Lily is the first album of new music from Christy Moore since 2013. It's a characteristically sparse production. from the bard of Newbridge, who is as expressive and thoughtful as ever at 70
It’s a curious thing about Christy Moore nowadays that he can pick songs that are not ear worms or defiantly catchy, melody-wise. This might work adversely if it wasn’t Christy singing the songs, but happily it is him and he's giving it heart and soul.
Take the opener on Lily - Mandolin Mountain, which is a case in point. Tony Small’s melody has a humble, almost workaday air - you wouldn’t be putting it up for the Eurovision, let's say - but the lyrics are in their way profound. The following lines could stop you in your tracks, if you were in the mood for them (or even maybe not in the mood):
It was written in The Book of Life/Way back down the road/ Love is for the patient ones/ The honest and the good.
That's strong stuff, mighty actually. The same principle works with Paul Doran’s song The Gardener. Someone recently suggested that you could do a PhD thesis on the minor to major changes in the Beatles songs of Paul McCartney.
Christy Moore performed songs from Lily on The Late Late Show
No such thesis would be needed for The Gardener, a straight-up, major-chorded tune, but with lyrics that have an almost disturbing simplicity. These days, we are so attuned to expect, if not cryptic smart-assery, then some class of urban sophistication at the very least.
So when a songwriter simply explores the business of gardening you have to pause and think. And there is simply no one better than Christy to deliver the right hoe-cut to lines like the following:
The Gardener rises with the sun/ he knows there’s work to be done/the reason for every season.
Peter Gabriel’s Wallflower - by no means his greatest song - gets a basic, perfunctory reading, in this reviewer’s humble opinion. Christy sounds way more comfortable on the title track, Lily, his tribute to his native town of Newbridge, on which the litany of place names and names is proudly, insouciantly arrayed. You could say the song does for the town what Billy Roche has done for Wexford.
Green Grows The Laurel is a striking reading of the traditional ballad of that name, whose source was the legendary balladeer John Reilly, a song supplemented with new lyrics from Christy in this recording. For many long-time fans, it will be the best thing on the record, being a song that could have easily sat on that immortal first Planxty record, the so-called 'Black' album.
Mick Blake’s Oblivious, on the other hand, is a thought-provoking political song which looks at perceived failures in contemporary Ireland in light of the ideals of the men of 1916. Agree with it, or mildly feel dissent with it, or judge it too harsh, you will nevertheless listen to the voice of authority that is Christy’s.