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Rich’s Corner – The Songs

Here are some notes about the songs we sing.

Celtic music includes songs of betrayals in love, rebellion and nationalism, the glory of drink, misfortune brought on by the drink, life on the sea and just roving and rambling about the country side in search of love and adventure or both.

At It Again - This is an Andy M. Stewart songs about, as Sue likes to say, a fellow who just won’t learn his lesson, getting into all manner of trouble while living life to the fullest.  My hero.

 

All For Me Grog – Verses abound, and it can’t be sung without a sense of the absurd.  See The Dubliners…

 

Back Home In Derry – The words are from Bobby Sands, the well-known Irish Activist who died of a hunger strike in the Prison Maze in 1981.  He was elected to Parliament while in prison.   The song came out in the same era as Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald with pretty much the same tune.  It is likely that both Gord and Christy Moore, who made Bobby’s poem into a song, used a traditional melody.   Sue put this on RichPatrick’s Just A Bit of Craic CD (EP).   It is also on her lovely CD “Steel Clover:  In The Celtic Spirit”.

 

Barrack Street – AKA Peter Street and others.   My arrangement based on a rendition by Adam, an excellent musician and one time guitar player for King Golden Banshee in Virginia.   Sue gets to play the Bodhran.  Beware of the pretty colleen!

 

Big Strong Man – This is a completely goofy song that is great fun.   Patrick has adapted the words a bit to feature a local boxer….

 

Black and Tans – ‘Tis a rebel song for sure.  The B&T were a British “paramilitary” unit used by the Royal Irish Constabulary as temporary constables during 1920 and 1921 consisting primarily of WWI veterans.   The colors refer to their uniforms.  They ended up attacking more than just the IRA, at one point sacking Cork city for no good reason.

 

Black Velvet Band – Tommy Makem interpreted this as a bit of a love ballad, but I ain’t buyin’ it.    Yet another poor fool falls for a woman of questionable repute and pays for it…

 

The Body of An American – This is a great Shane MacGowan song that I first heard at Brixton Academy in London in 2001 during the first Pogue show in 8 years.   It describes a young lad’s first experience with an Irish wake and funeral, the deceased being a boxer who apparently refused to throw fights.

 

Bonnie Banks and Braes – I like to play on this and hear Sue’s lovely rendition of an unfortunately gone wrong pairing.

 

Broad Majestic Shannon was written by Shane MacGowan of the Pogues.  He likely got the title from lyrics of the traditional song "Will You Come To The Bower".   He is said to have written it originally for The Clancy Brothers, but I've never been able to find a Clancy's version. The town of Gleneveigh is in the county Tipperary.

Caledonia is the Latin name given to a portion of Scotland by the Romans.  Exactly what part of Scotland they are referring to is a little vague.   The song was written by Dougie MacLean, an early member of the Tannahill Weavers in 1979, where he uses the term to refer to Scotland as a whole.

The Crock of Gold is a semiautobiographical song from The Tossers, a fine group today operating out of Chicago.  It was written by a favorite philosopher of ours, Tony Duggins.  Patrick and I heartily recommend their music.

Dark Streets of London – This is an early Shane MacGowan tune with a reference to electroshock “therapy”.    The song helped convince Bob Hallett that it would be a good idea to play the accordion in his band.

Dirty Old Town is from the great songwriter Ewan MacColl, whose late daughter Kirsty used to sing with The Pogues.  It was written about Salford, a city in Lancashire, England, where MacColl grew up, and was used in his 1949 play "Landscape With Chimneys".  It has been caught up in the rising folk tradition and is sometimes incorrectly labeled an Irish traditional song at least in part because of great recordings by The Pogues and The Dubliners.   I myself like Patrick’s version on Just A Bit of Craic.

Donegal Danny is one I read about on Bob Halletts Great Big Sea website and subsequently learned from a version by The Tossers.  It was so long I figured it needed a key change.  A man and his comrades lose a tussle with the sea.

 

Don’t Call Me Early – This is a Tommy Sands song I often dedicate to my children, who enjoyed rising early in the afternoon on weekends.   Before they had to work for a living, of course…

 

Down By The Salley Gardens – Sue brought this terrific tune to the table and I love playing it.  It was WB Yeats “attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman” in a village in Sligo (so says Wiki).    It is likely that Salley refers to a willow tree.

 

Down In The Coal Mine – I learned this from Seamus Kennedy, a wonderful wit and musician.   A nice ode to The Collier, it was a favorite of Paul, a resident at a nursing home I play at.  He would join me for the chorus.

The Errant Apprentice – Another Andy M Stewart description of an ill-placed affection.  Another fine use of his triple rhyme scheme.   Set during the Boer War.

Fairytale of New York – Jem Finer of the Pogues first conceived this song, I understand, and Shane used the title of a novel written by James Patrick Donleavy in 1926.   The only parallel with the novel is the general nature of the “elusive American Dream”.    So says Fran Moran on his brilliant web site at www.poguetry.com.   This song shows up on London radio stations every Christmas.   Sue does a nice job with the late Kirsty MacColl’s part….Sigh….. Kirsty taken from us in a tragic boating accident.

