Artwork/Collage by Colette Blanchard
Sleevenotes for the original release
Somebody once said, “all of the good stories are true”. Some memories and
incidents don’t fit into songs but they spark the fire that does.
Some of these wrote themselves, some had the words put into their mouths.
Like meeting an Irish—American cousin for the first time and looking at photographs
of family that I'd never met . . . but seeing my own face there.
Or driving around Nashville with J.D. Foster and Argyle Bell . . . in a Cadillac with
A half full bottle of tequila and one purple suede stiletto heeled shoe rolling around
on the back seat.
We talked of the songs of Shane McGowan and the Clancy Brothers and managed
to ﬁnd ﬁsh and chips in a night that hung humid over signs that read . . . Memphis,
Knoxville, composed from an alphabet that seemed to be sung by Elvis Presley and
the Carter Family.
The following spring . . . sitting in Rich and Kathy Brotherton’s house in Austin,
Texas, drinking whisky and playing “The Granemore Hare’ and ‘Raglan Road’ with
Rich, J.D. and David Halley.
Rich and the rest of The Barnburners playing ‘]enny’s Welcome to Charley’ on the
sidewalk outside Big Mamou on South Congress on a warm Easter Saturday
evening, a few hours after we had finished working on my ‘Call Up A Hurricane’
It’s a long way from the sessions in Reading’s Spread Eagle, Kennet Arms and The
Grifﬁn to the streets of Austin and Nashville . . . the power and beauty of the poetry
and melody hit me in a different way.
It’s even further from the Sunday night ceilidhs after Mass in the English
My father used to work the door sometimes and dance with my mother on the
floor he’d helped to lay.
I remember when I was a child we would go to church in the evening in the summer. Afterwards we’d walk down the hill to the Spread Eagle, we'd all sit in the
beer garden and my dad would come out with a tray . . . Guinness for him,
Babycham for my mother and Smith’s potato crisps and Pepsi Cola for my younger
brother and me.
In the winter of dark nights we would go to the morning service. That meant that
Sunday evening was spent with the radio tuned to Radio Luxembourg and Sunday
night was the Decca record label's show . . . London American . . . Everly Brothers,
Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Eddie Cochran, RCA Victor . . . Elvis, Jim Reeves and
Every time Cash, Reeves and Locklin came on my mum and dad would turn it
I knew from an early age that the waters of the Moy, Shannon, Mississippi and the
Thames met somewhere and made the sound of a blonde-finish bird’s eye maple
Gibson J—200, playing ‘The Star of Munster’ with a rockabilly backbeat and a Johnny
Some of these songs were written a few years ago now.
‘The Leaving of Sligo’ was written about ten years ago.
It’s based on my father’s own words about his older sister leaving home for
America in the I920’s.
His words said it all, I just had to make it rhyme. I performed it in a production at
the Progress Theatre in Reading with Arda Berkshire and the Wild Geese
The production was called ‘The American Wake’, a couple of years later we all
worked on another one called ‘The Homecoming’.
The latter was based around a reading of a poem by Patrick Kavanagh called
‘A Christmas Childhood’.
I wrote ‘Last Summer at Cloonacool’ especially for this production.
During this period Lennie Attrill and John Ryall, who respectively played accordion and ﬁddle in Arda Berkshire, and myself arranged and played music for a Progress Theatre production of Brendan Behan's ‘The Hostage’.
Some of my fondest and most exciting memories come from these times and
they still inspire and inform what I do today.
Some of these songs were written while we were recording, while others
probably began before I could write at all . . . and could only listen to my father
telling his stories of growing up in Sligo, of his boat journeys across the Irish
Sea to Liverpool as a young teenager.
Of walking the roads of Yorkshire looking for work, cutting beet in the freezing
winter ﬁelds of Lincolnshire, working on the streets, and underneath them,
excavating the tunnels for the Underground in pre-war London.
His family, my family . . . the power in blood . . . the wells of memory that ﬁll
up over generations and travel in the genes.
It seems that any road I travel in the British Isles and Ireland to play music,
he’s been there before, working on the road or digging the ﬁelds alongside it.
The big difference is that him and those like him never got any applause.
Everybody’s got a story to tell, some live them, some tell them, some write
them down, some dream them, some make them up, some sing them and
some of us try to do it all.
I am always spellbound by the stories and songs of Patti Smith, Bob Dylan,
the late Bruce Chatwin, Christy Moore, Dylan Thomas, Michael Ondaatje,
Laura Nyro, Charles Dickens, Malcolm Lowry and many others.
If you’ve ever got a month to spare, Butch Hancock and my dad have got
some of the best stories on this or that side of ﬁction.
These stories and songs had their roots on the banks of ‘The Shelly River’.
They’re all wild seeds now.
Berkshire, England 1991.