Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The House That Horse Built

Last Tuesday evening I went to the book launch of Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann at the invitation of my friend Joe Hurley. McCann's a New York-based Irish writer and Joe's written a bunch of songs relating to the new book. I didn't know anything about it and hadn't seen the ecstatic review it got in The Observer the previous Sunday. However it was clear from the brief extracts that McCann read that it was rather special. It reminded me, in both its sweep and its intricacy, of DeLillo.

Then Joe sang a song called 'The House That Horse Built'. This is based on a episode in the novel around a black prostitute who loses her daughter. It's an epic song of almost ten minutes duration in four parts: 'My Name Is Till (You Can Call Me Sweetcakes)', 'Let The Great World Spin (I Am Of This Earth)', 'Hanging From The Pipes (Leaving The House That Horse Built)' and 'Coda (Let The Great World Spin Without Me)'. Just reading the titles gives you an extent of the ambition involved, and met.

On a single hearing the chorus stuck. Now I've got my hands on the recording, currently only available on a mini-album that Joe's selling on the rest of the publicity tour. The album has four tracks; first the ten minute version and then three outtakes of shorter extracts. It's good to say that my instincts from last week were quite correct; it's a phenomena. Lyrically compelling, wondrously sung, and superbly produced by Don Fleming.

The roll-call of supporting musicians is impressive; Tony Shanahan, James Mastro, Paddy Moloney, and Dennis Diken, to name but a few. And then there's Tillie's Choir - Tami Lynn, Antonique Smith, and Faith Hahn - who, in a moment of quite spine-chilling intensity, revisit the chorus to devastating effect.

And there's more to come. Next Spring there'll be a full album of around ten tracks which Bloomsbury are very interested in having to coincide with the release of the paperback - so watch this space.

Meanwhile catch Joe on the tour, at the projected London show (late September or November), or in the States in between.

European Dates:

September 18th Hamburg, Germany

September 19th Berlin, Germany

September 21st Cologne, Germany

September 22nd Zurich, Switzerland

September 23rd Halle/Innsbruck, Austria

September 24th Vienna, Austria

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