Irish Troubadour’s latest album despairs for and laughs at a world that isn’t learning.
A founding member of the legendary Planxty and a solo artist for over fifty years – his first release ‘Paddy on the Road‘ was in 1969 – Christy Moore really needs no introduction. Over the years he has developed a distinctive style of heart-worn ballads, angry protest, traditional songs and more light-hearted songs taking in the foibles of Irish life and a typical album will be a blend of these and will also feature a mixture of songs by Moore himself, or a writing collaboration or a song brought into his repertoire. Across a dozen songs ‘Flying into Mystery‘ does not mess with what has clearly been a successful formula. It is an album that has a slant towards the downbeat and with a partial theme of displacement and loss with a low key musical accompaniment throughout – there’s no flash to distract from Moore’s distinctively measured singing. There’s a poacher’s lament on the traditional ‘Van Diemens Land‘, with the hardships of transportation laid out as a warning. ‘December 1942‘ captures the historical chill of the treatment of ‘dispossessed people from the ghetto‘ unloaded from packed trains and ‘made to undress and driven naked to the slaughter and then into the chamber they were forced to run.‘ There are cries to God for help, help that doesn’t come. Moore makes the inhumanity plain with the casual callousness of “no mercy and no pity / the word came down the line and the orders were carried through / just another number to add to their statistics.”
‘All I Remember‘ is a light-hearted recollection of different casual cruelty, the not-so-happiest days of your life at the hands of the Christian Brothers who were “sharpening their leathers / learn it by heart that’s the rule / all I remember is dreading September and school“, and the social inadequacies that this upbringing would lead to once women were actually encountered. Some of the album’s humour doesn’t necessarily travel very far – most notably on ‘Bord na Móna Man‘, which jokingly celebrates the ubiquity of Irish labour through the figure of employees of the semi-governmental Irish Peat Development company who is “sound as a bell” and will “work like hell / hire him if you can“. There’s also a sly in-joke with a verse that’s a partial re-write of ‘God Woman‘ from Moore’s 1996 release ‘Graffiti Tongue.‘ There’s nothing wrong with the song, but one could be perhaps forgiven for not getting it.
The album’s most direct political statement is support for activism against Climate Change on ‘Clock Winds Down‘ which points the finger directly at a wasteful and slow to act older generation that continues to betray their children’s future. The album closes out with a double tribute to Bob Dylan – ‘Zozimus and Zimmerman‘ draws a direct line from the 19th century Zozimus “the last wandering minstrel” to our own great song and dance man Dylan, and his concert appearance in Dublin. And if you’ve ever wondered if a Dylan setlist could make the chorus of a song then this co-write by Christy Moore and Wally Page provides the answer. This falls into the light-hearted songs camp, capturing the glee of a Dylan gig. The album closer, a cover of ‘I Pity the Poor Immigrant is a far more sombre affair that fits well with the other songs of displacement across the collection. Overall ‘Flying into Mystery‘ is a solid folk album that carefully balances light and shade.