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A pastoral elegy for ancient corpses
A pastoral elegy for ancient corpses
Celtic singer-songwriter creates an instrumental opus Gerry O'Beirne
The Bog Bodies and Other Stories
I'm not sure where to begin with a new album by Irish guitarist and singer-songwriter Gerry O'Beirne. Do I start with the wonderful, multi-tracked instrumentals he's written for guitars, dobros and other stringed folk instruments? Or the macabre imagery of the title, The Bog Bodies and Other Stories?

Let's get the macabre out of the way first. Bog Bodies are nearly perfectly preserved corpses dating back over 5000 years that have been discovered in bogs in northern Europe and the British Isles. They've got them in museums all over the place and they're very eerie to see. Here's a Wiki link with a picture. O'Beirne names two tracks for the bog bodies, "Oldcraoghan Man" and "Clonycavan Man."

I don't know why O'Beirne picked that for an image, because his album is a beautiful, pastoral foray that manages to tap his Irish roots while actually sounding very Americana. Even though Bog Bodies is subtitled, Music for Guitar, that doesn't quite do it justice. On the "The Desert and Two Grey Hills," O'Beirne is playing 12 and 6 string guitars, slide guitar, Spanish guitar, ukelele, and using an e-bow. Staying strictly acoustic (does an e-bow count?), he takes a page from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells doing the one-man orchestra thing. And like Oldfield, his songs are gorgeously lyrical.

Gerry O'Beirne is a veteran singer-songwriter. His tunes have been covered by Maura O'Connell, Mary Black, and Cathie Ryan. He's also popped up as a folkie on A Prairie Home Companion. But on The Bog Bodies he shuts up and plays his guitar, along with just about anything else you can pluck and strum.

Even though Gerry O'Beirne is Irish and hangs with Irish folk superstars like Kevin Burke, Andy Irvine, and the Waterboys, this album has more of a western americana feel. Especially when he's playing the National Steel Guitar, which seems to be the reborn instrument of the 21st century. O'Beirne plays it with a slide and it immediately calls up images of country blues and high plains, tapping into that Ry Cooder Paris, Texas vibe.

Gerry O'Beirne's The Bog Bodies and Other Stories is our echoes CD of the Month for April. Don't let the title scare you off. It's a beautiful album to welcome in spring.