Folk free: Herman's Hermits, Tom Courtenay and an ode to Mrs Brown's Daughter
Cover Story: (12) Dirty Old Town. Pogues, Dubliners or Ian Campbell Folk Group for Ewan MacColl's song?

Cover Story: (11) Christy Moore or Mary Coughlan. Ride On and horses for courses

First, a spot of housekeeping for the Cover Story series. As sharp observers will already have noticed, "or" replaces "vs" in the headline.

I shall get round to changing the previous 10 posts in the series since the purpose of the exercise is much more to draw attention to different versions of songs than to play artists off against one another.



Today's edition has elements of memory playing tricks.

I have always loved Christy Moore's version of Ride On, a song whose lyrics may conceal mysteries - he says it is up the individual to reach his or her conclusion - but spring from its writer Jimmy MacCarthy's early life as an apprentice jockey.

For a while, I thought I marginally preferred Mary Coughlan's interpretation because she or someone else had the spectacularly bright idea of getting Davy Spillane into the studio to add Uillean pipes. I have seen both singers perform the song live, in Moore's case several times, but some time had passed since I heard either version.

Listening again, I still believe the pipes work magically.

But on reflection, Moore it has to be.

Coughlan is an excellent and highly expressive singer but tackles Ride On at too much of a gallop whereas MacCarthy's song cries out for a slow trot.

There are many other versions worth a listen. Coldplay accompanied Moore, described by Chris Martin as a musical hero, after bringing him on stage at a festival in Kildare.

Unusually for me, I bought an album via iTunes by Dance to Tipperary mainly on the strength of their splendid delivery of the adopted anthem, Fields of Athenry at a packed Celtic Park (Liverpool supporters "borrowed" and adapted the song but would claim they did so only after You'll Never Walk Alone was nicked by the green part of Glasgow).

Dance to Tipperary mix Irish folk and electronic dance/trance music; the EDM version I downloaded is rather better than the oddly insipid one you see here.

Among others, Mary Black, the Corrs and Westlife have also had a bash.

So, of course, has MacCarthy himself. For me, none holds a candle to Christy Moore’s treatment. It’s a song that might have been made for him.

You, of course, may disagree.


Bill Taylor

I thought at first the Mary Coughlan version was playing at the wrong speed, like a 45 at 78rpm. She has a great voice and I would love to hear her do it a little more slowly with a simpler accompaniment, including the Uillean pipes. As it is, the pipes sometimes work but sometimes don't and the whole instrumental part smacks to me of pre-recorded backing track, complete with drum machine. I'm not saying that's what it is but that's certainly the impression that comes across.
I imagine being there to see Christy Moore perform the song live with Coldplay would be magical. But, like so many bootleg live recordings, it doesn't come across all that well here.
So, yes, the original Moore version absolutely. The voice, the tempo, the backing, the interpretation, everything about it is right. Coughlan takes the enigma out of the song, Moore underlines it just enough. As Chris Martin said, a musical hero.

dave williams

Christie with out a doubt... feeling, empathy everything.... the guy is as awesome as the first time I saw him in the Adelphi in Leeds in 1972.... such presence!!!

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