Gritty Dublin folk/trad quartet bring their engrossing live show to Cork.
In all the 37 years of the Cork Folk Festival, you would be hard pressed to find a venue as absolutely perfect as St. Luke’s Church on Summerhill North in Cork. Combining architectural beauty with spellbinding acoustics, the church was built in the late 19th Century but ceased to be a place of worship in 2003. Such is its impressiveness and historical value, to see it utilised for gigs rather than to be torn down and replaced with a more commercial premises is wonderful indeed. Combined with this is the relaxed and friendly nature of the organisers which stokes the laid back and peaceful atmosphere of St. Luke’s.
Lynched, the Dubin based urban folk quartet, are tonight’s headliners. Over the course of two albums and countless live engagements, the band have made a name for themselves as master tellers of stories steeped in both humour and tragedy. However, before they grace the stage those assembled are treated to local trio Morning Veils. Possessing songs of simplicity that are steeped in emotion and gravity, the group’s eerie set is both graceful and haunting. Harmonies drift and moan over softly strummed acoustic guitar, dreamy keyboards, and soulful harmonium. Showcasing tracks from their recent album Her Kind, the band explore a sound that is reminiscent of PJ Harvey at her most folk-like and reflective. Equal parts soothing and tumultuous.
It is rare to find a band that can coax a belly laugh one minute and heartfelt tears the next, but this seems to be Lynched’s modus operandi. One moment you find yourself half laughing and half shouting “Fresh fish!” back to singer Ian Lynch during ‘Daffodil Mulligan’. The next, you’re in a heap as Radie Peat, who Ian correctly dubs the finest singer in Ireland, beautifully sings “Now charlatans wear dead man’s shoes” and “For in no nation in the earth more Pharisees you’ll find” from Liam Weldon’s stirring critique of Ireland in 1966, ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’, and you’re reminded of the current set of ‘charlatans’ and ‘Pharisees’ on offer in the country.
Mostly, the group focus on their most recent album Cold Old Fire from 2014. This includes the mournful and reflective ‘Henry My Son’, the traditional standard ‘Salonika’ which deals with the Irish experience during World War 1, and ‘Cold Old Fire’, an original composition that explores modern life in Dublin and Ireland via a simple acoustic folk composition. A stellar album, the songs are imbued with new life in the live setting as the group’s powerful voices and deft instrumentation fill St. Luke’s with flickering animation. The crowd are equally animated with stamping feet and loud clapping the order of the day. To my right, a couple get up and dance with fervour in the aisle.
Elsewhere, the group explore songs that are outliers in the Irish tradition such as ‘What Will We Do When We Have No Money?’, a song from the traveller tradition and brought to prominence by Mary Delaney in the 1970’s and 80’s, and ‘Father Had A Knife’, a semi nonsense song which was brought to the fore by Jasper Derby, an Anglo-Romani singer, poet, storyteller and Gypsy-rights activist.
This is what distinguishes the group from a band of trad musicians playing standards down your local pub (no disrespect intended). Lynched focus on the grit of everyday life and the outsider experience. Instead of dredging up ‘Dirty Old Town’ and ‘Seven Drunken Nights’, they’ve found less known songs from the tradition that they can make their own. This means that instead of duplicating the sound of great Irish trad bands like The Dubliners or Planxty, they create their own unique voice. It is one that comments on the state of modern Ireland and reminds us of our rich musical and storytelling history, while also having a good laugh in the meantime. Hopefully, they’ll be coming back to St. Luke’s for many years to come.
Photography by Shane J Horan.
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