Mick Daly is recounting the tale of how he ended up driving back from Belfast with Rory Gallagher and three grand in cash stuffed under the passenger seat.
“In that time, people were being stopped on the road and shot, so it was a bit scary,” he says.
Daly, the Cork singer, five-string banjo player and guitarist, has played with everyone from Sonny Condell to Mary Black to Arty McGlynn.
Collaboration is the backbone of his life in music; he was a founding member of Scullion and trad-fusion band Four Men and a Dog.
He toured Japan with fiddle player Séamus Creagh and yes, even took to the road with Rory Gallagher and his brother and manager Donal in 1974, on the pretext that he knew the way to Belfast.
“Donal asked me did I know the way,” Daly recalls. “I’d never been to Belfast, but I said, ‘Of course I do.’ So I got a free ride, basically, and I went off with them for four days. There was a bomb-scare one morning, and we all had to leave the hotel and stand out in the car park when we were having our breakfast.”
It was the year of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and Belfast was in the height of the Troubles.
Gallagher wanted to hit the road back to Cork, and so they did, the proceeds of the gigs shoved unceremoniously under the passenger seat.
Now, Daly is wrapping up a tour considerably less fraught with danger; as part of Music Network’s 2017 programme, the Arts Council’s touring agency put Daly on the road for 10 dates nationwide with Dervish singer Cathy Jordan and Tyrone-born uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson.
“We were thrown together for two days to come up with a programme, and then sent out on these gigs,” Daly says.
“I knew Cathy vaguely, but I’d never even heard of Jarlath. It’s a surprise because you’ve no idea who you’re working with, and then you’ve to put it all together and go out and do it. The first couple of gigs you feel a bit ropey, but by the end of it we were having great fun together.”
Daly has often described taking up the guitar to learn Dylan chords, and has strong leanings towards
American folk and old-time; is he the least Irish trad-based of the trio?
“We all started somewhere,” he says. “Jarlath grew up playing pipes and whistles, that was his tradition, but if you listen to his album, there’s a lot of beat stuff and hip-hop in it. Cathy has everything from Percy French to country in her repertoire, so she’s right across the board as well. So we’re not straightforward in any way.”
Did the touring make him want to get out on the road again? He laughs heartily. “They gave me a pension and a bus pass last year, for God’s sake. I’m trying to take it easy!”
Taking it easy, in Daly’s case, means working as resident sound engineer for Coughlan’s of Douglas St, and sessions with the Lee Valley String Band in The Corner House. Daly is also anticipating an important milestone next year, when the Lee Valley String Band, with whom he plays banjo, hit half a century.
“If we can do a recording, that would be great, and maybe go to play a few festivals. But we’re at an age now where we’re just having fun with the music, rather than wanting to go out and conquer the world.” He smiles. “Conquering the world is for young people.”
Mick Daly, Jarlath Henderson, and Cathy Jordan appear as part of Cork Folk Festival in Triskel tomorrow.
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