Briary Lads

By Aidan Crossey

  1. Arthur McBride
  2. Farewell To Erin
  3. The Rocks Of Bawn
  4. The Boy Remembers His Father
  5. Blackberry Fair
  6. Memories Of Father Angus MacDonnell
  7. There’s The Day
  8. Two Mazurkas
  9. Banish Misfortune
    The Lark In The Morning
  10. The Croppy Boy
  11. Bill Harte’s Favourite
    Out On The Ocean
  12. The Parting Glass

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Briary Lads

Recorded December 2004.

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Sleeve notes follow

1. Arthur McBride.  A different version from the familiar Andy Irvine/Paul Brady/Bob Dylan (!) version.  I don’t remember where I came across this setting of the song!  However, its simplicity appeals to me as much as the sophistication of the Irvine/Brady etc. version. (Vocals, guitar)

2. Farewell To Erin.  There’s a debate as to whether this tune is properly called "Farewell to Erin" or "Farewell to Ireland" - and blood has been spilled in the Irish Traditional Music community over even more subtle niceties.  I first heard the tune played by Kevin Burke in his Bothy Band incarnation and so I’ll defer to his title.  This four-part reel was often performed at American wakes - parties thrown in honour of some (usually) young lad or woman who was leaving Ireland for Americkey, often never to return.  It’s a rugged tune, whose twists and turns are infested with sadness, even when played at an immoderate pace.  (Mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar)

3. The Rocks Of Bawn.  A great "session" song, The Rocks Of Bawn has an ambiguous quality that doesn’t bear too much analysis. We usually get exactly what’s meant, even if we find it impossible to articulate it! The song has been rendered by The Dubliners, amongst others, in a different setting, altogether more jauntily.  I favour this more restrained, drone-friendly, version.  (Unaccompanied vocals)

4. The Boy Remembers His Father.  I first came across this poem on Tim Dennehy’s homage to Sigerson Clifford, "Between The Mountains And The Sea".  Dennehy had set the poem to music, and I was interested to see how it would sound "in the original". I lost my father at the young age of 12 and this poem captures the essence of the sense of loss as experienced by a child.  In particular, the fear that accompanies the grief.  And yet the poem is restrained and "quiet"; the grief and the fear expressed privately in words directed at the father.  (Spoken word)

5. Blackberry Fair.  I found this sharp and curmudgeonly song in Derek Bell’s and Liam O’Concubhair’s superb collection, "Traditional Songs Of The North Of Ireland".  To the tune associated with "The Bold Thady Quill", this is one of my very favourite type of jig-songs.  (Unaccompanied vocals)

6. Memories Of Father Angus MacDonnell.  A tune from the self-titled debut CD by Cape Breton band, Beolach (whose follow-up, Variations, was one of the highlights of 2004).  This is one of those tunes that inveigles its way into first the musician’s consciousness and then gradually into his or her fingers.  Surprisingly easy to play, the tune is nevertheless splendidly evocative and emotional.  Many thanks to its maker, Mike MacDougall.  (Octave mandolin, guitar)

7. There’s The Day.  Brendan Begley’s version of this song on "Oiche Go Maidin" was my first introduction to this great play on "Nil Na La" and I subsequently was directed to Cathal McConnell’s singing of the song.  Both make a great fist of the song and it’s a pleasure to carry it on to others.  (Unaccompanied vocals)

8. Two Mazurkas.  I hesitate to give these mazurkas titles. The first I got from Dan Beimborn’s "Shatter The Calm", where he calls it John Doherty’s.  The second has been absorbed from the playing of Vincent Campbell and the beautiful, soft and slow version played by Harriet Earis (harp) and Colman Connolly (pipes) on Helen Roche’s outstanding "Shake The Blossom Early".  Helen notes that the tune is known to her as Vincent Campbell’s or Phroinsias/Francie Mooney’s.  I’ve also heard it called John Doherty’s.  Whatever the names, both are cracking tunes and I’ve played them here at a brisk pace! (Mandolin, guitar)

9. Banish Misfortune/The Lark In The Morning.  Two of the most popular and "defining" jigs in the music.  I’ve deliberately tried to capture the feel of playing in a session here and so I’ve attempted to play the mandolin differently from the octave mandolin in order to create moments where the two instruments diverge slightly.  (Mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar)

10. The Croppy Boy.  One of my favourite song airs, end of story.  I have a number of songs to the same air, but The Croppy Boy is surely father to them all.  (Unaccompanied vocals).

11. Bill Harte’s/Out On The Ocean.  A jig set which I suppose I have to take some credit for popularising at sessions in South East London.  No matter how many times I’ve played Bill Harte’s, I never tire of it and no matter how many times I’ve made the change into Out On The Ocean, I never cease to be energised by the subtle shift from the one jig into the other.  (Octave mandolin, mandolin)

12. The Parting Glass.  A fitting end to this collection.  A song I’ve always known, which I must have heard in the womb and which I could almost have sung from the moment of birth!  (Unaccompanied vocals)