This album marks the American debut of a new Irish folk-singing group, The Dubliners. The group was formed for and made its first appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival of 1963.
The Dubliners are composed of four of Ireland's leading folk singers who are distinctive and successful artists each in his own right. Each has a style and a sound all his own. Luke Kelly, for instance, has been described as having a voice "that would take the froth off a Guiness at fifty yards." As you can hear, he does most of the solo and lead singing.
Barney McKenna is the outstanding instrumentalist with the group; he's the one with the fantastic banjo technique. Ciaron Bourke is a ballad singer of great sensitivity and an unusually fine player of the flageolet. Ronnie Drew is the humorist with the rough-and-ready, whisky rasp in his voice. He's been described as having a voice that sounds "like coke being crushed under a door."
After their Edinburgh debut, The Dubliners began to draw large crowds to the famous O'Donohue's Bar where they still give inspired impromptu performances.
As their fame began to spread throughout Ireland, they were asked to make a tour of the British Isles. They have played a number of the large cities in England and Scotland, but one concert the boys point to as being most significant was their outstanding success at the staid Usher Hall. Edinburgh, citadel of classical music in Scotland.
The Wild Rover was collected by Luke in England. There is also a Dublin version of the song. In criticizing this album for the British magazine Folk Music, Dominic Behan wrote, "Mr. Kelly obviously thinks he can sing this song as well as I do — and to be honest he does."
In The Ragman's Ball, you have in Ronnie Drew, the finest exponent of Dublin-type ballad-singing. "The loop-line porter" was a slang term for cheap porter sold in Brady's Pub on Ash Street.
The Holy Ground is not an easy song to understand unless one realizes that the Holy Ground itself was in fact a house of ill repute in Cobh, County Cork where trans-Atlantic steamships dock, and where sailors enjoyed themselves while ashore.
The High Reel is a fine example of a Scottish reel which came to Ireland and was much enhanced with Irish grace notes and decorations. Barney uses a lot of tricks when he plays this reel, but we should emphasize that all the sounds you hear come from Barney playing just one banjo; there is no double-tracking.
It was Luke who collected the next song, Tramps and Hawkers, a beautiful, lyrical ballad, while singing in Scotland
The last song on this side, Home Boys Home, has a moral for all tardy women. There are many versions of this song.
The Rocky Road to Dublin is a slip jig more usually played as an instrumental. It has virtually become the group's signature tune.
The Banks of the Roses is a popular Irish love song performed here with gusto by Luke.
I'll Tell My Ma, is a Dublin children's skipping song usually sung by children, but sung here by Ronnie who is no child.
Barney got the next song The Swallow's Tail Reel from Sonny Brogan, an old Dublin accordion player.
Ciaron collected verses of the blackguarding song, The Jar of Porter, while travelling around Ireland.
The record finishes with Ronnie singing Love is Pleasing, one of many versions of this classic British ballad, and with Luke leading the way in The Nightingale which, like HOME BOYS HOME, has a little moral for women on the wiles of men.
Notes by Ciaron Bourke