In the early '60s the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem recorded an album for Columbia Records called "The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone." That was long before the "Ladies" were a gleam in their fathers' eyes — all brilliant musical daddies by the way. Now the girls have turned the tables on us, and the result, "The Girls Won't Leave the Boys Alone," is a wonderment.
Anyone who ever thought of the "Ladies" as just brilliant instrumentalists will get a shock when they hear the opening song, "The Broom of the Cowdenknowes," with the luscious a cappella singing of the girls. I had a chuckle, too, to see that Eric Weissberg (of "Dueling Banjos" fame) accompanies the band on that track. Eric accompanied the Clancys and Tommy on "The Boys … " nearly forty years ago!
The line up of guests on the recording is quite astonishing: Eric Weissberg, Tom Chapin, John McCutcheon, Tommy Makem, Brian Kennedy, Matt Molloy, Liam O'Flynn, Arty McGlynn, Liam O'Maonlai, Luka Bloom, Davy Spillane, Kevin Glacken, Donnchadh Gough (of Danu), Paddy Reilly, John Sheahan, Arlo Guthrie and me doing a duet (with a whisper of banjo from Pete Seeger, just out of his sick bed, in the background), Brendan Mulvihill, Billy McComiskey and the Daddies! Mike Rafferty (Mary's father), Joe Madden (Joanie's dad), Byron Long and Jessie Smith (Donna's father and son), Mattie Connolly (Deirdre's dad), my son Dónal Clancy (of Solas), my brother Bobby Clancy, with his son and daughter, Finbar and Aoife Clancy.
Listening to the CD I feel the warmth and closeness of family. I think of the great times we all had together at festivals and concert halls. I think of us almost like "Carnies," the extended families of travelling circuses. The excitement of a closing concert at a Milwaukee three-day Irish Fest comes over me. What a buzz! — like a powerful drug that leaves behind not a hangover but an abiding inner joy.
There's Joanie bounding around the stage like a demented Pukka, stirring up her team of ladies as well as the audience into a frenzy; then, softening into a poignant air on the whistle or calling for a haunting song, sending a palpable hush over an audience of ten or fifteen thousand people.
Joanie's deadly take-off of Michael Flatley sprinkles a shower of hilarity over the audience. Afterwards, the dancers explode onto the stage, shooting a rush of adrenalin through the crowd. Then the finale, when Joanie hauls every musician in sight onto the crowded stage for a ranting, roaring finish with a sea of people out front on their feet jigging, shouting, clapping and whistling, their upturned faces aglow with the joy of being part of yet another "Cherish the Ladies" triumph.
I feel so proud of this ebullient, lovable and dynamic troupe. It's all there guys — and "Dolls"!
The Broom of the Cowdenknowes — We learned this traditional song from the singing of legendary Scottish folk singer / songwriter Archie Fisher. The song is over 300 years old; it was first published in London in 1651 in John Playford's The Dancing Master. Cowdenknowes was a mansion and estate in the hills near Earlston, a small market and woollen mill town halfway between Edinburgh and the English border. Broom is a bushy plant that covers the hillside with its yellow blooms in early summer. This song is a lament by a shepherd who has fallen in love with the landowner's daughter; but, as she is from a higher class, he is forced to abandon his hope. Our special guest on this track is Eric Weissberg, best known for his banjo playing on "Dueling Banjos" from the movie Deliverance.
Freeborn Man of the Traveling People — Ewan MacColl is recognized by many as one of the most influential men in the history of the British folk scene. He composed numerous songs for his show Radio Ballads, including this gem. We've had the pleasure in the past to tour and record with the most influential Irish group in Irish-American history, the Clancy Brothers (and their families), and the privilege to call them our friends. The Clancys have always included Ewan's songs in their repertoire and it seems fitting that the whole Clancy Clan join us on this song, one that Liam recorded decades ago.
Rambling Irishman — This is a song of emigration that was made popular in the 1970s by our great friend Dolores Keane from Caherlistrane in County Galway. Featured on this track are folk singers John McCutcheon and Tom Chapin whom we first met many years ago at the Winfield Bluegrass Festival in Kansas. We were also thrilled to include another longtime friend, Tommy Makem from Keady in County Armagh.
