On April 23, the 1000th anniversary of one of the most important dates in Norse-Irish history will pass. On this day in 1014 the largest pitched battle in Irish history to that date occured just outside the walls of Dublin; the Irish stronghold of the Vikings.
How that encounter was depicted went down in history and mythology.
The following is a live recording of ‘Battle of Clontarf’, written especially to commemorate this encounter and performed by Deep End Of The Ford earlier this year in Dublin.
Horslips called it The Tain and added electricity to the 12th century text collected in The Book Of Leinster from a much older story. Now, Sean-Nós singer Lorcán Mac Mathúna who last appeared in these pages with his Irish/Scandinavian fusion, Northern Lights, has taken a rather different approach.
The story of Cù Chulainn and Meadhbh and a quarrel over a prize bull includes mystical prophesy, a demonic transformation, a headless corpse still retaining the power of speech and lots of blood – it would make a blockbuster of a film. Lorcán has gone back to the book and based his lyrics on the original text to the extent of singing in Old Irish although, helpfully, the full text of the songs and a translation appear on his website.
Musically, Deep End Of The Ford mix old and new sounds. Martin Tourish plays accordion and piano, Seán Mac Erlaine plays bass clarinet, Eoghan Neff plays fiddle and Flaithrí Neff uileann pipes and low whistle and all five performers are credited as composers. Added to this are electronic sounds and looped tapes and the music is heavy on the drones – something of a Mac Mathúna signature sound.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that An Táin will be heavy going. Lorcán has a lovely warm voice and the music easily carries you away. This is another wonderful album.
Is this the first CD review to use footnotes? It’s worth reading the story in full, anyway.
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