Touchline February 2017

Folks, folkies, friends and fans, lend me your eyes for just a moment. I’ve been up the walls, like all just people in this fascinating planet, and here are a few of the fascinating and engaging projects that have taken my time and energy (now very limited) since last we spoke on ‘Touchline.’

Some time in February, we’re releasing the new single, Feel Like A King, and you can view it now on the video section of this site. The physical single, because I still believe in such things, is an all-right, pretty attractive envelope style presentation with the A side, the B side, Easter Week, 2016 on one disc and then, across the way, find a second disc bearing the video, Feel Like a King. The pack sports some recent photography and credits, as you’d expect.

Feel Like a King is a cry from the road, a road ballad confessing too much time away from the family in America, Europe and all over Ireland, England and Scotland. The intention was to write a simple song for my son James’s twenty-first; but something invisible grabbed my wrist and said, ‘No, you don’t! Tell him the truth! About how long you were away following your dream and missing so many wonderful stages!’

And so, the song was born and I’m getting nice response to it. We shot the video, almost exclusively on location in Cobh, Co. Cork with the band in Dave Murphy’s studio in Blarney; he’s the cove playing the piano.

My Celtic Utopia, Hy Brasil, positing a Cultural Revolution in Ireland in the near future and an Artists’ Party will be finished at the end of February-it has to be! I’ve been laboring on this novel forever and I can do no more. I am delighted to announce that the brilliant, distinctive, Canadian artist, Derdriu Ní Ceocháin has agreed to illustrate the book.

The rest of my creative time (you don’t need to know about the other bits- and I hate when singers expect us all to be attentive to their petty personal addictions and shortcomings-far too common place!) was spent in writing newspaper articles, new songs the creation and execution of such must be a beautiful gift, surely. I’m listening more to the Muses, especially the lady Muse who said, ‘No you don’t: tell him the truth!’ and a new album bearing the simple title Life is coming soon (ish). My observations on Life, in America and Ireland, for, as Socrates (or was it Plato?) says, ‘The un-observed life isn’t worth a shite.’

You will notice, dear friends, that I’m not overwhelmed with live work: that’s because I have drawn the line with pub gigs. Now, that doesn’t include folky listening rooms in pubs apart from the open bar, not will it exclude me from favourite sessions; or indeed, from pubs I particularly adore or landladies, landlords that I have long friendships with me. But from now on, audiences will no longer have to endure giant soccer screens, blaring music, loud talk, etc.

But they mightn’t see me as often. That’s all right.

I hope you all have a great year, enjoy the lovely spring, be active and don’t eat too much.
Yours, Jimmy Crowley, The Cove of Cork, last day of January 2017

TOUCHLINE, END OF OCTOBER, 2015

New York is comforting as the Autumn advances and the fall colours stir our hearts. Having just returned from my New York book launch of “Songs from the Beautiful City: the Cork Urban Ballads,” I marvel again at how stimulating and energising the city is. Like, as we Cork people like to say, ‘tis not too big; Manhattan, the epicentre of the Earth in many ways, is circumnavigable on a bicycle in a short time! ‘Tis only eleven miles by about five or six; yet the halls of poetry are attended most nights; there are  jazz sessions that would frighten me, folk, drama, art films,book launches and rakes of events where almost all ethnic  groups are represented. True, this can be a ballix as hosts scramble for work and dollars, but once an artist has attained some street credibility and the aroma of staying-power, there’s a fertile gregarious road open and positive reaction to one’s artistic needs.

One of the social highlights for the week for me was a lovely sail around Long Island Bay on my cousin, Smiley (Martin) Daly’s sloop, the good ship Nugget. The engine farted to a smokey halt before we left the mooring; the same kinda smell as a frying-pan emits without oil or fat; in fact, the same problem! But being true tars, we scoffed at such modern decoys and hauling up all canvas, sailed out magnificently into the bay with a fine following wind. A wind, God knows, that accommodated our homeward bound journey as it backed slightly to the the quarter allowing us to sail right up to our mooring without the engine. Nugget is a fine, stiff, weatherly boat, old-fashioned two inch thick fibre-glass with nice brightwork and a large sail area.