Bonny Blue-Eyed Nancy — We had the good fortune to get to know Brian Kennedy from Belfast while he was in New York singing with Riverdance on Broadway. We first heard this lovely old song being sung many years ago by Dr. Mick Moloney. We suggested the song to Brian; and he graciously agreed to record this track with us!
Mullin's Fancy, The Raveled Hank Of Yarn & Gilbert Clancy's — Three great old reels, where we are paired up with some of our heros from the world of traditional music: Matt Molloy, Liam O'Flynn and Arty McGlynn.
Erin Grá Mo Chrói (Ireiand Love of My Heart) — In Ireland during the 1800s, emigration was an avenue of escape from both famine and the desperate economic situation of the country. A one-way ticket to America was often the last chance for survival or for any kind of future. For many, this was a time of leaving behind everything that they knew and everyone that they loved. This song is one emigrant's tale of nostalgia for his homeland and the deep remorse he feels at leaving. We first fell in love with it by listening to Christy O'Leary from County Kerry while we were on tour in Germany. We adapted the first verse from the singing of Michael Rafferty from Ballinakill in East Galway.
An Poc Ar Buile (The Mad Puck Goat) — This is our adaptation of the traditional song made famous by Seán O'Sé. We enlist the help of Liam O'Maonlai, best known for his work with the group Hothouse Flowers, to sing this comical song in Irish. The inclusion of the march "I'll mend your Pots and Kettles 0" works well within the tune. We learned the tune from a recording of Jimmy O'Brien-Moran, an uillean piper from County Waterford.
I'll Walk Beside You — We first became acquainted with Luka Bloom in the early 1980s while he was performing on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York City. We were touched when he obliged us in singing this beautiful love song (originally called "The Golden Land"), which he learned from a recording by famed Irish tenor John McCormack.
The Colliers' Set — This track is a collaboration with County Dublin natives, piper Davy Spillane and fiddler Kevin Glackin. The medley begins with two jigs, the first jig is called "The Two-and-Six-Penny Girl" and it is followed by "The Humors of Drinagh." We end up the set with the great old reel entitled "The Colliers. "
The Queen Of Connemara, The Carraroe & The Lilting Fisherman — For centuries music has been passed down through the family. We are all very fortunate to have been raised in musical households and once again have asked our fathers, brothers and son to join us on another track. We begin the set with a fishing song composed by Francis Fahy from Kinvara in County Galway during the early 1900s. We feature Deirdre's dad Mattie on lead vocals, recording on this album for the first time! All of our family members join in on two great old jigs, "The Carraroe" and "The Lilting Fisherman." To make the track complete, we also asked two of our honorary Cherish members, step dancer John Jennings and fiddler Marie Reilly (accompanied by her dad Martin), to sit in with us!
Down By The Glenside — On the Irish festival circuit, we have met many fellow musicians and singers who have become true friends. On this track we collaborate with our long-time buddies Paddy Reilly, one of Ireland's greatest ballad singers, and fiddler John Sheahan of the legendary Dubliners. "Down by the Glenside" or "The Bold Fenian Men" is thought to be one of the finest rebel songs of alt time.
The Jolly Beggarman — Professor Francis James Child was a consummate collector of English and Scottish ballads. In his collection, "The Jolly Beggarman" is numbered as ballad number 279. While keeping this track in the Scottish vein, we interject throughout the arrangement with "The Humors of Whiskey, " a composition of Scottish composer Neil Gow. It's a real honor to team up with three true folk icons — Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and Liam Clancy — who have had massive influence on the development of modern folk music in every sense of the word.
Last Night's Fun, The Chattering Magpie, The Black Haired Lass & The Commodore — We close out the record with four rousing reels and assemble some of the major influences that have affected our music on the American forefront. Billy McComiskey and Brendan Mulvihill are two of America's foremost carriers of the torch for traditional Irish music. They had a group called the Irish Tradition to which we have turned for inspiration all our lives; we have used many of their tunes on past recordings. Here we are including another one — The Commodore — named after a hotel they used to perform at in Washington, DC. The idea of our group came about in 1983 due to a brainstorm of folklorist and banjo player Dr. Mick Moloney from Limerick and the Ethnic Folk Arts Centre — they never knew the monster they were creating! On our eighth album, it's exciting to have these three all-stars — Mick, Billy and Brendan — to bring the record to its musical ending!