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This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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It is very rare for a CD to require listening instructions. This is such a CD. Larry Kirwan's compositions are akin to a collection of musical novellas and are best digested one serving at a time. Anything more is overindulging as each song requires--no, demands--focused concentration.
Kirwan frames his characters with unusual depth and imagery, and delivers his stories in a spoken and sung, emotion-laden pitch. As one song concludes and another begins, you'll find yourself pondering what you've just heard and unwilling to move on. You may not necessarily feel good after listening to the various cuts but you'll feel more.
The lead singer for the celtic group Black 47, Kirwan primarily utilizes an acoustic setting with this release. But this is not a man, his guitar and a plethora of pretty melodies. The music here may be somewhat atypical for folk status as trumpet, double bass, violin, trombone and more embellish each song's setting but, nonetheless, it's exhilarating as these mini-operas prod, provoke and release the imagination.
His opening song, "Molly," recalling James Joyce's Molly Bloom character, brings to mind the Ralph Fiennes-Julianne Moore-Stephen Rea relationship in Graham Greene's book-turned-movie, "The End of the Affair." An intense, obsessive, messy love quagmire is painfully and dead-on depicted in the most powerful cut on the release.
But "Girl in the Rain" isn't far behind. Its sensuality will make you want to hit the pause button and grab your partner for a little CD interruptus.
A musical Cliff Notes of Irish history is provided in "History of Ireland, Part 1" and "History of Ireland continued." Kirwan travels from Strongbow's times to today's Ireland, often tongue-in-cheek but also with enough of an edge that keeps the listener off balance. He closes with:
"...Poor old James Connolly wouldn't know what to make of usFamily dynamics, religion, politics, love and revolution all collide in the drama "Life's Like That, Isn't It." Upon his father's return from sea, the young boy in the story, still firmly immeshed in religious instruction, sees his parents dancing in the kitchen and the thought appears:
'Cause now we're European, we get our orders from Brussels
Don't need no more of that Irish Republican muscle
The ghosts of Pearse, Tone, Emmet and McDermott
All waltzin' off into a Celtic Tiger sunset"
"...Father and Mother are sublimely goin' to hell..."
The (biographical?) twisting-and-turning journey Kirwan has the youth take into adulthood is mesmerizing.
Kirwan intertwines poets Federico Garcia Lorca and Victor Jara with dictators Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet in "Spanish Moon." How he does this is most remarkable, utilizing instrumental music reminiscent of that of Spain along with spoken Spanish in the background as he sings, "the poet lives forever, the general dies alone..."
Set in the U.S., "Fatima" depicts a budding interracial relationship deterred by a clash of cultures. A young Muslim woman is being wooed by a Christian suitor but her father is both heartbroken and angry about the turn of events. He thinks as they say back home, "things fall apart in America."
Anyone indifferent to this release just isn't paying attention and should return as quickly as possible to the Britney Brigade.
Kirwan, on vocals, acoustic guitar and Hammond T2, is backed by Paul Ossola on double bass and electric bass; Frank Vilardi on drums and percussion; Dave Tronzo on electric slide guitar; Fred Parcells on trombone; Stewart Lerman on Hammond T2 and guitar; Suzzy Roche on vocals; Rich Viruet on trumpet; Faith Glassman on violin; Lisa Gutkin on violin; Mike Fazio on pedal steel guitar; David Conrad on cello; Malachy McCourt with voice on 'History of Ireland;" and Copernicus with voice on "Spanish Moon."
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