The six-string soul of Ireland, Rory Gallagher is revered in his native land: There’s a statue in his birthplace of Ballyshannon, a street named after him in Dublin, and a holy ground music shop in Cork, Crowley’s, where, in 1963, he paid 100 Irish pounds for the 1961 sunburst Stratocaster pictured on the front cover of Against The Grain. He would go on to play it for nigh-on the next 30 years, its patina and rough-hewn finish bearing testament to the no-frills workingman approach Rory brought to his mission of high-energy blues wailing. Despite a too-early death in 1995, he has lived on as a guitarist’s guitarist, a musician whose commitment and drive have hardly diminished since his demise.
Gallagher was well-recorded in his lifetime, and captured live — his most favored element, as I can testify from seeing him in the early ’80s at a small club over on Manhattan’s western edge — on numerous occasions. Yet no matter where you enter the Gallagher oeuvre, it hardly matters. Rory experimented occasionally, adding keyboards, and sometimes changing song forms, but his forte was the 12-bar pedal-to-the-floor, as exemplified here by the adrenal skidding slide of “Souped Up Ford.” From his early incarnation in the ’60s group Taste, to the solo career he began in the ’70s, his songwriting seemed more a lead-in vehicle for his soloing, and when he gets the framing device out of the way, he hunkers down and takes full-force flight. Whether in a jazzish setting, like “Cross Me Off Your List,” the whirling pool of “Lost At Sea,” or the rolling quasi-southern lope of “At The Bottom,” his guitar pyrotechnics are no rock sham. Aye, Rory, one for the ages.