purely for my own enjoyment. I hope to get to it in the next couple of years. The Wexford of that time is very clear and luminous to me still. My grandfather is the main character in the play – he drank in Kielty’s – the pub outside which I heard the tall man singing. It’s now called Mary’s Bar and I drink in it when I go to Wexford It’s still unique and has much the same aura as back in my grandfather’s time.
4. You wrote in a style that reads like a song. Was this intentional?

No, not at all. But I guess my life has been so tied in with music that such a thing could happen effortlessly. Also remember I wrote the book as Black 47 was coming to an end. That obviously provoked some strong thoughts, so I’m not surprised that they were coated in an elegiac, if redemptive, manner. I’ve always written prose and plays in a musical fashion. For that matter, all of James Joyce’s work moves to a very defined musical beat. Oddly enough, although incredibly beautiful and insightful, I don’t catch that same strong inner musical pulse in the writing of W.B. Yeats – much as he wished to be a songwriter.
5. What’s next for A History of Irish Music?

Jesus, I really don’t know. I didn’t really plan much of a promotion for the book. What with Black 47 disbanding and my time being taken up with musical theatre and solo work, I’ve orphaned the book. But it already seems to be getting a life of its own. The subject isn’t going away and it’s a good read for those new to Irish music or others who need some gaps plugged. People seem to be enjoying it. And I enjoyed writing it and reliving some of the past. I’m not sure I would ever have written it if I wasn’t the host/producer of Celtic Crush on SiriusXM Radio. I do that weekly three hour show without notes and in an improv fashion, so my memory is jogged – sometimes brutally – every Saturday morning.

6. Will there be another book in a not so distant future?

Yes. It’s a novel called A Raving Autumn. It’s a mystery set in the years after 9/11. I’ve purposely not published it as it was all a bit painful. But I think I’m ready for it now. It may be the best thing I’ve written – I certainly hope so. Oddly enough, earlier today I made a mental decision to go with a September 2016 release date. Hopefully, I’ll stick with that.

7. What’s your message to your readers?

I don’t really have one. I basically write for myself. You spend so much time writing a play or a book that you have to be totally invested in it. In the end, though, I’m just telling a story – hopefully one that is both entertaining and uplifting. Which reminds me of the one rule in Malachy McCourt’s legendary saloon, The Bells of Hell in Greenwich Village.

Thou Shalt Not Bore! I guess I still live by that dictum with regard to my writing.

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much I did putting everything together. It is always a treat having Larry on board. My big thanks to Anita Daly for arranging this interview!

You can buy the book here:

Get your copies of The Widening Gyre by Altan now!

Get your copies of The Widening Gyre by Altan now!

The title The Widening Gyre appeals to us and depicts the spiral of life, widening and embracing the new. It has an innate energy. We think that idea is reflected in the album’s music,” says Mairéad.

Every Altan release is defined by craft and experience. The Widening Gyre is no exception. It just goes to prove that Altan continues to feel the excitement and growth of their music after being together for so many years. Batch mates include Clannad and the Domhnaill siblings (and you see them together in concerts and tours occasionally). Maggie’s Pancakes is the first single off The Widening Gyre which was presented on the RTE One sessions. The music is irresistible which is something that Altan have given us through the years. I have read so many positive reviews and my newsfeed is flowering with links posted by fans of the band.altan-widening-gyre-600

At the centre of this artistic band is the fiddler extraordinaire Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh. I follow her on social media not solely for her talent but also for her advocacy. She is a staunch supporter of causes that matter in Ireland and the world. She is really outspoken with her beliefs. Traditional Irish musicians have been pigeonholed as people who are just mainly concerned with the stye of music that they’re playing – which is reasonable given the kind of discipline that goes to the mastery of the instruments. But this revelation proves that the traditional music community is constantly evolving comprising of people who are forward thinkers and visionaries. It is a great genre with great people around it.

So if you have not yet gotten your copy of The Widening Gyre by Altan, you better get one! The music will embrace you and keep you happy through troubled times.

