FRANK HARTE: THERE'S GANGS OF THEM DIGGING - SONGS OF IRISH LABOUR
Frank Harte: vocals
Donal Lunny: bouzouki, guitar
Unfortunately, this is Frank Harte's very last recording, completed just weeks before his much lamented death in the summer of 2005. In many ways, it is the crowning piece of a monumental body of work, an album which confirms once again, as did each of his previous releases, Harte's uncontested status as one of Ireland's foremost ballad singers past and present. Those who are familiar with his work know that Harte was not only a singer, but a collector and a scholar of folksong, and that with each album one can expect a tome of liner notes--indeed, this one is so thick it's difficult to fit it in a conventional jewel case. It seems appropriate that, at a time when the Celtic Tiger has brought about a new prosperity for Ireland which, in part, has resulted in reversing the traditional flow of unskilled labor to neighboring countries, Harte can make us look back upon those hard times and celebrate in song the courage and determination of those Irish laborers of yore, while also celebrating the end of that era of extreme hardship and heartbreaking migration. Some of the songs, "The Galbally Farmer," "Mickey Dam," or "Do Me Justice" for instance, will already be familiar of course, but Harte has also uncovered some little-known gems, like the catchy "Tambo." Although a good part of the repertoire is traditional, there are more songs here from known authors, particularly Dominic Behan and Ewan MacColl (including the moving "Just a Note"), than on Harte's previous albums. As on many of those, Donal Lunny contributes his self-effacing yet effective accompaniments on some of the tracks. So here's yet another masterpiece from the man of song. Frank, we will miss you....