Mick Hanly – Collected (Doghouse Songs) Four Stars ****
Mixing live tracks with studio efforts, Collected is Limerick man Hanly’s latest offering. Fifteen tracks of familiar favourites and new recordings, the album exposes the genuine writing talents of one of Ireland’s most criminally unheralded performers. Despite penning ‘Past The Point of Rescue’, a US No.2 hit for Hal Ketchum in 1981, Hanly keeps a low profile, holed up in Co. Kilkenny, writing excellent songs while sporadically venturing out to perform intimate shows in small venues.
Never flinching from putting himself on the line, his songs reflect on life experiences of both the good and not-so-good variety. No matter the subject, Hanly’s rapier-like wit is the big gun in his arsenal – the lead off track, All I Remember, being a case in point. The song refers to the brutality of a Christian Brother education, yet this assessment of his youth is chock-full of self-deprecating anecdotes – cleverly poking fun at his oppressors.
The Silence, is a frank appraisal of a broken down relationship, while My Love Is In America, (a duet with Dolores Keane) though written in the 1980’s, reflects on the scourge of forced immigration and in these troubled times, re-emerges with a new-found relevance.
Happy As A Baby In Your Arms, appears on a Hanly album for the first time, even though it’s been recorded in the past by both Keane and the late Ronnie Drew. Hanly’s songs are never more forcefully presented than when he’s alone with his guitar. The version of his chart-topper, Past The Point of Rescue, recorded live, allows his audience to
sing-along gleefully on the chorus and exhibits the writer’s uncanny ability to combine serious composition with pure entertainment.
For those who haven’t been acquainted with Mick Hanly’s music up to now, Collected is a perfect introduction. It’s a tour-de-force of thought provoking songs, delivered superbly by one of this nation’s finest writers.
Collected by Mick Hanly gets a general release in the new year and is available now on CD Baby.
Mick Hanly Collected reviewed by Joe Breen in Ticket
“The news is . . . I’m still alive . . . ” Mick Hanly gets to the point at his website, where you can buy this self-released collection of the best of his work over the past 20 years.
I have always had an ear for Hanly’s distinctive, rugged honesty and controlled grasp of sentiment, and his ability to write such good tunes as Past the Point of Rescue , Damaged Halo and The Silence .
This collection, drawn from studio and live recordings, is notable for the number of songs marked by a sense of regret, even guilt. Hanly’s own typically candid remarks (again on the website) hint that his restless spirit is finding some peace, although he admits the rate of new songs has slowed. But this collection shows how he made an impact, a connection to a generation raised on civil war politics, blind religion and low expectations, and who wanted something more.
Wish Me Well reviewed by Nicky Rossiter from www.folking.com
This is an outstanding album. It proves the value perfectionism. As Mick tells us in his book of the same title, it was a long time in gestation from the writing through the production and it shows. I am proud say that I heard many of the songs on this CD in an intimate live performance in a Wexford pub over a year ago. At the time I was mightily impressed, even with minimal musical backing. Presented her with lush backing and production they are even better. The songs are intensely personal but they professionally crafted. ‘I Feel I Should Be Calling You’ is a wonderful song that deals with events in Hanly’s own life but anyone listening will find resonance of their own lives. Few of us will write a hit like ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ as alluded to as reaching number two in the charts. But like him, we will have successes that our parents may not live to witness and we will recall the title of this song. One of my favourite tracks on the album is ‘Damaged Halo’. Mick must be courting sainthood with his references to halos. There is this track and a former band called Rusty Old Halo. The track is another of those brilliant epic story songs. Again it is based on real life, or lives, as he recalls an old school friend and contrasts his life to his own in music. There is lovely Irish feel to the story but its very parochial nature makes it international. The lines “ We were damaged by the score, the clever and the dumb, will you tell me where in Christ was Jesus hiding” could refer to any town or group of people. You will never anticipate the tag line. ‘Too Old for Fairytales’ captures that limbo as we leave childhood but do not quite enter adult life. I remember when I heard the songs live how the comments with which he introduced ‘I am, I am’ lingered for days afterwards. The song and the comments ask us to admit that weird feeling most people get at some time to take stupid risks. He ends it on a more positive note of family responsibility. Mick may come from Limerick city but his description of Australia opening ‘The Crusader’ will transport you to the hot desert outback. The song itself is a beautiful tale. The joy of any Mick Hanly album is the wonderful content of the songs. He writes and sings from the heart and the memory. His subject matter is the thing that matters to you and me and that is why he touches our ears, minds and hearts. ‘Cold, Cold, World’ recalls his childhood and while reminding us of the past he also pricks the conscience about how we treat people. Then ‘Shellabookee Boy’ reveals a very personal portrait of his life at more recent times. This CD is one that you must not just own but you must listen to it, absorb it and let it move you. I recently reviewed the book of the same name by Mick Hanly, which gives fascinating insights into these songs. You can enjoy the album without reading the book but get both and find the truth in the adage of “the sum is greater than the parts”. An ideal present for anyone who loves good music would be the book and CD. You can sample some of the songs from this and other albums on the website. Dog House DHCD03
Mick Hanly, Civic Theatre, Tallaght. March 23rd 2005 – review by Siobhán Long.
