Saturday, June 24, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days: # 005: The Bothy Band, Live After Hours

Probably not the first LP of Irish traditional music I ever heard—I actually heard and started playing the music before ever hearing it on record (thank you for that, anyway, Alan Sorvall)—but it’s certainly the first disc of the 1970s Irish trad-revival I ever heard. This would have been around 1978, in a small 2-room 18th-centry house on a side street in Marblehead Massachusetts.

The record was on the (subsequently notorious) Mulligan label, on thin & floppy low-grade vinyl, but the music contained therein was like nothing we’d ever heard. Years later we realized that other bands had been paving the way for the Bothies (notably Planxty, the original Boys of the Lough, and what would become De Danann), but they were the first ones I heard.

Now I hear the rhythm section as pretty overbearing, and I like original fiddle players Paddy Glackin and then Tommy Peoples more than Live’s Kevin Burke, but the sheer ferocity of flutist Matt Molloy, bouzoukist Donal Lunny, and especially the titanic piper Paddy Keenan, made a huge impression on me.

This was where I first really understood the power of modal music (in the fantastic closing reels medley of The Green Groves of Erin/The Flowers of Red Hill), the intensity of the slow airs (Triona ni Dohmnaill’s The Heathery Hills of Yarrow), and just the overall full-tilt boogie of a band.

Years later a friend said to me, while listening to uillean piper Jerry O Sullivan wrestling with balky reeds in 100-degree heat, “It was only when I heard the pipes that I regretted all those years I wasted on rock ‘n’ roll.” Live After Hours taught me that I could find the ferocity, anger, sorrow, and fierce exultant joy of rock within the world of roots musics—and, far more importantly, could find community as well.

This record changed my life. Almost 30 years later, it’s just as great as I remember it.

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