on 29 April 2012
If you are reading this, you most probably are aware of what to expect. I got this on vinyl (on the Mulligan label I believe) around 1976/7, and it just knocked me sideways.
From the outset (the intro to "The Kesh jig"), the Bothy Band just come out like bare knuckle fighters, hardly stopping to take breath, the changes of tunes and tempo; swaying and ducking and diving, and delivering knock out music all the way through. Each member, and you most probably know who they are, deliver a raw energetic, turbo charged, enthusiastic, and often copied but never bettered style of traditional Irish music. All of the Bothy Band recordings are superb, but I think that this, their first, for me at least, has the most dynamics.
(Also worth a very good mention is a new group called "The Bonny Men". I would stick my neck out and say that I think they come a very close second to taking up where the Bothy Band left off. Check them out.)
Taking their name from the ramshackle homes of migrant workers (they were called 'bothies') and the traditional music groups that sprang up from them – as a Dubliner who lived through it - I've loved THE BOTHY BAND with a passion all of my life. But a bit of history is needed to fully review the impact of their arrival and especially their magical first platter "The Bothy Band" (aka "The Bothy Band 1975" because of the photos on the front cover although it's actually credited as "The Bothy Band” on the label and spine).
When their properly Traditional debut album hit the streets of the UK in March 1976 on Polydor Super 2383 379 - Irish Folk music was often mired in horrible pro-Nationalist rhetoric and the bloodshed that followed it. Sure we had PLANXTY with Christy Moore – who were wonderful too (also on Polydor Records) – but we had that other crap too and little else we Young Irish with half a brain wanted to hear. THE BOTHY BAND changed all of that. And they were utterly magical live too...
First up there were six in THE BOTHY BAND...
MICHAEL O'DOMHNAILL (Michael O'Donnell) - Guitar and Lead Vocals
TRIONA NI DHOMHNAILL (Triona O'Donnell) - Harpsichord, Bodhran and Lead Vocals
DONAL LUNNY - Bouzouki and Vocals
MATT MALLOY - Flute and Whistle
TOMMY PEOPLES - Fiddle
PADDY KEENAN - Uilleann Pipes and Whistle
1. The Kesh Jig/Give Us A Drink Of Water/The Flower Of The Flock/Famous Ballymote - Instrumental
2. The Green Groves Of Erin/The Flowers Of The Red Hill - Instrumental
3. Do You Love An Apple? - Lead Vocals, Triona
4. Julia Delaney - Instrumental
5. Patsy Geary's/Coleman's Cross - Instrumental
6. Is Trua Nach Bhfuil Me In Eirinn - Lead Vocals, Michael
7. The Navvy On The Line/The Rainy Day - Instrumental
8. The Tar Road To Sligo/Paddy Clancy's - Instrumental [Side 2]
9. Martin Wynn's/The Longford Tinker
10. Pretty Peg/Craig's Pipes
11. Hector The Hero/The Laird Of Drumblaire (Strathspey & Reel)
12. The Traveller/The Humours Of Lissadel
13. The Butterfly
14. The Salamanca/The Banshee/The Sailor's Bonnet
Tracks 1 to 14 are their debut album "The Bothy Band" - released March 1976 in the UK on Polydor Super 2383 379 and May 1976 in Ireland on Mulligan Records LUN 002.
The significance of the sheer number of bodies meant that The Bothy Band's rhythm section had an ‘oomph’ other four-piece Traditional Irish Folk groups like say PLANXTY simply didn't have. As the songs progressed - the combo of Triona's Harpsichord and Donal Lunny's Bouzouki would provide a backbeat that elevated the expert Fiddle playing of Tommy Peoples and the amazing pipes of Paddy Keenan. The power of this both in the studio and live would have audiences in raptures - clapping and feet-stomping. This musical set up is taken for granted now – but at the time it was kind of revolutionary. Throw in two deeply beautiful voices from the leads (brother and sister) - Triona singing "Do You Love An Apple" or Michael singing "Is Trua Nach Bhfuil Me In Eirinn" and the heartstrings would be tugged as well. Bands such as STOCKTON'S WING and DE DANAAN followed in their wake at the time and into the 90's and 00's with ALTAN, DERVISH and even Scotland's CAPERCAILLIE.