Fields of Athenry - A song about the period of the 1840s, the time of the Great Famine.   Charles Edward Trevelyan was a senior British civil servant in the administration of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin Castle.  It was his (ha!) corn that was stolen.  Written by Pete St. John, and versions by Danny Doyle in 1979 and Paddy Reilly in 1983 were huge hits in Ireland.

Finnegan’s Wake – A rather surprising choice for the Just A Bit of Craic EP, the song concerns a drunkard who passed out on the job and was taken for dead.     It seems his girl friend wailed a bit too much at the wake at Mrs. Finnegan’s house and caused a stir.  James Joyce used it for the title of his Work In Progress and with the omission of the apostrophe made it a command. Whiskey is “the water of life”!

Fisherman’s Blues – This is a song Patrick brought us from The Waterboys, and features Sue’s fiddle part and Patrick’s impassioned vocal.  Great fun for me to play, I must say.   You can hear it in the Damon/Affleck flick “Good Will Hunting” as well as in “Waking Ned Devine”.

Flower of Scotland – A wonderful anthem of Scotland written by Robbie Williamson.  A wonderful wit and songster of the Corrs, Robbie was taken from us much too early.
 

Four Green Fields is the Tommy Makem song about the partitioning of Ireland and the belief that unification will come to pass.    According to Data, it happens in 2047.

 

Galway Girl – This is from Steve Earle and Sharon Shannon, describing a fellow’s brief encounter with a black haired, blue eyed beauty.  Sigh.

The Green And Red Of Mayo is from The Saw Doctors and describes the beauty of county Mayo and the richness of its history and tradition.

Greenland Whale Fisheries is a great whaling song of a bygone era.  In the original version, the captain does indeed rue the loss of his sailors more... Now we rue the loss of whales.  I picked up a verse from folk singer Roger McGuinn’s website.

I’m A Rover – Our arrangement is based on the lively Great Big Sea version.   A slower version is known as the Night Visiting Song.   The hero spends the night with his love and then moves on….

 

Leaving Of Liverpool - Liverpool had the necessary shipping and choices of destinations for the long trip to .America, an even longer trip if you were headed for San Francisco.  It dates back to at least the 1880s, if not earlier.    By now there are even country versions of it, e.g. "The Leaving of Texas".   I found it through The Pogues.

 

Lorelei – One of the two great songs Phil Chevron wrote for the Pogues.   Lorelei was the Siren of Rhine who lured sailors to their doom.  It is also the name of the huge rock on the Rhine at its narrowest point in the Rhine Gorge between Switzerland and the North Sea.   Travel to St. Goarshausen to see it on a Rhine cruise.

Mary's Eyes is a song lamenting the "Irish Troubles".  Written by Janis Ian, Sue found it through Gaelic Storm.

Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake – I am not a fan of such cakes.   C. Frank Horn of Pennsylvania (1851-1928) gives a wonderful explanation as to why in this 1883 classic.

Molly Malone – aka Cockles and Mussells aka In Dublin’s Fair City.  A Molly Malone statue in Grafton Street was erected in 1988 during the Dublin Millennium celebrations.   June 13 is Molly Malone Day in Ireland!  A fishmonger, or fishwife, was a woman who sells fish and seafood and was trained in selecting, purchasing, handling, gutting, filleting displaying and marketing their product.   There was even a fishmongers guild in the city in London decreed by a Royal Charter (Edward I) sometime after 1272.  Sue tells us she learned it early in elementary school.  I can remember my mother singing it when I was very young.

The Moonshiner – Tommy Makem chose this as one of the 20 songs on his “Tommy Makem Songbook” CD, so he likes it!   He relates that this song originated in America but was adopted by Irish traditional music, principally through the efforts of Delia Murphy (1902-1971), the “Queen of Connemara”.

The More You Drink is a Patrick Campbell original centered about the oft-heard phrase is pubs noting that music often seems to sound better when imbibing.   I heartily enjoy singing on this.

The Old Black Rum is from Great Big Sea, a group from Newfoundland founded in 1991 and better than ever.   The "George Street" Bob Hallett refers to is in St. John's.  He updated a traditional melody.

Old Polina - Another fine whaling song, this one collected by Sean McCann of Great Big Sea on their wonderful collection of folk songs from Newfoundland and Labrador entitled "The Hard And The Easy".   Alan Doyle is fond of pointing out that the CD contains TWO songs about horses falling through the ice.  Sadly, only one was rescued.

A Nation Once Again is the definitive example of Irish Rebel music.  The Wolfetones version was polled by the BBC World Service as the most popular song in the world in 2002.   It was written by Thomas Osborne Davis, who was a co-founder of an Irish Independence movement, in the 1840s.

Nancy Whiskey - The evil drink goes by the traditional name of Nancy in this tale of dissipation.  AKA The Carleton Weaver, a rash and roving blade.

