Thursday, September 29, 2016

An Bóithrín Caol

An Bóthirín Caol is the "narrow little road" that was once the spine of Killarney town. In my mind, it is a conduit between cultures-the road you travel to get there. The tune is also maybe a bit like my own version of the Beach Boys "Let's go away for a while." A musical stroll in my head-wandering like Patrick Kavanagh who was once "lost in the oriental streets of thought" at a Monaghan fair.

The lanes of Killarney were once teeming with life, that's where the population lived. The people of the lanes were moved to more commodious, comfortable and modern housing in the 1950's. The people being poor and it being the first social housing, they were relocated to a hill just outside of town, derogatorily they named it "hungry hill." My mother grew up there, and the house is still owned by the family.

An Bóthirín Caol was the last lane in the town where Irish was spoken as a native language. In the 1840's, on an evening stroll, William Thackary (the English novelist) remarked that the lanes of Killarney were as exotic as any of the "casbahs of the orient." He found them warrenous and wonderful, teeming with trade, trades, all manner of people-women replete with colourful shawls, children galore. Irish would have been the lingua franca, which surely added to his otherworldly ramble too.

It is impossible to grasp or even describe the changes that the town has undergone, instead, I painted a musical wave that might wash over the listener and take them away for a while on some "breeze of the orient."

The guitar was recorded in a room in Atlanta, Georgia. The guitar itself was made in the 1950's in Granada, Spain. I got a loan of it from Chicago native, Steve Seaberg. It once accompanied blues legend J.B. Lenoir! Heres a video of that from the 1960's (Steve is the guy on the left, the guitar makes its appearance starting at 1:40).

As a first time visitor to Ireland, an English lady said to me at a gig last week "It has been strange travelling in Ireland, I wonder, am I in a foreign country?" Then asking me directly and inquisitively she said "am I abroad?" The lady had just apologised for speaking simple English to me, for a little while she instinctively thought my English might be rough! Granted now, I was playing "foreign" Irish music and was sporting a fanciful fedora. So, she can be forgiven, it seems people are still getting carried away on those breezes of the orient!

The Casbahs of Cork!
Neil O' Loghlen is playing double bass on this track, his part was recorded in Killarney. He plays with Ensemble Eriú. The violin is played by Larissa O' Grady. The cello is played by Grace McCarthy. I'm playing the guitar and making the other various sounds. You can purchase the album on digital download here. 

To reserve a copy of the vinyl send an e-mail to

No comments: