FolkWorld #70 11/2019
© Dervish

Dervish: The Great Irish Songbook

The Great Irish Songbook

The Rambling Irishman (Cathy Jordan) | There's Whiskey in the Jar (The SteelDrivers) | Molly Malone (Imelda May) | The Galway Shawl (Steve Earle) | She Moved Through The Fair (Andrea Corr) | The Rocky Road to Dublin (Brendan Gleeson) | Down by the Sally Gardens (Kate Rusby) | On Raglan Road (Vince Gill) | Dónal Óg (Cathy Jordan) | The Fields of Athenry (Jamey Johnson) | The May Morning Dew (Rhiannon Giddens) The West Coast of Clare (David Gray) | The Parting Glass (Abigail Washburn)

»Ireland's Favourite Folk Song«


                    The Great Irish Songbook


Artist Video Dervish @ FROG

Traditional Sligo-based outfit Dervish has been on the road for 30 years now. To celebrate their anniversary, Michael Holmes, Liam Kelly, Brian McDonagh, Shane Mitchell, Tom Morrow and Seamie O Dowd teamed up with a noteworthy contingent of guest singers.

»There are a handful of small countries in the world that might appropriately be designated "The Land of Song." Cuba and Jamaica would certainly qualify and most definitely so would Ireland. [...] Even the 12th-century Anglo Normans, who were not known for many complimentary comments on the "Wild irish," waxed eloquent about the virtuosity of irish musicians and the wonderfully talented bards who were at the forefront of the high arts in ancient Ireland. [...] It's hard to think of a country other than Ireland where folk songs and traditional instrumental music are more valued, talked about and ultimately performed today. [...] Millions of people are purchasing recordings and videos of Irish music and dance [...] all over the world. [...] The music of Ireland has most definitely gone "over the wall" and become a global phenomenon. It's a great time to celebrate this veritable renaissance with an Irish songbook. And there's no more appropriate group to do this than Dervish.«

–Mick Moloney (Sleeve Notes)

The Rambling Irishman

Cathy Jordan

Artist Video
Cathy Jordan @ FROG

William Butler Yeats Patrick Kavanagh

Artist Video

This is one of our great emigration songs depicting a man heading across the ocean for the first time, escaping poverty at home, while leaving all he knew behind, including his sweetheart. The original source of the song was Antrim songster Joe Holmes, while more verses were later uncovered by the mighty song monger Len Graham.

Learn more about The Rambling Irishman @!

There's Whiskey in the Jar

Artist Video

This song is about a rapparee [highwayman], who is betrayed by his wife or lover, and is one of the most widely performed traditional Irish songs, versions of which have been recorded by such diverse acts as The Dubliners, Thin Lizzy, Metallica and The Grateful Dead.

Learn more about There's Whiskey in the Jar @!

Steve Earle

Artist Video Steve Earle @ FROG

Brendan Gleeson
Artist Video
Brendan Gleeson @ FW

Molly Malone

Artist Video

"Molly Malone," also known as "Cockles and Mussels" or "In Dublin's Fair City," is a popular song, set in Dublin, Ireland, which has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin. Molly was a street hawker and sold fish at the market.

Learn more about Molly Malone @!

The Galway Shawl

Artist Video

This song is a traditional Irish folk song, concerning a rural courtship in the West of Ireland. The first known version was collected by Sam Henry from Bridget Kealey in Dungiven in 1936. Here the man falls in love with a girl who has no interest in modern trappings such as jewels or make up, but instead wears a bonnet and is draped in a beautiful Galway Shawl, a traditional garment still worn in the wilds of Connemara.

Learn more about The Galway Shawl @!

She Moved Through The Fair

Artist Video

This is a traditional Irish folk song, which exists in a number of versions. The song fits in the category of "Night Visiting songs." The narrator sees his lover move away from him through the fair, after telling him that since her family will approve, "It will not be long, love, 'til our wedding day." She returns as a ghost at night and repeats the words, "It will not be long, love, 'til our wedding day." If not in life, then in death they will be together.