Mick Hanly has a voice that’s more crushed velvet than serrated steel these days. Mellowed and honeyed, it eases itself inside each of it’s own song’s skins. With his autobiography just published, and a CD perched on the shelves, Hanly’s a man who has jettisoned many of the demons from the past. Wish Me Well, he pleaded, in book and on CD, and the audience reciprocated in spades.
He has always been a country boy at heart. That vocal chink that’s a dead cert for Lyle Lovett has carried him closer to Nashville than New York.
Mining his latest CD proves lucrative: Dust In The Storm and I Feel I Should Be Calling You are pictures that would strike chords in the most wizened punter: the latter a postcard to parents no longer around to celebrate the good times, but still a huge presence in his life. Hanly’s gift is to be able to finger life’s small daily triumphs and its occasional dickie-bowed golden handshakes, affording both equal billing.
Oddly, his humorous songs struggled for air, buoyed initially by his introductions, but crumbling beneath the weight of rhyming couplets that tried too hard to tickle the funny bone.
Hanly knows where his real home is though, and it’s in the telling of the tale, the recounting of the bruising encounter. Past The Point Of Rescue needed no introduction so he didn’t sully it with one
Personal happiness can often yield dried fruit when it comes to songwriting. Mick Hanly has been luckier than most: Shellakabookee Boy, The Silence, and Damaged Halo are fit for any songbook, anywhere. Years honing his craft with Monroe, Rusty Old Halo and Moving Hearts, not to mention the success that came his way with Hal Ketchum’s cover of Past The Point Of Rescue have served him well. The boy’s done good, and the songs are still flowing.
Killarney Advertiser 25the March 2005
Wish Me Well/Notes On My Sleeve
Mick Hanly is one of Ireland’s best singer/songwriters in recent years and is best known for his song ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ made famous by Hal Ketchum in the USA and Mary Black in Ireland. Mick has been singing and writing since the 1970’s, which included a time as lead singer with “Moving Hearts”.
In his autobiography Mick tells his life story through songs which capture key moments in his life. The result is a very poignant and honest book which tells of his highs (receiving a £20,000 cheque for ‘Past the Point of Rescue’, meeting his second wife, Marie) and lows (alcoholism, his stepson, Thomas being sent to Iraq) and give the reader a wonderful insight in this remarkable man’s life.
Published by Gill & Macmillan.
Mick Hanly, Frontier Music Club, Newry, March 8 – review by Patrick Donaghy for Maverick Magazine
Mick Hanly has the look and the air of a man who is very satisfied with himself and his life at the moment. Gone is the uncontrolled mop of curls, in place a bald pate and a pair of sensible spectacles. In fact, he could be your genteel uncle, relaxed and in no hurry at all, with all the time in the world to get there. The voice too has lost its edge and mellowed with age like a good wine. With some satisfaction he can look back over his life, which possibly has had more downs than ups, and reflect that at last he has reached a time when things are looking pretty good.
