Danny Carnahan: Mick Fitzgerald

Danny Carnahan: Mick Fitzgerald

The Embarassing Early Years    |    Mick Fitzgerald: An Appreciation

Mick Fitzgerald

If anyone ever asked me to name the person most responsible for whatever success I have enjoyed in my musical career, I would have to name Mick Fitzgerald.

I first encountered Mick in 1978 during an extended visit to Ireland, performing onstage at Slattery’s Bar with his band Tipsy Sailor. Mick was singing and playing guitar and bodhran, Kieran Halpin singing and playing guitar, Johnny Keenan playing whistle, and Fiaich O’Brun playing bouzouki. In that instant I knew that I wanted to be doing exactly what they were doing. I decided to befriend them and within 24 hours Mick, Kieran, Robin and I were sitting around at Kieran’s sister’s flat, drinking Guinness and singing.

In one afternoon, having known me for only a few hours, Mick dumped over 20 original songs onto my tape recorder. Two original Mick songs and five other Tipsy Sailor arrangements, brazenly cribbed, became much of the early Caswell Carnahan repertoire and a large part of our first album. Mick’s tremendous songwriting talent, combined with the energy and confidence of his performances with Kieran and crew showed me what was possible to do with Celtic music but that had never been done yet out in California. Critics called Caswell Carnahan a ground-breaking band in the Celtic explosion of the ‘80s, but that was only because they had never heard the real thing in Dublin.

Over the years, I have recorded six of Mick’s songs on four different albums: “Rathdrum Fair,” “Breton Air,” “Brightened in the Morning,” “All Our Trades Have Gone,” “Summer Nights,” and “The Black Dodder.” Another great Mick song, “The Only Stranger,” is set for inclusion on my next album, whenever that happens. I happily proselytize Mick’s songs to other performers wherever I go, encouraging them to arrange, perform, and record them. My favorite Mick cover to date is the lovely June Tabor’s smoldering take on “All Our Trades Are Gone,” on her 1992 CD “Angel Tiger” (Green Linnet GLCD 3074).

Mick’s own discography is sparse, to say the least. until recently the only LP I had featuring Mick was the 1983 Wild Geese album “In Full Flight” (German release on Joke Records JLP215). The Wild Geese lineup at that time included guitarist/singer Manus Lunny and fiddler/banjo whiz Gerry O’Connor, two tremendously talented musicians whose careers took off in the ‘90s. It’s a very spotty record, running from gorgeous to embarrassing, but worth a listen if you can find it.

Happily, in 2003 Mick released his first solo CD, “Light Sleeper” (Mogg Records, distributed by Claddagh). Backed by a spare trio and several guests including fiddler Maurice Lennon, Mick includes a couple of early classics like “Rathdrum Fair” as well as new songs like “Ballad of Capel Street” that rival his best work. Click here to order a CD from Claddagh. U.S. distribution is still pending.

Mick still lives in Dublin and continues to write songs and sing in the clubs. In about 2002 he landed a bit part in an Irish movie called “How Harry Became a Tree,” starring Colm Meany and Adrian Dunbar. If it ever finds US distribution, look for Mick as one of the exceedingly seedy-looking musicians. As he says: “Damn typecasting!” Mick is increasingly active in the theatre these days and you can find out more about his recent roles on his new website.

If you are interested in performing or recording any of Mick’s songs or would like more information about Mick, please feel free to drop me a line.

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