Moxie have started a fundit campaign to make their debut album in January / Febuary

Moxie have started a fundit campaign to make their debut album in January / Febuary

The guys in the band Moxie have been making sparks around Irish music traditional scene with their exciting style. It combines jazz,bluegrass, world, rock and traditional Irish tunes. The result is a sound that’s really unique with exuberance. One example is their track Spike the Island Lassies:

They already released their EP in 2012. They wowed the crowd, gained enthusiastic following and even a nod from Kevin Crawford of Lunasa. In fact he has this to say about their debut EP:

This is a stunning debut from five of the best musicians on the scene today; the fact that they are so young is both frightening and inspirational too. I find myself for some reason comparing this EP in terms of instrumentation, virtuosity, rhythmical interplay etc to Béla Fleck’s eponymous album “Drive” which changed my perception of what “Bluegrass” music was supposed to sound like and would not be one bit surprised if Moxie has a similar affect on some people’s perception of “Irish music”. Their sound is sophisticated, slick and adventurous yet exciting, full of fun and overflowing with fresh ideas. Moxie’s unique approach is both melodically and rhythmically addictive; surprises lurk around every corner in the form of instrument and metre changes combined with intelligent and well executed arrangements. I’m very excited by the music Moxie are making and look forward to hearing a lot more from them in the years to come” – Kevin Crawford (Lúnasa)

Now the debut albums is going to happen and this will further showcase their potential that’s already evident in the debut EP.

If you want to help just go to the fundit link:

Escape by Éalú

About the band:

”  Dynamic quartet who play Irish traditional music with a twist”.

Band members:

Ryan Murphy- Uilleann Pipes, Flute, Saxophone.

Cillian King- Concertina, Guitar, Banjo, Vocals.

Francis Ward- Piano.

Dermot Sheedy- Bodhrán, Drums, General Percussion.

Genre: Traditional,Folk, Acoustic, Jazz

Hometown: Limerick


Sample tracks:

That’s the Life


Getting Jiggy


You can buy Escape from the official website of the band.


As the title of the album suggests, listening to Éalú is an escape from the ordinary into the exciting world of colors and textures created by sounds encompassing Jazz, Celtic and Dance music. Escape, the debut album is now out. The cover artwork depicts splashes of paint against a dark brick wall. Each member brings his own style into the mix. For instance, the often times haunting piano intro of Francis Ward creates that calming balance to the driving percussion of Dermot Sheedy. Ryan Murphy’s stunning command of the uilleann pipes, flute, whistles and even saxophones are all complemented by the rich vocals of Cillian King who also plays the concertina and guitar.

Songs like San Francisco Bay Blues stick with me because of its 20’s jazz appeal. Cillian here sounds like a cross between Harry Connick jr and Marti Pellow of Scottish band Wet Wet Wet. Catch the Wind (originally done by Donovan)has that breezy acoustic guitar strumming and epic singing that stays with you like a glimpse to the best moments of your life. Marion McLean of Eoligary is stunning with its simplicity and grace. That’s Life is so beautifully done that it makes you wish you sound like Cillian King when you sing! The album closes with the stunning Hale-Bop that showcases what makes Éalú the cream of the crop among young Irish bands today.

The High Kings August US Tour 2010 Plus Clannad’s Old Video from 1990

Hi guys. As always, our musical culture is alive and exciting. It is really great being alive in this generation , to see things happening and taking off. What I love about what I do is that , I am part of the pieces that make up the whole. Writers, painters, photographers and collectors are all part of the scene. We keep this culture alive. Without your help then this will not go on. So let us give ourselves a happy dance and check out for more news. I urge you to blog about the music you are passionate about, discuss it to people, write about it and play it in public. It is a treat to greet the day with passion .

Now for the news….


August 2010 US Tour

New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and St. Paul

The High Kings –Martin Furey, Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy and Darren Holden – exploded onto the folk scene in Ireland in 2008 with their self titled CD and DVD and quickly achieved platinum sales status there. Since then, they have become the most exciting Irish ballad group to emerge since The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem electrified the worldwide folk revival of the 1960s. The High Kings have revived a flagging Folk scene and brought well-loved songs back to the masses in three sell out Irish Tours.

The High Kings launched in America in March 2008. They created a buzz that led to their appearance on ABCʼs TheView and NBCʼs This Morning and they opened for Celtic Woman on their US tour.  In September The High Kings returned to the US to headline their own tour, performing from Boston to San Diego.

As word of their live reputation spread, the lads were invited to do numerous TV appearances in Ireland, including ringing in New Year 2009 with Tubrudy Tonight on RTE and performing their hit ʻFields of Gloryʼ to 80,000 sports fan at the All-Ireland final in Irelandʼs National stadium, Croke Park. They were the closing act on Pat Kennyʼs last show of the longest running talk show in the world, The Late Late Show, in 2009. The High Kings continued to tour throughout 2009 and they were voted, by the public, Best Newcomer and Best Folk Act at Irelands Music Awards 2009, sharing nominations with accomplished Irish acts, The Wolfe Tones and The Dubliners.

