What is there to be said about a CD by Christy Moore? It’s not new music — it’s a reissue of a 1978 recording from Dublin — but here it is! Christy Moore is so highly regarded by his countrymen that he virtually walks on water. When he retired from the concert stage for health reasons a couple of years ago, it was covered in depth by most of the Irish press. They wrote glowing testimonials; it was almost as if he had died. Now his health is better; he’s been seen onstage a few times; and there is joy in the Emerald Isle. But there isn’t much joy to be found on this CD. What is there to be said about Live in Dublin?
Recorded in April 1978 at a series of gigs held “at The Meeting Place, Pat Dowling’s of Prosperous, Trinity College and the Grapevine Arts Centre in North Great George’s St.” and even in “Nicholas Ryan’s front room,” the sound is intimate and clear. Acoustic guitars and a bouzouki provide a firm foundation for Christy’s reedy tenor. His Irish brogue adds a touch of reality to the atmosphere invoked by these songs of rebellion and strife.
Did you throw the stone at the men alone/ with their bayonets fixed for hire
Did you think that they would kill no one/ did you scream as they opened fire
As the square ran red with your bloodstreams spread/ and the darkness round you grew
Did you feel the pain did you call the name/ of the man that you never knew. (“Hey Sandy” by Harvey Andrews)
This is the music of the Irish streets. The subject matter may explain why Christy Moore has never broken in North America. We don’t wear our hearts so obviously on our sleeves over here. Every aspect of life becomes politicized.
And when the hills were bleeding and the rifles were aflame
To the rebel homes of Kerry the Saxon strangers came
But the men who dared the Auxies and who fought for the Black and Tan
Were those boys of Barr na Sraide who hunted for the wren. (“The Boys of Barr na Sraide” by Sigerson Clifford)
Many of the songs are sad, with tragic conclusions. Even the love songs feature “One Last Cold Kiss,” or “I go to the Clyde and I mourn and weep/ for satisfied I ne’er can be/ I write her a letter just a few short lines/ and suffer death a thousand times.” Three of the songs are traditional, with arrangements by Moore, one song was written by Woody Guthrie and the rest are by composers unknown to this writer. They are linked by their “Irishness” and by their sympathy to the “cause.”
The guitar playing is quite lovely; Christy is accompanied by longtime partner Donal Lunny and Jimmy Faulkner (who provides a nice slide guitar on Woody’s “Pretty Boy Floyd”). Vocally, it is pretty much Moore’s show, with Lunny joining in with some subtle background parts.
From this album alone, it’s hard to see what all the shouting is about. Sure it’s got good singing and good playing but Live in Dublin is quite depressing. As for its politics … well, that’s up to you.