So a trip to New York for March didn't exactly work out as planned. These things happen.
Two years ago this month, Jack Hardy passed away. I had seen him play in a bar in Brooklyn the year before and I am proud to say that I got to share the gig with some poems. I only wish I had known then what I know now - what an absolutely brilliant
songwriter, singer and gent he was. I think there are few singers nowadays whose lyrics read well without music; those whose do are a level ahead in my opinion.
When he died The New York Times ran a page about him and his commitment to the folk scene (click here). I find it quite remarkable how someone this good was a secret all my life until that night in Brooklyn a few years ago. Since then, I have again and again played his albums 'Rye Grass', 'Noir', 'Omens' and 'Coin of the Realm' - a fraction of what he recorded. This song here - I ought to know - is just one of many gems that give me a great memory of a trip to New York. So this time I couldn't get to go. And things sometimes don't go as planned.
The wait is over - a debut spoken word CD is now available (click the Live in the Laden link above).
I am delighted that this project eventually became a reality, and equally delighted I got to name it after and record it in The Laden - aka Verein 08, in Vienna. When I first moved to Austria in 2008, I had had a chat with then Neactains bar tender Emmet Scanlan who informed me of this little secret in Vienna's 8th district. A few weeks later in I went and that was the beginning of my 4 year Thursday night love affair with the Laden.
Run by Dominik Nostizt and family, this intimate venue is the perfect setting for publlic talks, small bands, singer songwriters, film projections, and of course poetry. I have watched travelling artists become immediately charmed by the attentiveness of the audiences, the legendary introductions by Dominik, and the fact that after 10pm nobody is allowed to clap out of respect for the neighbours, and so waving the hands in the air begins.
I chose the tracks for this album on the basis of how well they have been received at various events and shows, while also trying to keep it fresh with some new material. I am grateful to Ultan Conlon for contributing to the album with his beautiful song 'when I fell in love with you', and to Bryan Benner for opening up on the night and playing guitar for Mermaids in the Liffey - a poem dedicated to both Dan Swartz (Treehugger Dan) and Kevin Daly. I hope it's an album you enjoy and I hope too to see you at the next event, wherever it is, whoever we are with, whatever we look like. Good things. Neil
Once in a while, a poetry book comes along that you finish, put down, think about something and then pick it up to start again. This was the case I had having quickly devoured the outstanding collection Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged by Russell Thorburn.
The poems in this collection speak candidly of childhood memories, quickly setting the tone for what will follow with the opening poem Jazz - "I watch gray hair curl in the sink/as if this were surgery,/but I am only growing old, like a fat Mingus/who fires all the musicians in his band one night." The book goes on to reveal through hindsight a picture of the poet's parents, darting between past and present, comparisons rich and welcome. What I love about this book is Thorburn's command of the language he is using; the bold titles he hooks the reader with, such as Moonlight Spills crazy upon you, teacher of these inmates and the darkly clever I could be the victim full of face and a camera angle. I will keep this short, but finish by highly recommending this book for poets - it is a beautiful workshop on how to write well. Click here for more information.
Having met the man, once, maybe twice in New York, I was delighted to find that he had moved out here to LA in the new year. Warren Malone is a singer/songwriter with a quality that only comes along every now again; and therefore needs to be heard!
This album, And the ants ate the Bee is simply stunning - simple yet rich, poignant yet sometimes gorgeously vicious. "Daddy got a shotgun handy, Momma got a kitchen knife; you come around that mountain you gonna lose your life" He recently posted my favorite track from the album (Three years in Nebraska) here. Check it out.