I never miss a Thistle and Shamrock show. My favorite contemporary group is Clannad: that sound they make gives me shivers. Give credit to Loreena McKennitt for some topnotch Irish songs too.
I got into the Chieftains phenomenon on the ground floor, back in the 1970s. Back when their first albums were numbered. I dug Chieftains 1, Chieftains 2, Chieftains 3, and the best of all, Chieftains 4! I taught myself some of the fiddle tunes (back when I had a fiddle). Some of my favorites to play were “Comb Your Hair and Curl It” (off of Chieftains 1) and “Brian Boru’s March” (from Chieftains 4). I also got into drugs the same time, and realized that listening to the “lilter” vocalist Pat McDuff on Chieftains 3 while stoned could seriously drive your mind around the bend. (He did a rapid Gaelic scat singing which they call “lilting.”) This stuff was meant for alcoholized states of mind, after all, not psychedelic.
In other words, I knew them “when”. Before they went all pop and everything.
When I was just a wee laddie in the 1960s, my mom had all the Irish Rovers records. Is it totally déclassé to mention the Irish Rovers here? Most folks only heard of them through their hit song for kids, “The Unicorn.” But they had a few good songs in them. “Up Among the Heather” was my favorite. And forget “Tura Lura” — the Rovers’ “O You Are a Mucky Kid” was the real Irish lullaby! I guess the Rovers were out to capitalize on the popularity of the Clancy Brothers.
Nobody has mentioned the sticky-gooey sentimental stuff that once passed for Irish music. The less said, the better, I guess. I learned of the Chieftains from a 1975 review in Time that said most people’s idea of Irish music is either sentimental weepy stuff like “Mother Machree” or the Clancy Brothers’ beery ballads, but the Chieftains played the original Irish roots music or something like that.
BTW, I came up with a riddle that you would have to know Irish, Hindustani, and Tolkien to understand: who is Mother makRî?
Hint: makRî is Hindustani for ‘spider’