"A nation without music is not worthy of the name". So said the poet, but in this record you will find proof that Ireland's got enough for herself and a few others besides. From the fierce attack of Ronnie Drew, through the musical brilliance of Barry MacKenna [sic] and Felix Doran, the humour of Packie Byrne to the sheer beauty of Margaret Laurie's voice, there runs a stream of inspiration unmatched by any other race. So put the record on and I'll tell you a few things:
"Quare Bungle Rye"
Possibly the original "left holding the baby" story. When the chief engineer heard this being recorded he sent the microphone away for repair, but there was nothing wrong with it. The "trouble" was Ronnie Drew's voice, which remains one of the wonders of nature.
"Hardie's Reel" and "Kevin's in the Valley"
Two reels played by Barry MacKenna [sic] and Ronnie Drew. The "hard core" of The Dubliners couldn't play a reel badly even if you didn't pay them!
Felix Doran's incredible performance was recorded live at the Keele Folk Festival in 1966. He plays the Uillean Pipes, which are quite different from the normal bagpipes. They have a sweeter tone, a wider range and can play a whole set of chords as well as the melody. But Felix Doran takes things further, making the pipes imitate dogs, hens, geese and bugles in this hunting showpiece.
"'The Days of The Week"
Otherwise known as "Seven Nights Drunk" or "Seven Drunken Nights". Recorded live at the Keele Folk Festival by Packie Byrne, who has been entertaining all over Ireland for many years. He has that quiet Irish style which is very good for bringing overblown things and people down to size. The "rolling pin" verse is omitted from this version of the song!
"O'Mahoney's Daughter" and "The Peat Fire"
Two reels, brightly played by The Fenians, the well-known trio of Irish Whistle players.
Sung in Gaelic by Margaret Laurie, it means a poetic and beautiful love song. Listening to this, it is obvious that the Gaelic language was invented to show off the full beauty of an Irish girl's voice.
"The Mason's Apron"
Another lively reel from Ronnie Drew and Barney MacKenna.
Ronnie Drew and Barney MacKenna. As the cinema poster would put it, this is a song of "elemental passion, seduction, jealousy and violent death". Definitely "X" certificate.
"Chief O'Neill's" and "Harvest Home"
Two hornpipes by Ronnie Drew and Barney MacKenna. It's not only sailors who dance the hornpipe. The dance (with different steps) is still very popular at ceilidhs in Ireland. Notice how it gets gradually faster; this is because the extra weight of the music that has been played adds to the momentum.
Margaret Barry — accompanied by Michael Gorme [sic] Gorman (fiddle). Margaret is one of those personalities who make up for the "don't knows" in the opinion polls. Making them shut up and listen in a pub in Camden Town or Dublin is an advertisement not to be lightly dismissed, but Margaret's been doing that for many a year. She's accompanied one of the finest Sligo fiddlers alive to-day.
"The Friar's Breeches"
Felix Doran and Bobby Casey. Irish dance tunes may sometimes sound improvised, but the two players here are so close, even in the decorations of the melody, that there is clearly a recognised form — especially as the players are not a regular duo.
"Erin's Lovely Lea"
Margaret Laurie. As well as being a fine song in its own right, this is a subtle form of recruiting propaganda. It would be widely sung in Irish communities overseas, where mention of national heroes and places remind exiles of Ireland's need of fighting men.
"Paddy in London"
A fine jig to round off with, played once again by Ronnie Drew and Barney MacKenna.
I don't know when the tracks with Ronnie Drew & Barney McKenna were recorded or where they come from. But from the sound of them, I would guess they are very early recordings … perhaps pre-dating the Dubliners, during the period they performed with John Molloy at the Gate Theatre. In addition, I am leaving all the different mis-spellings of Barney's first and last name as the appear on this record.