The patron saint of Manhattan, singer Donie Carroll hosted me and promoted me way above the call of duty. ‘Twas the same Donie who liaised with all the essential actors who combined magnificently to make my Fall  trip such a success, the US launch of my life’s work, Songs from the Beautiful City: the Cork Urban Ballads.

I’m eternally grateful to the people at the Cork Association of NY, in particular Mae O’ Driscoll who promoted me and fielded the event on Sunday the 25th of October at their cosy premises in Long Island City. We were blessed by no less a personage as the Consul-General, her Excellency Barbara Jones who made a memorable speech about collecting oral history and the process of achieving.

Another man whom I can never thank  enough for support, acknowledgement and friendship is Mick Moloney from the Irish music dept at NYU. Mick wrote a foreword for the book, launched it at City Library in Cork and lined out a second time to launch the book and make a  stimulating speech in NY. We have played quite a bit together over the years and after Mick’s address, we sang and played some of those ballads that work so well with our chosed instruments: Nil ‘na Lá, The Forty-Foot Trailer,Down Erin’s Lovely Lee,etc.

Donie Carroll then joined me on stage for a few of his songs that he contributed to the book, The Night the Goat Broke Loose and the piquant Isle of Maris. Then it was time for Heather Bixler Martin to join me with her stunning fiddle playing. Heather had a special status that day as it was she, no less, who struggled with the native inflections in my singing to capture in musical annotation some one hundred and seventy odd songs in the book. Other friends took the stage, including Martin Daly who sang harmonies on some earlier songs, also included in the book and who was part of the original three-piece Stokers Lodge as well as Dan and Bonnie Milliner who have a blessed and original repertoire of traditional broadside ballads.

Among other unforgettable gigs during the week was a nice house concert at musician Gabe O’ Donoghue’s house in Philadelphia which I shared with Donie Carroll and a concert at Ireland House in Greenwich Village which was hosted by my favourite “Irish” harmonica player, Don Meade, a man, like Donie and Mick, who has been so kind to me,not just for this trip but all my life!

It was an honour to be asked to contribute to both Mick Moloney’s classes in NYU on no less engaging a topic as to how,in God’s name, the bouzouki entered the Irish traditional music orchestra. I lied to the students and told ‘em that that long ago, in pagan Ireland, the High King, Cathub had a beautiful daughter, Emer Foltchain. She was so lovely there were courtesans and suitors sailing up from Greece and Macedonia to try and win her hand. The king of Greece, (I continued to lie,) made an appearance himself and to strengthen his son’s hopes of winning this Gaelic charmer, he offered in dowry: the full retinue of bouzoukis from the Royal court at Athens. That meant that Greece was now bereft of bouzoukis. Now, the match was made and the  High King, good enough out of him, made the Greek king a present of three sevens of the  Royal Harps of Tara, an instrument still played in Greece to this day.

The Irish musicians took some time to find their way around this new fretted instrument, but in time, they played beautiful barndances, airs, strathspeys as well as the usual jigs, reels and hornpipes. However, when the Vikings came several hundreds of years later, the second thing they pillaged (after the women) were the Irish bouzoukis that by now were glittering with gems of bijouterie and vertu –none of your ould gold leaf and precious stones.

The norsemen cleaned out the zuke arsenal and it wasn’t until my dear friend, Johnny Moynihan took a bouzouki home from a Greek holiday in the middle sixties that they began to ‘catch on’ in Ireland again.

In fact, Mick Moloney told us in class, that he was there in Dublin, on that fateful night,when musical history was made.

I will be back before Christmas with another Touchline. Murach é ,go raibh Nollaig fé mhaise dhaoibh go léir, agus táim lán buíoch as ucht na tacaíóchta.

Beir slán,
Jimmy