Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

Easy and Bold

Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

Easy and Bold

Article excerpt

John & Tim Lyons. CD + booklet. Veteran VT158CD, 2012. [pounds sterling]10.25.

The first thing that impresses on this CD is the voice quality of each singer. It is quite startling to realize that John Lyons was born in 1933 and Tim in 1937 but there is no great diminution in the wholeness of voice, even on elusive bass notes or high pitches. Each of the brothers paces songs well, Tim with a marked deliberateness in enunciation. You get used to the slight abrasions of each voice, Tim's with a cutting edge and John's with more of a sort of engaging rustiness. On his LP The Green Linnet (1972) Tim's voice is certainly a touch rounder, but the swirls of long lines are flourished in much the same manner on both recordings.

The second thing to notice is that, despite lengthy reference in the song notes to Tim's abilities, there is no song here concocted by Tim. That is a pity--many of us will recall, for example, The Fast Food Song', and Tim's adventures with Fintan Vallely as recounted in the notes. At the same time, the key to such scatology is immediacy, and the decision to omit Tim's own songs in favour of those that are more generally humorous can thus be seen as a sensible and modest one.

Of just this kind are the three songs, 'The Limerick Rake', The Bold Tenant Farmer', and 'Bold Thady Quill', sung by the singers together. I have a recording of The Limerick Rake' made (with permission) in 1974 in Queally's bar in Miltown Malbay, where the two singers emerged in tandem in a characteristically comfortable, sometimes uproarious manner. This does, to an extent, underline the loss of sparkle on the current CD, which is almost inevitable in a recording made under more formal conditions.

But most importantly, we find an underlying gravitas in the majority of songs. In Tim's choice of 'Anach Cuain', the rare 'Kilnamartyra Exile', and then 'An Droighnean Donn' and The Green Linnet', pedigree is clear. There is a respectful, almost subdued tone in Tim's singing, and much decoration in the manner we are used to with singing in Irish. John, too, weighs in, a little more straightforwardly, with 'After Aughrim ...' ('Sean a Dhuibir an Gleanna').

Thus, whether we hear of local disasters or big battles, of the sadness of parting or--yes--of oppression, it is impossible to doubt the overt feeling for their heritage that the singers display. And in the absence of songs in Irish, there is still another sense of 'Irishness' in the echoes of language, here vested i.n long, rolling metres, especially in the two Irish-titled songs just noted.

Sc), too, friends from more recent history are brought to mind. …

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