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

The Celtic Music Fan

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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…

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Martyn Wylde’s Top Ten Bass Influences

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, or know anything about me, you’ll know that I was/am a bass player in addition to a singer of folk songs. The LA Weekly recently posted a list of the “20 Best Bassists of All Time”. Naturally, the headline jumped out at me from my Facebook page and I was eager to see who had been listed. The list itself though, had a couple of selections I disagreed with along with several glaring omissions. So, to counter the LA Weekly, and in no particular order, here are my “Top Ten Bass Influences”. Music being so subjective, I would never attempt to say somebody was “the best” – it’s all opinion anyway – but these are the players that had the biggest influence on me and my playing style, along with a video clip spotlighting each one.

Martyn Wylde playing bass with Clarence Clemons 1995

Martyn Wylde playing bass with Clarence Clemons 1995

Paul McCartney McCartney is probably the reason I play bass in the first place, The Beatles being the spark that ignited many would-be musicians of a certain age. Although I was already solidly set on a musical path, their influence (and influences) pushed me in a direction I might not otherwise have gone. When my son Bryan wanted to learn bass, this is the song I urged him to tackle first. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82jGgsYkTJo

John Entwistle “The Ox” was number 3 on the LA Weekly list, but number 1 with me for a lot of my teenage years, beginning with the first time I heard “My Generation”.  At my first (of many) Who show in 1968, I was fortunate enough to be able to stand practically right next to Entwistle. I’d already been playing bass for four years, but I really went to school that night. An unforgettable experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASJxApEz_YA

Jack Bruce Cream has been my favourite band since I first heard “I Feel Free” on a copy of Fresh Cream I’d ordered from England. Not only was Bruce an incredibly innovative bassist, his soaring vocals and quirky songwriting put him in a class by himself. His solo career was an example of a musician following his muse and encompassed jazz, blues, rock and even opera. The video, unfortunately, isn’t a live performance, but listen to the bass (and the vocal and the composition…). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf2uNw74SQE

Dee Murray Dee Murray was Elton John’s original bassist. For musical examples, please listen to the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album. Every track contains his superb melodic bass, always playing “the song” not just the bass. He varied the sound of his instrument and his approach, sometimes playing with fingers, sometimes with a pick. A musician’s musician. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlifljKJpog

Chris Squire Chris Squire’s playing with Yes is probably the reason why the Rickenbacker 4001 bass is still so popular. Decidedly a proponent of “bass as a lead instrument”, and nobody does it better. I was tempted to include the track “Roundabout” which is my favourite performance of Squire’s, but this live solo might be more of a treat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f09Arbuk5y8

James Jamerson One of Motown’s house bassists, Jamerson’s wonderfully rhythmic and melodic playing was the backbone of many of the label’s biggest hits. When I was first learning bass, I’d play with every song that came over the radio waves, and in those days, the selection was remarkably diverse. You’d hear a Beatles song, followed by a country song, another “British Invasion” record, an “oldie” and then a Motown hit. Here’s a wonderful representation of Jamerson locked in, not just with the rest of the rhythm section, but with the vocalist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6tCqqbnB6o

John Paul Jones JPJ already had quite a musical career going as a session musician and arranger when Jimmy Page asked him to join Led Zeppelin. Listening to his bass lines, you hear him not only locked tightly with the human sledgehammer, John Bonham, but playing in a highly diverse range of styles and with a variety of techniques. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMxSE3CDcpA

Ronnie Wood Before we knew him as a member of Faces and then The Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood played bass for The Jeff Beck Group. Taking a guitarist’s approach to the bass, Wood played chords along with the expected walking blues bass lines. I remember him using a Telecaster bass, played with a pick. Always admired that bass – and his playing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFyc_WXWNtw

Roger Glover Longtime Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover is the quintessential British hard rock bassist. He’s played not just with DP, but with Rainbow, Gov’t Mule and has been active as a producer for decades. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYflb6GRcWg

Duck Dunn You’ve heard Donald “Duck” Dunn’s playing whether you know it or not. He was the bassist with Booker T and the MGs and the house bass player for Stax Records, playing on recordings by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Elvis Presley and many others. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ965uZKi-w

Sorry for the ads in many of the videos. The folks who put them on YouTube have elected to “monetise” them and there’s no way around it.

Just for your information, here’s a link to the LA Weekly list: http://www.laweekly.com/…/the-20-best-bassists-of-all-time

The Seven Rejoices of Mary

THE SEVEN REJOICES OF MARY

I try to research the traditional folk songs I choose to sing, partially because I am fascinated by history and because I feel it makes my performance better to know as much about a song as possible. I’m often quite surprised at the different versions and variants I find for many of the songs. A case in point is The Seven Rejoices of Mary which is sung to the tune of an Irish favourite Star of the County Down.
The lyrics to Star of the County Down were written by Cathal McGarvey, himself from County Donegal, probably in the late nineteenth century. The story is from the point of view of a farmer who, “one morning last July”, meets a charming lass by the name of Rosie McCann, called the “star of the County Down”. From this brief encounter the farmer’s infatuation/lust grows until, by the end of the ballad, he contemplates wedding Rosie. Here’s a nice version of Star of the County Down performed by Lizzy Hoyt.
The tune, however, is similar to that of several other songs; an old Irish folk song called My Love Nell (a definite forerunner of Star, with Nell also being from County Down),the English folk tune Kingsfold, the hymn Led By The Spirit and Dives and Lazarus, one of the songs included in Ralph Vaughn Williams English Folk Song Suite. Here's a video of Maddy Prior performing Dives and Lazarus.
Music and lyrics to The Seven Rejoices… are attributed “English Traditional Folk Carol, collected by Mrs. Milligan Fox” in the book Two Hundred Folk Carols  (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #26, pp. 46-47. The lyrics are a polar opposite to the more earthy Irish song, being heavy with Christian religious symbolism, but then that’s why it’s considered a “carol”.
The most well known contemporary version of The Seven Rejoices is by Canadian musician Loreena McKinnett from her album Midwinter Night's Dream, released in 2008.