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Skip breakfast, there's more crunch for off-peak listeners

Casual listeners who only tune in to Irish radio during the breakfast/ drive-time periods are missing out on a lot. Well, maybe not a lot. But definitely a bit. Also, ov ever exposure to breakfast/drive-time radio will a) reduce you to a gibbering wreck and, b) suck out your soul (before kicking it into a bin). Just a friendly warning.

There was plenty of good non-breakfast/drive-time stuff to enjoy over the last seven days, if you listened hard enough. Most of it languishing in weekend slots and much of it involving people talking passionately about music.

On Sunday, Fiachna O Braonain kicked off a new Today FM series called Poetic Champions Compose (name pinched from Van the Man). "Each week," he explained, "we'll be looking at a seminal Irish album that continues to shape our rich musical landscape." A simple concept, with one minor twist.


The albums under consideration have all been selected by contemporary Irish musicians who'll be popping in to the studio to eulogise their choices. In week four, for example, Damien Dempsey is saluting Thin Lizzy's Live & Dangerous. In week seven, Gemma Hayes will be exalting My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. And in the final instalment, Bressie will be sobbing hysterical man-tears of joy over Viva Dead Ponies by Fatima Mansions (Note: he actually chose Achtung Baby. The boring old beefcake).

Up first was Mundy, singing the praises of The Pogues' Rum, Sodomy and the Lash. He recalled being introduced to the record by a music-loving aunt in Longford and trying to follow Shane's "big horse race of words". It was, suggested Mundy, a seminal statement of the London-Irish immigrant experience.

"You got the feeling you were being dragged up and down the road as a homeless person," he said.

"Or a rent boy, or as an alcoholic. You were like a dog in the rain, basically."

The band's former manager, Frank Murray, (heard in an archive clip) agreed, calling it "the perfect album for the diaspora". The diaspora may have embraced it, but attitudes at "home" were not always as appreciative.

As was demonstrated by a clip of Noel Hill's infamous 1985 confrontation with the band where he described "rowdy ballad music", the music that "came out of drunken sessions" as a "terrible abortion".

It was an enjoyable hour, if a little unfocused. The overuse of archive

audio made it feel more like a 'Making of...' documentary than an intimate chat about Mundy's personal relationship with the record (which is how it sold itself).

Sunday's The Rolling Wave found Peter Browne delving into the archives to dust off a recording he'd made of the late Con Houlihan in Con's "office" (Mulligan's on Poolbeg street). The chat focused not on Con himself, but on his friendship with Padraig O'Keefe, the legendary Sliabh Luachra fiddle-player.


Browne wanted to know where Sliabh Luachra was, exactly. "It's a moveable feast," quipped Con. "It was [once] confined to at most a square mile. It's now half of Kerry and most of Cork. It's expanding every day. It's a state of mind."

Witty anecdotes about O'Keefe flowed, but the most fascinating memories were melancholic ones. It was both illuminating and upsetting to hear Houlihan describe how "people like O'Keefe were totally neglected, and almost despised" in the 1930s.

"If you played the fiddle, accordion or sang a country song you were counted as very uncouth", he said. "You were an outsider completely." Recognition and reappraisal finally came to O'Keefe when "television came along, in his last 15 years," Con said, but by then "it was a bit late". His fingers were stiff. His playing not as fluent as it once was. A wonderful tribute.

It's hard not to be reminded of The Fast Show's Jazz Club when listening to Donald Helme's warm, smoky and jazz-tastic voice, but The Singers Upfront (back for a new series) is still a delight. On Monday's show, Helme traced the development of Peggy Lee's astonishing voice.

From "nervous straight-ahead pop singer" with Benny Goodman, to dramatic bellower of overblown showstoppers, to a champion of "quiet intensity" (her trademark style). The chosen tracks were glorious and, more importantly, perfectly illustrated Helme's points about Lee's extraordinary musical journey.