THE GONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

Thanks to artists like Lankum, folk mu­sic has been en­joy­ing re­newed ac­claim in Ire­land in re­cent times. Now, with the sup­port of RTÉ, it’s also get­ting its own Na­tional Awards Cer­e­mony.

Hot Press - - Music World 4217 - In­ter­view Peter McGo­ran The RTÉ Ra­dio 1 Folk Awards will take place at Vicar Street on Oc­to­ber 25.

There was a small hint of ap­pre­hen­sion in the voice of Lankum mem­ber Ian Lynch when he last spoke with Hot Press back in 2017, around the time they re­leased their phe­nom­e­nal Be­tween The Earth And Sky al­bum. He was wor­ried that, hav­ing changed their name from ‘Lynched’ (with its racist con­no­ta­tions) to ‘Lankum’, fans might be con­fused and the band might lose mo­men­tum. A brief re­cap of their re­cent high­lights sug­gests that their fears were some­what un­founded. “Hang­ing out with Christy Moore, eat­ing sand­wiches and play­ing mu­sic in his kitchen,” Ian en­thuses. “That was my big­gest high­light. That was a pinch your­self mo­ment.”

“Singing ‘Sergeant Wil­liam Bai­ley’ in the Royal Al­bert Hall,” adds his brother, Daragh Lynch. “Go­ing on Jools Hol­land Live was a good laugh,” chimes in Cor­mac MacDiar­mada.

“I think it was the most adren­a­line I’d ever had in my life,” laughs Radie Peat. “We’d barely done ra­dio up to that point, never mind live na­tional TV.”

“Sign­ing with Rough Trade,” con­tin­ues Ian. “They have such a rep­u­ta­tion, but find­ing out that it was all true was such a great thing.” Any­thing else?

“The first time play­ing the Na­tional Con­cert Hall,” says Radie Peat.

“Ah yeah, for Shane MacGowan’s birth­day!” adds Daragh.

“The con­stant meet­ing of peo­ple you would’ve con­sid­ered on an­other planet. Find­ing out that most of them are just nor­mal, tal­ented peo­ple,” fin­ishes Radie.

High­lights aplenty then. But the most sur­pris­ing as­pect about Lankum’s col­lec­tive per­son­al­ity is that, de­spite be­ing hailed as fig­ure­heads for a new gen­er­a­tion of in­no­va­tive folk artists in Ire­land, the four mem­bers are con­tin­u­ally in awe of most of their own peers. In con­ver­sa­tion, they’ll ca­su­ally cham­pion the likes of Ye Vagabonds and Lisa O’Neill, while fig­ures like Andy Irvine are given an al­most divine im­por­tance.

The good news is that they’re all part of the in­au­gu­ral RTÉ Ra­dio 1 Folk Awards. Tak­ing place in Vicar Street at the end of this month, the event aims to “cel­e­brate the huge range of folk mu­sic be­ing played in Ire­land to­day.” There are nine cat­e­gories in all, with Lankum be­ing nom­i­nated in four of them (and Radie also be­ing nom­i­nated for Best Folk Singer).

The fact that this event is even hap­pen­ing is surely a sign that Irish folk mu­sic is go­ing through a re­nais­sance at the mo­ment.

“I think so,” Ian nods. “There’s so much go­ing on at the minute.”

“You look at that list and there’s so many great artists on it,” says Daragh. “But for every per­son that’s nom­i­nated, there’s an­other one who wasn’t, who maybe hasn’t re­leased yet or got­ten the at­ten­tion they de­serve – but they’re go­ing to ses­sions around Dublin and they’re in­cred­i­ble artists.”

“It’s the tip of the ice­berg,” agrees Cor­mac. “And they’re all re­ally unique as well,” Radie points out. “There are so many dif­fer­ent offshoots of folk right now. Peo­ple are do­ing so many things to make it their own.”

“I think that’s the na­ture of folk mu­sic,” says

Ian. “It’s al­ways been able to take in in­flu­ences from dif­fer­ent strands of mu­sic go­ing on around it. Dif­fer­ent in­flu­ences feed into folk. It’s a re­ally rich mu­si­cal form.”

This is read­ily ap­par­ent in Lankum’s most re­cent al­bum. Be­tween The Earth And

Sky en­com­passes ev­ery­thing from rous­ing reimag­in­ings of clas­sic folk bal­lads, to eye­open­ing state-of-the-na­tion ad­dresses. Two of their songs, ‘Déanta In Éirinn’ and ‘The Gran­ite Gaze’, are dra­matic re­flec­tions on an Ire­land slowly shak­ing off its dark re­li­gious past and search­ing for real so­cial jus­tice. Both of them were nom­i­nated for Best Orig­i­nal Folk Track. “I think they’re very am­bi­tious songs in what they wanted to achieve,” ex­plains Ian. “Es­pe­cially the way that peo­ple took to them and the way they’ve talked about them.”

“I re­mem­ber when the Pope vis­ited,” says Radie. “We were at a protest and ended up out­side the last Mag­da­lene Laun­dry and we played ‘The Gran­ite Gaze’. It sud­denly felt like the en­tire song had been writ­ten for that mo­ment. The whole rea­son was just to per­form it that day, through a bad PA, with me strug­gling not to cry.

“We’d had so many con­ver­sa­tions when we were writ­ing it, the rea­sons why we were writ­ing it, how we felt. It was an up­set­ting thing to talk about. Then it was a mad ex­pe­ri­ence to be in a group of peo­ple and all of them felt the same way as we felt. It felt like that was why we’d writ­ten it.”

Ac­tivism on these and other is­sues has re­sulted in Ire­land re­assess­ing its own iden­tity. “Folk mu­sic has al­ways got ideas to a wider au­di­ence,” says Ian. “If you look back at the last five or six decades, you could see what was hap­pen­ing so­cially come out through the mu­sic of the times. I know it’s a clichéd thing to say, but it’s a mir­ror re­flect­ing so­ci­ety back to it­self.”

“THERE ARE SO MANY DIF­FER­ENT OFFSHOOTS OF FOLK RIGHT NOW. PEO­PLE ARE DO­ING SO MANY THINGS TO MAKE IT THEIR OWN.”

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