Being Irish, I have the procrastination gene in abundance but, on Thursday, I actually took the wicker chairs off the porch and put them in the cellar. I had been thinking about doing that since October and it felt so good to get it done that I even put up Christmas lights. Not only that but I stacked firewood and burned the remaining gas in the lawnmower and cleaned and covered the gas grill. What the Hell is wrong with me! If this keeps up, I may start working on my taxes. Iâ€™m pretty sure itâ€™s just a passing aberration but Iâ€™m going to keep an eye on myself just in case.
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I just finished reading Tommy Sands’ book, The Songman: A Journey in Irish Music. I enjoyed it immensely. Tommy has been a friend for thirty years now but there is much in the book that I never knew about him. He is a fascinating man and he has had an amazing life. He is a gentle and positive presence wherever he goes and no one who meets him is ever the same afterwards. He has a way of looking at the world that I wish I could hang on to but Iâ€™m just a bit too cynical. Part of the delight of reading the book is seeing the world through Tommy’s eyes and having some of his enthusiasm rub off on you. It makes you feel like you should and could do more to make the world a better place.
It also brought back some great memories of Tommy and his brother Colum. When I was living in Carrick-on-Suir back in the late 70s, the Sands brothers would come down for a visit every now and then. They would play a gig in Waterford at the Granville Hotel on a Friday night and at our place, Tinvane Hotel on Saturday night. I usually went with them to Waterford where the concert was inevitably followed by that session that went on â€˜til the wee hours. One such night, actually it was about 5:00 AM on a winter’s morning, we were driving back to Carrick and just a couple of miles outside Waterford we came along by Granagh Castle which was situated on a wide sweeping bend in the river Suir. A gigantic daffodil-colored moon was floating right on the broadest part of the river and it stopped us in our tracks. It was stunning. We pulled the van over to the side of the road and got out to appreciate it fully before it changed as it surely would. We had some drink taken, as they say in Ireland, but we were reasonably sober. We just knew how fortunate we were to experience such an amazing sight when the rest of the county was fast asleep. We saw distant car lights approaching and bemoaned the fact that these other nighttime travelers were driving in the wrong direction to see the amazing sight. But Tommy, being a man of action, stepped out into the road and flagged the car down. There were two wary men in the car and they were a bit hesitant about rolling down the window. However they could not understand what Tommy was saying until curiosity prevailed and the window opened a few inches.
“Have you seen the moon?” asked Tommy, pointing towards the river behind them. “Look! Look at the moon, isnâ€™t it fantastic?” The two guys were hardly awake and didnâ€™t seem to care a damn for the moon. Colum and I walked over to plead the case but the car suddenly screeched off leaving traces of black rubber on the frosty road.
We were mulling over what might have made them so unfriendly when it occurred to me. There had been several reports in the local papers about the IRA training in the locality of Mooncoin, which was just up the road. I have no doubt that being flagged down by three guys, two of who had distinctive Northern accents, and asking them if they had seen the moon must have seemed like some IRA set-up.
That story didnâ€™t make it into the book but many great stories did. It is called The Songman: A Journey in Irish Music and it is published by the Lilliput Press in Dublin. It is available from Amazon.com.
For the past few months I have been spending a lot of time in the recording studio. I just finished producing Marie Dupreyâ€™s new CD. Marie has a beautiful voice and the album is a wonderful collection of traditional and contemporary songs, including several fine songs written by Marie and her fiancÃ© Michael Ross. It should be available early next year. I have also started work on my own new CD and I will also be producing Aoife Clancyâ€™s next CD so it looks like Iâ€™ll be spending even more time in the studio.
Luckily for me, Mockingbird Studio opened in Mansfield, MA about a year ago. Itâ€™s great to be able to work close to home and Derek Pisano is a wonderful engineer with a great sense of humor. Recording can often be a stressful experience but laughter is a great tension breaker. Weâ€™ve had a lot of laughs while getting the job done and it has been a great working environment. It reminds me of the time Johnny Cunningham produced a CD for me and I would literally go home a pain in my face from all the laughing.
Debbie Casey from Irish Music Cruises tells me that there is still some space available on the January 22 -29 Cruise. If you want to break up the winter, you could join us for a great week of Irish music and cruise the Hawaiian Islands while your envious friends are stuck here in the January doldrums. Check out the great line-up of performers. I have never been to Hawaii so Iâ€™m really looking forward to this cruise. You can get more info on the website or at 888-56-IRISH (888-564-7474).
I have also been busy writing stories for an upcoming book called Clean Cabbage in the Bucket. It is a collection of stories from the Irish music scene over the past few decades. There are five contributors, Dennis Oâ€™Rourke, Seamus Kennedy, Frank Emerson, Harry Oâ€™Donohue, and myself. Dennis came up with the idea and he has also done a marvelous job as the project editor. Anytime musicians get together, they tell stories of their adventure and mis-adventures on the road and he thought it would be great to let people listen in. There are all kinds of stories; some of them hilarious and the five different voices make a delightful mix. We all got together last month at Kevin Barryâ€™s in Savannah, GA to have some pictures taken and we spent a most enjoyable couple of days hanging out and telling yarns. The book should be available in February and you will be able to find it at Celtica Music Shop. Iâ€™ll do an update on it when I get more news.
I recently visited WGBH studios in Boston to record a live concert for Brian Oâ€™Donovanâ€™s Celtic Concert series. Along with two superb musicians, George Keith and Shannon Heaton, I spent an hour before a live audience singing and chatting with Brian. The show will air this Saturday, 25 November between 12:00 and 3:00 PM on FM 89.7 in the Boston area. It will also be available online live and in the archive at WGBH.org. Just follow the links to â€œradioâ€ or â€œCeltic Sojourn.â€
Shannon, George and I are also part of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn that Brian will host in Boston, December 14â€“17. I was part of the first show in 2003 at the Somerville Theatre and it has now grown into a Christmas tradition and moved to the elegant Cutler Majestic Theatre in downtown Boston and grown from one show to five. If you are interested in going, donâ€™t delay as I hear it is almost sold out already.
I will also be doing a Christmas Concert with Aoife and Donal Clancy and George Keith in Fairfield CT on December 2nd. Info about this and other upcoming gigs can be found here on my calendar.
As I have done for the past twelve years now, I will be taking a group of music-mad adventurers to my favorite parts of Ireland in May 2007 on our Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour, South By Southwest. You can check out the itinerary at the Celtica website. As usual, we will have several repeat passengers and Alice, Sean, Joe and I look forward to seeing them all again as well as making new friends on our rural rambles and at our nightly music sessions. The tour is about half full at the moment and filling fast. For more information call 800-299-CELT (2358) or email me.
Some of my recordings will soon be available for download at the Apple iTunes Store. The link is not active yet but will be in the next couple of weeks so if you get an iPod for Christmas you will be all set. As always, my CDs and many others are available at the Celtica Music Shop. We expect to add some new titles before Christmas.
Hereâ€™s a little sound clip that my friend Don Blain sent me and itâ€™s so funny I just have to pass it on. Click to download MP3.
I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, the best holiday of them all.