Posts Tagged With: Luka Bloom

Where Does the Music in Ireland go in Winter? Answer…. Fitz’s bar in Doolin.

It’s the last night of November.  I am in Doolin in West Clare.  The rain is lashing.  It’s windy and cold.  Normal Irish winter actually.  So of course the only place to be is in a pub in front of the fire with a hot whiskey or a Guinness and listening to or playing Irish music.

Well that’s the plan anyway; during the summer here in Doolin you can find music every night of the week in any of the four pubs; not so now.  All the mid-week sessions have pretty much packed up.  Except that is on Monday nights at Fitz’s Bar at the Hotel Doolin.  Every Monday night, summer or winter, for the last couple of years this session has acted like a beacon in the musical desert (sorry about the mixed metaphor).  Or perhaps an oasis in a stormy sea (there I go again!).

That’s where I ended up in any case.  It has a peculiar welcoming vibe.  The session is hosted by Eoin O’Neill, Quentin Cooper,  Adam Shapiro and Jon O’Connell who are collectively The Fiddle Case and all very well-known musicians around Clare.  They love playing together and that infectious energy is picked up by the musicians attracted there to play with them.  This night we had noted box and concertina player Terry Bingham and Christy Moore’s siblings, Anne Rynne and Luka Bloom join us as well as regulars such as Andee from the States and Séverine from France along with local and international visitors.

Walking into this pub on a Monday is like a welcome home party.  There are so many regulars, locals for which this is their only night out and visitors who though strangers at the beginning of the night may be lifetime friends by the end.  There is always a good mix here.  The tunes are of course at the centre but there will be songs, always of surprising quality, and often from unknowns that Eoin plucks from the crowd.  After thirty years of doing this in Doolin he is a master.

Always a highlight for me is when Jon O’Connell sings Liscannor Bay.  This wonderful song written by local man Mick Flynn has been made his own by John and with the subtle and restrained backing of the fiddle, bouzouki and slide guitar from the band has truly become an anthem.  The great news is that a definitive version has been recorded.  It is not yet available commercially and can’t even be heard on line but it is receiving airplay on ClareFM and wherever good traditional music is played.  Keep your ear open for it.  I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.  Even better news is that an album will be released soon with Liscannor Bay included.  Can’t wait.  I really hope it catches the spirit that is Fitz’s on a Monday night.  I am sure it will be very sought after by visitors wanting to take a little of that magic home with them.

It continues to surprise me why many pubs get rid of musicians in winter.  Fitz’s shows what you can do if you pick the right musicians and create the right vibe.  But luckily it’s not the only one.  Try Friels in Miltown Malbay on Friday, Saturday or Sunday or Cooley’s House in Ennistymon on Tuesdays or the Cornerstone in Lahinch on a Sunday if you can’t find anything in Doolin or Ennis.

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Categories: Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

O’Sahara at Lahinch

What a lucky man I am.

Last week it was Christy Moore. This week Luka Bloom and his new band O’Sahara.

The venue was Kenny’s Bar in Lahinch and this was the postponed concert from a few weeks back. It was well worth the wait, especially as we got some new songs that he had written since. It was an informal, relaxed gig though Luka confided at one stage he was more nervous than the previous week in Belgium playing with 80 musicians and a 20 person choir.

O’Sahara is Luka supported by Quentin Cooper and Jon O’Connell. Both are local musicians rooted deep in trad but known also for their catholic musical tastes which encompass rock, reggae, blues and various ‘world’ music. Both are highly skilled musicians and accomplished on a variety of string instruments but for this gig, Quentin stuck to his Gibson electric and Jon was on the double bass.

Luka was very much in his element. He was playing in front of his adopted home crowd. Indeed it wouldn’t surprise if he knew everyone there. They all certainly knew him and they were here to hear him. Jon and Quentin provided great support. Most of the songs had Luka playing his nylon string acoustic so having an electric guitar in the mix was risky. But in the hands of Quentin Cooper it worked brilliantly. Sometimes there was distortion and even a little feedback but it never dominated. Sometimes there was bottleneck slide and at other times delicate finger picking. But occasionally the inner rock star was unleashed and we caught glimpses of what Quentin was capable of. Jon O’Connell’s bass playing, as with his singing, is spot on. Smooth and relaxed and well and truly in the groove and his bass really added depth to the sound the boys were able to achieve.

From the first song Luka threw himself into the performance and by the end of the night the sweat was rolling down. At times Luka’s guitar playing reached such intensity that even the sound man had words with him. Much of the material was new. But there were still plenty familiar from his huge body of work. In fact the selection highlighted what a good songwriter Luka is. We heard City of Chicago, I’m a Bogman, and Don’t Be Afraid Of The Light That Shines Within You along with some wonderful new songs including an heartfelt song to a lost love from Fremantle in Western Australia, a very clever song about the population explosion on the Burren (Reels and Jig-Jig-Jig?) a song called Frugalisto about stuff and when ‘enough is enough’, a song he wrote 44 years ago and had not performed in public before O’Sahara and a song (autobiographical?) about a musical journey through Hamburg, Athens and Morocco from which the name of the band ‘O’Sahara’ seems to have come.

Luka is a consummate performer and gave a polished and rousing show in the intimate venue that is Kenny’s and was rapturously received. We are so lucky to have him living here in Clare and this concert is a reminder that we should not take him for granted.  And a great way for Jon to celebrate his birthday.

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Categories: Concerts, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Christy Moore at Spanish Point

When I shop in Miltown Malbay I always go to SuperValu. Yesterday for some inexplicable reason I went to Londis.  So what, you ask. Well normally it would be of no particular consequence but in the car park there I met Anne Rynne, Christy Moore’s sister.  She mentioned she was heading to Christy’s concert that night at Spanish Point. You could have knocked me over with a feather.  Christy was coming to my home town and I didn’t even know about it! How did I not know this was on?

Anyway fate had intervened and 8:00 pm found me sitting in the third row of the function room in the Armada Hotel expectantly waiting for the master to appear.

Christy has been an idol of mine since I bought his Prosperous album in 1973 and in particular in his Planxty and Moving Hearts days.  I had seen Christy three times before. All in Australia. The first time was over thirty years ago in the opulent State Theatre in Sydney.

And now here he was on stage with the extraordinary musicians that make up the Maírtín O’Connor Band (Maírtín O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, Seamie O’Dowd and Jimmy Higgins) and I was a bit concerned that good as they are they would compete with rather than enhance THAT voice. I needn’t have worried.

Christy opened the show with one of my favourite songs; Richard Thompson’s Beeswing. From the first chord there was a reverent hush. This made for an instant connection between Christy and the audience and we knew we were in for a good night. Christy recognised this saying “Well you’re great listeners now let’s here you sing” as he launched into Missing You. The audience didn’t need another invitation and joined in at any opportunity through the night.

This was a happy Christy. Although a native of Kildare much of his family lives in Clare so he is a regular visitor and many of his songs reflect this.  This was a Christy sharing his songs with his mates.  Every time Miltown Malbay was mentioned there was a little cheer. And there were plenty of mentions as many of Christy’s songs echo this love of Clare. Even as a ‘blow-in’ I felt chuffed to be part of this. Indeed that line in Lisdoonvarna where he extols all those looking for music to “come to Clare” could well have been the theme for the night.

Some of the best moments however were when he veered off the programme and responded to requests from the audience. In particular a rousing rendition of St Brendan’s Voyage got the biggest applause of the night and the beautiful Butterfly was a treat. There was even an internet request for Don’t Forget Your Shovel (from a man who said he was travelling to the concert all the way from Quilty) with which Christy was happy to comply!

The sensitive and often exquisite accordion of Maírtín O’Connor and Cathal Hayden’s fiddle provided a tasteful backing. The superb sound on the night (well done to the anonymous sound guy) allowed every note and every nuance to be clearly heard without detracting in the slightest from Christy’s magic voice. Delicate guitar and mandolin work was a feature of Seamie O’Dowd’s playing – just filling the odd space here and there, never distracting. I particularly liked his use of harmonics on one song.  Jimmy Higgins’ percussion was also wonderfully restrained. Indeed the balance of all four musicians was so perfectly constructed as to let Christy’s voice shine.  But both Maírtín and Cathal had their moments in the sun. Cathal, putting his own stamp on Mountains of Pomeroy and Maírtín paying homage to Joe Cooley.

We had plenty of old favourites including Ride On, Lisdoonvarna and Delirium Tremors and even an homage to Planxty with Raggle Taggle Gypsy. It was also great to hear him acknowledge the song writing talents of his brother Luka Bloom with City of Chicago and the Bog Man and the wonderful Shane McGowan song A Pair of Brown Eyes. There were humorous songs such as Little Honda 50 and also sentimental favourites such as Cliffs of Dooneen.

Called back for an encore he did, appropriately the song from Smoke and Strong Whiskey, If I Get an Encore, with some slight modifications, somehow working in references to Mullagh, Quilty and Coore. It was very well received.

The audience went home completely satisfied and they were treated to Christy at his very best with one of the best trad bands in the country thrown in for good measure. I was amazed that he is still performing at the highest level after nearly fifty years. A truly fabulous night. I am so glad I went shopping at Londis!

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Categories: Concerts, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brogan’s Bar Ennis

On Saturday 14th February Brogan’s Bar in Ennis will change management.  Over the last five decades it has been a go-to traditional music venue in this town and has achieved legendary status with Irish musicians all around the world.  Two of it’s regular stalwarts, Eoin O’Neill and Quentin Cooper,  had their last session there on Thursday.  It was a wonderful celebration and a fitting farewell.  I will have more to say on Brogan’s and what it meant to Ennis and traditional music in Clare and beyond in an upcoming blog and I will include a selection of my best photos from the last nine months, but in the meanwhile here are some images from that last magic night.

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Categories: Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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