I couldn’t leave paint Christy Moore out when I began painting my Irish Portraits; He’s been such a presence in Irish life and music, for as long as I can remember. As a kid and teenager I always remember him popping up on The Late Late Show with a new albums and performances, and songs like The Voyage and Ride on, were just part of the Irish radio’s DNA. But in truth it was much later that I really started to appreciate Christy's music on a deeper level. Here are a few of my thoughts on the man and songs that meant something to me.
So what can I say about the legend that is Christy Moore. He’s an Irish folk singer of rare charm and authenticity; One of the founding members of Planxty and Moving Hearts, a Newbridge, County Kildare man, who has never forgotten his roots.
There’s a lovely range to his songs from slow soulful ballads of rare beauty to infectious energetic knee slappers. In the soulful ballad camp I’d put such classics as “Ride On’ and “The Voyage”, which are both brilliant and no doubt very well known to you. However a less well know song, equally brilliant is called “On Morecambe Bay”; this one is from Christy’s Folk Tale album of 2011, and for some reason it has always struck a chord with me.
This is a haunting dirge of a song charting the story of the tragic story of the 21 undocumented Chinese immigrants who were drowned off the Lancashire coast in 2004. The circumstances around the tragedy involved, criminal gangs, unscrupulous business men, trafficking and succession of life circumstances that brought these immigrants to the Lancashire coast to pick cockles in dangerous conditions. As ever Christy, who always seems to instinctively gravitate towards those less fortunate, gets to the humanity of the situation as he weaves the tale filled with empathy and feeling, and also taps into the guilt of those who perhaps could have, but didn’t intervene.
I stood behind them in the corner shop and in the market too
I should have spoken to them, told them everything I knew
Like our mothers told us as we went out to play
Never try and race the tide on the sands of Morecambe Bay
For the tide is The Devil, it will run you out of breath
Race you to the seashore, chase you to your death
The tide is the very Devil and the Devil has its day
On the lonely cockle banks of Morecambe Bay
Full lyrics below!
But honestly if you don't know this song just listen to it. This refrain of “The tide is the very Devil, and the Devil has it’s day” is hauntingly powerful.
Of course, the magic of Christy's music is that he tackles both the dark and the lighter sides of life. One the lighter side we have classic songs like “Delirium Tremens” his tragicomic take on hang-overs and a battle with another demon, the demon drink.
Goodbye to the Port and Brandy, to the Vodka and the Stag,
To the Schmiddick and the Harpic, the bottled draught and keg.
As I sat lookin’ up the Guinness ad I could never figure out
How your man stayed up on the surfboard after 14 pints of stout.
Well I swore upon the bible I’d never touch a drop.
My heart was palpitatin’ I was sure ’twas going to stop,
Thinkin’ I was dyin’ I gave my soul to God to keep.
A tenner to St. Anthony to help me get some sleep.
Full lyrics below
Thanks for reading!