Michael J Sheehy – The Crooked Carthy Sings (Lightning Archive) – “Recorded over the spring and summer of 2021, this is a collection of bastardised folk songs, murder ballads, traveller tunes and sea songs. I am not an aficionado, traditionalist or collector of songs – there are many great singers and players who keep the flame burning – in fact most of these songs were brand new to me, and half of them I have wrenched away from their traditional melodies and set the words to new tunes. I have used these songs to push out and explore new possibilities and no doubt some of these ideas will filter through to my own songs”.
A new solo album from Michael J (Miraculous Mule, Dream City Film Club and such), and really what is there left for us to say? We’ve frothed often enough of his bands and solo albums, I don’t think he’s ever got anywhere near releasing anything other than a brilliant record and rather predictably he’s gone and done it again. The Crooked Carthy Sings drips with honey, with beauty, with so much soul, it glows with quiet considered (Irish) warmth, with charm, with everything you need from an album of this nature. He’s always had a voice that let’s him get away with almost anything, that butter wouldn’t melt way he has that lets the songs flow. Most of these songs are new to me as well, some of them sound kind of familiar, like you night have heard them at your Irish grandmother’s house, or is it just that the way he sings them makes them sound like familiar old friends? Touching songs, quiet songs, slowly revealing songs, torch songs, intimate tales, sad songs, alive with emotion and almost like your intruding on something private and way too personal. A deliciously rich follow up to last year;s Distance Is The Soul Of Beauty album, a fine collection of songs each one perfectly recorded and performed, each one of them special and like it says up there, what is there left for me to say? Michael’s own sleeve notes tell you far more than I can, I’ve taken the liberty of including them further down the page.
Michael J Sheehy has been been releasing fine fine recordings for far longer than we care to remember, I have no idea why he remains so obscure, so unknown, but then if these albums were selling in their millions and he wasn’t as broke as the rest of us would they be so damn good? Keep our artists poor now, that’s how we get the best out of them, this is just ridiculously beautiful, every little bit of it, perfect. (sw)
For now the album is a Bandcamp only release (and if your reading this on the day we posted it then today is Bandcamp Friday and all the money goes direct to artists, so do, if you’re thinking of buying it, do please do it today)
MICHAEL J SHEEHY
THE CROOKED CARTY SINGS…
GREEN GROWS THE LAURELS
This song turns up in quite a few folk song anthologies and by all accounts it has been done to death but the only version I know is by Sandy Denny. I took the liberty of changing a few words and setting the song to a reversed guitar loop drone
BLOW THE CANDLE OUT
I found the words in a book of folk songs and they sat very well with a chord progression I’d been playing around with. I invited my friend Mal Troon to play lead guitar on this one and gave him the brief to pitch it somewhere between James Burton and Richard Thompson which he does exquisitely. The song also features Suzanne Rhatigan on vocals.
The words of this song really caught my imagination when I found them on a website, I immediately thought it would make a brilliant duet. The young man’s attempt at courting the young woman is quite smarmy and her riposte, “I wish to see you laid in your coffin with satisfaction wrote on your shroud” is brutal. This song also features Suzanne Rhatigan on vocals, and I must say it is a great pleasure to work with her again after two decades. Suzanne sang on my albums ‘Ill Gotten Gains’ and ‘No Longer My Concern’, she always brings something special. I’ve based my version very loosely on the recording by the late great Mary McCarthy.
WHAT WILL WE DO WHEN WE HAVE NO MONEY?
I first heard this song performed by Radie Peat of the great Irish band Lankum, when we shared a stage at the Barbican a few years ago. I later found out she learned the song from the afore mentioned Mary McCarthy. I approached this song with some trepidation not least because of Mary’s and Radie’s great versions but also because singing it as a man completely changes the whole meaning of the song. It becomes a song about a young man half-jokingly floating the idea of pimping his beloved should hard times become unbearable.
AM I BORN TO DIE?
The only song here that has been with me for a while. I first heard it on a Doc Watson album many moons ago and truth be told, this song’s title was the reason I bought the album because I had never heard of Doc. He sings it acapella and I’ve heard a few versions since but for me his is the finest. I’ve set it to a reversed guitar loop/drone.
LILY OF THE WEST
I found the lyric in a book of American ballads and thought it would be fun to reset it London. Another one that has been done by many including Bob Dylan.
WHAT PUT THE BLOOD?
I found the words somewhere online and they sat well with a chord progression I was playing at the time. I later found great versions by Lankum and Christy Moore which I am glad I didn’t hear until I’d finished mine as I’d probably have bottled it. I am fascinated by the mother’s complete lack of concern for her youngest son who is laid dead in a field, slain by his older brother, she seems to be much more worried about what will become of the murderer. I can only conclude that her youngest son must have been a massive disappointment to her. This one also features Suzanne Rhatigan.
LOVE IS KIND TO THE LEAST OF MEN
Another one discovered online. The words just slayed me and the tune more or less came to me while I was reading them. I later discovered great versions by Lankum and The Clancy Brothers. The prayer at the beginning is read by Suzanne and is taken from the common book of prayer though I discovered it in James Grissom’s brilliant book on Tennessee Williams ‘Follies of God’. Williams would often find prayers and religious paraphernalia at junk shops and flea markets in New Orleans and would send or dedicate them to friends and artists who were dear to him. This prayer he dedicated to the poet Hart Crane. Crane was a deeply conflicted soul who struggled with alcoholism and couldn’t come to terms with his homosexuality. While on board a ship bound for New York in 1932, Crane was beaten up after making sexual advances to a crew member. Later he committed suicide by jumping overboard.