The 'Irish' CD I have is made in Austria and distributed by CM Distributions in Harrogate, North Yorkshire using the Mulligan Records logo and catalogue number Mulligan LUN CD 002 (Barcode 5016364300859) and is a straightforward transfer of the album (47:48 minutes). Outside of the musician credits that came with the original LP - there's absolutely zero info on the gatefold slip of paper that acts as an inlay - essentially an advert for other CM Distribution titles. There are no mastering credits of any kind but the AUDIO is great - full and lively. There's a wonderful vitality to the disc. I know there's a Shanachie Records reissue of the album out of the States but I can't comment on that as I don't own it.
Of all the 14 songs - each was a Traditional Irish air arranged by the group - and most unknown to us. These were musicians in their late 20s when they formed - steeped in Irish Folk - expert players - giving us jigs, reels, pipe solos and following the instrumental dexterity with vocal ballads full of fun - songs about love and longing. I can remember being in The National Stadium in Dublin when Triona sang "...before I got married I wore a black shawl...but since I got married...I wore bugger all...but still I love him...I can't deny him...I'll be with him wherever he goes..." in "Do You Love An Apple". The men laughed but the women shed a tear because they knew the woman's voice and heart (too damned true). Triona would then make us laugh with "Pretty Peg" where a frisky girl has "...a boy in her bed..." with her mum downstairs - prayer book in hand - praying for the doubtful soul of her lusty daughter. The lyrical craic then segues into Paddy Keenan and Tommy Peoples doing a Pipes/Fiddle double that romps it home. I can also remember feeling an 'Irish' awakening at the time - this was music we could be proud of off. I even had "The Bothy Band" sewn onto the back of my Wrangler shirt by a girlfriend of mine in beautiful gold and green Irish calligraphy - it was the envy of many and I got asked to sell it a hundred times over (wore out after too many washes).
Of the jigs and reels the opening "Kesh Jig" ensemble is fantastic stuff and if you've heard the posthumous live BBC set - you'll know that Paddy Keenan's pipe playing on "Patsy Geary's..." would bring the house down. I don't know how many notes he hit in three minutes but I wouldn't like to count them. The Harpsichord is used to fabulous effect on "The Butterfly" lending the song an English madrigal feel. Other highlights include "Pretty Peg" and the builder "Julia Delaney" - an instrumental that would convert even the doubter.
DONAL LUNNY (who'd been with Planxty) formed Mulligan Records in Ireland releasing important albums like Paul Brady's brilliant "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" from September 1978 as well as Rock acts like Scullion (Leo O'Kelly and Sonny Condell from Tir na n'Og), Gay and Terry Woods, Freddie White and even Irish punk band The Vipers. Mulligan Records was primarily about Irish Folk and gave voice to Mick Hanley, Kevin Burke, Jim Crowley, Andy Irvine, Matt Molloy, Liam Weldon, Dolores Keane and Christy Moore's brother Barry Moore (know as Luka Bloom now) whose "Treaty Stone" LP from September 1978 is one of the most beautiful Irish Folk-Rock LPs I've ever heard. Lunny would also have involvement with U2 and Windmill Lane Studios and remains a leading light in Irish music to this day. As for The Bothys - hell even a dance band sampled the entirely Acapella 'mouth music' vocal racehorse that is "Fionnaghula" on their second album "Old Hag You Have Killed Me" from October 1976. If they reformed – many would come running from wide and afar...
"The Bothy Band" is a great album and a forgotten masterpiece of the Irish Folk genre. They went on to make two more studio LPs and one cracking live album (see list below) – but my heart will always be with this brilliant opening salvo.
"...Do you love an apple...do you love a pear..." – they sang over 40 years ago.
Indeed I do and I suggest (in the best possible taste of course) you get rightly fruity with them too...
THE BOTHY BAND Discography on LP and CD
1. The Bothy Band
March 1976 UK LP on Polydor Super 2383 379
Mulligan LUN CD OO2 (Barcode 5016364300859)
2. Old Hag You Have Killed Me
October 1976 UK LP on Polydor Super 2383 417
Mulligan LUN CD 007 (Barcode 5016364300774)
3. Out Of The Wind, Into The Sun
October 1977 UK LP on Polydor Super 2383 456
Mulligan LUN CD 013 (Barcode 5098990120803)
4. Afterhours – Recorded Live In Paris
February 1979 UK LP on Polydor Super 2383 530 (with insert)
Mulligan LUN CD 030 (Barcode 5098990120902)
5. The Best Of The Bothy Band
September 1980 UK LP on Polydor Super 2383 583
Mulligan LUN CD 041 (Barcode 5098990121008)
6. Live In Concert (Recorded in London in 1976 and 1978)
May 1994 CD-only compilation on Windsong International WINCD 060 (Barcode 5018766943061)