As we continue to flesh out England’s neo-folk lineage it becomes ever more important to visit their Irish brethren. A brief sojourn there, around that time especially, starts to bare much more fruit to sample. Groups like Planxty who originally started out as young lads helping older traditional singers, only to find their own voice and path to carry Celtic music forward. Mixing rock, with more thoroughly plebeian jigs, reels, ballads, footballer songs, and pub songs you could say they were the progenitors to what came to be known as “pub rock” or modern Celtic folk-rock, before the ascent of the Chieftains, the Pogues, (The Corrs its sad descent) and the like there was Planxty to promote a new kind of Irish music…in their own time though, they were just another important rung in England’s neo-folk music.
|Planxty album cover.|
Simply incredible musicians, a few too many in number to name, the head members though were Christy Moore (on vocals/bodhran), Andy Irvine (vocals, mandolin/mandola, hurdy gurdy, bouzouki and much more), Donal Lunny (bouzouki, acoustic guitar), and Liam O’Flynn (tin whistle, uilleann pipes), all of them truly revolutionary in their own way. They released their first single “Three Drunken Maidens”/”Sí-Bheag, Sí-Mhór” in 1972 and toured the Irish folk circuit. Sometime shortly later so, they appeared on the Late, Late Show an RTE program and simply wowed young Irish everywhere with their modern rendition of “The Blacksmith” (an old round):
This performance got them an opening gig for Donovan, one of those wide eyed youngins, and with the rampant success that their lively shows promoted, they decided to put on tape that same kind of open, spacious Celtic Folk-Rock music thousands of fans were being wowed with. 1973’s Planxty introduced a young Irish generation to the centuries old folk music, many now thought was antiquated, in a fresh way all the while doing so at the time giants like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd roamed the land. The opening track “Raggle Taggle Gypsy /Tabhair Dom Do Lámh” which shares that same revival spirit Donovan’s prior envisioning of it. Led by the bouzouki and mandola melodies of Andy and Donal, it ushered in a new much more communal, and in many ways more palatable, version of Celtic rock music. One that wasn’t mired in the booziness, and frankly dire retelling of olde Irish woes most Celtic music was then known for.
Its a brilliant album that many would be unwise to soak in a little. You’ll miss great songs like “Only Our Rivers Run Free” (Modern Irish woe), “The Jolly Beggar” with its roving spirit, and “Follow Me Up to Carlow” a song to raise you up when you be down, and a bunch more that start to clarify for you how much good Irish music gets drowned out by its more Americanized St. Patrick’s-like ilk. My favorite by a hair now, is “The West Coast of Clare”, in spite of my aversion to all thing pan flute/tin whistle damned if its accompaniment with those other Irish instruments doesn’t fail to put some dust in my eyes. I’d welcome you to stick around for the rest of the album, you won’t hear many albums as refreshing as this one.
Bonus track, if you have a wee bit under an hour of time stick around for Planxty’s celebratory performance at Dublin’s National Stadium in 1973: