In June 2009, the filmmaker Myles O'Reilly nestled Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh in The Back Loft in Dublin, with a camera, a reel to reel recorder, a laptop, a fiddle, a five stringed viola and a hardanger, and what followed was a short series of five beautiful improvisations and a little bit of gardening banter
Rónán Ó Snodaigh plays bodhrán, the Irish frame drum. For most traditional Irish musicians bodhrán's are the bane of their existence, often played poorly by people who can do nothing else, but in Rónán's hands, the bódhrán is a expressive instrument brought to life by a master who is willing to show you how to really play it. [more inside]
The Bluffer's guide to Irish folk: 20 songs from the last 50-odd years of Irish traditional music.
A translated version of Avicii's "Wake Me Up" recently broke the record for highest number of views for an Irish language video. It's just the most popular example of the headline-grabbing music videos being made at Coláiste Lurgan, an Irish language summer school for teenagers. Their other popular videos include An tAdh 'Nocht (Get Lucky), Tóg Amach Mé (Wagon Wheel), Pompeii, and Amhrán na gCupán (When I'm Gone). Interview with the school's manager here, setting out his mission. See more songs on YouTube and Bandcamp.
folkinfo.org is a database of English-language folk songs. Each song is listed with its respective lyrics, sheet music, Roud Index number, midi file, and historical information. The database also provides song information in abc notation. Placed into an abc converter, one can generate sheet music in a variety of forms and scales.
Perhaps the greatest Irish band in history. They came from Liverpool, a city with an Irish population so large that it's known as "The Real Capitol of Ireland," and with an accent, "Scouse," that betrays its Irish influence. There were four in the band, and three were of Irish descent. [more inside]
After more than 15 years on hiatus, the punk-spawned, world-music-defining Dead Can Dance released their eighth album Anastasis one month ago. The reunited act are on a world tour. [more inside]
A girl upon the shore did ask a favour of the sea;For nearly 20 years, Newfoundland group Great Big Sea have been creating acoustic Celtic folk-rock covers and interpretations of traditional Newfoundland and Labrador sea shanties, folk, fishing and party songs, which draw from the island's rich 500-year-old multicultural (Irish, English, Scottish and French) heritage. [more inside]
"Return my blue eyed sailor boy safely back to me.
Forgive me if I ask too much, I will not ask for more,
but I shall weep until he sleeps safe upon the shore."
O'Brien is tryin' to learn to talk Hawai'ian / To his Honolulu Lou / He's sighin' and cryin' / And all the time he's tryin' / Just to say "I love you true" / He's sighin' and lyin' in Irish and Hawai'ian / To his wife and Lulu, too . . Meanwhile, another gent from the Emerald Isle was indulging in blissful fantasy: Sure the shamrocks were growing on Broadway / Every girl was an Irish colleen / And the town of New York was the county of Cork / All the buildings were painted green / 'twas only an Irishman's dream. Happy St. Patrick's Day! [more inside]
Hailed as heroes in Mexico for fighting with and defending the country against American invasion and reviled as traitors in the US for desertion, about 50 Irish immigrants were hung en masse after defeat in the Mexican-American War. A musical collaboration by The Chieftains, Ry Cooder and Latino musicians tell the history of the 'San Patricios'. (Related NPR story) For more background on the San Patricios, the fascinating documentary Saol John Riley, part 1 and part 2 follows Kerry singer songwriter Charlie O'Brien as he revisits sites associated with Patricio leader John Riley to discover the revolutionary hero's fate. [more inside]
"So I admire those artists that are actually spiritually concerned. And have the balls to be concerned about that, and not concerned with fuckin’ George Bush’s dick. It’s very hard to sing when you’ve got someone’s dick in your mouth.” She shoots a mischievous grin before adding, 'I’ve tried.'" Sinéad O’Connor on the pope, her music, dating, buying condoms, and everything in between.
Toward the Within is the only official live album of the eclectic music group, Dead Can Dance. Recorded in one take in November of 1993, the performance was later released as an album and video. The latter includes short interviews with the heads of the group, Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, interspersed with the songs.
Video track list: [more inside]
Video track list: [more inside]
Molly Malone may have been selling more than cockles and mussels out of that wheel barrow. The Guardian reports on a recently rediscovered bawdier version of the song from about 1790. Google Books has a version from 1816 that looks similar (p. 194).
