Thank you, Mick Moloney for the encouragement; Gerry Miller, for the wonderful title; Dennis McGarry, Tom O'Neill and the Fairhill Harrier Club for the sporting photographs; Stiofan O Cadhla of the Folklore Dept., U.C.C. for the War of Independence photos; Mr. Bill Good of the Royal Munster Fusiliers Association for the First World War poster and to The Examiner for the streetscape.
To Pat Conway and the staff at The Lobby, who couldn't have been nicer to us during the recording, a special thank you. Finally, thanks to the Canniffe Family, Kevin Beale, Cliff Wedgbury and Vic Merriman whose chorus singing among the audience is irrepressible!
Jimmy Crowley is a mighty singer and a great character and I have enjoyed many good times with him over the years in Ireland and in America. Most of all I enjoy meeting him in Cork City and hearing him perform in his own home. He is at his best in the intimate setting of a club performing to an attentive audience, singing his matchless repertoire of Cork songs and with warmth, erudition and brilliant wit weaving stories about the songs, their stories and the characters from whom he learned them.
Jimmy is a great a capella singer but he accompanies himself most of the time. He'll use the guitar on occasion but mostly he chooses bouzouki, which is perfect for him, providing a gritty backdrop and counter-point to his extraordinary voice. His singing style is unique nobody could possibly mistake Jimmy for any other singer. His phrasing is superlative, his delivery passionate and powerful, and his ornamentation tastefully sparse and subtle.
There's a wild, almost strident, quality to Jimmy's singing too that can only be described as lonesome. It evokes poignant images of another time when the power of the unamplified human voice vied for attention with the rich tapestry of noises in the teeming life of the metropolis in an Ireland far removed from the urban chic of today. It has echoes of the newspaper boy, the street vendor, the town crier. Cork more than most cities retains marked inflections of its industrial past in dialect, humour and word play. It is one of the most distinctive urban regional traditions in late twentieth century Ireland and Jimmy embodies the very spirit and soul of it.
His repertoire is vast and eclectic. He is equally at home with the songs of the music hall and concert stage, the songs of the ballad singer and the songs of the trained tenor; with the songs of the past and songs of the present. He sings songs of land and sea, love and war, courting and fighting, drinking and sporting. Almost all bear the imprint of his beloved Cork.
Uncorked is Jimmy's first live recording and it is long overdue because his wonderful communicative skills have never been captured on his studio recordings. Every time Jimmy performs live to an attentive audience he presents what amounts to a social history of Cork in the informative and always amusing introduction to his songs. He is so entertaining a performer that his friends and admirers, myself included, have been urging him to record live for years. Thankfully it was worth the wait because Jimmy has come up with the best selection of Cork songs ever compiled on one album.
All the classic Cork songs that Jimmy has made his own are here, Salonika, The Boys of Fairhill and a dozen or so others.
Jimmy is a great lover of the sea and an avid sailor and his haunting version of the Holy Ground gives a whole new identity to this great anthem of the port town.
Jimmy is one of the few contemporary Irish singers who continues to sing the great rebel songs that salute the men who fought and died for the cause of Irish freedom and his rendering of the great local ballad The Boys of Kilmichael is nothing short of spellbinding.
Every city should be so fortunate as to have a bard like Jimmy to tell its stories, sing its praises and salute its characters. Cork should be very proud of its very own Zozimus.
Philadelphia, February 1998.