As geography goes, Ireland is one of the world’s smaller countries. In heart, in creativity, in music, and other aspects of life, across history and in the present, Ireland continues to be a significant presence. For all that it is is rather small in area -- about the same size as the state of Indiana in the USA -- the landscapes and people and ways of life across the island of Ireland are varied, while still holding connections among them that mark them as distinctively Irish, from Rathlin Island up off the coast of Antrim all the way down to Cork, from the Dingle Peninsula over to the mouth of the Liffey in Dublin.
Through the two discs and thirty four tracks of music on Irish Ways: Music & Song of Ireland, producer Colm O Siochain has done a fine and thoughtful job of selecting and sequencing the songs and tunes. Maggie’s Lilt from the band Dervish makes an inviting beginning. After winding through geography , emotions, spirit, rhythm, and melody, Luka Bloom’s classic You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time makes an equally fine send off. In between, there are pieces by rising stars and established ones.
click on the album cover or the text link to hear a bit of the music
The six tracks which open the second disc comprise one of my favorite sections of the project. To begin there is At First Light, a group spearheaded by fiddler Donal O’Connor and piper John McSherry, with the lively tune El Garrotin. The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a song which goes deep into that sadness and poetry of Irish history -- and Irish love song -- is given a fine treatment that well reveals the heart of the song by Lumiere, who are Pauline Scanlon and Eilis Kennedy from Dingle. Damien Mullane, a rising star of accordion and melodeon, follows on with the tune Emma’s Waltz. Then songwriter Ger Wolfe offers The Curra Road, a song which holds the essence of many walks I’ve taken down many Irish roads. Mossy Nolan and Colm McGowan kick things up in speed with the mandolin and guitar driven tune Corkadoragha. Singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh follows with a heartfelt take on the oft recorded rebel song Bold Fenian Men, though which she shows her gift for grace in restraint as she allows the story and melody of the song to unfold.
There is quite a bit more than this, of course, and you will find your own favorites as you listen. Solas, John Spillane, Triur, Alan Kelly, Niamh Ni Charra, Sharon Shannon...those are just a few of the artists you will encounter on this journey. The thread that pulls through, producer O Siochain writes in his notes, is that these pieces of music bring to mind “remind us of people, places, times, and above the spiritual landscape that is called ‘Home’ by so many living here and abroad.” Indeed.
photograph of a music session in Louth by is by Kerry Dexter and is copyrighted. thank you for respecting this.