Last Night, as I was Wandering, the second solo album from former Jubilee Allstar Barry McCormack, is a collection of strange ballads and comic story-songs inspired by the Irish song tradition. It’s a picaresque journey through a murky, noir Dublin that features characters from the town’s past who encounter a disparate group of narrators—verbose drunks, repentant gamblers and recalcitrant office-workers. The album’s title is plundered from a sean-nos song, a nod to Barry’s desire for these songs, though imbued with a strong sense of place, to be timeless stories dealing with the vagaries of humanity rather than a fleeting comment on contemporary Dublin.
The album was recorded on Capel Street using instrumentation more familiar to ballad records of the sixties than contemporary Irish folk records. Last Night, as I was Wandering is a raw, untreated record that is, perhaps, something of an anomaly these days, when contemporary music is awash with anodyne acoustic acts parading as authentic and challenging.
Barry says: ‘The last record I made—We Drank Our Tears—was largely concerned with themes of loss and grief, where the characters were trying to find some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to make a record that retained an element of darkness but was lighter and more comic in tone. I became fascinated by the ribald world conjured up in songs sung by The Dubliners like "Monto" or "The Mero" and this record is an attempt to capture the spirit of these songs and to use it to portray a world more familiar to me.’
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‘a purgatorial stripmall facade of Nightown, populated by ghosts who walk: Kelly, Kavanagh, Behan, Dylan, MacGowan, the brothers Palace and Louvin and James Clarence Mangan...here‘s a body of song which understands that any port town is also a portal town, a hell door that admits all manner of strange sailors, strumpets and shape shifters.’
‘‘Timeless ballads from the dark side...the lyrics reveal a finely honed literary sensibility’
‘As Tom Waits can pull off the adoption of a range of whiskey-soaked characters of all ages, so can McCormack.’