AS THE FOUNDER and leading figure in two seminal Irish bands (Planxty and Moving Hearts), Christy Moore has already assured his position in the history of the Celtic folk revival.
For several years now, though, he's been recording and performing as a solo artist, and "Ordinary Man," his 18th album overall, shows that the setting is irrelevant when the gem remains the same. That gem is Moore's grand voice, mighty as oak yet soft as velvet. It is a great warm instrument that invites you in, for laments that are personal ("Sweet Music Roll On") or generational (the title song and Floyd Westerman's melancholy "Quiet Desperation"), or for celebrations as delightful as the dancing spirits rippling through "Continental Ceili" and "The Reel in the Flickering Light."
Moore doesn't just have a way with melody he has a nimble way with words, as well. "Delirium Tremens" is a tongue-twisting parade of people and places inspiring abstinence, while "St. Brendan's Voyage" is a daffy historical celebration of the traveling spirit. There's a flood of words, but they move like a mountain brook. Serious sentiments creep into the title cut, a study of proletatian pressure and pride, and "Hard Cases," snapshots of people's lives of quiet desperation.
Other standouts are "Blantyre Explosion," a Guthrie-ish lament for dead miners, and "The Diamondtina Drover," a haunting portrait of Australian cowboys.
Moore gets supple and softly focused help from longtime compatriots like Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn and Andy Irvine. though their support is supple and softly focused. But the spotlight here is his ballad artistry, and he proves himself a true Shanachie, weaving elements of tragedy, humor and pathos into a calming whole.
CHRISTY MOORE -- "Ordinary Man" (Green Linnet SIF3301); appearing Friday at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall.