A moving and relevant album from a longstanding legend of Irish music.
The release of ‘A Moment In Time’ coincides with songwriter and stalwart Irish cultural hero Finbar Furey’s 77th birthday. The once curly-haired, bearded folkie, now a silver-haired elder statesman, is one of those rare artists who is a living link between older and younger generations, all of whom deeply respect him. A clip of him performing ‘Green Fields Of France’ with Christy Dignan on ‘The Late Late Show’ still makes the rounds on social media.
Furey began playing music with his father, a travelling fiddle player, around Ireland while still a child. He became well known later with his brothers in the folk band The Fureys and as part of The Clancy Brothers. He started his solo career a bit late in life in the 1990s, after thirty years in The Fureys, as well as an unexpected acting career. He has combined love for well-known traditional Irish folk songs while also writing timely ones that reflect the fact that there is plenty to protest against and fight for right now. There are both types of tunes on ‘A Moment In Time.’ He covers ‘Kitty,’ a song Shane MacGowan’s wife Victoria Clarke asked Furey to play at Shane’s 60th birthday celebration in 2018, as it had been a favourite of Shane’s mother’s. ‘Blue Jewel In The Sky’ rails against greed and warns about conserving the planet and its resources while there is still time: “There’s no place like home in this universe.” ‘September Said Goodbye’ is a downright painful love song about a man whose partner died in the 9/11 attacks in New York.
Furey has often expressed his deep connection to his Irish Traveller heritage, and this is still apparent on the lively, galloping ‘She Wants To Ride Horses,’ a song from thirty years ago he never previously found time to record. On ‘Moments In Time’ he yearns for peace, freedom, and harmony, with a tip of his hat to John Lennon, Dylan, and the poets who inspired him.
Furey is renowned for his proficiency on a wide range of instruments, including the uilleann pipes, flute, whistle, guitar, bodhrán, and banjo. He has long been one of the best uilleann pipers in the world, with the ability to play “Traveller-style,” which Folk Radio UK defines as “one that makes abundant use of the chanter technique to create colour, energy and ornamentation to the melody. In plain language, it’s the stuff that gives it the kick and gets the crowd going.” Furey’s pipes make ‘Sliabh Gallen Braes’ and the instrumental ‘Wild Horses’ truly haunting.
Furey’s singing style is emotive and heartfelt as ever, but the folk-rock ‘Blue Jewel In The Sky’ and ‘Moments In Time,’ while well arranged, prove to be almost too overpowering for Furey’s voice. His daughter Áine provides strong backing vocals. Quieter songs like ‘Thank You For Everything’ and ‘The Rocks Of Bawn’ suit him better. The final track is a gentle, longing version of the traditional Scottish song ‘The Parting Glass,’ known to many as one of the near-mandatory songs at an Irish wake.
As one was one of the original popularizers of Irish music during the folk boom of the ’60s and ’70s, but also as an adaptable, continually innovative songwriter, Furey’s significance can’t be exaggerated. Although he is no longer touring, preferring to play golf, he has enough material stashed away for more albums. This one doesn’t have to be the last toast from Furey.