When I first began ‘discovering’ the folk genre, my main go-to artefacts were a small collection of CDs and tapes that belonged to my brother. Names like Woody Guthrie, Christy Moore, Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew and Dick Gaughan soon became very familiar and they became the gatekeepers to this exotic soundscape. From my first listen to a Dick Gaughan recording, I vividly remember being drawn into this powerful voice and his incredible DADGAD guitar technique and simply just being in awe of what I was hearing. I am glad to say that I found myself in awe once again, listening to the latest chapter of Mr Gaughan’s already noteworthy discography.
The “Harvard” Tapes were recorded in Massachusetts at The Old Cambridge Baptist Church in October of 1982, and after nearly 40 years in the wilderness, they have been re-discovered by Brian O’Donovan (the man responsible for recording the gig) to become Gaughan’s seventh release on the Greentrax label.
There are staples and surprises throughout the record; dazzling renditions of ‘Erin Go Bragh’, ‘Song for Ireland’, ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, ‘Now Westlin Winds’ and ‘Workers Song’ from the landmark (and recently re-released) Handful of Earth LP. We are treated to a powerful version of ‘Your Daughters And Your Sons’ as well as an almost effortlessly performed trio of reels, which really allow Gaughan’s talents as a guitarist to shine. In ‘The Freedom Come All Ye’, he is joined, for the first time ever, by the late, great, violin virtuoso, Johnny Cunningham, making this version of the song especially poignant.
Following the ten “Harvard” tracks, we are presented with a small selection of more recent Gaughan recordings, from 2010 and 2012; firstly, ‘Lemmings’ a newer Gaughan-penned original, instrumental ‘Sliabh na mBan’ and Dominic Behan’s ‘Connolly Was There’, also included on a Gaughan album (in its entirety) for the first time. Although the job of these tracks is essentially to bolster the length of the album, these selections are a perfect (and welcome) inclusion, continuing and concluding an already incredible record.
Christopher James Sheridan
‘World Turned Upside Down’ – live and from the same year: