Back by popular demand. Our very own traditional Irish music expert, tour guide John McKiernan, takes us on another journey through his top 10 favourite Irish songs. If you plan on traveling to Ireland, or you just love a good Irish ballad, take note…
1. Ride on – CHRISTY MOORE
Irelands answer to Bruce Springsteen, Christy Moore is as Irish as potatoes. With a career spanning 40 years, he lives in the hearts and minds of all Irish people. This song was written by Jimmy Mc Carthy, Christy brings a tenderness to it that helps us all feel the raw emotion of a song that is ultimately about heartache and loss. ‘ I could never go with you no matter how I wanted to’. I’ll go with ya Christy!
2. The Rattlin Bog – long version! – Seamus Kennedy
The song with no end. This song can just go on and on and on depending on who is singing it and the extent of their memory. A popular pub or session song everyone can join in with at some stage due to its repetitive nature. The song itself may have sprung from the bog such are the variety of versions and lack of information on the source of it. Rattlin’ in this context means great or beautiful. It’s a rattlin song that needs to be sung.
3. It’ll be easier in the morning – Hothouse Flowers
No list of Irish music could be complete without the Hothouse Flowers, and whilst they have a rich list to choose from this song captures their uplifting spirit and positive vibes more than any other. Liam and Fiachna ooze music throughout every pore and continue to create and perform to a level only dreamed of by other musicians. If you ever get the chance to see them live, take it.
4. The lonesome boatman –Finbar Furey
A beautiful instrumental tune written by Finbar Furey at the tender age of 19, he captures the spirit and emotion of what must have been many a lonesome boatman fishing off Ireland’s shores in simple curraghs or Naomhogs, eking out a hand to mouth living all along our western shores. Of playing the song Finbar says ‘ I see the boatman rowing me towards the shore, the wind and waves are changeable and he always has something different on his mind. ‘
5. Whiskey in the Jar – Thin Lizzy
Whilst Thin Lizzy’s version of this song is probably the best known to us now, this song has possibly been in circulation for over 300 years in some form or other. Possibly inspired by the antics of an Irish Highwayman Patrick Flemming in 1650 whilst robbing the English Captain Farrell only to be caught after being betrayed by a woman. On a Vagabond or Driftwood Tour you literally go over the Cork and Kerry Mountains and we may very well have whiskey in the jar.
6. The Irish rover – The Dubliners and the Pogues
Attributed to JM Crofts in the 1960’s, the Dubliners and Pogues version of the song stands head and shoulders above any others. A song about a ship that had 27 masts and was rigged for a laugh, with 9 million dogs an 6 million hogs?…what could possibly go wrong? Acknowledging Irelands Nautical history is a song that continues to be sung and enjoyed around the world to this day.
7. The Foggy Dew – Sinead O Connor/ The Chieftans
Written by Fr Canon O’Neill after sitting in on the first ever Irish parliament in 1919 he was inspired to tell the story of those lost in the 1916 Rising whilst also making reference to those fighting with the British in world war 1, acknowledging the confusion of the age where there were battles to be fought at home and abroad. Sinead O Connor featured on The Chieftains collaborative album with this haunting version. The pub of the same name in Dublin city centre remains a landmark to this day.
8. Dublin in the rare ‘oul times – Luke Kelly and the Dubliners
Written in the 1970’s by Pete St John this poetic soulful song tells the story of a changing and modernizing Dublin city much to the dislike of the songs her…Sean Dempsey a working-class Dub from the ‘ rebel liberties’ he himself…’ raised on songs and stories’ as he ‘ lost out to redundancy ‘ and lost his woman to a ‘ student chap’ his life deteriorates and ‘ the gargle dims me brain’ ‘ as Dublin keeps on changing and nothing stays the same’ Luke Kelly and the Dubliners capture the heart of Dublin with their seminal version of this magical song
9. 7 Drunken Nights – The Dubliners
Based on an 18th century Scottish folk song, this tells the story of a foolish drunk coming home each night only to be confronted by his wives lover ‘ in the bed where my oul head should be’ only to be explained away with every increasingly unlikely tales. ‘ Ah you’re drunk you’re drunk ya silly oul’ fool and still you cannot see, sure that’s a baby boy that me mother gave to me’! This song make a lot more sense after a few drinks.
10. Lisdoonvarna – Christy Moore
Christy is so good he features twice. This time with a classic of his own inspired by his visits to the folk festival in the 1980’s in the West Clare town of the same name. Christy brings to life the ‘goings on’ at an Irish town festival and tells the story as only he can. The Music festival has ceased but a similarly interesting matchmaking festival now takes place every year and runs for 5 weeks and caters for up to 40000 singletons all seeking love in all the wrong places! The resident matchmaker is Willie Daly. You couldn’t make it up.