His musical career spans three decades and he has a string of fine albums behind him, including the latest “Wish Me Well” (reviewed in Maverick March issue) now on the shelves. The album has a companion book, effectively Hanly’s autobiography, and this is clearly justification for the current tour, his first for several years. The birth of the book is an interesting story in itself. Hanly explained to the audience that when out mowing the lawn (yes, even musicians have to cut the grass!) he sustained a nasty cut on his finger which rendered guitar playing impossible. He occupied himself by writing what started out as extended sleeve notes for his current album. He lost the run of himself and the sleeve notes became a book!
The show tonight was a relaxed, highly personal performance with most of the songs reflections of Hanley’s life. His ghosts have been well and truly exorcised, and past and present are reflected in his songs. These are songs of substance and heart, thoughtful and well crafted. His latest album is showcased, with Dust in the Storm and I Feel I Should Be Calling You fine examples of the master at work. The latter is a tribute to absent parents who died in 1991 just when Hanly’s career and life seemed to have turned a corner. The triumph of Hal Ketchum’s cover of Past the Point of Rescue riding at the top of the American charts is countered with the realisation that he can’t share the joy of the moment with his parents although they are still a huge influence on his life. His family features again in One More from the Daddy from 1993’s Happy Like This, a song recalling happy sing-alongs from his childhood.
Damaged Halo is a wonderful song about triumph over adversity which sees him looking back at his youth, when as a tongue-tied and sad aspiring musician, he learned to play on a cheap Sunburst guitar. Defying the odds and crying out for recognition he sings “Look at me; I can play the Forty Shades of Green and some Slim Whitman”. There is humour too, with Trying to Get to St Nazaire a tale of a younger Hanly gigging in France and getting hopelessly lost, but falling in love, as he tries to get to his next show through a haze of alcohol. He can laugh now, looking back, because this is a different Mick Hanly, sober and wiser.
Inevitably when you are promoting a book and a CD, you are likely to talk a lot, and talk a lot he did, with dialogue meandering into the songs. In truth, less talking and more singing would have been preferable, but let’s not begrudge this vintage road warrior his moment of glory as we wish him well for the future.
The Irish Times, Eugene McEldowney, Chapter and Verse – review of ‘Wish Me Well: Notes on My Sleeve’
In the tax-strapped early 80’s, to earn some extra cash and boost my record collection, I used to review folk-music albums for The Irish Times. Mostly I went easy on the poor devils who crossed my path, conscious of the long days spent in some draughty recording studio and the fragile hops resting on my words. I don’t suppose it made me a particularly good reviewer, yet of the hundreds of performers I mentioned in those days, only one person ever took the trouble to write and thank me. That man was signer-songwriter Mikc Hanly.
I mention this becuase Hanly has written his autobiography, and a particularly fine book it is. But it is not an autobiography in the traditional sense. It dosen’t being at the beginning and go right on to the end, as Lewis Carroll suggested, but it does tell his life story nevertheless. The method he has chosen is to take 11 of his songs and explain the events in his life that inspired each compositin, hence the reference to sleeve notes in the title. The result is a series of snapshots, betimes poignant and amusing, but always searingly honest.
Hanly was born in Limerick in the 1940’s but it was not the Limerick immortalised by Frank McCourt inAngela’s Ashes. His father, John, had a decent job as a sales rep for Matterson’s Bacon factory so the family always had enough to eat. But by today’s standards there was little in the way of luxury and money was always tight. The family budget was a hand-to-mouth business, typical of working-class families in that era when every shilling had to be accounted for. Yet, despite these difficulties, his father somwhow found the cash to buy the musical included youngster his first proper guitar with the profound commnt: “Dosen’t it keep him off the streets?” It wa a Hagtrom 12-string and cost 63 guineas, an enormous sum at the time, paid off in instalments of 10 shillings a week.
Hanly writes lovingly about his parents and the tight-knit family circle, about the Arch Confraternity, his first encounters with girsl and schooling with the Christian Brothers. Some of the most moving prose in the book deals with the deaths of his mother and father within 10 weeks of each other in 1991. Incredibly, his wife’s father, Mick, also died within that short period.
