How It’s New York: Máirtín De Cógáin is playing at Rocky Sullivan’s in Brooklyn on the 24th and at Murphy’s Bar on the 27th.  He has led sessions at Lillies (we wrote about that here), performed at Glucksman Ireland House and at Catskills Irish Arts Week.
How It’s Irish: Máirtín is a Corkonian and proud of it, singing when he speaks as well as when he talks. He’s an All-Ireland Storytelling Champion.

A version of this review will be printed in this week’s Irish Examiner USA.

In Cork, love songs have happy endings– and that’s a treat.

Cork is unique in Ireland. You may already know that it is sometimes called the People’s Republic of Cork, but what truly sets it apart is that its love songs seem to have happy endings. In Máirtín De Cógáin’s  charming From Cork with Love (from the Máirtín De Cógáin Project)  bachelors meet young women—and marry them and have children. Huh? Irish love songs usually describe men marrying the lassie with the land and regretting, or going to the gallows, or something.
Not in Cork. From Cork with Love brings us  atmosphere from that apparently blessed land, down to descriptions of The Tae Man, songs named for streets and an instrumental titled “Reel Cork, like!” The catchy “Johnny Go Boating” by Gus McLoughlin evokes Cork’s 29 bridges, and river ferries. John Spillane’s lovely “Prince’s Street” captures a romantic mood of, Máirtín tells us, “a wandering dream through Cork City.”

Máirtín De Cógáin, if you’ve never had a chance to see him, is as much comedian and actor as musician (he’s in town this week, at Rocky Sullivan’s on the 24th and Murphy’s Bar on the 27th). He performs with fellow Corkonian Jimmy Crowley, and as an actor in his own one man show De Bogman (I won’t soon forget his impression of a cow—I can still see the the curly-haired lad chewing his cud).

He’s an All-Ireland Storytelling Champion, and you see that in this album, recorded live in St. Paul (Máirtín lives in Minnesota). Máirtín explains “How to make proper tea!” (you have to boil the water twice before infusing, which Americans tend to forget because “you all work too hard”).

The CD begins with a short welcome and goes into a Michael O’Brien’s song “Away Down the Marina,” which starts funny with a description of “the night was very wet, wet, wet”, but becomes a happy family song. When this girl says she hopes me means no harm, well, he actually doesn’t (I have trouble wrapping my mind around this). Even the one kind of sad song, Máirtín’s original “Holding An Eye,” is more melancholy than bitter, and the liner notes tell us his wife made him record it. Aw.

So engaging a perform is Máirtín that you could overlook what a good musician he is, but he has a clear, strong voice, and also plays the Bodhrán. The others in the Project include Norah Rendell on flute and vocals, Brian Miller on Guitar and Bouzouki, and Nathan Gourley on fiddle. There are also instrumentals among the 15 tracks, and singalongs. Before you put it on shuffle, listen to it in order—it’s a live concert, after all. And it’s a treat.

Catch Máirtín Jan. 24 at Rocky Sullivan’s, 34 Van Dyke St. Brooklyn, NY, 9 pm.  and Jan. 27 at Murphy’s Bar 48-20, Skillman Ave., Queens,

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.