Learn more about She Moved Through The Fair @!

The Rocky Road to Dublin

Artist Video

This song was written in the 19th century by D.K. Gavan, "The Galway Poet." It tells the tale of a man's experiences as he travels to England to seek his fortune, leaving behind his home in Tuam, Co. Galway. Unfortunatly, his adventure brings nothing but trouble until eventually his fellow county men come to the rescue when he falls foul of the natives in Liverpool.

Learn more about The Rocky Road to Dublin @!

Down by the Sally Gardens

Kate Rusby

Artist Video Kate Rusby @ FROG

Artist Video

The poem written by W.B. Yeats was originally called "an old song re-sung." Yeats indicated in a note that it was "an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered, heard sung by an old peasant woman in the village of Ballisodare, Sligo." The "old song" he referred to was "The Rambling Boys of Pleasure." The words were subsequently set to music by Herbert Hughes using the traditional air "The Moorlough Shore" [also known as "The Maids of Mourne Shore"] in 1909.

Learn more about Down by the Sally Gardens @!

On Raglan Road

Artist Video

This is a well-known Irish song, originally a poem written by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh telling of his unrequited love for Hilda Moriarty. The poet reveals how he knew that he would risk being hurt if he initiated a relationship with this beautiful woman, but he did so anyway. The poem was put to the tune of "The Dawning of the Day" when Kavanagh met the Dublin balladeer Luke Kelly and is named after Raglan Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

Rhiannon Giddens

Artist Video Rhiannon Giddens @ FROG

Fleck Washburn

Artist Video Abigail Washburn @ FROG

Learn more about On Raglan Road @!

Dónal Óg

Artist Video

"Dónal Óg" is surely one of the most moving of Irish love songs. A song of betrayal, obsession and grief–a young girl's cry of desolation left pregnant and abandoned by her lover Dónal. There are many versions of this song written originally in Gaelic, but this one was translated by Frank O'Connor.

Learn more about Dónal Óg @!

The Fields of Athenry

Artist Video

This song was written in 1970 by Pete St. John, which makes it one of the youngest songs featured on this album. The song is set during the Great Irish Famine, an Gorta Mór, or Great Irish Hunger [1845–1850]. In this song, a man named Michael from near Athenry in County Galway is sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Australia, for stealing Trevelyan's corn for his starving family. Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan was quoted as saying the famine was "an effective mechanism for reducing surplus population" while exporting corn from the beleaguered island of Ireland. The Famine resulted in the death and migration of millions and the decimation of the Irish population.

Learn more about The Fields of Athenry @!

The May Morning Dew

Artist Video

Andy Irvine

Artist Video Andy Irvine @ FROG

This song tells a heartbreaking story of a woman who recalls her old friends, family and loved ones as she walks by their deserted dwellings in post-famine times.

Learn more about The May Morning Dew @!

The West Coast of Clare

Artist Video

This is one of the youngest songs on the album, written by the legendary Andy Irvine. It was first released by the band Planxty in 1973. The song reminisces on lost love on the west coast of Clare.

Learn more about The West Coast of Clare @!

The Parting Glass

Artist Video

This is one of the most popular traditional parting songs sung in Ireland and Scotland. The "parting glass," or "stirring cup" or "coupe d'etrier," was the final hospitality offered to a departing guest. Once they had mounted, they were presented one final drink to fortify them for their travels.

Learn more about The Parting Glass @!

Photo Credits: (1)-(4) Dervish, (5) W.B. Yeats, (6) Patrick Kavanagh, (7) Steve Earle, (8) Brendan Gleeson, (9) Kate Rusby, (10) Rhiannon Giddens, (11) Abigail Washburn, (unknown/website); (12) Andy Irvine (by Walkin' Tom).

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