It’s not Medieval, but It is Irish: On Irish Traditonal Music

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For the last couple of days, I’ve been tormented by various people’s organizations’ ideas of what Irish music sounds like; mostly it’s been sort of like elevator music in dialect. If I’m lucky, it’s been Enya. Here are some alternatives.

The Chieftains

You can’t really talk about traditional Irish music without mentioning the Chieftains. They brought traditional musicians into the twentieth century, aiding in not just popularizing Irish music all over the world, to generations, but doing an enmourmousservice in preserving the tradition. The Best of the Chieftains is a compilation from three of the earlier, and best, of the Chieftains’ albums: The Chieftains 7, The Chieftains 8, and Boil the Breakfast Early—three of the band’s recordings from the late 1970s. You”ll hear former members Matt Molloy on flute and vocalist/bodhran player Kevin Cunniffe now better known from Planxty, the Bothy band and solo performances. I’m particularly fond of “Boil The Breakfast Early” and “The Job of Journeywork.”

Gaelic Storm

This is a compilation album, featuring tunes from the previous three albums, with a couple of new ones. I think this is an excellent way to try Gaelic Storm. They began to become popular outside of Santa Monica, where they began as the favorite at a local Irish bar, after their appearance in the steerage scene of the film Titanic. My favorite of all their songs is “Johnny Jump Up,” about the mystical powers of cider. They’re a bar band, but they’re full of energy and lots of fun to listen to, even if you don’t dance.

Patrick Ball

Turlough O’Carolan (Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin) was a blind Irish harper and composer who lived 1670 to 1738. He left a legacy of fabulous music. To be fair, it’s clear that Turolough was well educated in current musical styles, but still, there’s much in the music he left us that is not typical of music in the eighteenth century. This album, which features the music of O’Carolan, is a lovely introduction to O’Carolan’s music, and a fine example of Patrick Ball’s talents.

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