GERRY O’BEIRNE - Swimming The Horses
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Gerry was born in Ennis, Co. Clare, then moved away to live in Ghana, England, California and Mexico, thence returning to Ireland – Co. Kerry, where he now lives. He released his first solo album back in 2000, and some of its songs have since been covered by, among others, Maura O’Connell, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Mary Black. The intervening years have seen just two further releases (an album of guitar pieces and a duo album with fiddler Rosie Shipley), so a new solo record is well overdue; and this will I’m sure be judged worth the wait.
This new collection sports the signature combination of Gerry’s magisterial guitar artistry and gently passionate singing voice. Gerry’s own compositions naturally form the bulk of the album. Several songs are based around associations with places where he’s lived (California on The Lights Of San Francisco, London on All Down The Day, and Ireland itself on Where Foxglove), whereas The Last King Of Feothanach tells of a local man whom Gerry got to know while living at that wild West Kerry location (that location’s special genius loci also pervades the instrumental Dún Síon, played on a National Steel guitar). The Banyan Guitar, on the other hand, is a reflection on the solace of music and friendship.
Fine though all these songs are, and perhaps especially the CD’s title song, my favourite tracks are its one traditional Irish tune, the beautiful slow air, Marbhna Luimnigh, and Gerry’s magnificent setting of James Joyce’s poem, Golden Hair, which develops into a swirling, improvisatory guitar coda with Hammond organ (Rod McVey). I should also namecheck the appealing guest vocal contributions from Pauline Scanlon, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Teresa Horgan, and extra chorus participants on All Down The Day. A swimmingly lovely record, then.