St. Patrick's Day is Friday. Do you know where your Irish jigs and reels are?
Sony's Legacy label has issued new collections of Irish music from the recordings of The Chieftains, The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers and others.
The Chieftains have a recording legacy of 40 years, including appearances on movie soundtracks, such as Barry Lyndon, and collaborations with The Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello. The Essential Chieftains collects 35 songs released from 1977 to now. The first disc largely is an instrumental exploration of the foot-tapping, fiddle-driven songs that define Irish folklore. The second disc is an "… And Friends" collection, with collaborations from Sting, Sinead O'Connor, Jackson Browne, The Corrs, Alison Kraus, Van Morrison, Linda Ronstadt and others.
Legacy also offers two discs of various Irish artists. Whiskey in the Jar: Essential Irish Drinking Songs & Sing-Alongs is a self-explanatory title for a two-CD set, heavy on songs from The Dubliners, (including the title track, "The Pub With No Beer" and "I'm a Rover"), and also includes tracks from The Clancy Brothers, with Tommy Makem (including "Irish Rover" and "Whiskey, You're the Devil."). Of more recent artist vintage, Shane MacGowan sings on "Wild Rover," with the Dropkick Murphys, and also with his band The Pogues in live versions of "Dirty Old Town" and "Sally Maclennane." Other traditional Irish songs included are "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "Danny Boy."
The other Legacy collection, Original Irish Tenors: The Legendary Voices of Celtic Song, spotlights popular ballads of the early 20th century Irish tenors. The CD includes 21 tracks, from "Danny Boy," "My Wild Irish Rose," "Come Back to Erin" and "Where the River Shannon Flows," to "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and more. Singers include Morton Downey, Frank Parker, Dennis Day, John McCormack, Christopher Lynch and Phil Regan.
New Yorkers Black 47 are one of the few modern bands that play a mix of traditional Irish music with rock and political overtones, and have scored a Top 40 hit. The band lofted "Funky Ceili" to the pop charts a decade ago, and has continued to tour and record. This year, it offers a collection of live and alternate cuts of its major material from the '90s, as well as other "best of" tracks from more recent recordings on Bittersweet Sixteen, released on its own Gadfly label. The disc offers a mix of "Funky Ceili," as well as a new song, "Southside Chicago Waltz" (that mentions the South Suburbs' popular Gaelic Park). For more information, check www.gadflyrecords.com.
They're not Irish rockers, but Wednesday you can catch the sister-sister-guy pal trio the Rogers Sisters at Schubas. Touring to support their new album The Invisible Deck, the critically acclaimed band is an alternative guitar rock act that trades between male- and female-dominated vocals on various songs. Check their site at www.therogerssisters.com.
The Corrs, an Irish family band composed of Corrs siblings, made their mark on the pop charts a few years ago with a mix of beautiful female pop harmonies steeped in a traditional Irish flavor. Their new CD is a tribute to their mother; it's a recording of some of the favorite songs their late mother, Jean Corr, once sang with their dad on the Irish pub circuit.
Virtually all of the songs are traditional Irish folk ballads, from "My Lagan Love" to "Black Is the Color." There are a few songs in Gaelic. In addition, they cover Richard Thompson's stirring "Dimming of the Day," and Anna McGarrigle's beautiful "Heart Like a Wheel."
With the band's pop star background, and the production of Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Paul McCartney), this doesn't listen like a traditional Irish folk song album; the harmonies are almost too perfect, and the addition of strings take these songs to a level far beyond the pubs where many of these songs were born.
For some, that sheen will ruin what were originally vocal folk songs. But it is a beautiful album of often familiar melodies, with the expected touches of tin whistle, bodhran, uillean pipes and violin.