Category: Archive

Chicago musician plunges into ‘Perdition’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

A movie with high critical and box-office expectations this summer will be “The Road to Perdition,” directed by Sam Mendes, who won an Oscar for 1999’s “American Beauty.” Scheduled for release on July 12, this Dreamworks/Fox film stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in a Depression-era saga, set in Chicago, about an Irish hit man, Michael O’Sullivan (played by Hanks), who seeks revenge for the gangland slaying of his wife and son.

In the movie are scenes of Irish musicmaking and dancing, all coming under the oversight of Chicago’s John Williams, a former member of Solas and the only American ever to win the All-Ireland senior concertina title (1989).

After meeting with Mendes in December 2000 at the Dreamworks production office in Chicago, Williams was hired as music consultant. His duties included composing and arranging an Irish air, then teaching it to Hanks and Newman for a piano duet on screen; licensing an additional, separate, pre-existing composition of his own for use in the film; hiring, directing, and recording an “authentic” 1930s-style Irish quintet, and arranging Irish traditional dance music for a multi-camera, choreographed cTilf that springs up at a tense Irish wake. (For her role as Hanks’s wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh learned to dance and cook Irish-style.)

Of West Clare lineage, John Williams released his second solo album last year, “Steam” (Green Linnet), and has taken that CD title for the name of a small group he’s formed. Recently playing with him in Steam were another ex-Solas member, guitarist John Doyle, and former John Whelan Band and Cherish the Ladies fiddler Liz Knowles.

Brady takes ‘Liberty’

There are album launch concerts — and then there are album launch concerts. The one held for Strabane-born singer Paul Brady on July 21, 1978, in the auditorium of Dublin’s Liberty Hall, headquarters of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, was a doozie. Touting “Welcome Here, Kind Stranger,” the 1978 solo recording that was his last truly traditional effort, Brady was joined on stage by a host of fellow heavyweights: flutist Matt Molloy, uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn, fiddler Paddy Glackin, bouzouki and guitar player D=nal Lunny, concertinist Noel Hill, and mandolin, harmonica, hurdy-gurdy, and bouzouki player Andy Irvine, with whom Brady made a quintessential, take-to-a-desert-island duet album two years earlier.

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Brady accidentally found the reel-to-reel tapes of the concert in his attic, prompting the CD title, “The Liberty Tapes” with the adjective “missing” set in smaller type below the first two words. It took 23 years for this performance to see the light of day on a CD issued in Ireland last year, and this Tuesday it will be released stateside by Compass Records, a label that has systematically reissued Brady’s rock-pop recordings made over the past 20 years.

“A live gig, with no remixing, replacing, or overdubbing? Jump back into 1978 and feel the moment,” Brady writes in his liner notes for the CD. On it he sings “Arthur McBride,” “Mary and the Soldier,” and “The Lakes of Pontchartrain,” three songs that alone would make this album a keeper.

For further information, contact Compass Records, 117 310th Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37212, (615) 320-7672.

Tweed’s twinning ways

Five-time All-Ireland piano accordion champion Karen Tweed, a member of the talented all-women’s band the Poozies, has four active musical duos going now: with melodeonist Andy Cutting, with guitarist Ian Carr, with former House Band singer, guitarist, and fiddler Roger Wilson, and with pianist Timo Alakotila. Last year, she and Alakotila released “May Monday,” a superb album that finished No. 8 in the Irish Echo’s top 10 list.

If all that weren’t enough, the prolific, seemingly inexhaustible Tweed just issued her third recording with the Irish-British-Scandinavian band Swsp, “Mosquito Hunter” (Amigo Musik in Stockholm, Sweden). She also expects to release a new duet album with Andy Cutting soon and hopes to have, before the year ends, a new Poozies recording and a Christmas compilation that will include her, the Poozies, Swsp, and Niall Keegan and Sandra Joyce.

Some imagination

Equally as occupied as Karen Tweed, Buncrana-born fiddler Liz Doherty balances teaching, lecturing, writing, editing, touring, recording, and producing. Awarded a Ph.D. in music from the University of Limerick in 1996, she is a former member of the all-women’s group the Bumblebees and the Cork-based band Nomos, with whom she recorded “Buzzin'” in 2000 and “I Won’t Be Afraid Any More” in 1994, respectively.

In addition to the music of her home county, Doherty has a strong interest in Cape Breton music. Her dissertation was about it, and her 1999 solo album “Last Orders” drew heavily from it.

That interest continues in her new solo recording, “Quare Imagination,” on her own, aptly named Busy Lizzy Records (P.O. Box 1, Culdaff, Lifford, Co. Donegal, Ireland). The use of “quare” here is Ulster parlance for good or unusual, and her album is both. It features Donegal, Cape Breton, French Canadian, and Scottish music played by Doherty with such guests as guitarist Tony McManus, Capercaillie bouzouki and guitar player Manus Lunny, Poozies fiddler Eilidh Shaw, Sl_inte Mhath pianist Ryan MacNeil, and Tipperary-born banjo phenom Gerry O’Connor, who produced the album.

When not recording or touring, Doherty is immersed in a mammoth publishing project: editing the complete works of Captain Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), the Bantry-born Chicago police superintendent recognized as the most important collector of Irish tunes in history.

Not standing pat

A prize pupil of Brian Conway, Brooklyn fiddler Pat Mangan will be heading off to Tufts University this fall with a $10,000 scholarship in tow.

Mangan composed and recorded “September Sky,” a slow reel that he submitted to the World of Expression music competition sponsored by German media giant Bertelsmann. Taking first place in the instrumental category earned him the scholarship, and he expects to perform “September Sky” at the awards ceremony on June 10 at Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse in Manhattan.

Congratulations to one of New York City’s best young fiddle talents, soon to brighten Boston’s Irish traditional scene at college. Look for Mangan’s solo album debut by autumn as well.

Head Easton, young man

Stonehill College’s 12th annual Irish Festival will take place from June 7-9 on the campus in Easton, Mass. It is presented by the Irish Cultural Centre of Canton, Mass.

There will be eight stages and some 500 entertainers at the festival, which runs from 6 p.m. to midnight on June 7, 11 a.m. to midnight on June 8, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 9. Performers run the gamut from showband to pipe band to ballad to traditional, and will include two Boston-area trad stalwarts, fiddler STamus Connolly and button accordionist Joe Derrane.

For further information, call 1 (888) GO-IRISH or visit www.irishculture.org.

‘His hair was perfect’

Warren Zevon, whose 1978 hit single, “Werewolves of London,” is still a staple of better jukeboxes, has always been a literate, even literary songwriter. He dedicated his 1995 album, “Mutineer,” to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and wrote two songs for that recording with popular Florida crime novelist Carl Hiaasen.

Those two surface once more on Zevon’s new album, “My Ride’s Here” (Artemis). But the really pleasant surprise is Zevon’s collaboration with Armagh-born poet Paul Muldoon on two songs: the title track and “Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.” Named after Ireland’s highest mountains, in the Killarney Lakeland of County Kerry, the latter, cheeky ballad features fiddle and tin whistle.

“Paul Muldoon and I had a mutual admiration thing going for a long time,” Zevon says of the poet who has published eight collections of verse, “and we plan to resume our collaboration in the immediate future.”

Odd alliance? Not when you consider that another Zevon classic, “Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner,” was composed with David Lindell. He owned the Dubliner, a pub in Sitges, Spain, where Zevon once sang Irish songs in the 1970s.

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