But darkness also prevades parts of this book. Hanly’s decision to become a musician set him on a rocky road and he holds nothing back as he details his stuggle to write songs and survive in the precarious music business, a struggle that sometimes brougth him to the verge of despair. With the same brutal honesty, he deals with the breakdown of relationships and his growing difficulties with alcohol.
Yet Hanly can also display a lightness of touch. There is an hilarious account of a trip undertaken to Brittany in 1973 by himself, Cathal Goan and Micheal O Domhnaill, who compirsed a folk band called Monroe. It was Hanly’s first expedition abroad and his struggels iwth the French language and with the local shopkeepers, and his determination to find the ingredients for a decent Irish fry-up, bring a smile to the lips.
There is also a wonderful chapter called Shellakabookee Boy which details his tender relationship with his stepson, Thomas, and how the young boy’s initial suspicion of Hanly gradually matures in to a mutual love. No parent reading this account could fail to be moved when Thomas enlists in the US Marine Corps and is sent to the Iraq war.
Someone once said that a reader should be wary of autobiographies because they are written by the main protagonist. That advice can be safely discarded in this instance.
Hanly is no vainglorious braggart singing his own praises but a writer scrupulously attempting to make sense of a life lived well if sometimes not too wisely. And it is the better book for that.
Hot Press, Jackie Hayden, Issue 24, Volume 8, May 10th, 2000 (10/12)
They rarely come any rootsier than this, Mick Hanly with a basket of all new songs (bar one) and a bunch of skilled musicians locked in producer P.J. Curtis’s cottage in Clare for four days.
The result is a stunningly relaxed and refreshing work, with Hanly sounding sharper than he has for years.
The opener ‘Wooden Horses’ is a little reminiscent of ‘I Recall a Gypsy Lover’ but it sets the agenda for what’s in store with some freewheeling playing from Declan Corey on mandolin, Liam Lewis on fiddle and its general downhome approach. ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ (not the Dylan song) is a heartaching track about a teenage daughter’s first flight from the nest.
‘A Wedding and a Funeral’ is a social snapshot of an Ireland that, thankfully, has not yet been eaten by the Celtic Tiger, while ‘Mrs O’ Neill’ with some stirring accordion from Josephine Marsh, looks at how we often callously use each other. It overflows with sadness and anger, perfectly expressed by Hanly positively spitting the line “I’m glad we’re rid of those fuckers”.
He also revisits ‘Without the Fanfare’, the hit he wrote for Mary Black, and invests it with some fresh emotional power.
In a musical world bloated with fake emotion contrived merely to sell records, Hanly stands apart as a man who writes real songs for grown-ups.
So Few Writers able to Match Hanly – Paul Dromey, The Examiner , March 11th, 2000
Paul Dromey pays tribute to Mick Hanly’s latest collection which brings a freshness to the songwriter’s familiar themes.
Ireland has produced a fair share of accomplished songwriters but only a handful can match Mick Hanly when it comes to pure songwriting craft. Though often cast in a country music mould, his work incorporates a powerful cogency of expression and emotion which can move – sometimes even startle.
‘Wooden Horses’, Hanly’s latest 12 song collection, has just been released on his own Dog Hose Records (CDDH2). It’s a superb offering revisiting many of the themes Mick has exploerd previously, but with a renewed freshness and clarity.
The title track finds him evoking happy childhood memories but the song has a gentle twist to it’s tale. ‘The Golden Key Bar’ humerously takes us back to 1969 and Mick’s first, tentative steps at being an entertainer. ‘Wedding and a Funeral’ is a zany flight-of-fancy. The song ‘Mrs O’ Neill’ finds Mick Hanly at his powerful, cogent best, turning arecollection into a poignant, hard-hitting story about collective human nature at it’s most insensitive.
nobody writes a love song quite like Mick Hanly does. In ‘Burnt Out Star’, ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’, ‘Once Was Enough’, ‘She Sange Stardust’, ‘You Have My Word’ and a reworking of his earlier ‘without the Fanfare’, his sensitivity and deftness of approach looks at love from all kinds of perspectives: from first bloom to what he calls “hanging in for the long haul”, taking in the aching bitter-sweetand fading varieties and the knowing when to let go aspect of parental love.
