They're young. They're handsome. And all Ireland loves them … for their song, the freshness of their approach, their unpretentiousness and, more than that, for the sheer honesty of their performances. They bring more than a hint of the wind and the sea with them to the concert platforms, the folksong sessions, TV studios, the ballroom and hotel cabarets — or the quiet pubs where, like folk-singers everywhere, they sing their heads off … to relax!
The Ludlows — Seán Loughran, Margaret O'Brien and Jim McCann — seem too good to be true. But the truth is they are so good they have just made showbusiness history in a country whose staple diet in popular musical entertainment keeps several dozen showbands in regular and lucrative employment!
With a Dominic Behan song that was soon on the lips of messenger boys and bank managers from Malin to Fenite these three young Dubliners caught up in the surging urban folk revival movement went to Number One in all the Irish Hit Parade charts … over the showbands, over the British groups, over downright pop music in fact. It was the biggest major breakthrough since an Irish showband first made a disc and got into the native charts — and that's so long ago it's ancient history.
They went into the Eamonn Andrews Studios in the centre of Dublin one day with a couple of session men in tow. And like good folk singers they had a good sing-out. Some time later … and many good songs later … a couple of somewhat bewildered recording engineers struggled out into the cool night air, their heads ringing and singing with pungent rebellious tracts.
A good deal of what happened that day has gone into this disc.
And, here and there, like starfish on a strand after a strong tide there are tracks which stand out as if somehow not in context with the rest of the material. But that's just an indication of what's happening now, in Ireland, in popular folksong. No more is it beyond the pale to draw from outside our own enormous pool of native material alone. We can sing YOUR songs … if you're English … or American … or Australian … or … And I'll bet we can sing 'em much better than you can sing ours, too! And probably show you they are originally Irish melodies anyway!
Some of the songs here are hundreds of years old. Some were written just the other day. There's a Canadian song, an English sea shanty, a couple of American songs, several Irish. They've all got one thing in common. They're good songs. So sing them out … with The Ludlows.
Seán SOUTH: This ballad, to the tune of Roddy McCorley, tells the tragic story of what happened when a group of men attacked a police barracks in Brookborough, Co. Fermanagh on New Years' Eve, 1956.
TEN THOUSAND MILES: This is a well-known American song which has been recorded many times. We heard the Australian couple Graham and Lynn McCarthy singing it in Edinburgh.
PORTLAND TOWN: This is Derrol Adams famous song. Jim heard it when he was in England a couple of years ago in a folksong club in Birmingham.
FIRST CORK BRIGADE: Dinny O'Sullivan, who has a famous pub in Parnell Street, Dublin, gave us this stirring rebel song.
CAPTAIN FARRELL: This song is known in America as the Kilgarry Mountains. Of course, it's yet another good Irish ballad which has suffered somewhat from the 'folk process'. This was one of the first songs we learned when we started singing together a couple of years ago.
CARROLL BAN: A beautiful and tragic Wexford ballad of 1798 where a girl watches her sweetheart's execution for his part in the abortive uprising. Tom Moore, a piper in Dublin — and a Wexford man — gave the song to Seán.
JOHNNY TODD: The 'Z-Cars' tune, you'll say. In fact there are a couple of sailors' songs set to this air. Johnny Todd is the best known and a great favourite of ours.
BEGGAR MAN: Seán was born in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary … so we had to have a song from there on this album. You were right in guessing that this is from the repertoire of the famous Clancy family of Carrick. We heard Peg and Bobby singing it … and there's a grand lilt to it.
EVERY TIME: We had to include this beautiful song from one of the most important songwriters of our generation, Tom Paxton from Oklahoma. We first heard it sung by Paddie Bell at the Edinburgh Festival.
THE BRITISH ARMY: There was a 'foreign' spy in our midst that day in the studio! A cheeky session guitarist named Brian Fry got in his natty little Sandhurst 'speak' here. Listen for it. Turns out he's genuinely British. A Londoner, in fact, They're everywhere, these refugees from the Troubador.
WIND THRO' THE RAFTERS: Written by Mrs. Sheila Fawsitt-Stewart for the Radio Eireann National Song Contest. We were fortunate enough to be chosen to sing it and we were voted into second place.
BONFIRE ON THE BORDER: From one of the veritable satchels of ballads written by Brian na Banban (the late Brian O'Higgins) over the past 50 years.
Seán, Margaret and Jim
Seán LOUGHRAN is 25 and is also an accomplished player of the Irish warpipes being a member of the famous Fintan Lalor Pipe Band in Dublin. Irish born, spent part of his youth in Scotland, later returned there to Glasgow University where he developed an interest in folksinging and learned the guitar. He has described himself as an engineer who has lost his vocation. Lives with his parents in Dublin.
MARGARET O'BRIEN: A dark quiet girl with a clear soaring voice that once captivated Senator Ted Kennedy in O'Donoghue's famous folksinging pub in Dublin. In fact, having listened to her sing 'Boulavogue' he joined in and sang "The Boys of Wexford" with her! Margaret, who received formal musical training from Denis Noble, went to the United States to pursue a singing career — but she got homesick. On her return she joined up with Seán and an art student named Paddy Roche to form the original Ludlows.
JIM McCANN: The most recent Ludlow. An engaging, happy-go-lucky 21 year old with a wide grin and a head of thick wavy hair. Has a serious side when it comes to guitar playing and working out arrangements. About the Ludlow's name he makes it sound all rather mysterious … something to do with Seán in a hotel in the Scottish Highlands hearing Guthrie's "The Ludlow Massacre".