Navigator – This is Phil Gaston’s tribute to the Manly Men who built the transportation systems in the New World and the Old.   Canals, Bridges, Railroads, Tunnels.


A Pair of Brown Eyes is a classic from The Pogues, written by the redoubtable Shane MacGowan.  It is about an army veteran having flashbacks to the Winston Churchill disaster at Galliopi during the First World War.    The "Johnny" in the song is indeed Johnny Cash.

Peggy Gordon is not about Peggy Gordon at all, but rather about the poor sot who is after her.   Maybe she was offended by his demanding she come sit on his knee.

The Rambles of Spring – I first heard this Makem tune on one of the many albums he did with Liam Clancy.   It is a wonderfully energetic lilt about the coming of springtime and the world’s return to liveliness after the long winter.   Or short winter….

The Rambling Rover – Yet another lively Andy M. Stewart song, another wonderful use of the three rhyme scheme.   It’s all about living life to the fullest while the timid stay wistfully behind.

The Rattlin’ Bog – How does anyone sing this song?  Quickly.  Patrick does this well-worn pub song, and it’s fun to play.   The structure vaguely reminds me of Found A Peanut….

Red Is The Rose – Patrick sings this sad song of parting from one’s love.   It has the same melody as Loch Lomond.

Sally MacLennane is a tale of two bartenders, co-starring a bully known as the Elephant Man who was put in brace after picking on the wrong guy.  From Shane MacGowan.  It’s on the aforementioned RichPatrick EP.

Scotland The Brave - The tune is about 100 years old and serves as the regimental quick march of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.  It was runner up to Flower of Scotland in a poll to adopt and unofficial National anthem. The lyrics were written about 1950 by Scottish journalist Cliff Hanley.   See You Tube for the Corrs spoof of it…. (Having written Anthems for Scotland themselves, they can do it).

Star Of The County Down – This is one of the most played Irish Traditional songs ever.   Thanks to Sue for recommending a chord change.     A fellow sees a pretty girl and resolves to woo her.

 

Tell Me Ma – Seems like a song of adolescents teasing one another, but who is after whom?  A long time traditional favorite.

Thousands Are Sailing - I consider this one of the greatest immigration songs ever written, and is from Phil Chevron of The Pogues.  The "Island" in the opening line of the song, refers to Ellis Island, the major point of immigration to the USA between 1892 and 1954.  The song is rife with references to typical Irish experiences and occupations upon arrival in the USA.  And it reminds us that many did not make it.   Stores known as "Five and Dimes" were ultimately put out of business by the likes of Walmart and Kmart.

The Town I Loved So Well was written by Phil Coulter about his hometown of Derry during The Troubles.  I learned it by watching a guy play it. 

 

To The Weavers – This may be heresy, but I like Sue’s version of this Robert Burns’s song better than Andy M. Stewart’s.    Both Burns and Andy M are masters!

 

Transmetropolitan  - Fran Moran’s Pogue website explains all the references for this tale of young lads running amok in London.

 

Twelve Apostles (aka)Come And I Will Sing You (aka) The Counting Song is, according to the aforementioned Mr. Hallett, one of the oldest songs in existence. It is another from Great Big Sea’s "The Hard And The Easy”.  It contains both Christian and pagan references, and is of course a distance cousin of "The Twelve Days of Christmas".

 

The Viking's Bride is a song from the Know'l O'Dell from the Orkney Islands.  I first heard Ian Drevers, who later founded Wolfstone, do it at The Prism Coffeehouse in Charlottesville, VA in the 1980s.

 

Wagon Wheel – This comes from Dylan via the Old Crow Medicine Show, which I understand to be a Punk turned Bluegrass bunch of fellows.  There is a Universe where that makes sense.   My daughters were smart enough to make me learn it.

When The Boys Come Rolling Home is a splendid song by Tommy Sands.   It has all the proper elements: emigrating from Ireland to America to make your fortune, drinking, rolling in the hay and the legacy of the expatriot.  I first heard Tommy sing it at a coffee house in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the '80s.

Wild Mountain Thyme - An old favorite.  “If my true love ere should leave, I will surely find no other”… or is it, “I will surely find another?”   Die hard romance or optimism?  Wiki tells us that it comes from Francis McPeake, with roots going back to Robert Tannahill (1774-1810).

The Wild Rover can be heard in any bar where Irish music is played.  Four – Two – One on the clapping.

Whiskey In The Jar is another true classic.  Rob the rich and pay....yourself.  But be careful who you trust.  Another with the 4-2-1….

Whiskey You’re The Devil - A great lively tune that features a wonderful whistle part.   Love fare thee well!  Yet another in a long line of drinking songs we love.

Work of the Weavers – I believe this is the very first song I learned from Patrick.   Let us hope indeed that Weaving is a trade that never can fail.

Ye Jacobites By Name – Robert Burns turned this into an anti-rebel, anti-war, humanist song around 1791.  Originally it was apparently a Whig attack on the Jacobites.   Jacobitism was a political movement that attempted to return the Stuart kings to rule in Britain.