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Easy Ed’s Top Picks to Click: Spring 2017

It’s that time of the season again. Baseball and flowers blooming, fresh cut lawns and morning dew, new albums being released and music festival travel plans being made. Here in the beautiful Lower Hudson Valley it’s an eighty degree day and instead of cruising along the highway taking in the sights and new sounds, I’ve been struggling all day with a C-G-D-G-B-E tuning and a capo at the third fret while teaching myself some Hawaiian slack key. Somehow though it’s morphed into Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightening’. So it’s time to take a break and share some new music that’s caught my fancy. I try to keep each song under three minutes….fat chance of that today.

Willie Nelson: An album of all-new recordings, God’s Problem Child adds 13 new songs to the artist’s repertoire, including seven recently written by Willie and Buddy Cannon, his longtime collaborator and producer. The album is Willie’s first to debut all-new songs since Band of Brothers in 2014. “He Won’t Ever Be Gone’ is a tribute to Merle Haggard.

Bonnie Prince Billy AKA Will Oldham: A longtime fan of the “Okie From Muskogee” Hall of Famer. Best Troubadour is the culmination of that decades-long love affair with Haggard’s music, featuring 16 tracks from various stages of Haggard’s lengthy career. Oldham recorded the songs in his home with the Bonafide United Musicians. (Rolling Stone Country)

Molly Tuttle: She’s going to be huge. Originally from the Northern California bluegrass scene and playing in The Tuttle Family with AJ Lee band, she graduated Berklee College of Music and moved herself down to Nashville. With a beautiful voice and her lightning speed flat picking style, she can pick more notes than the number of ants on a Tennessee ant hill. And she’s all over the place….touring with The Goodbye Girls, doing a duet with Front Country’s Melody Walker and getting ready for her own release in June. Here’s ‘Bigger Than This’….Molly on the left, Melody on the right…a great song from two outstanding talents.

Amelia Curran: A total shift of gears. One of my favorite singer-songwriters, Watershed is her eighth album in the past 17 years. An album with a specific theme, it  ‘variously addresses her frustration with the established operating model of the music industry, with the systemic disadvantage at which that “intimidating and icky” model still places female artists and, by extension, with what the persistent sexism inherent in that model says about 21st-century human society’s treatment of women in general. Further simmering discontent arises from the added frustration Curran has come over the past few years since taking on the role of an activist fighting for better institutional treatment of and better attitudes towards the many fellow Newfoundlanders (and Canadians at large) living with mental illness.’ (thestar.com)

Aimee Mann: There is a thread to Curran’s themes, as Mann is ‘rightfully pissed that she’s nevertheless pigeonholed as a dreary fabricator of slow, sad-sack songs. So she’s answered her critics with her slowest, sad-sack-iest album yet, one populated by ordinary people struggling against operatic levels of existential pain at odds with their humdrum lives. Mental Illness is accordingly made of skeletal strings, coolly regulated commentary, and minimal drums. Juxtaposing elegant chamber folk against the discord of lives out of balance, it’s musically more delicate than even her soft rock models. (Pitchfork)

Peter Bradley Adams: I’m sure he hates it when people like me note in their first sentence that he was one-half of one of my favorite one-album duos, Eastmountainsouth, back in 2003. But I still listen to that album and I’ve been following him ever since, especially enjoying some recent collaboration with Caitlan Canty on a project called Down Like Silver. ‘On my previous albums, I had more of an array of players on the record and this one is kind of more my core group of people that I’ve been playing with and touring with. It’s a little bit more contained, which I think is a good thing. I’m always writing songs so there are a lot that get tossed aside and… these are the ones that I thought needed to be on it.’ (Fairfax Times)

Pieta Brown: I’ve spent years listening to and writing about Iowa City-based Pieta Brown. ‘Postcards features a number of Brown’s musical friends, including Calexico, Bon Iver, Mark Knopfler and the Pines. She compiled the album by writing simple acoustic demos of what would become the album’s songs, sending them to the musicians that make up Postcards‘ roster of guests, and having those artists finish the tracks. Brown and her collaborators never worked in the same room, which lent the album its distance-implying title.’ (American Songwriter)

Marty Stuart: I’ll admit not to loving every single track on this new album of his that’s just getting a ton of press. Marty has been around so long and has done so many amazing performances that it’s hard for me to buy into the hype. Nevertheless, this video from the Colbert show shows that he and his band rocks damn hard and I like it. Eighteenth studio album….Way Out West.

Well that’s all she wrote….I’ll leave you humming along to Koko the Clown’s version of ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ and we’ll see you next season for more of my Picks to Click.

 

 

 

Just Who Is the Galway Girl?

Image from the video directed and produced by Kamil Krolak of KamilFilms.

Edmond Enright was born on the 19th of May in 1975 in the Irish village of Birr, County Offaly. A small town of less than 6,000 people, Birr has a castle that once was home to the largest telescope in the world, named The Leviathan of Parsonstown. There is a courthouse, several schools, a newspaper, a train station that shut down in 1963, and an abandoned workhouse. It has both rugby and hurling teams, the latter with the distinction of winning the All-Ireland. In August and September it hosts a number of festivals celebrating the area’s heritage, music, theater, educational activities, and hot air balloons. There is a theater and arts center that has been open since 1889 that presents music, dance, and plays.

While his given name may not ring any bells for you, Edmond Enright is a prominent singer-songwriter in Ireland who goes by the name Mundy. His first album, released in 1996, included a popular song used in the film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Four years later he was dropped by his record label as he was working on his second album, 24 Star Hotel. Using mostly his own funds, he started up Camcor Records, which he named for the River Camcor, a popular fishing spot that runs through the town of Birr, and released the album in 2002. It included a song titled “July” that received extensive airplay, and he appeared at a number of large festivals. The album earned triple platinum status in Ireland.

Up until a few nights ago, I had never heard of Mundy. Knowing it was just a few days away from this column’s deadline and without a clue nor a thread of inspiration to choose from, I took to meandering through the millions of images on You Tube in hopes of finding something old, new, borrowed, or blue. And this is what I found. Forty-nine seconds into it, I felt the tears rolling down my cheeks … a common occurrence when I’m in the company of incredible music.

 

On June 11, 2016, at 1 p.m. local time, Galway-based filmmaker Kamil Krolak recorded the world’s largest street performance of “Galway Girl,”’featuring a number of prominent Irish musicians that included Mundy; Sharon Shannon; We Banjo 3; Lackagh Comhaltas; Roisin Seoighe; the Galway Rose, Rosie Burke; and the widely known folk band Amazing Apples.

Steve Earle wrote and recorded “The Galway Girl” around 17 years ago while he was living and working for several months in Ireland. Sharon Shannon’s band, the Woodcutters, backed him on the track, and it appeared both on his own Transcendental Blues and on the great Sharon Shannon and Friends: The Diamond Mountain Sessions album in 2000.

In 2006, Mundy recorded his fourth album, Live & Confusion, at Vicar Street in Dublin, which covered his best-known songs along with an encore of “Galway Girl” with guest Sharon Shannon. According to Wikipedia: “The live version became a download hit in Ireland, and eventually a studio version was released, after it was popularized in a television and radio advertising campaign for Bulmer’s Cider. The studio version of the track reached number 1 on the Irish Singles Chart in April 2008 and stayed there for five weeks. It became the biggest single in Ireland two years in a row in 2007 and 2008.” This is the original video.

 

This quote from Earle sits on Mundy’s webpage:

“‘The Galway Girl’ [from Mundy’s live album Live & Confusion] is the one thing I’m sure to be remembered for. I owe a lot of that to Mundy … the biggest hit was his version. People probably won’t even remember who the hell I was, but they’re going to be singing that song in Ireland for a long time. I really do believe that. And that’s the only kind of immortality anybody can hope for.”

In an interview with Trish Keenan that he did for the Irish website meg back in 2010, Earle goes deeper into the details of the song:

“We recorded it with the agreement being that I could use it on my record and she (Sharon Shannon) could use it on hers, it was her band, you know, we did it in Dublin. It’s a huge thing for me. You know just for the record I haven’t had a drink in 15 years, and when I did cider never passed my lips. But it was one of those things. I normally don’t allow my music to be used in ads for drink but it was a lot of money for Sharon so I didn’t stand in the way of it. I could have stopped it but I didn’t, ‘cuz it was her. The peak of the whole thing was that we were asked to sing it at the All-Ireland final, it was the year that Galway played the draw with Kerry and then finally lost in the playoff. I couldn’t make it and you know I’m still pissed off about that!”

So who is the Galway Girl that Earle wrote about? Last year when Kamil Krolack was about to film the street performance, the Irish Music Daily ran a story about her. This is an excerpt:

“Shannon told the Will Leahy Show on the Irish radio station RTE2fm that Earle met the girl in question while he was working with Irish musicians. She said: “Steve wrote the song in Galway. He used to spend a lot of time there, just hanging out and writing songs and going to trad sessions. He made great friends with all the musicians there.

“We know who the girl is. I think Steve would like to have had a romantic liaison with her. She’s a great friend of ours but she doesn’t trade on it. She doesn’t want people to know.”

Mundy, who took part in the same radio interview, said Earle and the Galway girl still know each other and have met a few times since through work, but not in any romantic way, although some tensions may remain. “I was in the company of the two of them once and I was uncomfortable,” he said.

Although the identity of the girl had not been revealed, that changed last year. A book written by poet and musician Gerard Hanberry, On Raglan Road: Great Irish Love Songs and The Women Who Inspired Them, was published and included the story of Earle meeting singer and bodhran player Joyce Redmond, who was a regular at trad sessions back in Galway.

As reported by The Irish Sun, “She was in Quay Street when Earle approached her and asked if she could help him with a phone call he was trying to make. A few days later she met him again by accident on Dominick Street when he asked if she knew where he could find some traditional Irish music. She took him along to a few sessions.”

For the record, Joyce Redmond is not a Galway girl. She grew up in Howth, just north of Dublin. And to close it out, here’s Earle with Sharon’s band playing the song live at the Kennedy Center Gala for Irish Music.

 

This was originally published as an Easy Ed’s Broadside column at No Depression: The Journal of Roots Music.