Ireland and music go together like cheese and wine. I grew up in a musical house, with irish heritage. You can see how I might make that connection. As a teenager I hung out at irish pubs, and had friends play in an irish band as their “day job” making them enough money to be musicians in their own right. When I went to Ireland I expected every bar to be singing Pogues songs, and full of craic. Well, they were full of craic, but often the music wasn’t there. In Dublin, of course there were a couple of trad bars for the tourists, but the locals didn’t frequent these. It was the Sugar Club, Cafe en Seine and other similar night club and hip joints that we went to there. A few times I ventured out of town to smaller villages and cities and I did come across the occasional trad pub. In Galway I discovered the “talking” pubs – ones where you went to hear stories or just spin a wild yarn and use your gift of the blarney. But by the time I left Ireland I realised that you hear more of the traditional stuff outside of the Emerald Isle. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of very cool flatmates who knew their local music and before I left Ireland I was a committed fan of Tom Dunne’s music show on Today FM (he left that to do daytime radio in more recent years). Tom was a musician himself and his show on Today FM brought new local music to my ears.
In New Zealand we have “Natures Best” the top 100 NZ songs. Tom Dunne brought out a few double CDs of top irish hits that would be comparable in their timeline and history and I had copies of them packed in my bag on the way home. Through Tom, my flatmates and a couple of friends, I saw some of these acts live and learned a bit more about the more contemporary side of Irish music – music beyond that of Clannard, the Corrs and U2.
When I was in Ireland last year I was only there for 3 days so I didn’t really listen to radio or check out any live music – so if anyone irish reads this and has some new music to introduce me to – please do!!!!
In the meantime, after much deliberation, here’s some of my favourite Irish music (in no particular order) – traditional and otherwise.
I, along with John Peel, agree that Teenage Kicks has to be there as a top anthem.
A band that came from the Northside of Dublin, 30 year ago is worthy of mention. No, not U2, but Aslan
Glen Hansard first found fame as a teenager in The Commitments. He’s now one of the long-serving hardest working musicians in Ireland. I had the delight of seeing The Frames at a festival at Punchestown Racecourse. A hard task to pick my favourite, but I’ve gone with Revelate
Another Irish musician I saw at Vicar Street, much to my delight, was Christy Moore. I had to chose Ride On.
Thanks to a friend I discovered Damien Rice. I saw Damien at the Olympia theatre when he played a gig on his birthday. He got slowly drunk on stage and after the gig went down and busked on Dame Street…. until the Police moved the crowd on. I think what lifted Damien’s music from good to extraordinary was the gifted Lisa Hannigan as well, so I’ve picked Volcano.
More recently, back home a friend through a Facebook link introduced me to Foy Vance, from Northern Ireland. I’ve chosen Guiding Light.
There is much more I could list, and many Irish music fans will say “where’s Thin Lizzy”… I couldn’t choose a track. The Pogues? Once again, what do I chose as a favourite? So many for so many different reasons. Some more punk with Stiff Little Fingers? or old school with Van Morrison?
No, my final two tracks are:
Neil Hannon, of the Divine Comedy, which could seem a little British, but he’s a northern irish lad. I’ve chosen National Express for it’s non-pc video and very funny lyrics.
and of course, nobody who knows me would consider I could leave U2 off the list. Once again so many favourites, but in doing this research I found a fabulous version of one of the best songs they’ve written, in an acoustic environment, featuring Damien Rice. Here’s One.
Have a fabulous St Patrick’s Day everyone – make a weekend of it. I will raise a glass on Monday evening to Irish around the world, to my family both here and in Ireland; and to all the amazing friends I met in my two stints living in Ireland.