Planxty in concert (credit: Gumbo Pages)
Planxty was one of the first of the Irish “supergroups,” which opened a new era in Irish traditional music. If one could find an American musical equivalent, one could say that they are the Alan Lomaxes, Pete Seegers, John Faheys and Bob Dylans who absorbed the original traditional musical forms (in this case the Blues) of their nation and transformed it into a modern idiom that retained its bond with the original forms. Planxty constituted both a revelation and revolution within Irish music.
My own personal history with Plaxty’s music goes back to sometime around 1975 when I used to listen to WBAI-FM in New York quite religiously. One of the station DJs at the time used Planxty’s Si Bheag Si Mhor as his program theme song. I was mesmerized by both the beauty of the melody and virtuousity of the performance. This was “IT” for me as far as music was concerned. I rapidly became a Celtic music devotee, an interest that continues to this day.
Si Bheag Si Mhor (hear it), which means “Little Fairy, Big Fairy is a Turlough O’Carolan tune which reflects a battle between two fairy hills [thanks to Oliver’s comment below which corrects my earlier mistaken translation of the song title]. O’Carolan too played a central role in Irish music and is undoubtedly the most gifted Irish composer who ever lived. His tunes are classics in their own right, combining both an affinity for the balanced, cerebral classical style of his era with the virbrant, tuneful folk traditions he encountered on his travels through the Irish countryside where he played for the great Irish landowners who served as his musical patrons.
Planxty’s eponymous 1973 debut album, Planxty, is a gem of its genre. The tunes are by turns, humorous (Arthur McBride), elegaic (West Coast of Clare) and politically relevant (Only Our Rivers). Like the truly great musical recordings, not a single song is less than stellar. But pride of place has to go to Si Bheag Si Mhor as the epitome of musical grace and beauty.
Please Note: This mp3 blog showcases my love for traditional music. I hope you come, listen, enjoy, and follow the links to buy the music. Such good deeds reward the artists I feature here and allow me to cover a small portion of the expense involved in maintaining this blog.