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New releases from 2009 give reason for cheer

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

This year may well be remembered as the year Michael Jackson died but his passing did bring renewed attention to his stunning back catalogue – a more fitting memory than his last years, surely.

But the last year of the decade also saw some brilliant releases at home and abroad. While the music industry continues to adapt to the era of free downloads and I-tunes, the art form itself is in rude health. Here are some of the records that stood out this year.

 

Trauma Themes, Idiot Times – Jinx Lennon

‘I told you so’ is a phrase no one likes to hear, but Jinx Lennon was decrying the lie behind the boom long before the economy went belly up. Houses, taken from his second album in 2001, criticised rampant developers. This year, Lennon released his most complete collection yet. Trauma Themes, Idiot Times tackles controversial subjects like violent robberies in rural communities (Protect Thyself And Thy Home) and personal struggles (Everyone’s Got A Mental Home In Their Heads). Lennon’s barbarous wit works well with his angry world view. This is an album to make you think and laugh – something our stand-ups should do, but generally don’t. If you haven’t caught up with Jinx Lennon yet, now’s the time.

Key Track: You Can’t Keep Everyone Happy.

Horehound – The Dead Weather

In the year of ‘Jedward’ someone like Jack White, a bona-fide rock star, is more vital than ever. The White Stripes album Elephant is deservedly making many ‘best of the decade’ lists-hard to believe that the stellar Seven Nation Army is over six years old. Since then, Jack White has busied himself producing a wonderful Loretta Lynn album and co-fronting The Raconteurs

In 2009, White sat behind the drum stool for his latest project The Dead Weather. Alison Mosshart is stellar on lead vocal, but it is the thunderous energy of Jack White that made Horehound such an incredible album. Fans of loud, raw rock ‘n’ roll should file this under ‘must-have’.

Key Track: Cut Like A Buffalo.

The Nightsaver – David Kitt

Frustratingly overlooked by daytime radio, David Kitt’s sixth studio album was full of hummable gems that stuck in your head. Kicking off with the toe-tapping Move It On, Kitt sets his stall out from the very first second: layered, yet still simple, tunes that you can sing along with by the third chorus. Kitt is a songwriter who puts craft back into pop music.

The Nightsaver was recorded during the twilight hours in Kitt’s house in Dublin and that time spent alone, tinkering in the studio, has paid off-creatively, at least. Kitt released this album independently, having been let go by his label. A shame because this album deserves to be heard, exposed and cherished.

Key Track: Alone Like That.

The Beautiful Untrue – Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club

As front man of An Emotional Fish, Jerry Fish caught the eye of Ahmet Ertegun, chief of Atlantic Records – and the man who discovered Led Zeppelin. An Emotional Fish have since disbanded but Jerry Fish is now a music industry veteran of 25 years.

This year Fish, along with the Mudbug Club, returned with an inspired collection of songs. The Beautiful Untrue, the band’s second record, builds on the swampy, circus atmosphere of the debut but raises the songwriting a few notches.

Hole In The Boat turns the recession into a party and the album as a whole is a pure hoot.

Key Track: Back To Before.

Wilco (The Album) – Wilco

America’s best band return with another impeccable collection of songs and two sold-out shows at Vicar St confirmed their standing as a peerless live act.

Their seventh, self-titled album saw Jeff Tweedy lead his band through one of their best albums to date, in a career that’s yet to produce a dud. Wilco (The Song) opened the album in cheeky, catchy fashion and the record just takes off from there. Essential stuff, really.

Key Track: You And I.

Monsters Of Folk – Monsters Of Folk

Monsters Of Folk are a ‘supergroup’ made up of alt-folk luminaries Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst and Mike Moggis (from Bright Eyes) and M.Ward. The quartet had collaborated on their own tours and projects before but decided to come together for this brilliant record.

Monsters Of Folk showcases the talents of each artist to great effect: Oberst’s raw ability, James’s limitless falsetto and Ward’s smooth crooning. This time, too many cooks have made an excellent broth.

Key Track: Dear God.

The Crying Light – Antony and The Johnsons

Antony Hegarty made such an impact with his second album I Am A Bird Now that, perhaps, the follow up was overlooked. The Crying Light, however, is every bit as impressive as its Mercury-winning predecessor. Hegarty’s heartbreaking voice is backed up the highly inventive Johnsons, making The Crying Light a moving, but never maudlin, album. Tracks like Epilepsy Is Dancing and the charged Aeon show an artist who can experiment while staying focused. One of the noughties most fascinating performers.

Key Track: Kiss My Name.

Xx – The xx

Arriving on a wave of anticipation, London based quartet The xx proved that, for once, it was OK to believe the hype. The young band didn’t worry about excitable music journalists and instead delivered 2009’s most impressive debut. Bringing to mind Tricky’s Maxinquaye and a more subdued Cure, the xx hotwire your heart and chill you right out.

Key Track: VCR.

Strict Joy – The Swell Season

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova returned with this dazzling, post-Oscar album. Hansard’s voice remains as powerful as ever and Irglova adds a welcome light to the music. Members of The Frames and Javier Mas (Leonard Cohen’s guitarist) help to make this a musically rich and layered listen.

The West’s Awake – Again!

It’s been a good year for bands based in and around Galway. Disconnect 4 delivered on their live promise with Modern Love, the quartet’s debut EP. They play in the Róisín Dubh on New Year’s Eve, along with Fight Like Apes, Messiah J & The Expert and Le Galaxie (Admission €20/€15 members).

Ultan Conlon released his beguiling debut album Bless Your Heart, which has been getting some high profile national exposure. Keep up with him on www.myspace.com/ultanconlon.

A pair of Tuam bands came flying out of the traps in 2009. The Ralphs released the double A-side single Waste Of Time/Gunfire and have grown into a superb live act. The Coonics released their debut EP, a collection of insanely catchy songs with clever lyrics to boot. Both bands play the Woolstore, Tuam on Sunday, December 27. (Admission €5).

 

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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