This year is set to cement The High Kings reputation as a phenomenal live band, as they have already completed a hugely successful Irish tour. The new album, Memory Lane, released by Universal Music in Ireland, debuted at No. 5 in the Irish charts and quickly achieved platinum status. The album features classics such as Fields of Athenry, Star of the County Down and Leaving of Liverpool.  The Cd will be released in the US early in the New Year. To preview it the band will be performing 5 shows in the States this August, see dates below.

Sunday August 15th, Irish Fair of Minnesota, Harriet Island, St Paul, 2pm, Main Stage

Monday August 16th, Cleveland Westside Irish American Club, 7:30 pm

Tuesday, August 17th, Chicago Irish Heritage Club, 7:30 pm,

Wednesday, August 18th, Philadelphia, Brittinghams, /

Thursday, August 19th, New York, Connolly’s, 8pm,


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More from Weekly Inspiration Edinburg

Here’s the official promotional video to Clannad’s 1990 single “In Fortune’s Hand”, taken from the album ‘Anam’. © 1990 BMG Records (UK) Ltd.  Interesting. I love that moving statue (of the Virgin Mary?) and the way the video is presented. But who doesn’t love anything by Clannad right?

Le Vent du Nord, Lunasa’s La Nua and the Julie Fowlis EPK

Le Vent du Nord continue  to define borders of music never been explored before by other musicians. Not only that they create a kind of sound that appeals to both French, Irish and Breton listeners, they also transcend boundaries of what is alternative and what is traditional. Upon first listen, the band exude a kind of breezy top 40 adult contemporary rock feel…well, not until one listens carefully to the arrangements, one will realize how so much craft and thought have been poured into the recordings.

The really interesting thing about merging French and Celtic music is the way the words sound . There is a lot of sensuality to it.They help bring  Québécois music (which is heavily influenced by Celtic music from both Ireland and Brittany), to the  public and I think it also gave me so much insight into the kind of diverse culture Canada has. The band already released five albums.

Band members play a variety of instruments each taking turns in every arrangements.

For those who love the traditional band Lunasa, they have a new album out called  La Nua . Samples of the songs can be heard on the band’s website.  This is really a treat to Lunasa fans who have been thirsting for  latest music coming from this one of a kind Irish band. Released last April, this is what the site has to sat about the new album:

Lúnasa celebrate the arrival of a new decade with Lá Nua (‘new day’).

After a 4-year hiatus from the studio, this highly-anticipated album came out of extensive rehearsal and recording on location in the beautiful Cooley mountains in the northeast of Ireland. This environment, rich in the history and culture of ancient Ireland, inspired much of the creativity and new writing on the recording.
Released worldwide 6th April 2010

Here is one nice video from Julie Fowlis . This is an EPK following the release of her latest album “Uam”. I love Julie Fowlis and the freshness she has brought into traditional music.

Horslips Can Save the Day

I have been into all sorts of trouble lately and the only thing that makes  me save face is listening to Trouble (With a Capital T) by  Horslips .Here’s a band that has been around for quite sometime and still resonates that Rock sound with the Capital C. I got this inspiration to spin out my Celtic rock tunes after having this conversation with a person from New York who has been to Ireland and has seen a lot of Celtic rock bands from all over. The great thing about music is that it breaks all barriers and you always end up with a big smile.  If you want to know more about Horslips then you can listen to some track off their MySpace site: or the Official site: and yes tell your friends about the music too.

Lyrics to Trouble With A Capital ‘T’ :
High on the mountain stands a boat,
But are they gods or real folk?
We can’t see the fire but we smell the smoke.
Who’ll take the plough? Who’ll be the yoke?
Night after night I don’t believe.
We are the ones you won’t deceive.
Not a thing will you achieve
‘cos we belong and we won’t leave.

Trouble, trouble.
I try to chase trouble but it’s chasing me.
Trouble, trouble.
Trouble with a capital T.

Lay down your silver and your gold.
I’m a man who can’t be sold.
And, even when my heart grows cold,
I’ll curse your evil stranglehold.
The waves are running much too high.
It’s got so dark can’t see the sky.
But a change is coming by and by,
A time to laugh, a time to die.

