We drove past the sacred mysteries of Avebury, Stonehenge and Glastonbury.
We circled the Standing Stones.
We crossed the forbidding Moors.
We drove as far as we could go only stopping at the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was late when we arrived.
The Moon was silvering the waters.
Dazzled and drowsy we settled into familiar surroundings and breathed the salt tanged air as deeply as we could before sleep beckoned.
I woke, as always, at 6am and joined the joggers and dog walkers patrolling the golden sands.
The surfers in their camper vans were already readying themselves for the fabulous waves the tides would surely provide today.
Later on the whole family including our grand daughter, now almost 1 and an enthusiastic paddler, established camp on our own stretch of the beach.
That lucky old sun rolled around heaven all day as we intermittently swam and sprawled under its reviving rays.
The picnic basket was looted of every treasure and urgent patrols were sent out for relief supplies of fruit and ice creams.
As the Sun set we meandered back to our cottage with the adults fortified by just the right number of Gin & Tonics.
Perhaps it was the power of the Sun amplified by the G&Ts that led me to start humming a tune that seemed to have the, ‘Spanish Tinge’
What was that song?
I set my music library numbskulls to work as I watched the waves crash on the rocks outside our windows.
Then, praise be, I began to sing in my (very) halting Spanish :
Era la medianoche, when oimos the scream “Se requieren cien taxis en el almeria de Chavez Ravine.
As soon as the words Chavez Ravine formed in my mind I knew the source of the sun dappled melody that held me enthralled – ‘Onda Callejera’ from Ry Cooder’s wonderful album from 2005, ‘Chavez Ravine’.
Now I was able to hit the button and luxuriate in the masterly musicianship of Ry and Joachim Cooder, Mike Elizondo, Joe Rotondi, Gil Bernal, Mike Bolger, and Ledward Kaapana.
Now, I could provide the harmonies for the true vocals of Little Willie G and sisters Juliette and Carla Commagere.
I doubt the Cornish Coast has ever heard such a midnight choir before!
The interplay between the musicians here is very special.
Listening it’s as if you’ve slipped into a dream state where all your senses flow together and your imagination is released to free float into the welcoming ether.
This is not a sound you can achieve by mere practice or calculation rather it is the result of inspiration grounded on vocation and spiritual immersion leading to musical bliss in the moment.
Catching such bliss on record is very rare so I lift my Sombrero high into the sky to salute Ry and his compadres!
This is the kind of performance which permanently changes the weather inside your head.
And, that’s a feat Ry Cooder has serially achieved throughout his career as he has searched the world seeking out new rhythms and textures to delight his own musical appetite and in consequence ours too.
Ry has since his boyhood has responded to the music, in all genres, that has attracted him by determining to meet the musicians who were masters of that sound and through playing with them inhabit the mystery too.
His whole career is essentially a musical pilgrimage with each record or collaboration a way station where he draws strength, nurture and inspiration for the road ahead.
From his third solo record, ‘Boomer’s Story’ here’s a song from 1932, ‘Maria Elena’ that in the care of Ry’s all star band continues to cast a tender spell.
Now was that 6 minutes or 6 Hours?
Musicianship of this quality makes a mockery of old Father Time’s supposed regularity.
When the above performance was recorded Ry’s Band was dubbed, ‘The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces’.
And, Aces they were everyone.
Attend to the gorgeous sway of Flaco Jimenez on the Accordion.
Attend to George Bohanon’s warm breeze in the night air Trombone.
Attend to the joyful elegance of Van Dyke Park’s Piano.
Marvel at the supernaturally supple rhythm section of Drum maestro Jim Keltner, Miguel Cruz on Percussion and Jorge Calderon on Bass.
Surrender and swoon as Ry orchestrates the whole magnificent ensemble as they lead us to musical nirvana.
Now, a simple miracle.
A collaboration between Ry and the great Cuban Guitarist Manuel Galbán.
There are no words of mine that can capture the glory of this take on, ‘Secret Love’.
Close your eyes, sit still and let the magic begin.
This is collaboration becoming communion.
Ry has a wonderful generosity in his musical life.
Foregrounding the talents of his collaborators through the acuity of his arrangements he creates the space for the magic to enter and bloom.
I wish Ry well on his continuing Pilgrimage for following in his footsteps has been an education and a blessing.
