Music of Ireland Persists through Songs of the Makems

By Reuters | The Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 1994 | Go to article overview

Music of Ireland Persists through Songs of the Makems


Reuters, The Christian Science Monitor


NO, it's not Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers strumming and singing in the Unitarian Church in this New Hampshire seaport. It's Makem's sons - Rory, Conor, and Shane - and partner Brian Sullivan.

The Makem Brothers and Brian Sullivan, all in their 20s, are the new kids on the Irish music block. The brothers, who are all from New Hampshire, say they are carrying on the family tradition.

Critics have compared the group to 1960s college-crowd folkies The Kingston Trio. And why not? The '60s are in again, with coffeehouses, poetry readings, and folk music making a big comeback. The group's icons include folk heavies Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

"They're in the right place at the right time," their father Tommy Makem says. He got his start when he and Joan Baez electrified audiences at the 1961 Newport Folk Festival.

"There is a revival," Mr. Makem says in an interview. "But then, folk music has never been out of fashion. It's been there all along. It takes a swerve upwards now and then, and it's taking a swerve upwards now."

These days, female singers like Mary Chapin Carpenter are grabbing a lot of attention. "But there's no one doing what the boys are doing," the elder Makem says.

Shane says he was working as a housepainter and delivering pizza when he got the calling for his music career.

Rory, munching a turkey sandwich in a Portsmouth pub, says, "I can't see myself in a suit."

Lead guitarist Sullivan, who played with the three in several doomed attempts at rock bands in high school, joined the Makems two years ago, also escaping a career in the food business.

"It was a fateful day in August. I was flipping burgers at the Lone Oak Diner in Rochester, New Hampshire," when he got a call from Rory, Sullivan says.

But separating their talent from their father's isn't easy. "A lot of people don't like us. They think we're just punky kids capitalizing on our father's name," Rory says. …

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