“You have to look for something to hang each song on” Hanly says. “‘Burnt Out Star’ began from reading about the idea that after a star has died, it’s light is still out there. There are so many love songs being written, one can’t really come up with something new. What you hope to get is a new angle. For instance, ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ is loosely based on my daughter but I tried to write something with which lots of people would readily identify. I think that most of the love songs on this album are pretty positive love songs.”
Are all his songs drawn from personal experience?
“No, some are, but many come from situations I’ve observed. I draw from what I see as well as from what I save. For this particular album, much of the ideas came from fiddling around with a new guitar tuning I’d stumbles across. “About three quarters of the songs are written in this tuning. It threw me into a different direction – to chord shapes with which I wouldn’t have been familiar in standard tuning – and consequently to new melodic approaches.” For guitarists curious about the tuning, it’s EADGAE, almost standard, but dropping the normal B on the second string to an ‘A’.
“With ‘Mrs O’ Neill’ and ‘The Golden Key Bar’ I’m drawing directly on personal experience. With ‘Wooden Horses’, I’m remembering the lovely innocent childhood time when you could sit in an old jalopy and pretend that it was the real thing. Now, they’re taking the real thing! Kids today don’t have as much fun with their imagination as we used to do.”
Back in the early nineties, Hal Ketchum’s cover version of Hanly’s song ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ reached the No. 2 slot in the American Country Charts. Does he feel he can repeat the process?
“I will send copies of the album to people I know in the business there, but to be honest, what’s coming out of Nashville hasn’t interested me as a musical direction. I think that songs like ‘Burnt Out Star’ could possibly make it out there. The Irish instrumentation may also make the album more radio-friendly.”
‘Wooden Horses’ was recorded in the front room of producer P.J. Curtis’s house in Kilfenora, Co. Clare. “It’s the room where he plays all his own records,” Mick explains. “It has a lovely natural echo – stone walls and high ceiling. The album captures that atmosphere.
“P.J. and I discussed the approach quite a lot and I left the round up of the traditional musicians – most of whom I’d never met, or even heard before – to him. But they really delivered and I love the way they play on the recording. There are no effects, no studio tracking together, just straight takes.”
Session musicians on ‘Wooden Horses’ include: Mick Kinsella (harmonica), Declan Corey (mandolin), Padraic O’ Broin (guitar), John Moloney (bodhran), Josephine Marsh (button accordion), Jim Kerrigan (uilleann pipes ), Paul O’ Driscoll (double bass) and Liam Lewis, Tola Custy, Clare O’ Donaghue and Michelle O’ Brien, all on fiddles.
Mick Hanly – Wooden Horses, Julie Byrnes, Clare Advertiser , March, 1999
Awarded the B.M.I. america award winner in 1992 – for most played country song ‘Pat the Point of Recsue’, Mick Hanly needs little introduction. His latest collection ‘Wooden Horses’ certainly lives up to his high standards.
Recorded at the old forge, Kilnaboy and produced by P.J. Curtis there are no duds here. Many of Hanly’s songscontain a mixture of personal experience and wry observation, that retain a universal appeal. Hanly’s writing and singing always provide a fine balance between the humerous and the serious.
After listening to a demo of ‘Wooden Horses’, I took down some of his earlier recordings such as ‘Celtic Folkweave’ and ‘A Kiss in the Morning Early’ and listened to them over again. The most beautiful songs for me ar ‘You’re a big Girl Now’, ‘Without the Fanfare’ and ‘If This Be Love’ plus the humerous ‘Golden Key Bar’ and the title track. Backed by many of Clare’s finest musicians this album is a welcome breath of fresh air. ‘Wooden Horses’ will just grow and grow on you.
Mick Hanly, The Cobblestone – Alex Moffatt, Irish Times , May 17, 1999
Mick Hanly may be one of Ireland’s leading songwriters, but he’s not so well known as a performer. The Cobblestone was packed for this solo concert and he was in top form, playing a mix of old and new material.
The majority of Hanly’s songs are gentle and lyrical, and he sings them in an unmannered style. Songs such as ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ and ‘One More from the Daddy’ are soft-centred, but manage to steer just clear of sentimentality – his writing is too sharp for that.
