From Dead as Doornails to Arbutus Yarns
I recently read two overlapping memoirs - Dead as Doornails by Anthony Cronin and Remembering How We Stood by John Ryan. Both gracefully evoke creative life in 1950s Dublin, and have the towering presence of the poet and novelist Patrick Kavanagh central to at least part of their narrative.
The books in tandem triggered further interest, so I spent a quiet afternoon rooting out Kavanagh's writing, then versions of the song, until I came to one of its most compelling recent renderings by Carlow/Dublin folk duo, Ye Vagabonds:
And it is on this video that things took a significant, distracting tangent.
Ye Vagabonds are two brothers - Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn - who have so far released a six song EP, Rose & Briar, and a eponymous debut album, both of which weave threads of Irish, Appalachian and folk revival influence into glorious yet intimate songs and ballads.
Importantly, before the On Raglan Road recording, Ye Vagabonds career was punctuated by a set of superb short films built around remarkable live performances, shot by music documentary maker Myles O'Reilly. The films all have the quality found in the exquisite 2014 setting of Willie O' Winsbury:
It does not end there - O'Reilly's website, Arbutus Yarns, has a host of other recordings documenting magical performances and music from across Ireland.
I love live music - even my earliest (and beatific) memory is holding my grandmother's hand watching a mournful Salvation Army band in a church hall - but it almost always has to be the real thing. Sat in front of a flat screen watching a videoed stage performance I will usually fidget and fiddle - yet for me, at complete odds with that usual intolerance, O'Reilly's work always captures something authentic and utterly transfixing.
The films tend to be naturalistic (set anywhere but a stage) and beautifully crafted - effortlessly bringing out the charisma of the performer/s, as a piece uploaded last autumn for Lemoncello's Morning demonstrates:
There are song-length shorts and fuller length documentaries (including the This Ain't No Disco showcases); Arbutus Yarns is a place you can spend hours lulled in reverie and not have wasted a minute. The detail and deftness of the work must only come out of a love for what is seen and heard.
One of the joys of the internet is finding new music, but so much of the work to put it there - by artists, film-makers and micro-labels - now carries little or no reward, only cost. After years of crafting and grafting for free, Myles O'Reilly is currently looking though Patreon for supporters to continue his path of discovery and illumination. There can't be many finer ways to spend a few pounds a month.