Irons in the Fire
by Jan Vanderhorst
When interviewing Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains you've got to hit the ground running and have the tape machine going. That's because Paddy has so many irons in the fire, it seems any time spent dawdling is precious time wasted. A recent interview to discuss the "Fire In The Kitchen" CD found Paddy just out of the recording studio with the Corrs, where they were working on a song for the upcoming "Tears Of Stone" CD.
After a quick "How do you do?" Paddy is off and running explaining how the "Fire In The Kitchen" recording came about.
"It sparked off as a result of (The Chieftains) association with Ashley MacIsaac. Since 17 he's been guesting with us in different places. He went on tour in Canada with us, then we brought him with us as a special guest to Italy and Europe and Japan and China, where he caused a riot!" It seems the young Cape Breton fiddler decided to roller skate down the middle of a busy street filled with cars and bicycles.
"I've always loved that music (of Canada's Maritimes) since the 70's, and I've always wondered why Cape Breton wasn't classified as another Celtic region. Cape Breton tradition is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the richest in the world."
The original concept of "Fire In The Kitchen" was for Paddy to act as a producer for all of these East Coast groups and release the album as a compilation CD. But it quickly became a "Chieftains in Canada" CD. Recorded in two weeks in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with each day devoted to one artist, the result is a "who's who" recording of Canada's Celtic heritage. On it you'll find the Rankin Family, Great Big Sea, Rita MacNeil, Laura Smith, Natalie MacMaster and, of course, the bad boy of Canadian Celtic music, Ashley MacIsaac.
"I knew some of the artists already," Paddy said, "but I was introduced (to the others) over the years by different people and got to know them. As I finished the project I got to know more wonderful artists. Some day I'll go back and do "Fire In The Kitchen 2," because there's enough talent. Take for instance, we did a song with the Barra MacNeils, "Rattlin' Roarin' Willie." For our CD launch we had a big party in Halifax, they very kindly came and did a whole half an hour and it was magical! So much so, I said 'Look I think I'll start all over again,' because I heard stuff I never heard them do, I didn't realize they did."
At the time of our interview, Paddy was working on "Tears Of Stone" a compilation recording of female singers from around the world. "That's a Chieftains album I started two-and-a-half years ago. They'll be grandmas by the time it comes out! It's actually coming out in February. I've got one more track (to record), I'm getting Bonnie Raitt (to come over) on Friday, recording her on Saturday, mixing it on Sunday, and then jump on the plane on Monday (to New York) and then I'll master the album."
Talk about a "who's who" recording, the artists who have contributed to "Tears Of Stone" include Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne, Loreena McKennitt, Sissel, Joni Mitchell, Sinead O'Connor, the Rankin Family, Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Sheryl Crow. There are almost too many songs for the CD! "I have enough material (for a double album), because I have a track I call "My Lady Fiddlers," that's different fiddle players from different parts of the world. (So) I'm not sure I'm going to be able to include everything because it's growing and growing all the time."
As if overseeing and planning Chieftains albums wasn't enough, Paddy Moloney is responsible for a new label 'Wicklow.' "It's a label BMG Records thought they should start up around me, because I was meeting up with so many (artists) and finding record deals for some of them, (BMG) wanted to keep it in the family."
So it's on Wicklow that you'll find the "Fire In The Kitchen" album, along with Mary Jane Lamond's "Suas E!" (Mary Jane is also featured on the "Fire" CD), Finland's Varttina and their album "Vihma" and "Christmas In Rome," a recording Paddy put together with Marco Frazina. "I call him the "Pope's Composer." He and I composed special music using the Vatican Orchestra and the Vatican Choir. I (also) included a few guests: Zucchero from Italy, the Harlem Gospel Choir, Maire Brennan from Clannad, Sissel and (Spain's) Monsterrat Caballe. Unfortunately I was a few weeks late (for release) for this year, but you'll hear it all next year."
What we'll also hear one of these days is an "all-Chieftains, only-Chieftains" album. "The band has been pounding me for four years now," he says, "but we actually, about three weeks ago, had a rehearsal and went over ideas to do a "Chieftains In Ireland" album."
All of this is in addition to Paddy's soundtrack work. "I have three film scores going on at the moment, and (for) one, this man wants to hear it tonight and I haven't got it ready!"
It would seem that for someone with so much on the go all at once, a holiday of some sort would be in order. Not so for Paddy Moloney! Even a holiday in the sun becomes a busman's holiday. "I almost had (a holiday) last January, but the "Fire In The Kitchen" had to be mixed. I said my wife should at least have a few days in the sun, so we went to the Bahamas, and I went to Compass Point Studios and mixed the album in twelve days. So that was my last break! I keep saying it'll be all right next year, it'll all simmer down and things will turn out grand, but it's gettin' worse!"
But despite Paddy's comments to the contrary, it seems he revels in the challenge of so much work. Those of us who await each Chieftains album, whatever configuration it may be, are the benefactors of all his hard work.
Find out more about Paddy Moloney at www.wicklowrecords.com and The Chieftains at www.escape.ca/~skinner/chieftains/chief.html
Jan Vanderhorst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org