‘The Way Dreams Are’ has apparently been recorded by Daniel O’ Donnell (which Hanly welcomed, because “he sells a lot of albums – I don’t”). It’s a classic forlorn love song and was delivered perfectly, as was another ballad, ‘Burned Out Star’. It helps that Hanly’s diction is crystal clear.
The second set proved more light-hearted, opening with a brisk version of ‘On Vocals and Guitar’. The ridiculous ‘The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ worked brilliantly, driven by Hanly’s percussive guitar. He relished the verse-endings with their increasingly strained efforts to find new rhymes to go with “kettle”.
Hanly’s biggest hit, ‘Past the Point of Rescue’, was greeted jubilantly by the crowd and provoked an enthusiastic singalong. ‘Without The Fanfare’ then quietened things down. There’s a distinct country inflection to much of Hanly’s music, so he ended aptly enough with a country standard,’Tennessee Whiskey’. An excellent concert.
RATING: **** “Wooden Horses” Reviewer: Brendan Carson – Mick Hanly proving he is no burnt out star.
The master strikes again! Mick played the club recently to a great reception and a lot of the songs from this album were featured.
In addition to his own inimitable style and superb lyrical craftsmanship, he is joined with a crowd of 11 excellent musicians and singers to make this a great little record. Club regulars will instantly recognise names like Tola Custy and Josephine Marsh.
The recording took place in P.J. Curtis’ home in County Clare. There is no fancy post production work here which means that the sounds are truly authentic. It’s nice to see a simple approach to the music working so well.
What isn’t simple is the excellent singing and musicianship throughout the album. He kicks off with the title track which recycles an old favourite tune, that of Roseville Fair and others. In this incarnation it works really well with remembrances of childhood games and innocent sweethearts.
‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ touches some really raw nerves. It tells of the anguish of parents whose little girl moves away from home and rejects any help, advice or guidance. Mick sings this like it was about his own girl, and maybe it is.
Virtuoso harmonica player Mick Kinsella kicks off ‘Burnt Out Star’ and it reminds me a little bit of the tune of ‘Monterey’ sung by Mary Black. This is great playing that adds a depth and haunting quality to the song.
The next number is great craic altogether. ‘A Wedding and a Funeral’ pokes fun at the two big events in life. I really love the line ‘ Jenny got a husband, Benny got a roasting, Benny got a roasting in his Sunday suit.’ Nice upbeat rhythm and more excellent harmonica.
Mick told the story behind the next song – ‘Mrs O’Neill’. The local outsider family that suddenly becomes everybody’s friend during a cold snap when there was no water except in Mrs O’Neills and gets dropped just as quickly when the need disappeared. The final lines say it all
She waited, she waited in vain,
Her beautiful dreams disappeared in the rain,
Then one day Jim dropped his paper and said,
I’m glad we’re rid of those fuckers.
Lovely Accordion playing from Josephine Marsh draws out the loneliness of the lyrics.
She Sang Stardust is probably my favourite song on the CD. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about but it’s sheer poetry. Declan Corey dances around the words with tasty mandolin playing.
Without the Fanfare was famously recorded by Mary Black but this is Mick’s song and his singing of it adds more than any cover version could possibly bring to it. The string backings on violin, viola and cello with some delicious harmonica make for a really powerful rendition of the song.
Probably the first album of Mick’s that I heard was ‘A Kiss in the Morning Early’ and his song ‘The Golden Key Bar’ uses a lot of the musical phrases from this song. From a historical point of view it gives an interesting insight into Mick’s start on a long road which has taken him to places he wouldn’t have believed and to musical heights that he could only have dreamed of. I must admit that I sympathise with the regulars from the bar and with Mrs Mac’s dilemma.
Another familiar tune gets a reworking in ‘If This Be Love’ This is the air of a song sung in Gaelic by Michael O Domhnaill [and it’s driving me nuts that I can’t remember the name of it] but it is perfect for the words of this song.
I don’t have enough room here to mention all the songs but this is a really fine album from one of the greats in Irish Folk and Country music – BUY IT!
By the way the artwork by Ellen Hanly aged 7 is brilliant!