“Music is the perfect type of art.” ~ Oscar Wilde
We couldn’t agree more with that assessment! OK, so it’s a day after St. Patrick’s Day, but to commemorate the day (from which you might still be recovering!), we compiled 12 songs from a few of our favorite Irish groups. We chose these artists because they represent a variety of styles and genres that come from the Emerald Isle.
Let us raise a pint to salute those whose music has touched our lives, brought smiles to our faces, and provided the soundtrack to so many memories. Here’s to them and all who will follow in their footsteps. Sláinte Mhaith!
The Frames – “Fitzcarraldo”
What is more Irish than some fellows sitting in a pub, playing music, and drinking beer? One of Ireland’s best musical exports, The Frames have a huge catalog of songs to choose from, but “Fitzcarraldo” (from their second album of the same name) shows the Dublin band at their very best. The song is about overcoming challenges and triumphing over adversity, both of which are inherently Irish traits. The album that includes this song was released 20 years ago, making this a timeless classic. So hoist a pint and enjoy this live performance.
Glen Hansard – “McCormack’s Wall”
Since The Frames’ most famous member launched a successful solo career, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include Glen Hansard. His latest album, Didn’t He Ramble, features a song in the “traditional Irish” style. “McCormack’s Wall” has a minute-long interlude that will make you want to dance a jig. “Well, this is a song of drinking, and for a drink it will be sung,” he sings, so have another pint!
Hothouse Flowers – “Hallelujah” (w/Glen Hansard, Colin Devlin, and friends)
Here’s a bit of music trivia for you, if you’re not already “in the know” about the interconnectedness of modern Irish music: Glen Hansard had a cameo role in the 1991 film, The Commitments. Two of the backup singers in that movie’s namesake band were Maria Doyle Kennedy and Bronagh Gallagher. In the mid-’80s when Hothouse Flowers formed, Kennedy suggested the band’s name and sang on their first album. Gallagher appears with Hansard in this video (along with another Irish artist we’ll mention next), so we’ve selected it as a “six degrees” example. Well, that, and because it’s a great tune.
The Devlins – “Waiting”
Since the last tune featured Glen Hansard and Colin Devlin, let’s revisit a classic cut from the latter. It’s hard to believe this song was recorded nearly 20 years ago; it’s even harder to believe that The Devlins have remained one of Ireland’s most criminally underappreciated acts. “Waiting” is still as moving as it was two decades ago. Though the band isn’t currently making music together (lead vocalist Colin Devlin is still recording and touring), this song is a lasting reminder of how incredible they were. Melancholy never sounded so good.
The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”
This song from The Undertones (still the most famous band to have ever come from Derry) is a classic. If you don’t know it, well…shame on you. Let this be a lesson in History of Rock & Punk 101. It’s rumored that this tune was John Peel’s favorite song ever; when you listen, you’ll understand why. The band have been together for 40 years – that’s how monumental this track is. So give it the respect it deserves and crank it loud!
The Bonnevilles – “10,000”
Two weeks ago we featured the newest single from The Bonnevilles on our Saturday Sampler playlist. Because we fell so madly in love with their exuberant sound, we’re including these two blues-rock musicians from Northern Ireland in this mix. If you aren’t already a fan, just listen to “10,000” to hear what you’ve been missing. (By the way…their new album, Arrow Pierce My Heart, released today on Alive Naturalsound Records. We highly recommend it!)
Robb Murphy – “Headstrong”
People dressed in animal costumes staging a break-out from a zoo. No, that’s not some cheese-induced dream but the video for Robb Murphy‘ s “Headstrong” and, as this multi-talented musician explains, “a glimpse into my crazy head.” Take a look, have a listen, and be as captivated by his sound as we are.
FullSet – “Lost & Found Jigs”
FullSet are one of Ireland’s best young Irish bands today. The band is full of talented musicians who were born into the Irish music tradition. Their sound is vibrant, energetic, and refreshing. From well-known tunes to original sets, the band provide a first-class soundtrack that deserves high accolades. FullSet are a perfect band for the atmosphere and mood on St. Patrick’s Day. Get up and dance to the music!
The Rolling Kings – “Raise a Glass”
The Rolling Kings are a band hailing from Newfoundland who have slowly been gaining attention in the Roots/Traditional genre. They deliver a variety of toe-tapping Celtic songs that are all too perfect for any pub. “Raise a Glass” is one of the best songs on their album, and it would do well on any St. Patrick’s Day list. Sing the lyrics loud and sing them proud:
So raise a glass to the loved ones gone before us,
And raise a glass to the babies to be born
And raise a glass, oh, to the feminine form
Lisa Hannigan – “Knots”
Lisa Hannigan has been here, there, and everywhere, including on the Damien Rice song “9 Crimes”. It was an introduction to her velvety, innocent vocals that sticks in our heads to this day. But there is a playful side to her, as demonstrated in this ukelele folk anthem, “Knots.”
Damien Rice – “I Remember” (w/Lisa Hannigan)
No mention of Lisa Hannigan’s voice can be limited to just one song, so we’ve included this one from her former collaborator, Damien Rice. Her vocals on Rice’s debut album, O, provided a graceful balance to his angst. While the cathartic chorus on “Rootless Tree” is a fine example of that, we picked this nearly 10-minute live version of “I Remember” because it captures the passions of both artists who, sadly, have stopped working together.
Van Morrison – “Some Peace of Mind” (w/Bobby Womack)
Finally, we conclude with perhaps the most famous Irish troubadour of them all, Van Morrison. Every generation knows his biggest hits (“Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Moondance” to name but two), so we thought we’d go with a track from last year’s album, Duets: Reworking the Catalogue. American soul legend Bobby Womack infused his famous vocals on this upbeat reworking of the 1991 original. It was one of Womack’s final projects before he died in June 2014. We are grateful that Morrison tapped Womack (and many other famous musicians) for his 35th studio album.
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