As always if a particular clip won’t play for you in this Post you will certainly be able to find a playable clip via YouTube in your own region.
The Albums, ‘Chavez Ravine’ and ‘Mambo Sinuendo’ (where Secret Love features) are unreservedly recommended.
Manuel Galbán is a legendary figure in Cuba.
His work with Los Zafiros is imbued with deep joy in music making.
I forgot that not only did I have a duty to celebrate the season of St Patrick here on The Jukebox I also had to celebrate in person and recover from those celebrations!
So, a little delayed, but I trust well worth the wait, the Official Immortal Jukebox St Patrick’s Day Post!
Now read on ….
All Hail St Patrick!
All Hail the Women of Ireland
Today we conclude our tribute to the intelligence, wisdom and beauty the Women of Ireland have brought to the arts of Song, Poetry and Painting.
Songs by Eleanor McEvoy (At the Mid Hour of Night & A Woman’s Heart) & AIlie (The Rocky Road to Dublin).
A Poetry Reading by Paula Meehan – ‘The Pattern’.
A Painting by Moyra Barry (1886-1960) : ‘Cinerria’
More years ago than I care to count seeking sanctuary from the crazed cacophony of life in London I frequented an out of the way social club whose clientele was largely comprised of Irish men and women who had emigrated to England in the late 40s/early 50s.
For an hour or two I would savour a pint or two of plain and drink in the rich accents and the rich conversation.
One of the habitues of the club, a whiskery Corkman, let’s call him Seamus, always greeted me by announcing, ‘You buy me a pint of porter and I’ll sing you one of Moore’s Melodies’.
My reply was always, ‘Done – let’s start with, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ and if the thirst is on you and the humour on me we won’t stop until we’ve sung, ‘Oft in the Stilly Night’, ‘The Harp’ and, ‘The Minstrel Boy’ before we leave.
I usually emerged spiritually refreshed if somewhat intoxicated from the porter and the romanticism of the melodies.
Thomas Moore was something of a 19th Century superstar in English and Irish society.
His, ‘Melodies’ lyrics set to established Irish tunes and melodies were much admired by Lord Byron and became songs that entered deep into the consciousness of generations.
As such, in modern Ireland, they came to be regarded, in certain chilly circles, as period pieces from the parlour best left to the tourists to enjoy.
A view I never had any time for.
So, I was delighted to learn that Eleanor McEvoy had recorded an album entirely devoted to Thomas Moore Songs, ‘The Thomas Moore Project’.
The distinguishing mark of Eleanor’s career, for me, was a wholly admirable creative restlessness which led her never to attempt to simply repeat earlier successes but rather to challenge herself to open up new artistic territory with every new record.
It seemed to me that her background; incorporating a music degree, a spell in the RTE Symphony Orchestra and a string of imaginative singer/songwriter albums made her an ideal candidate to present refreshed versions of songs from Moore’s great canon illuminating them brightly for new generations to enjoy.
And, praise be!, the, ‘Thomas Moore Project’ turned out to be an absolute triumph due to the endless care and consideration with which the songs were approached.
Original, imaginative arrangements combined with superb instrumental playing and heart-piercingly intimate vocals shook the dust off and revealed the ravishing beauty and sophisticated emotional acuity of Moore’s works.
Eleanor McEvoy’s take on, ‘At the Mid Hour of Night’ reanimates those, ‘past scenes of delight’ and is indeed rapture to hear.
‘At the mid hour of night when stars are weeping, I fly To the lonely vale we lov’d when life shone warm in thine eye; And I think that if spirits can steal from the region of air, To revisit past scenes of delight; thou wilt come to me there, And tell me our love is remember’d even in the sky.
Then I’ll sing the wild song, which once ’twas rapture to hear, When our voices, both mingling, breathed like one on the ear, And, as Echo far off thro’ the vale my sad orison rolls, I think, oh my love! ’tis thy voice from the kingdom of souls Faintly answering still the notes which once were so dear!’
Our Poetry Reading today comes from a former Ireland Professor of Poetry, Paula Meehan.
She has a plenitude of poetic powers at her command.
Reading through her works it seems that no aspect of the struggle to live a human life in our times has escaped her poetic eye and ear.
There is tenderness and rage, grief and joy and empathy embedded in her poetry.