Trouble, trouble.
I try to chase trouble but it’s chasing me.
Trouble, trouble.
Trouble with a capital T.

Been so long away from home,
I almost made this place my own.
Now it seems I’ll soon be gone,
Moving on and all alone.
High on the mountain stands a boat,
But are they gods or real folk?
We can’t see the fire but we smell the smoke.
Who’ll take the plough? Who’ll be the yoke?

Trouble, trouble.
I try to chase trouble but it’s chasing me.
Trouble, trouble.
Trouble with a capital T.

Trouble, trouble.
I try to chase trouble but it’s chasing me.
Trouble, trouble.
Trouble with a capital T.

The Pride of County Cork: North Cregg

It pleases me to know if a band has a female vocalist. And when that vocalist sounds like her throat is fashioned after an angel’s wings , then it becomes an obsession for me. Not since Capercaillie has a band been so tight , so sure and so haunting. So much of Ireland’s ancient spirit inhabits this band from Country Cork. Go Your Way has that gradual marching tempo that resonates with beaty amidst this heartbreaking piece. In contrast, Crehan’s Reels is infectious capturing the atmosphere of taverns and the merry folks having a toast and dancing .

I have been bewitched!

Giora:Adding a Dark Edge to the Irish Music Scene


Photos by Ashley Fay

Peter Chains is kind enough to let us in for an email chat. He leads the four piece band called Giora .It’s a combination of different elements. Say if you are into Metallica, Alice and Chains, Acoustic or Goth Metal then you will like the band. Their stage persona might me dark and mysterious as reflected through the songs but they’re also about having as good laugh, drinking and having a good time.   If you haven’t heard what they sound like check their music site , hear the songs and make friends with them.

What’s the decision behind renaming your band to Giora?

Several reasons: Mike, drummer, left the band due to not being able to commit to its future, and the fact the previous name didn’t suit the sound we are going for. So myself and Eoin felt a name change was only right for the progress of the band. So Gíora was chosen, which is Irish for winter, but with a slight different spelling as to symbolize the difference from us now and before.

How did you guys get together?

Myself and Mike(former drummer) were always in bands together throughout both of our careers. He was in a band with Eoin called Square1 and they had just kicked out their singer and the other guitarist left. Then I joined and it became twilight of harmony (later gíora) lol.

You guys are from Limerick. Tell us more about your town .
Well it’s a riverside city, though a small city in comparison lol. But I’m from a small town called Shannon and Dave the drummer is from another city on the west side called Galway.

Peter Chains: Guitar and Vocals

Peter Chains: Guitar and Vocals

How do you guys compose your music? I notice a lot of influences as well as diversity of style in each song. What’s the creative process?

There isn’t really. A lot of the early stuff is written by Eoin and lyrics by myself. The first recording where I sang on I hadn’t even jammed with the band yet lol. The newer stuff you will notice a big difference as to where my writing style comes up and mixes with that of Eoin’s. One of us comes up with a riff and the two of us will make that into a song.

How do you label your music?
Haha we joke about this all the time. Maybe you can answer that for us haha. We go for a dark doomish sound but still keeping the acoustic folky feel of our Irish roots. But we feel we ain’t bound to a genre so we can speed it up for newer songs such as Fragments of a Shattered Mind.. Which is against all the genre guesses we thought we were
I notice bands today cater to shock antics just to draw followers. What’s your stand on this?
Each to their own. We just go up on stage, play our music and talk and joke with the crowd. Bands that have gimmicks(sp) most likely don’t have much to offer on the music side and feel they need to do something crazy or stupid to entertain. But saying that Alice Cooper does nuts stage shows and he is great musically as well.

Eoin Crowley: Guitar and Keyboards

Eoin Crowley: Guitar and Keyboards

There are currently four songs on your myspace page that the general public can listen to. What are the thoughts behind these songs.

Well there are currently two up now haha. We are currently recording new stuff that we hope to have done in the next month. The old songs we rushed really rushed so I was never happy with what I did on it.  The songs are to be rerecorded, all except Fallen Angels, which has been turned into and instrumental by Eoin. So different name also which has yet to be decided. But Craven  and Dreamcatcher are getting fixed up and lyrics re-written as to bring them alive and give them true meanings. They were written so fast before that to me they never felt alive, so that’s what I’m doing now with the lyrics and music.

Any videos of the live performances we can expect from You Tube?

