Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day music rollout

In appreciation of the musical aspects of this melodious Irish holiday, I'd like to introduce a few of the prominent Irish performing groups, with the approximate date of their founding, links to their Wikipedia entries, and to albums (with links to brief musical samples to provide a sense of the group's "sound" and musical approach--of course, with further opportunities available on YouTube not only to hear but to see these groups). When available, a link to the groups' Website is also provided.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. (1950s) As noted in Gary Thomas' observations below, these artists were the first to establish themselves as Irish performers in the American folk music scene presenting vocals with guitar and five-string banjo accompaniment--the emphasis being on the heartiness of their singing.
*****Album: The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem In Person at Carnegie Hall - The Complete 1963 Concert [LIVE]. At the bottom of the link, under the rubric "Customers who bought this album also bought" are links to several other of their albums.
The Clancy Brothers' MySpace page

The Chieftains. (1962) Initially a four-man instrumental group, with Uilleann pipes, tin whistle, button accordion, bodhrán (frame drum), and fiddle. As noted in last year's review of their recent Washington concert., the group has collaborated for decades with a wide range of musicians, including in the reviewed performance a vocalist/drummer.
*****Album: The Best of the Chieftains. Click on "Track Listing"to listen.

The Dubliners. (1962) Again, basically a hearty-singing vocal group with a range of instrumental accompaniment and solos. bodhrán
*****Album: Best of the Dubliners. Click on "Track Listing"to listen.
The Dubliners' Web page and Patsy Watchorn's Web page

Planxty. (1970s) Also mentioned in Gary Thomas' notes, this "supergroup" included, along with its vocals, guitar, bodhrán, bouzouki, mandolin, mandola, hurdy-gurdy, harmonica, Uilleann pies, tin whistle, and flute.
*****Album: The Planxty Collection.

The Bothy Band. (1974) With the addition of a female vocalist, similar to Planxty in approach and instrumentation (and adding harpsichord and clavinet), and also short-lived.
*****Album: The Best of the Bothy Band.

Clannad. (1970s) Radically different from the previous groups, Clannad, also with a female vocalist, won a Grammy in 1998 for The Best New Age Album.
*****Album: The Best of Clannad: In a Lifetime.
The Clannad Website and News Blog

The Pogues. (1982) Also departing somewhat from tradition, though in a very different direction from that of Clannad, this group incorporated elements of rock and punk.
*****Album: The Very Best of the Pogues.
The Pogues' Website and Shane McGowan's Website

The above is of course just a sampling from among hundreds of groups, and thousands of recordings. For those wanting to pursue their listening further, below are two Websites that specialize in Celtic music, some of which may include musical samples as above: A self-described "Mom and Pop store" which specialized exclusively in Celtic Music CDs. A large on-line CD company with a separate section for Celtic music containing more than 250 pages (!) of recordings, almost all with samples of each track.

There are also on-line radio streams dedicated to Celtic music: A Google Search specifying "online radio" along with Celtic and Music brings up 23,500 hits (up from 13,700 hits a year ago.) I'll be writing later more generally about the phenomenon of Internet radio dedicated to specific musical niches.

Good listening, and again, Happy St. Paddy's Day!

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