Friday, September 10, 2010

“Becoming a Jackal” (Villagers)

I was recently driving along and listening to the World Cafe on NPR when I heard an amazing track that the show’s host, David Dye, later said was by an Irish band called Villagers. I made a quick note but sort of forgot about it when I got home.

A few days ago, I was at Starbucks and noticed a card for a free iTunes download for a track by a band called Villagers. “Hmm,” I thought, as I poured half and half into a cup of Earl Grey. “Villagers. That sounds familiar.” I dropped the card into my bag and headed home, but then I sort of forgot about it.

Yesterday, I was watching an interview with Glen Hansard on YouTube, shot during the Electric Picnic festival that was held last week in County Laois. During the interview, RTÉ Radio 1 host Philip King talks about what he calls a “golden age” of Irish music happening at the moment. And one of the names he threw out was Villagers.

And then, WHAM! It all came together like one of those movie montages where the main character’s life flashes before his eyes. Fate had been trying to get my attention, and I finally stopped for a second and noticed.

Conor O’Brien — who is Villagers, or fronts Villagers; I can’t quite figure it out — has a crazy-mesmerizing, haunting, addictive voice. He does remind me vaguely of someone ... but who is it? David Gray? Morrissey? Simon & Garfunkel? It’s sort of all of those, and none of them, at the same time. I know he’s unique and incomparable, and but there is something rich and atmospheric about his music that puts me in mind of those once and current greats. Either way, I am seriously loving it.

My favorites so far are the home sessions that are posted on YouTube. When someone sounds like that when he’s just hanging out in his kitchen, you know it’s quality.


Friday, September 3, 2010

“Sadhbh Ní Bhruinneallaigh” (Liam Ó Maonlaí)

Pam Stucky over at P as in Pterodactyl posted some shots of her trip to Inishmore, and I couldn’t help but follow suit. My trip was in June 2001 with my friends Cian and Pio. Our seaside B&B came with its own cattle, and the bean an tí (woman of the house) informed us when we checked in that there was no need to give us keys, as the house was never locked.

We spent a lovely overcast afternoon walking the length of the island to Dún Aengus. I had been to the Cliffs of Moher in the past and watched in a mixture of terror and envy as people would lie down and peer over the edge. Since the three of us were the only people at Dún Aengus that day, I decided to finally try it. I lay down and peered further and further over the edge, watching waves crash against the rock below. Probably about a minute passed until fear took over and I scrambled back toward a wider patch of solid ground. I still get chills today just thinking about it.

Later that night, we went to a quiet pub on the island where Cian and Pio had a great chat as Gaeilge with one of the island’s elders and I tried to catch a word here and there. And even though Liam Ó Maonlaí wasn't singing sean nós in the pub, this clip might give you a feel for the kind of evening we had.