Ah, St. Patrick's Day... Being more Irish than anything else -- a quarter, on my mom's side, with the rest being various flavors of West European mutt (English, Scottish, & German) -- St. Paddy's is pretty much the only holiday that really feels like it's "mine," y'know? I used to get more fanatical about it than I do these days, blasting nothing but The Pogues, The Chieftains, or The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem at full volume, drinking Murphy's if I could find it (far, far superior to Guinness, and my family's from Cork, so I've got to represent the local brew of the 'hood, there), and flying my Irish flag, but the past few years it's kind of shrunk into the background.
Lately the only "big" thing that happens at our house on March 17th is that "the leprechauns" sneak into my daughter's room early in the AM, leave some kind of a present, and rearrange all her shoes in various ways. (Why, I have no idea. It's something my mom told my daughter that leprechauns and fairies do, so we're compelled to follow through with it now...) That, and maybe we'll watch Waking Ned Devine tonight with the bigger of the two midgets.
Of course, the music's stayed pretty much a constant thing; a lot of my favorite memories are attached to various "Irish" songs, like the night in New Orleans when I and a couple of friends had a pub all to ourselves and played long-throw darts (thrown sitting from the other side of the room, that is) while singing along to the jukebox-full of Pogues songs some kind soul before us had queued up. Then there were the times when I used to ramble through the woods of the summer camp I worked at for several years, listening on my Discman to the first Enya CD and pretending there was nobody around for miles but me.
And when I finally got to actually visit Ireland, I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of traditional Irish music floating around -- country, it seemed, was the big thing in Ireland back then (interspersed with Ricky Martin), and I couldn't escape fucking Shania Twain no matter how hard I tried. But then I was on a bus one evening, right at dusk, riding from Dublin on down to Cork, and U2's "With or Without You" came on the radio, interrupting the godawful country songs. Not even really thinking about it, I started singing along softly, under my breath and just to myself...and within a minute or so, I realized half the bus was doing the same thing. I don't count myself a huge U2 fan or anything, but it was a beautiful moment.
At any rate, in honor of the day, I wanted to share some Irish and/or Ireland-related music I happen to love; this is my St. Patty's Day Mixtape, of sorts.
[Note: I'm putting these songs up online purely for the purpose of entertainment and hopefully getting folks interested in the people who make the music, not for any kind of financial gain. If any of the owners of these songs want me to take 'em down, let me know ("gaijin" at "spacecityrock dot com"), and I'll remove them ASAP. Please don't sue my relatively-impoverished Irish-American ass.]
I wanted to post a few "special" tracks, as well, partly because they're kind of obscure; back in college, a friend of mine gave me a compilation CD called All the Best Irish Drinking Songs, telling me it was the greatest bunch of drinking songs he'd ever heard, and amazingly, he was pretty right.
The sound quality's not perfect, and you can tell at a few points that the band's had several rounds more than they probably should, but that's partly what makes this a blast -- it's essentially a live recording of a band of friends whooping it up in a dingy bar somewhere, complete with commentary from the audience, clinking glasses, and lots of yelling. It's not actually credited to anybody, though, anywhere I've been able to find it online; it just shows up as "Various Artists," although it all sounds like the same band to me. And yes, this is the best version of "Finnegan's Wake" I've ever heard:
And last, but definitely not least... Back when I had a shift at KTRU, I'd sneakily break the rules and play all Celtic-folk-type stuff for an hour or so at the end of my shift; the station had (has?) a pretty substantial collection of Irish, Scottish, etc., folk albums, stuff I'd never seen anywhere else, so I was dying to hear whatever I could of it. I'd throw on random things or -- even worse -- intersperse stuff of my own that I'd brought from home, and I'd tape the whole shift so I could listen to it again later.
The tapes didn't survive the past several moves, unfortunately, but I still remember a few of the neater things I ran across, the neatest of which is a reading of the classic poem "Mary Hynes," originally written by blind poet Antoine Ó Raifteiri, by Irish folk legend Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers. Clancy reads the poem, while flute/tin whistle player Joanie Madden plays in the background (the song originally appears on her 1994 album A Whistle on the Wind), and it's heart-stoppingly beautiful, at least to me.
Liam Clancy - "Mary Hynes"
If you're brave and want to grab one big zip file with all of the songs, here you go:
St. Patty's Day Mixtape 2010 (84MB)
And, since I couldn't dig up the MP3 for it, here's a video of Dick Gaughan doing "Song For Ireland":
Slainté. Raise a glass, folks...
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