She is a Poet who believes in the enduring power of Poetry to affect the human heart.
Her Poems exemplify the truth that there is a never to be sounded mysterious energy and power in Poetry.
She has said that, ‘ …Poems tell stories but there are also poems that just give you a moment of vision or transcendence .. two lines, two lines can save a life, I believe it.’
In, ‘The Pattern’ Paula Meehan captures with truth and tenderness the gravitational power of the Mother/Daughter relationship.
Today’s painting is by Moyra Barry.
Her special gift was for flower paintings.
These works have a quality of engaged observation and radiance which forces the viewer to take a breath and really Look!
Now to a new star from Ireland.
Ailie (Blunnie) from County Leitrim.
Her debut album. ‘West to the Evening Sun’ was a confident and mature work showcasing a talent that was wholly of the Now while being in no way cut off from the rich and diverse heritage of Irish music.
Highly atmospheric production added to the poetic imagination of her songs ensured the album packed a real punch.
Here she gifts us an unforgettable and invigorating version of the Rocky Road to Dublin.
Ailie plays Piano, Bass and Electric Guitar as well as all the singing here.
Daragh Dukes’ production makes the whole thing gleam.
My, ‘Brand new pair of brogues’ did some high stepping to this one I can tell you!
I am going to conclude this tribute to Irish Women with a song by Eleanor McEvoy which has rightly become a modern standard, ‘A Woman’s Heart’.
I hope this series has made plain that there are some things only a Woman’s heart can know and that we should be grateful for that knowledge being passed on to us in Songs, Poems and Paintings.
There will never come a time when Eleanor will not be asked to sing this song and there will never come a time when it fails to move all the hearts of those who hear it.
All hail the Women of Ireland!
For Peg, Marguerite, Ann, Roisin, Hannah and Martha Brosnan, Irene, Geraldine and Nina Fitzpatrick, Maura Dee, Deirdre and Sinead Trant, Niamh & Aisling Blackburn and Patricia & Grace O’Sullivan.
March is the month when the Immortal Jukebox, in the run up to the St Patrick’s day festivities, celebrates the enormous contribution Irish artists have made to the World’s treasury of Poetry, Song and Paintings.
This year’s posts are in celebration of the works, so often under regarded, of the Women of Ireland.
Each post will feature a song by an established singer and another by a singer or group who may not yet have gained fame outside of Ireland.
I will also be showcasing a Poetry reading and a Painting.
I hope I will be making introductions that will lead you to further exploration.
Songs by Dolores Keane and The Evertides.
Eavan Boland reading :
‘The Lost Art of Letter Writing’, ‘Quarantine’ and ‘The Emigrant Irish’.
A Painting by Mildred Anne Butler (1858-1941) : A Murder of Crows
My admiration for Dolores Keane knows no bounds.
In her voice you can hear Ireland speaking with power and authority.
In her voice you can hear Ireland speaking of pain, exile and loss.
In her voice you can hear Ireland speaking with faith and joy.
Listen to Dolores Keane.
Listen to Ireland.
Our painting today comes from Mildred Anne Butler who looked deep into the domestic and the animal life all around her Kilkenny home.
She painted en plein air and there is a startling freshness shining from her works.
She is well represented in galleries and latterly was commemorated on an Irish postage stamp.
Eavan Boland is a Poet of patience and fortitude.
Throughout her career she has attended to the whispers and looked unflinchingly into the dark shadows of Irish life and culture – particularly as experienced by Irish Women.
There is a complexity and precision of language and weight of thought in her work which is the mark of a major Poet.
The Evertides are a trio of wonderfully talented Irish Women – Ruth McGill, Alma Kelliher and Ruth Smith.
Their instrumental and vocal blend is that of Sisters in Song.
Their three part harmonies surround, enchant and elevate our senses.
The ability to enchant and to open doors into the numinous makes The Evertides a very special group.
In memory of Julia O’Sullivan and Hannah Hartnett.
If you enjoyed this post and know anyone who is Irish or of Irish heritage (and you do!) share it with them and ask them to share it further.
In addition to her role in The Evertides Ruth Smith presents one of my, ‘Must Listen’ radio programmes, ‘Simply Folk’ which airs on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sundays at 10pm.
Seek it out!
The next Post in the series will be published on Tuesday 12 March – Don’t miss it!