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Pierce Turner


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This was a short conversation between the award winning Irish musician Pierce Turner and his sometime collaborator, the renowned contemporary classical composer Philip Glass.
Philip “So how often do you make your albums?”
Pierce- “I make a new one about every three to seven years”
“Everyone does things differently” -Philip confided in a whisper- I like to do about three a year”

Everyone is different, it’s true, and time moves at varying speeds in different cultures, the time has arrived for another Pierce Turner album-recorded in Irish-Time and the Turner way. He doesn’t make em often, because he says he has a system by which he measures their necessity. He writes and writes and writes until he has so many songs written that he can barely keep track of them. He writes an albums worth of songs and grows to hate most of them, when he is absolutely sick to death of them, he writes another ten songs, and then another. He thinks, “The album should go this way! And then that way! And then the opposite to both” When there are tons of songs written, he finds himself only liking two or three. Then he hears a sound evolving. Once there is a sound, he begins to write the rest of the songs around the two or three good ones with the sound in mind. As Mr. Glass says “Everyone does it differently”

* “Pierce Turner has created what I confidently believe to be the finest body of work in contemporary Irish music bar none” Liam Fay Sunday Times

* John Peel BBC “His song Wicklow Hills is one of my top ten singles of all time”

In 2014 Pierce took part in a Christmas special “First Songs of the Season” at The Swedish Lutheran Church over on 22nd Street in Gramercy. The 250 capacity Church with perfect acoustics struck him immediately as a home for music. It had a Baldwin Grand Piano in the Loft with a pipe organ and harpsichord. The acoustics were perfect, almost like an opera house, not too lively, but lively enough. The loft was nearby, not too high away, and the horseshoe design of this hidden treasure brought everyone close together. It turned out that his intuition was bang on, the Church had been designed by the J.C Caddy the man who designed the original Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan, 150 years ago. Pierce immediately knew that this was where he should record his next album. This would be the sound that would inspire the direction and choice of material. This Church would give him the bigness that is hard to achieve these days in small digital studios.

“Love Can’t Always Be Articulate”is high fidelity that harks back to the sound of the big recording Studios in the 60's & 70's-such as Dark Side Of The Moon, Sgt Pepper or Astral Weeks or current Bands like Arcade Fire or The National. It begins with the pipe organ being turned on and then launches into the latin Hymn "Tantum Ergo" with Pierce's mystical vocal set in a cool shuffle tempo created by bass drum hi hat, bongos, tambourine and hand claps and the celestial organ, it has a fruitiness and ecclesiastical quality all at once-when the melody is picked up by Steven Bernstein on trumpet accompanied with strident acoustic guitar it takes on a mind and soul lifting euphoria not unlike an understated version of the effect created with the female scat singing by Clare Torry on Dark Side Of The Moon. This is a connoisseur’s listening album with the kind of depth that comes from an artist that takes his time separating the weeds from the flowers.

* The Penguin Book Rough Guide to Irish Music says; “There is no one in the whole wide world of music quite like Pierce Turner; a unique visionary, the owner of a voice that drips emotion, a consummate lyricist and the creator of tunes which are both complex and accessible.

*Award winning Irish Musician Pierce Turner

*Also lives in Manhattan

* His last album “Songs For a Verry Small Orchestra” features a duet with Philip Glass whom he also performed in Carnegie Hall with in 2011

* Formerly solo Performer of the Year in Ireland

* Irish folk superstar Christy Moore has recorded his songs and went so far as to write a dedication to him “I love the way Pierce Turner Sings” on his box set with Warner Brothers Records

Selected reviews:

*“He has created what I confidently believe to be the finest body of work in contemporary Irish music bar none” Liam Fay Sunday Times

*”Soaring Classical melodies with a sense of freedom and joy” Rolling Stone magazine USA

*“Clambering across the tables, little shimmies and screams of adoration, Turner breaks down the barrier between audience and performer and really gives himself in a way that makes him naked” Irish Times

