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Tir Na Nog

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Although they only lasted five years, Tir Na Nog managed to make their brief time in existence count, and fans of '70s folk still sing their praises warmly. Formed in Dublin in 1969, the duo of Sonny Condell and Leo O'Kelly were making the right music at the right time. Although influenced by traditional music, their compositions followed the singer/songwriter bent of the time, and the blend of two voices and two guitars did their material justice, light, airy, and thoroughly engaging, with bits of tabla and exotica — although definitely not as quirky as contemporaries Dr. Strangely Strange. However, it wasn't until 1971 that they issued their eponymous debut, which put them firmly in the same territory as Fairport Convention, Magna Carta, and Fotheringay — in other words, on the fringes, although they proved popular with a number of BBC disc jockeys, including John Peel, who played their work on the radio. It certainly helped that they toured a great deal, moving between the folk clubs and more lucrative college circuit, where they created a decent following, seemingly in a constant support slot. However, the exposure wasn't enough to really boost them into the second division, let alone the top league, in spite of the crowd sing-along favorite "Aberdeen Angus" always being requested. When the acoustic angle didn't bring stardom, the pair decided to go for a more conventional route, moving more toward rock for 1972's A Tear and a Smile, which proved to be neither fish nor fowl, but remained with one foot tentatively in folk, the other in rock, as if trying to be all things to all men — and failing. The following year came Strong in the Sun, by which time they'd decided to be more of a rock band fronted by two singers with acoustic guitars — a pretty fair compromise. Their best-known disc, it was produced by former Procol Harum member Matthew Fisher, and contained "Free Ride," which became their signature song. The record raised their profile, but still couldn't break them through to the other side, and in 1974 they split up, with Condell going on to form Scullion. Over the years they have got back together for occasional Tir Na Nog shows, one 1995 gig being commemorated on Live at the Hibernian, recorded in Birmingham, England, although the sound quality was execrable, and not worthy of commercial release.

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