Salut! Lists

Folk music to ease the fear of flying

Alanstivell2s Whenever I interview Kate Rusby, her fear of flying crops up sooner or later. I am not well placed to offer reassurance.

My earliest flights were the stuff of nightmares: rickety little plane from Blackpool (I think) to the Isle of Man, short hops over to France with airlines about to go under.

Even in my mid-20s, I needed an American to get me through a simple flight from Belfast to London. I'd spent a fortnight avoiding being shot, bombed or beaten up and was now trembling about a routine journey by air.

"I think we're going to make it," he said as we completed takeoff and stiff drinks were served. That was long ago. I have no formula to offer Kate. Practice has simply made, if not perfect, acceptable.

And if I no longer truly fear each flight, I still adopt a form of gallows humour and treat it as if it is going to be my last.

It's not really serious, just a slightly morbid game I play, and it passes time. I work out what music I'd like to have heard for the last time just in case. Don't mock my choice - it's taken from whatever I had on the iPod......

My list for last night's trip back to the UAE from Jordan is as follows:

* Rachel Unthank and the Winterset.......Fareweel Regality

* Joan Baez.......A hard rain's gonna fall

* The Dubliners
.....Bonnie Shoals of Herring (Luke Kelly singing)

* Cara Dillon
......There Were Roses

* Alain Stivell (pictured courtesy of Roger Liptrop and his indispensable Folk Images site) ......Brian Boru

* Fairport Convention (with Sandy)
.......Farewell Farewell/The Deserter

* Graham and Eileen Pratt
...The Last Road

* Steeleye Span....Long Lankin/Blackleg Miner

* Rachel Unthank and the Winterset.......Fareweel Regality (such a great song, so brilliantly done, worth at least one more hearing)


Irish music at its best? (4)

This is the fourth part of Salut! Live's series of selected Irish music, and the second collection of YouTube clips featuring my own favourite female performers from Ireland north and south. Please feel free to suggest clips you feel I ought to have included, or to applaud or criticise my choices. The first six YouTube clips in this exercise appeared in the Salut! Live posting "Irish music at its best? (3)". As mentioned in that item, clicking on to each clip also opens a gateway to much more by the same artists. Explore and enjoy...
Mary Black's lovely version of Raglan Road nearly made it into the list, until I saw - and found myself endorsing - comments at YouTube suggesting that no one could touch the late Luke Kelly's interpretation. But room had to be found for Mary's exquisite vocal charms, and I have always liked her singing of The Thorn Upon The Rose. One "jonhedge" at YouTube added this interesting anecdote: " This is Julie Matthews song, I know because I was 1 of 4 people at her house when she played it for the first time, & She told us M B had taken an option on it, The Best Version of it is by Pat Shaw on the Lies & Alibis Album (Fat Cat Records FATCD001)Pat & Julie were a Duo at the time. Mary black is Brilliant though."

Cara Dillon is not to everyone's taste. Once I had grown to appreciate her voice - which didn't happen in a flash - I came to regard her as an accomplished and highly appealing singer, and The Lark in the Clean Air provides a fine platform for her strengths....

Continue reading "Irish music at its best? (4)" »


Irish music at its best? (3)

Don't forget, the headline is a question, not a statement. All I have done, in this labour of love, is to trawl YouTube for some clips of the female Irish singers/musicians whose music - and, in a couple of cases, friendship - has been important to me over the years. I say that's all I have done, but it has taken a long time; what a good job Friday is the Muslim world's Sunday equivalent, giving me day-off time in the UAE to devote to the exercise. What we end up with is a dozen of the best, which I have spit into two parts, the second of which will appear here by tomorrow morning (Sunday). Where possible, I have deliberately avoided over-familiar songs in favour of something a little different. There are people, or versions of songs, I simply couldn't locate, so I can hardly claim to have eliminated familiarity altogether. Never trust an old hack with new technology. But see what you think, and if anyone knows any of the individuals who placed the clips at YouTube, let them/me know - I'd like them to know they're in appropriate hands, and me to know that they approve.

The wonderful Cathy Jordan of Dervish kicks off the list....... I remember once dashing across London from having seen Altan at the Fleadh to catch Dervish at the Waterman's arts centre in Brentford. A luxury of riches....




One of the best gigs I ever attended was Touchstone playing a club in Bristol in the early to mid-1980s (a club I recall as being in or just off The Centre, and having an old telephone kiosk plonked in the middle. You can either watch the interesting graphic (unrelated to the band) or, if you were there the same night in Bristol, close your eyes and still see Claudine Langille sitting on a table, swinging her legs to and fro as she plays banjo and joins Triona Ni Domhnaill in the best version of Jack Haggerty I've ever heard.....

Speaking of Altan, as I was a second ago, this list would not be complete without Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. Tá mo Chleamhnas Déanta is taken from a 13-year-old BBC recording. I will never forget my many warm encounters with Mairéad, and of course the late, hugely missed Frankie Kennedy, in the UK and Ireland....

Continue reading "Irish music at its best? (3)" »


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:

Continue reading "The best of iPod folk" »


Irish music at its best? (2)

Here goes then. Nicholas Wall has had his say. Now I am going to have mine - and it will not be my last word.

It is quite impossible to have been listening to Irish music for as long as I have and restrict a choice of the best to the 10 songs or tunes I promised. So I will do it in stages, definitely two and - who knows? - maybe more.

I may, like Nick, allow myself to wander beyond the confines of the sort of Irish music I usually listen to and write about. In other words, pop and rock will get a look in. Notes to each choice will be added in due course....I was keen to get the ball rolling ahead of a trip to Europe (more on my return).

G K Chesterton wrote (if I remember the lines correctly:


Great Gaels of Ireland
All their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad


There is plenty of war, and lots of tears, in my first list. But this, for better or worse and sticking to Irish artists but not always irish songs or compositions, is it:

Continue reading "Irish music at its best? (2)" »


Irish music at its best? (1)

Even a long overdue break can be interrupted if the right reason comes along.

Nicholas Wall provided the reason, writing with news of his list of the best 50 Irish records of all time (he more coyly calls it "50 of the finest" but let's not ruin a jolly exercise with pedantry).

A link to Nick's list appears towards the end of this posting, and I will also add a permanent link to his site, Music to Die For, to my Salut! Live signposts.

It would not be right to give away his choice here. There is plenty I would agree with, a few I wouldn't and one or two items I am not aware of ever having heard. Nick is clearly an open-minded individual and strayed far beyond Irish folk and trad territory in compiling his favourites.

In honour of his broader tastes, and in a rare example of my own bursting free from a self-imposed musical ghetto, I include a YouTube clip of one performance I might have found room for in a similar list of my own, even though the song in question was written by Prince (and if I am to adopt Nick's rule of only one song per artist, there is another Sinead O'Connor song I would probably have plumped for).

In my own series of playlists, I will inevitably get round to a choice of 10 Irish songs or tunes to take with me to my desert island. They will not include the recording Nick selected as his top Irish song of all time, though I fully understand why it is there. You will have to visit the site and see the list AT THIS LINK to see whether you take his side or mine.

In view of Nick's initiative, I will make my top 10 Irish album tracks the next posting to appear at Salut! Live _ unless Karine Polwart beats me to it.