One day we will hopefully. I’ve one of myself but known with the band. So we hope to address this in the future.

I notice that the band photos are excellent! Tell us about Ashley Fay, the artist behind making the band look good?

Well Ashley Fay is my wife lol only the best for myself 😛

It’s very handy because she enjoys the music so she’s at the gigs anyways, and we love having our picture taken when playing so its a win win.

But she isn’t normally a band photographer. Her work ranges from the abstract to the obscure; I highly recommend checking it all out for yerselves 🙂

Mick Leonard: Bass

Mick Leonard: Bass

What’s coming up for the band. News? Gigs?

Well as I’ve said we are currently recording. Finally going to have songs like “Walking Away, Social Suicide, Judge” on the site.

We’ve also landed a big gig in the capital city Dublin so we hope this will open a lot more doors for us.

Tell us about the kind of audience that show up during your gigs.

Well at the moment it’s been mainly the same people or friends and a few that are just out for a night of metal lol. Hopefully they get into what we are trying to do.

What’s the state of Irish music these days in your opinion?

Always the music scene in Ireland is alive; it’s just a matter of what’s happening. The acoustic sign is always strong, but atm metal and hard rock is making a massive comeback in the underground. So maybe good timing is on our side: P

After every performance what do you guys do to relax?

Get drunk as being Irish we love to drink.

Dave O'Dowd: Drums

Dave O'Dowd: Drums

Do you go to church?

Catholism is the main religion in Ireland, but honestly it’s not as strong as it once was. Most (like myself) are atheist, or agnostic. Though I love the stories used in religion and even use them in songs, there isn’t a shred of me that believes in a magick man in the clouds. People need to soon realize you can’t use religion as a way to pass the blame on their lives and finally just take life for themselves. And move on. Religion is slowly down our progress as a race. And that’s our take on it.

Thoughts to your listeners and future fans?

Enjoy Gíora and give us all your feedback. And we hope to meet ye in the future in a venue near you.

always yours

Peter Chains

Twilight of Harmony

Twilight of Harmony

Album Review:Lunasa The Other World

The Other Word(1999) is the second release from Traditional Irish band Lunasa. The name is taken from Lughnasadh, an old Irish harvest festival.  Fiddle, whistles, flute,bass and uilleann pipes are featured in this festive collection. Most of the tunes are jolly ,innovative and sparkling with tight craftmanship.

The album is kicked off by the first track Goodbye Miss Goodavich / Rosie’s Reel. Infectious, sensual and yes other worldly, the tune calls to mind fairies and leprechauns dancing in a traditional toe tapping Irish dance.

The Floating Crowbar / McGlinchey’s / The Almost Reel follows with it’s merry introduction of uillean pipes. The track moves into a duel with a tin whistle complete with bodhran taps.

The Butlers of Glen Avenue / Sliabh Russell / Cathal McConnell’s is acoustic guitar induced amidst the trio of fiddle,whistle and and flute. The bass provides that syncopated rhythm .

January Snows / Laura Lynn Cunningham opens with  a solo mournful air of flute. The vigorous way it’s being played however prevented the song from being sleepy. This is one magical track in this album.

The jig of The Miller of Drohan is something that any Altan fan would roll his or her eyes on. It’s infectious and sweet. It’s like a sound of an old friend beckoning you to the fire to keep warm.

Dr. Gilbert / Devils of Dublin / Black Pat’s is a another dance tapping piece. The uilleann pipes is highlighted again. There’s a nice fast flute solo in the middle with a bass drone from the uilleann pipes.

Autumn Child / Heaton Chapel is a jazzy guitar/flute piece.  Both lovers of Celtic and Jazz music would love this one. The song ends with a jig of fiddles. Nicely done.

Stolen Apples sways and watltzes  into your mood with a sunny day brightness.

Taylor Bar, 4am / Ceol Na Mara is flute induced with tin whistle and acoustic guitar.

Lafferty’s / Crock of Gold / Lady Birr / Abbey Reel is pure furious energy. It’s like observing a horse brake out of the barn. This is where Irish music becomes mesmerizing. Especially when the melodies weave themselves skillfully and fast .It’s like observing a beautiful complicated piece of lace.

O’Carolan’s Welcome / Rolling in the Barrel ends the album with forlorn but positive melodies. So far this is a magical album showcasing brilliant musicianship and traditonal instruments.

For more info , visit the group’s official site

To hear tracks,  visit their official MySpace site