*“ A poet amongst songwriters’” Elle Magazine USA

*Inventive songwriter Pierce Turner is one of the cities great Gems. He fields requests, recounts amusing anecdotes and Encourages group singalongs” New York Magazine

* “Easily one of Ireland’s most important rock artists of the last twenty years” The Irish Times

* “Quirky lyrical images and a whimsicality one usually associates with Ray Davies” Stephen Holden The New York Times with Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Regina Spektor-His duet with Philip Glass received these notices Rolling Stone review of Tibet house benefit 2010 @ Carnegie Hall "Early in the night, composer Phillip Glass introduced Irish singer Pierce Turner, who sat at the grand piano and performed the soaring, Bowie-reminiscent “Yogi with a Broken Heart.” NY Times review of the same event

"A piano playing Irish songwriter with tinges of opera and Joni Mitchell sang his “Yogi with a Broken Heart” joined by Mr. Philip Glass on keyboard."

Recently an Irish newspaper (the Wexford Echo) made the observation that Pierce Turner just may have reached that time in an artist’s life that only comes from the passage of time! Like a younger Leonard Cohen, he seems to have travelled around the world without any great plan for world domination. As he travelled along he got better and better, but rarely stopped to look behind and take stock. However the places and people he passed along the way have not forgotten, just like Mr. Cohen, and now he belongs to society in a way that no commercial endeavor can achieve!

Rough Guide to Irish Music U.K.

The Penguin Book Rough Guide to Irish Music says about Pierce Turner

There is no one in the whole wide world of music quite like Pierce Turner; a unique visionary, the owner of a voice that drips emotion, a consummate lyricist and the creator of tunes which are both complex and accessible. Born and raised in Wexford town, Pierce’s musical journey began as a boy soprano in his school choir and regularly sang in the local festival, an experience he describes as “Like living in a Catholic version of Pet Sounds” (The Beach Boys classic album). Plainsong was a formative influence, but the young Turner was developing his love of song through Emmetspiceland and Tir Na Nog, while never losing his affection for the tunes of Carolan and the work of Sean O’Riada. He was also learning the clarinet and piano and listening to The Beatles, Dylan and Pink Floyd. Spells in various beat groups, and folk rock groups ensued before he and long time friend, (and future Black 47 singer/guitarist) Larry Kirwan set off for New York “Just to escape the restrictions of Ireland and my own self-inflicted restrictions.” They had a minor radio hit as a duo before forming a new wave band, The Major Thinkers and nearly made it with a song called “Avenue B is the place to be”.

Tiring of the scene, Pierce began composing instrumentals for modern dance and became friends with avant-garde composer Philip Glass. They headed for London and secured a record deal resulting in the album “It’s Only a long way across” (1986), co-produced by Philip Glass, which included the classic “Wicklow Hills” (covered by Christy Moore) and Turner’s droll account of Wexford gossip, “Musha God help her”. Pierce next began collaborating with trombonist, Fred Parcells (later to join Black 47), resulting in a new depth to his sound, some astonishing live performances and 1989’s stunning The Sky and the Ground. Even this, however, was surpassed by Now is Heaven, an album ridiculously overlooked by both critics and punters, and containing Turner’s best-ever song, “All Messed Up”, an exploration of personal confusion which draws on the flute of Seamus Egan to enhance the melody’s traditional roots. Since then Pierce has released four further albums, 1996’s live Manana in Manhattan the following year’s superb Angelic Language, 2001’s Three Minute World which was voted “One of the hundred greatest Irish albums of all time “ and 2004’s The Boy to be with” to great critical acclaim in the Irish Times.

Record companies and record stores have problems categorizing Pierce (one Irish shop currently stocks his releases in the Sean-Nos section!), but the man’s talent is unstoppable and deserves a far wider audience. Fortunately, he continues to write and play (the EP Action appeared in 1999), and the high points of his career have been collected on the comprehensive The Compilation (1998 Beggars Banquet).

Just buy, listen and marvel.

Geoff Wallis
For more information check out Pierce Turner’s website www.pierceturner.com

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