Archive for the ‘Hurling’ Category


Despite a terrible name that would keep me away from wanting to see them, The Redneck Manifesto are a very interesting and complicated band.  I discovered them through the book of Irish drummers.  TRM drummer Mervyn Craig is in the book.

The How is the band’s fifth album (and first in eight years).  The album is chock full of instrumentals that touch all genres of music.

There are jazzy elements, dancey elements and rock elements.  There are solos (but never long solos) and jamming sections.  Most of the songs are around 4 minutes long with a couple running a little longer.

“Djin Chin” has jangly chords and quiet riffs that switch to a muted melody.  All the while the bass is loping around.  It shifts tempos three times in the first two minutes.  Around three minutes the bass takes over the lead instrument pushing the song along with deep notes.

“The Rainbow Men” has a circular kind of riff with swirling effects that launch the song during the musical pauses.  After a minute and a half it drastically shifts direction and the adds in a cool solo.

“Sip Don’t Gulp” starts with a catchy bouncy guitar riff and bass lines.  At two minutes it too shifts gears to a staggered riff that sounds great.

“Kobo” is the shortest song and seems to tell a melodic story.  The two guitars play short, fast rhythms as call and response while the bass rumbles along.

“Head Full of Gold” is over 6 minutes with a thumping bass, rumbling drums and soft synths.  “No One” is nearly 7 minutes and feels conventionally catchy until you try to keep up with the beats.  After a middle series of washes from various instruments, the back half is a synthy almost dancey rhythm.

“Sweep” is a pretty song until the half-way mark when it just takes off in a fury of fast drumming and complex chords.  The end builds in upward riding notes until it hits a calming ending

“We Pigment” is a poppy staccato dancey number.  The second half turns martial with a series of four beat drum patterns and a soaring guitar solo.  More staccato runs through to the end.  “The Underneath Sun” also has a lot of staccato–fast guitar notes interspersed with bigger chords.  The end of the song is just littered with sweeping guitar slides until the thumping conclusion.

This album is great and I’m looking forward to exploring their other releases.

[READ: January 10, 2021] A History of Ireland in 100 Words

This book looks at old Irish words–how they’ve evolved and how they show the way Irish history came about.  The authors say:

our store of words says something fundamental about us and how we think.  This book is meant to provide insights into moments of life that may be otherwise absent from history books.  The focus is on Gaelic Ireland throughout as Gaelic was the native language of the majority of the inhabitants of the island for the last 2000 years. It yielded its primacy to English only in the last 150 years.

We selected words with the aim of illustrating each of our themes as broadly as possible.  We wanted the words in all their richness to tell their story … like how the word that originally meant noble came to mean cheaper (saor).

Almost all of the entries reference The cattle raid of Cooley (The Ulster Cycle) which features the hero Cú Chulainn.  This story is at the heart of most of historical Ireland and it’s pretty fascinating how many of these Gaelic words either originate with that story or get their foundation from the story.

There’s a general pronunciation guide although I wish each word had a phonetic guide because anyone who speaks English will look at Irish a if it is just a jumble of nonsensical consonants.

The book is broken down into sections, although the authors insist that there is no correct way to read the book.

  • Writing and Literature
  • Technology and Science
  • Food and Feasting
  • The Body
  • Social Circles
  • Other Worlds
  • War and Politics
  • A Sense of Place
  • Coming and Going
  • Health and Happiness
  • Trade and Status
  • Entertainment and Sport
  • The Last Word

There are also delightfully weird wood carving-like drawings from by Joe McLaren scattered throughout the book.

The words are listed below with either a definition or an interesting anecdote included. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DON BRYANT: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #116 (November 24, 2020).

I was not familiar with Don Bryant, although I must have heard his music over the years.

Bryant, almost 80, has been in the music business since the early days of rock and roll; he wrote his first hit, the Five Royales’ “I Got to Know,” in 1960. He went on to his biggest success as a songwriter for Hi Records in Memphis …. For a number of years he only recorded gospel music, until 2017 when he began releasing soul records again, backed by members of the Bo-Keys.


Classic soul music feels best in a club, with a lead singer and big band, preferably with horns, playing off the excitement of a sweaty crowd, drawing them in to stories of love, or love lost, or love reclaimed. It’s a hard feeling to find in our pandemic times.

Bryant manages to play some gorgeous old-school soul with just a guitarist (Scott Bomar) and a keyboardist (Archie “Hubbie” Turner).  And his voice, of course.

Wearing an elegant black and grey jacket matching his salt-and-pepper hair, Bryant evokes style and experience – someone who has been in it for the long haul.

This set is three songs from his latest record, You Make Me Feel, all written by him

His voice is powerful and resonant, deeply rooted in gospel. The keyboard sound is a classic soul sound and the guitar provides a mixture of rocking riffs and mellow accompaniment.

In “Your Love is to Blame” he even gives some good James Brown yelps.

Between songs he sounds like a preacher:  I’m going to give these songs to you as strong as I can.

“Is It Over” is slower and more mellow.  His voice sounds great, hitting high notes and unlike contemporary singers, his grace notes sound great–strong and not whiny.

“Your Love is Too Late” is a classic soul kiss-off track: “I found somebody new to do the things I wanted you to do.”  It opens with an old fashioned guitar riff and moves on from there with grooving guitars and fleshed out keyboards.

I don’t listen to much soul, but I do rather like it.

[READ: December 26, 2020] By the Way 2

This is Ann Lane’s second book about public art in Ireland.  She compiled the first in 2010.  I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know what is in it.

She says that in the ten or so years since the first book, more art has been added and she had been made aware of all of the art that she had missed.

But the fact that there are over 1,000 images in this book, that this is her second book and that in the introduction she says that she pretty much ignores the big cities (due to size constraints of the book) makes me think that Ireland is absolutely amazing with the amount of public art that the country has.  Ireland is about the same size as Indiana, and I would bet a ton of money that Indiana does not have 2,000 (some absolutely gorgeous) piece of public art to look at.

This book is broken down by county.  Lane includes many pieces of art from each county and provides some context for the piece, whether it is the impetus for the creation, some comment about its construction or even an occasional personal reflection.

It isn’t easy to photograph pubic art.  Some pieces absolutely fail when taken out of context or when trying to encompass an entire piece of art with a tiny photo.  Sometimes you cannot do justice to a piece because it must be seen from different angles to be really appreciated.  But Lane does a great job conveying these pieces.  And if her main goal is to get you to want to come to Ireland see them, then she has succeeded.

I marked off dozens of pictures in here because they were either my favorites or they were interesting in some way.

I followed this format.
Town: Title (Artist) Location.  Comments. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SAW DOCTORS-If This Is Rock’n’Roll, I Want My Old Job Back (1991).

A line from a Saw Doctors song is quoted in this book, so why not review the whole disc,yeah?

I’d first heard of The Saw Doctors in college.  My friend Jaime brought this very disc over to a party (although I prefer the title of their second disc: All the Way from Tuam, better).  I din’t really give them much thought after that.  But then, several years later I saw them live at the Guinness Fleadh Festival and they were fantastic.  I saw them at another show elsewhere (details are sketchy now) and they were excellent then too.

This is their first disc and it’s a bit more subdued and folky than their later releases.  The fun part, of course, is the singer’s greatly Irish-accented singing and so many of the regional references.  I mentioned earlier that there’s a song quoted in this book, and that song is “N17” one of the great anthem songs of all time (even if you’ve never been on the N17, which indeed, I have not, I’ll still happily sing “I wish I was on the N SEVENTEEN, stone walls and the grass is green”).

In general, but even moreso on their later discs, they sing anthemic folk rock (the kind of songs that work very well live).  But they mix elements of trad, punk and just good old rock in as well.  In many ways they’re like a clean cut version of the Pogues (I mean, just look at them on the cover of their greatest hits).  And their Greatest Hits is a good place to check them out.  You get a lot of singles (and they are definitely a singles band), for a good oul’ Oirish rocking time.

I recently learned that they are one of the highest selling Irish artists of all time (although I can think of maybe one other band that has outsold them, yeah?).

[READ: January 31, 2010] These Green fields

Full disclosure right up front.  The author of this book is the boyfriend of one of my friend’s sisters.  Of course, I’ve never met him, and I’ve only met her once or twice, so it’s not like they’re any conflict of interest, but I know how the internet likes to gossip, so I’ll be straight witcha.

I ordered the book from his site, and when it arrived, I was a little concerned because the back cover and the prologue were rather confusing.  Confusing not because they’re about hurling (a lot more on that later) but confusing because the writing wasn’t that sharp.  The back cover just didn’t really grab me, and the prologue, while in retrospect makes a lot of sense, it just wasn’t all that exciting.  But that problem was cleared up once the book proper started,  so I had my guard up for naught.

But so what’s this about hurling?  Well, hurling is an Irish sport (and I’m going to mangle this, so my apologies to those who know the game better than me).  Okay, so basically, you’re on a big field with goals at either end (like soccer, say).  But each goal, in addition to having a net (which has a goalkeeper) also has uprights (like American football, say).  Points are scored in two ways: Hit the ball through the uprights and you get one point.  Hit the ball past the goalie and you get 3 points.  But just to confuse matters, the scoring delineates between the two forms of scoring: Goals-Points, so you see scores like 2-16 to 3-19.  I believe that it’s the total point tally that picks the winner, but it’s amazing how quickly fans can look at these tallies and tell who won.

And what a bout the ball?  Well, I’ll back a up a little and say that thee are two sports that are played on this field.  (Both sports are sponsored by the GAA, the Gaelic Athletic Association): Gaelic Football and Hurling.  Gaelic Football uses a ball like a soccer ball (forgive me, Gaelic Footballers for that simplification).  But hurling, glorious hurling, goes in another route altogether.  The ball is similar to a baseball and the bat–yes they use a bat–is like a field hockey stick, except the base is flat.  (I have a sliotar (the ball) and a hurley (the bat) at home, although I’ve never really gotten to use them.

So the men (women play a similar game called camogie) run up and down the field with these hurleys scooping up the ball and running with the ball balanced on the end of the hurley (you can only use your hands to catch a ball in the air or to throw it to yourself for self-hitting purposes).   And when you get close enough, as you might imagine, you whack the ball at the goal.  I’ll repeat.  You run with the bat and ball, stop and whack the ball down the field with your stick.  Is there any doubt what sport real men play?  By the way helmets became compulsory on Jan 1, 2010.  American Football, you’re a bunch of nancy-boys compared to this.

Oh, and the players are all volunteers!  My friend Louise told me that her teachers used to play on the weekend and they would routinely come into class with black eyes or busted teeth.

For an official explanation of this awesome game, check out these videos (#2 has some great footage and playing rules):

But hey we’re here for a book, right? (more…)

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