Born in Dublin and the only piper to win the All Ireland, the Oireachtas medal and the four province titles in the same year, Furey began his career alongside brother Eddie, the pair backing the Clancy Brothers in 1969 before continuing as a duo, eventually joined by their younger brothers as The Fureys. In 1997, he decided to go solo, since when he’s released some 20 albums, both as a piper and vocalist.
The release of Moments in Time coincides with his 77th birthday and, featuring a mix of originals and Irish traditional on which he’s joined by the likes of daughter Aine, Peter Eades, Paul O’Driscoll and Roy Taylor, it perhaps inevitably has a somewhat reflective nature. As such, it opens with the infectious slow swaying lilt of the title track, written in 2007. A musing on what the world has become from the days “when freedom with no distinction/Had just gone to war on sin”, the track namechecks Lennon, Dylan and Martin Luther King and contains a nod to George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun.
The first of the traditional numbers comes with Sliabe Gallen Braes, a song of immigration written in the 1800s by Derryman James McGarvey. The title is a reference to the Sperrin Mountains in Counties Tyrone and Derry to which he’s bidding a sad farewell, accompanied on piano with a haunting whistle solo.
There’s three more, the second being the equally melancholic piano-backed Kitty in which a Fenian bids his sweetheart goodbye rather than rot in prison.
Whistle haunting in the background before sparse banjo notes surface, the third, The Rocks Of Bawn, ostensibly has its origins in Galway and has the narrator warning young men not to “hire with any master till you know what your work will be/For he will rise you early from the clear daylight till dawn”. Interestingly, the version here has a lyric that omits the lines about wishing to join a regiment of the Queen of England to “fight for Ireland’s glory”.
The last and inevitably the album closer is the evergreen benediction The Parting Glass. Although actually of Scottish origin despite its popularity in Ireland, with Furey, backed by drone, bhodran, whistle and sparse banjo, investing it with all the bittersweet emotions of bidding good night and farewell.
The remainder are all Furey originals. Written in memory of 9/11, September Said Goodbye is an achingly sad but lovely slow waltzing, double-bass coloured song of loss and grief. Then, again on a theme of loss, the tempo takes an upbeat turn as he duets with his daughter on the strident Blue Jewel In The Sky, a single from 2020 about climate change and the destruction of the environment.
Another jaunty tune with a suitably trotting rhythm, She Wants To Ride Horses sketches a chalk and cheese relationship, the lovelorn narrator warned by his mother he’s a “fool wasting time” on a woman who “wants pearls in the moonlight” and “gold crusted diamonds”, but he’s too besotted to care.
There’s more horses to be found with Wild Horses, a cinematic primarily whistle-led instrumental, returning to song with I’ll Take A Glass, a slowly rolling piano ballad wistful rumination on mortality and a life well-lived as he sings “I’ll take a glass and raise it to all that’s said and done”.
There’s poignancy too on the aching Music’s Door, an ode to his love affair with traditional music that offers “who can say where music’s born / Free spirit of the soul flows on / Encircles us with nature’s womb / To breathe sweet life on the treasured poem”, the song a duet with his late friend Roy Taylor recorded in 2020 to raise awareness of MND, from which Taylor died earlier this year.
The remaining song, featuring Eades on cuatro, bass and 6 and 12 string guitars, is perhaps appropriately titled Thank You For Everything, a jaunty spring in its step as he again nods to his advanced years, but with a smile on his face rather than a tear in his eye as he sings “One day we’ll meet again/Talk all about it/We’ll make great music/And we’ll have a ball”, and advises “take love slowly/One step at a time/’Cos heartaches can keep you/Sleepless every night”.
Some moments in time slip away without you noticing; this shouldn’t be one of them.Mike Davies
Released Sept 29 on CD, LP and digitally on Banshee Music. Produced by Finbar Furey and Peter Eades.
1. Moments in Time
2. Sliebe Gallen Braes
3. September Said Goodbye
4. Blue Jewel In The Sky
5. She Wants To Ride Horses
7. I’ll Take A Glass
8. The Rocks of Bawn
9. Wild Horses
10. Music’s Door
11. Thank You For Everything
12. The Parting Glass