Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Our trifecta of Halloween madness concludes with "The Madwoman of Cork," which I came to know through the Irish Arts Center, which has promoted deserving Emerald Islanders ranging from Eleanor McEvoy to John Spillane. They've helped introduce many Irish performers to American audiences, and in promoting an appearance by Spillane, offered on their website a video of John performing this very dramatic song.

I was not familiar with the poem, or its author Patrick Galvin, until I heard Spillane, who added the music. Among the madwoman's dreams:

"I want to sail in a long boat, from here to Roche's Point. And t here I will anoint the sea with the oil of alabaster…" Which led me to Photoshop a Wm. Steig image (from his profoundly groundbreaking book of art-cartoons "The Lonely Ones") with a cork in a bottle.

Paddy Galvin (1927-2011) was, of course, more than an Irish poet, as the best of them always are. He was also a playwright prone to vehement works that promoted his particular political views and damned social traits that he found complacent. A colorful colleague to Brendan Behan, and showing the influences of Dylan Thomas (in his poetry readings), Galvin also was a singer and issued several albums in the late 50's. His colorful personality made him a favorite with the ladies, including some he would marry and divorce, and a few he'd borrow from friends. One of the more notorious examples was the affair he had with poet Ewart Milne's wife. Milne's book "Time Stopped" tried to turn the catastrophe into something poetic and literary. Milne, by the way, is somewhat immortal through his cat poem "Diamond Cut Diamond." The title reflects the way he arranged the words on the page to form, yes, a pair of diamonds.

52 year-old John Spillane isn't nearly as dark as "The Madwoman of Cork" song makes him out to be, a song that transform him on stage into the very image of eccentric menace. To quote Dan Regan, founder of the Kansas City Irish Festival, he's a "funny, quirky, massively entertaining….story teller...a shanachie.” John (yes, a native of Cork) has had his songs covered by some of Ireland's finest singers, including Karan Casey, Cathy Ryan, Sharon Shannon, and the legend himself, Christy Moore.

Spillane is a well-traveled performer who is not only popular in the U.K., but as far from it as Australia, where he's also appeared at many a folk festival. That's the mark of an enduring professional, a road warrior who just brings along his guitar and a good memory for traditional and self-penned songs. The definition of a hack would be anyone who tours…via cruise ships, performing oldies in front of middle-aged drunks, accompanied by inept guitarists and some birdshit drummer who sounds like he's bouncing a pair of turkey legs off a dinner plate.

John's latest album is "Life in an Irish Town," and he's got a TV show in Ireland on TG4 called 'Spillane na Fánaí' . For tour dates and other information, visit his dotcom, which is JohnSpillane (dot com!)


No capcha codes, delays to make you buy a premium account from some Kim Dotcom-type criminal worse and more ruthless to artist payment and rights than the RIAA, no pop-ups, links to dodgy porn sites, and tip jar Paypal requests from the uploader.

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