Rachel Unthank and the Winterset: this year's Mercurial folk
Ronnie Drew: a rare auld talent

The best of iPod folk

Ashleyhutchings2Undervalued contributions: the Guv'nor, pictured by Roger Liptrot

Do I really mean best? Not really. And what on earth is iPod folk? Just an excuse for another list.

If you have been here before, you may have come across lists of Irish songs, political songs, favourite albums and so on. In at least one of them, there will have been a promise, perhaps as yet unfulfilled, of further instalments.

But I was intrigued to note what my battered old iPod made of my tastes, or at least my habits. What would I find in the category headed Top 25 Most Played?

Some of the tracks will have been listened to a lot for professional purposes, that is to say for reviews. Accordingly, I have omitted several of the 25 because they included the whole of Rachel Unthank and the Winterset's album The Bairns.

In addition, I have not updated the library since I moved from France to Abu Dhabi in September last year.

With those reservations in mind, this is the list, pared down to 12:

James Keelaghan The Boston Burglar (all from A few Simple Verses)

One of the joys of Keelaghan's album is its deceptive simplicity. Everything is done just right, the songs and tunes are expertly chosen and Danu are playing in the background, thanks to modern technology (since they were nowhere near Keelaghan during the recording process).

James Keelaghan Farewell to the Gold

The kneejerk reaction is to say it cannot touch the Nic Jones version. Exclude the Jones factor and you are left with a noble, sympathetic delivery of a fine song.

James Keelaghan Jack Haggerty

Ditto, though for Nic Jones read Touchstone.

Fairport Convention Farewell, Farewell (Liege and Lief)

No female singer/songwriter has given me as much pleasure as Sandy Denny, flawed and fragile as she may have been. This is not her song, of course, but Richard Thompson's. No matter. It is an achingly powerful interpretation, with Thompson's guitar fully in evidence.

Chris and Kellie While Persuasion (Too Few Songs)

And another Thompson song. Mother and daughter (Chris being the heroine of the Liege and Lief reincarnation at last year's Cropredy festival) do justice to the great man's work.

Talitha MacKenzie Anicuani (Indian Summer)

A slightly fraudulent entry, in that another MacKenzie - in fact a McKenzie, my colleague Rob in Abu Dhabi - is responsible, having played it over and over again when he borrowed my iPod for a couple of weeks. "Loved Talitha MacKenzie, hated Fairport" was his verdict on my library. It is, incidentally, no hardship to have Talitha's haunting Indian chant included here, and I hope soon to interview her for Salut! Live.

Sharon Shannon Got a Hold on Me (both from Renegade)

Like the woman in the Belfast bar said to me years ago: "I could listen to Sharon all night."
For me, she is one of the world's great musicians, not merely on grounds of technical expertise but because she has the ability and spirit of adventure to lure so many other exceptional characters to her side in performance and the recording studios.

Sharon Shannon The First Time Ever I saw Your Face

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset Fareweel Regality (both from The Bairns)

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset
Newcastle Lullaby

Without apology to the Unthank-bashing Mudcatters who so bitterly resent her modest success. Fareweel Regality stands out from all others on the Bairns (though I have not forgotten a pledge to track down the writer's original version). And anyone who can make a Sunderland fan listen willingly to something with Newcastle in its title must have some qualities.

Ashley Hutchings Ring on her Finger (Dance and Drama)
Of all the folk and folk-rock stalwarts, Hutchings is the one I feel I have neglected a little over the years I have been writing on the subject. I have reviewed, previewed and commended his work, but not to an extent that is in proportion to his immense contributions. Delighted, therefore, to find him represented here.

Eliza Carthy Cobbler's Hornpipe (Rough Music)

I do no know why this, and not one of many other Carthy tracks, should have been played through my iPod so frequently. But I welcome its appearance, which I regard as a token of her deep fund of outstanding music.



Apart from Fairport Convention, never heard of them!

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