|Whether as a singer or songwriter or performer, Pierce Turner has a penchant for the unexpected and the unorthodox, re-writing the rules for all three endeavours. Sometimes he performs from behind his trusty keyboard backed by a solo instrument (sax, maybe, or violin or trombone!). Or he can be out front-of-house clambering over tables and ordering drinks from the bar. In the middle of a song!
His albums to are equally mercurial, showing influences ranging from his Catholic Irish upbringing to the decadence of Lou Reed's New York, merging the upfront rock of The Byrds, The Beach Boys and The Who to deft touches of Irish trad, folk, jazz, techno, classical and choral harmonies.
Turner grew up in the port-town of Wexford where his mother ran a record shop and led her own band. Like all his siblings he was classically trained, and his fondest early memories are of singing in the annual plainchant festival. By seven, he was a member of a traditional Irish tin whistle group, and at eight, he was playing in a brass and reed orchestra.
His first professional job was as a musician with the pop showband The Arrows. He later moved to New York and formed The Major Thinkers with fellow Wexfordian Larry Kirwan (now the front man of Black 47) and recorded several acclaimed albums.
His first solo album It's Only a Long Way Across was produced by American avant- composer, Phillip Glass. He went on to make two more albums for Beggars Banquet, The Sky and the Ground (an unforgettable carnival of highly-charged tunes, searing, soaring, poignant and funny.) In 1991 his epic Now Is Heaven was released to great critical acclaim, with Hot Press dubbing him "Ireland's greatest living poet" and his awards cabinet taking possession of a trophy for Irish Solo Performer of the Year in the Hot Press Awards by a panel drawn from the national media.
In 1998 Beggars Banquet released a Best Of Pierce Turner compilation. In June 2001, 3 Minute World hit the racks, Hot Press giving it a 12 out of 12, while Tony Clayton-Lea of the Irish Times feted Pierce as one of the most important Irish artists of the last twenty years. Meanwhile Pat Kenny pronounced "This man's a genius" on his national radio show, as Turner set off on a tour of over 70 private houses in Ireland for what he has called his "Parlour Tour", with a London-based tv camera-crew in tow for a future documentary.
Somewhere along the way, other gems from the Turner canon were featured in the film Snakes And Ladders, the HBO hit show The Wire with his extraordinary version of "Dirty Old Town"and Christy Moore recorded Turner's songs "Among The Wicklow Hills" and "Mush God Help Her." Indeed Christy's 2004 box set includes his generous tribute to Turner on the track "I Love The Way Pierce Turner Sings".
In 2005, just as Turner was about to release his album The Boy To Be With, "Among The Wicklow Hills" was voted among the top 25 Irish songs ever by Today FM in a nationwide poll. The Boy To Be With also includes Turner's heartfelt tribute to the late Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher and is the most eagerly anticipated Pierce Turner album for more than a decade.
|"Inventive Songwriter Pierce Turner, one of the city's great ...gems. He fields requests, recounts amusing anecdotes, encourages group sing along and literally dances on the tables."
New York Magazine
Maureen Calahan -
May 27th 1996
|Turner is a rare artist, observant, poetic, humorous songwriting, sharply focused on the common details of life, drawing larger themes of love, lust, hate and family life from them."
New York Post
Dan Aquilante -
April 9th 1996