Seoirse’s Return G. Woods
By sheer accident I stumbled (literally) into Belfast’s revamped Cathedral Quarter where a singer called Seoirse happened to be launching a CD. My Belgian friend was, initially, reluctant to join me for a coffee in The Black Box, thinking that it would be too noisy. But we were both taken aback by the gentle sounds emanating from Seoirse’s beautiful nylon-stringed guitar and velvety voice wafting through the wonderful Bose L1 System (my absolute favourite sound box!).
We had just sat down as Seoirse, a native of Co. Donegal, was delivering an absolutely stunning version of “The Windmills of Your Mind”. When I chatted to the musician afterwards I was disappointed to find the song was not actually on the album being launched – called, incidentally, “Your Love’s Return” – a collection of 60s and 70s pop classics arranged in very tasty classical arrangements. But he did sing others from the album.
I was perplexed, to say the least, at his spoken introduction to “Ruby Tuesday” when Seoirse made an illusion to Schubert’s “Who is Sylvia?” with his imitation of the two famous notes in the piano part, singing “da…da…”. There was a chuckle from the audience (all, apparently, old fellow students of the singer’s from the local College of Art). But it all made sense after the first line of “Ruby”. Those two perfectly placed guitar notes rang out through the room and made perfect artistic sense.
His voice is full of passion and empathy and you are continually stopped in your tracks trying to revalue each familiar song. You get this urge to go back and revisit what you missed in the original 60s releases. For example, his slowed-down version of the Beatles’ “Help” knocked me sideways and left me wondering if Lennon and McCartney really could have been that profound in their early 60s lyrics.
Can’t wait for Seoirse’s Return!
Back-Packers! Please take note of this fabulous venue!
G. Woods Back-Packer’s Guide to Europe
The 60s & 70s Collection
Moon River & Autumn Leaves are standard love ballads from the early 60s and I have pleasant memories of them being played on the chromatic harmonica by my late brother Brendan who used to spend hours and hours in the bathroom basking in the natural acoustics of that little room! The 60s was to become an intensely creative and innovative time in both North America and Britain: Dylan, Baez, Cohen, Donovan, The Beatles, The Stones, etc. This collection isn’t a compendium of music of that era; it’s merely my own personal take on some of the songs that left an impression on me at the time. Music of a similar ilk continued to affect me throughout the 70s – Gordon Lightfoot, Carol King, The Beegees, Bob Marley, to mention just a few – but my interest tailed off when I felt that the general quality of songs seemed to lack the iridescence of the previous decade. Years later, when I could look back objectively and assess it properly, I could see the merits of 70s music, but I have to say that the songs of the 60s occupy a rather special place in my heart.
Lay Lady Lay has a particular resonance for me in this collection. A “big brass bed” mysteriously appeared in my studio in 1969 while an art student in Belfast with instructions cellotaped to it to be careful with the springs! That same “big brass bed” is still in use in Co. Donegal to this very day. Any song celebrating such a bed would be appropriate but Dylan’s four-poster is, I think, a perfect opener for the album! Seoirse
Freedom, Creativity and Long Hair!
We were art students in Ireland of the 60s. Some might have said (rightly or wrongly) that our heads were in the clouds already. Indeed, for the most part, we were deeply ensconced in a world of very real make-believe…and colour! But for all that, our feet were well and truly rooted in the robust ethos of love, live-and-let-live, freedom, creativity and long hair!
As students of Fine Art on a solitary pilgrimage through the interpretation and translation of sometimes very abstract thoughts, we strove by the use of colour and form to go always that extra emotional step in the challenging quest for elusive originality.
And because it was a time to embrace radical experiences, and to experiment, it was quite normal for us to be different. It’s what we did – and we did it with zeal and panache. A very, very special time for us in many ways, not only because of our own freewheeling artistic lifestyle, but also because it was a time when a multitude of uniquely creative giants ruled the airwaves. We feasted on the music of Dylan, Presley, Cohen, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the American Drifters, etc. And on Friday evenings, in complete contrast, we listened enthralled to various symphonic works performed by the Ulster Orchestra on cheap student tickets.
In those heady days of the 60s and 70s music was at a zenith. If one was gifted enough to be able to sing and play a guitar it was an automatic pass through
the door of almost any party in the city – and beyond. Needless to say, Seoirse was welcomed through a lot of doors in those zany, halcyon days!
I have known him for over forty years – plus a few! And the one thing apparent right from the outset is this: to be in his company is to be in the presence of music of one genre or another.
With simply voice and guitar, this wonderful and diverse collection is an opportunity to be in the presence of an extraordinary talent. But for some, it may also jolt cherished memories through hearing again a few of the more gentle songs of that amazing era.
These recordings are to be relished word by word, note by note. Listen, listen and listen again and savour each beautiful nuance as each story unfolds. The guaranteed reward: a unique, magical – even educational – musical experience.
Recordings stripped naked of session musicians, backing singers, over-dubs, or other special effects, in his own inimitable interpretation… Seoirse on his own, with nothing to detract from the purity and sincerity of his voice and every single word clearly audible… Seoirse on his own, with his spectacular guitar accompaniment. He has afforded these already classic songs a respect that, in my opinion, is unparalleled.
Help – his hauntingly beautiful slowed-down rendition of the Lennon &McCartney hit, guitar notes so probing, so vibrant, held in suspense – the anticipation is almost like touching a nerve!
Lay Lady Lay – a forceful yet gentle invitation to ecstasy. Velvet jargon and eloquent promises. Let me colour in your naïve head! A brief encounter at best!
Your Love’s Return – beseechingly sensitive. Second chance: “I will not lose what I have won…” guitar notes climbing, growing and echoing the ringing steeple bells urging, pleading for his love’s return.
Ruby Tuesday – the elusive, mysterious, untameable, free-spirited Love-Child. Running from what? Running to what? What matters? It’s desperately poignant.
Seems So Long Ago Nancy – By remaining true to himself, Seoirse here has almost trumped the master himself, Leonard Cohen!
Something – Fascinating in at least one respect: you are witness to a real emotional concentration in the challenge underlined by the brave exploration of chords around the lines “You’re asking me will my love grow? I don’t know, I don’t know!” Brilliant! The moment passes, we can all breathe again!
The deliciously pure and enigmatic First Of May – childhood sweethearts now estranged?
Autumn Leaves – achingly lovely. Guitar notes floating, swirling, pinning and mourning the memory of a precious lost one.
Lady Jane – enchanting. Regression into bygone days. Seoirse’s guitar for all the world mimicking an ancient lute!
To the last fading, fading notes of the exquisitely beautiful Moon River…a tease of a guitar solo, just offering the tempting promise of, hopefully, more solos to
Each song recorded is a many-faceted gem in its own right. Seoirse doesn’t just sing the words; he feels them, caresses each emotion with the true genius of a man who lives and breathes music. He embraces with sincere, genuine and enthusiastic energy his hunger for art, his love of the Irish language and history, of story-telling, poetry… and the occasional glass of red!
Listen to his guitar as it flows effortlessly and in turn skips, trips, struts, leads, follows, celebrates, weeps, punctuates, worships and in Lady Jane almost genuflects.
This mastery and dexterity doesn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure! But the resultant simplicity is the stamp of a true artiste who continues to nurture and perfect his craft with dedication and love.
A marriage of equals: voice and guitar in total balanced harmony, complementing and respecting each other, encapsulating the mystery and the compassion of unconditional love.
And isn’t that what the 60s and 70s were all about? Simplicity… taking the time to live…the desire for freedom and peace and – most of all – the overwhelming power of Love! Love! Love!
I thank you, Seoirse, for inviting me to share in this totally amazing and unbelievable musical experience; for enriching my life through knowing you all these years; and to be able to say that it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have worked as your A&R “man” on these CDs.
Elizabeth “Moody Blue” Hamilton