Saturday, March 20, 2010

Farewell to Erin

St Patrick’s Day is past, but I am not quite done bidding farewell to the music of Ireland. However, it is time to start saying goodbye. Actually, farewell is as much my theme as Irish music. The songs I have chosen are separate entities, but here they combine to tell a story.

Maire Brennan: Voices of the Land


Amongst fans of Irish folk, Ireland is known for the extraordinary number of fine female singers the country has produced. Maire Brennan is certainly one of these. Brennan is heard here blending elements of Celtic folk and pop, and the result sits just on this side of new age blandness. This type of sound has been a trap for many, but Brennan shows here just how beautiful the music can be when done right.

Voices of the Land sets the stage for our tale, praising the land and its beauty. She worries about threats to the environment, but never becomes preachy.

The Chieftains (with Nanci Griffith): Red is the Rose


The Narrator of Red is the Rose sees the beauty of the land reflected in her lover’s appearance. This one starts as a simple love song, and only fully reveals itself at the end. The lovers must part, and she must lose this beauty.

This one also reaches across the waters. The Chieftains established themselves long ago as masters of traditional Irish Music. But more recently, their career has consisted of making musical connections between this tradition and others. Irish immigrants came to the United States and settled in the South, bringing their music with them. So The Chieftains’ exploration of the links between Irish and country music has produced particularly rich results. Here, Nanci Griffith’s performance of this traditional Irish ballad shows how this works.

Patrick Street: The Braes of Moneymore


There have been many waves of immigration from Ireland to the United States. And so, there are many Irish songs on the subject. In the hands of Patrick Street, The Braes of Moneymore proves to be one of the best.

Spotlight Song of the Week:

Chris Huff: Hey Now Now

[purchase both albums here]

Chris Huff recorded an album in 1998, called North Cathedral Way. Here, Huff was the troubadour, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing about meeting great philosophers in a café. He was joined by a stand-up bass player and a djembe player. I find the album charming, but I must admit that this persona did not seem to be the best fit for Huff’s voice.

For the next ten years, Huff tried to find his musical self. He tried on a wide variety of rock styles. The bigger sound suited him. The Death and Texas LP might tell us where he wound up. But instead, the album is a document of the journey. The album is uneven, but there is plenty of good material here. Hey Now Now is the lead track, and it is a perfect pop song with a slight reggae lilt. This one will get stuck in your head for all the right reasons.

So I don’t know if Huff found his voice, or which voice it might be. I suspect that the answer will be found on his next album. I hope there isn’t a ten year wait for that.

Bonus Track

I started this discussion by mentioning Chris Huff’s debut album, from 1998. Here is a taste of how he sounded then.

Chris Huff: The Night Cafe

Blog Business: I'm thinking of turning my theme post next into a spotlight on the work of jazz singers. Please let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you.


Linda - SE PA said...


Great idea for a change in theme!

Opening the "eclectic doorway" is a wonderful gift. There are so many artists in all genres that wait for an opportunity to be heard, that for a moment, you will be gifting the artist, your readers and yourself with sharing the music.

For me, I always look foward to your wonderful writing and how generous you are with sharing your knowledge... especially with bringing to our attention artists that would slip under my radar.

Linda - SE PA said...

Hi Darius,

One more thought regarding the upcoming jazz theme.

In Philadelphia, our "Cool Jazz" station, went dark on their dial spot and then moved down the dial to, well for me, it overlaps on to a NJ station. It is a challenge to listen to it and I've been so disenchanted that I stopped trying.

Yet, my point, was to say, when this first happened, I said - who will play ____? (fill in the blanks). It created a void in a genre in a city where Jazz is ____ again (fill in the blank).

And this seems to be a missing link with the remaining radio stations with so many - actually, too many artists with little to no air play.

Chris Huff said...

Hi Darius, Thanks for the spotlight. I was in the hospital all last week, so I missed it. Sorry for the delayed thanks. All the best, Chris Huff