Shane MacGowan is the face and name most often associated with The Pogues. Unraveling Shane's psyche would require a book-length study but the crux of his identity lies somewhere in that conflict between English experience and Irish heritage. The abbreviated story of his life starts with his birth in England, but he was raised in Ireland, and moved back to England some years later. He won a scholarship to the renowned Westminster School, where he was possibly enrolled alongside Thomas Dolby and other notable people. MacGowan was involved with drugs and publicized hooliganery before being in a band, the first of which was The Nipple Erectors in 1977. [more inside]
The Bothy Band - Ireland's finest traditional folk ensemble - rip it up in 1977. (SLYT) [more inside]
During a vacation in Ireland this past February, I bought an album of music by Shaun Davey, called "Beal Tuinne". I hadn't heard a single cut (but you can!), but a gent at the CD table at the Seamus Begley concert said it was the best Irish music CD in a decade. [more inside]
Casual fans of Irish folk-punk bands like The Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys rarely take the time to investigate the sources of their inspiration. Those who do, cannot avoid coming across the The Dubliners. [more inside]
Hey, get outta bed, you! What? Say you had one too many on Paddy's Day? Well, friend, just down a little hair of the dog and we'll dance it off! That's right! Some jigs, a couple of reels and a hornpipe or two, from Irish button accordion maestros John Whelan, Michael O'Connel, Damien Mullane, and Keith Gildea. And for good measure, Edel Fox on the concertina, and Bobby Gardiner on the melodeon. Just the thing to chase that nasty ol' hangover away! [more inside]
Everything you want to know about Irish traditional music played on flute, including a guide to the instrument, a guide to styles and a rather comprehensive collection of the best Irish traditional flute videos on the web. And if you like these, perhaps you'd like to learn how to play too. [more inside]
Joe Heaney told lots of stories, and sang pretty well too. His style of music, Sean-Nós out of Connemara is rare indeed nowadays, but there are songs like Úna Bhán that stand on their own poetic merit, and others like Cunnla that are altogether less stodgy than one might think. If it's too Irish for you, how about meeting the language halfway?
The Streets of Laredo: The Cowboy's Lament was originally written as the Irish drover balled Bard of Armaugh (or Armagh), which later mutated into A Handful of Laurel, about a young man dying of syphilis in a London hospital, musing back on his days in the alehouses and whorehouses. Immigrants settling in the Appalachians brought their own version, The Unfortunate Rake, sung as early as 1790, about a young soldier dying of mercury poisoning, a result of treatment for venereal disease, who requests a military funeral - a slight but important evolution from the previous version. The current lyrics are most popularly attributed to cowboy Frances Henry "Frank" Maynard, who copyrighted them in 1879. While various versions of the song were popular in the US before Maynard took pen to paper and needle to wax cylinder (under such titles as Locke Hospital, St. James Infirmary Blues, Tom Sherman's Bar and Way Down in Lodorra), his version is the one with which we are most familiar today. beat the drum slowly, play the fife lowly / sound the death march as you carry me along / cover my body in sweet-smelling posies / for I'm the young (rake, soldier, man, girl, lass, etc) cut down in (his/her) prime (or and I know I've done wrong) The song has been recorded by pretty much every country, western and folk-identified musical artist since recording music became practical, although the most popular versions must be those by Arlo Guthrie (who once said it was "the saddest song I know," and who sings it on his album Son of the Wind) and Johnny Cash (who added a few verses to his 1965 version, improving the song a bit and making it more emotionally complex). Roger McGuinn's creative commons-licensed version is one of my personal favorites, as is Bobby Sutliff's version.
The Mystery of Danny Boy - Most everyone has heard the song "Danny Boy", and while the lyrics have a traceable history, where did the tune originate? It is known as "Londonderry Air" in some folks circles, and a lovely band arrangement was done with the title "Irish Tune from County Derry". Regardless of the facts, it is still a poignant tune covered by many.
"Biggest flame war of all time: Danny Boy - sentimental Irish favorite, or stupid song decried by true Celts everywhere?" A link to a discussion in another forum about how one prevents the banal from driving out the profound in online public-participation forums. (Their conclusion: ruthless and efficient moderation.)