Music Notes: a time to celebrate Irish musicians

U2 rocked the sold out Infinite Energy Arena on their Experience+Innocence Tour 2018, on Monday, May 28, 2018. Robb D. Cohen / www.RobbsPhotos.com
U2 rocked the sold out Infinite Energy Arena on their Experience+Innocence Tour 2018, on Monday, May 28, 2018. Robb D. Cohen / www.RobbsPhotos.com

Rather than telling you about my first trip to Ireland many years ago, when I was puzzled and amused to learn of their affinity for country music, I’ll save the travelogue for another time.

Instead, since it’s the week of St. Patrick’s Day — a holiday that even we Italians will tip our hat to even while eschewing some of the ridiculous celebratory antics perpetuated in the U.S. (looking at you, green beer, and then quickly ignoring you) — we should spotlight some of the artists who have provided us with their musical culture.

Nothing about Irish musicians can be written without invoking the hallowed names of Van Morrison and U2.

While the oft-peevish Morrison spent most of 2020 crafting songs in protest of the UK coronavirus lockdowns (“Born to Be Free,” “As I Walked Out” and the to-the-point “No More Lockdown”) and lobbying for venues to reopen at full capacity last fall, he also channeled his creative instincts into a new album.

“Latest Record Project: Volume 1,” the 42nd release of Morrison’s career, arrives May 1. The 28-track album marries his affection for blues, soul, R&B and jazz, with songs often birthed on piano, guitar and saxophone.

Van Morrison will release "Latest Record Project: Volume 1" on May 7, 20201.
Van Morrison will release "Latest Record Project: Volume 1" on May 7, 20201.

Credit: Bradley Quinn

Credit: Bradley Quinn

“I’m getting away from the perceived same songs, same albums all the time,” Morrison said about the new release. “This guy’s done 500 songs, maybe more, so hello? Why do you keep promoting the same 10? I’m trying to get out of the box.”

The rarely idle U2 just unlocked a quartet of concerts broadcast for the first time on the band’s YouTube channel, dubbed “U2: The Virtual Road.”

Each show will only be available for 48 hours, starting with their 2001 “Live from Slane Castle” concert near their Dublin hometown, which arrived on St. Patrick’s Day. On March 25, “U2: Live at Red Rocks” lands; it was recorded in 1983 and often cited as a career-defining concert. (Fontaines D.C. will open the presentation with a performance recorded in their hometown last year.)

April 1 brings a 1997 Mexico City performance at Foro Sol Stadium from the “PopMart” tour (Carla Morrison opens); and on April 10, U2′s return to Paris less than a month after the November 2015 terrorist attacks will be shown from the “Innocence + Experience” tour (Feu! Chatterton receives opening honors).

Here’s a look at some additional Irish natives, what they’re up to and what’s worth checking out.

In addition to the artists below, of course we can also turn to The Cranberries, Sinead O’Connor, Enya, The Pogues, Bob Geldof, The Corrs, Thin Lizzy and The Script for a dose of the Emerald Isle.

Former Celtic Woman Chloe Agnew will livestream two shows from John Driskell Hopkins' Brighter Shade Studios on March 26 and play Red Clay Music Foundry on March 28.
Former Celtic Woman Chloe Agnew will livestream two shows from John Driskell Hopkins' Brighter Shade Studios on March 26 and play Red Clay Music Foundry on March 28.

Credit: Taylor Volkens

Credit: Taylor Volkens

Chloë Agnew

The Celtic Woman favorite tapped Atlanta for a couple of performances this month. On March 26, she’ll livestream a solo concert of original songs from John Driskell Hopkins’ Brighter Shade Studios at 7 p.m. (She and the Zac Brown Band musician have performed several times together with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra for holiday offerings.) Tickets are $15 and $40 for VIP. Agnew will also pop up at Red Clay Music Foundry for a pair of socially distanced St. Patrick’s Celebration concerts on March 28 (Streaming is at 3:30 p.m. and tickets are $10, general admission in-person are $35.) Agnew isn’t the only Celtic Woman with an affinity for Atlanta. Former member Lisa Kelly directs the Lisa Kelly Voice Academy in Peachtree City and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Fontaines D.C.

So, they lost to The Strokes at last weekend’s Grammy Awards. It’s doubtful that the scrappy quintet minded too much except for the bragging rights the hardware would have included. The spiky punk rockers — their name includes a nod to Dublin City — released their second album, “A Hero’s Death” last summer but are already planning the follow-up. The band’s bassist Conor Deegan recently shared that a third album has been mixed and promised, “It’s a good one.”

The Chieftains

These legends of traditional Irish music remained a vital touring presence until the coronavirus pandemic snipped their 2020 dates. But with members Kevin Conneff, Matt Molloy and the inimitable Paddy Moloney — one of the most joyful performers to interview — all in the late-‘70s and ‘80s, there is a concern that their road days might be sunsetting. In the meantime, take a listen to not only 1995′s “The Long Black Veil” — one of their most popular with cameos by Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler and Sting — but also 1973′s “The Chieftains 4” for immersion in their early work.

Niall Horan hails from Ireland. Photo: Dean Martindale
Niall Horan hails from Ireland. Photo: Dean Martindale

Niall Horan

The only non-English member of One Direction, the chipper Horan has distinguished himself with a post-boy band career that celebrates his American classic rock influences — he’s cited Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles — with a modern flair. Hits “This Town” and “Slow Hands” showcase his pure voice, while “Black and White,” from last year’s “Heartbreak Weather” album, nods to the current folk-pop of Ed Sheeran.

The Frames

Helmed by Glen Hansard, who achieved stateside stardom in the late-2000s as The Swell Season with Markéta Irglova (if you haven’t watched the gentle gem “Once,” please do so immediately), The Frames return to existence sporadically. The band’s 30th-anniversary show in Dublin was postponed last year due to the pandemic (they played online instead), but the band is hopeful to play a couple of U.S. shows — in New York and California — this fall.

About the Author

ajc.com

In Other News