Irish Drinking Songs

Clancy Brothers, The and the Dubliners

album cover

What'll It Be?

Lots of cultures respect a good libation, but few can outdo the Irish in terms of pure and heartfelt worship. Pub songs speak in reverential tones about the animating powers of whiskey and beer—the way these magic elixirs lighten the burdens of the troubled and give courage to the meek. To the sober, these tunes can seem silly, or evidence of moral decay. To those in the middle of a Saturday night bender, they're a kind of lifeline, connecting generations.

This compilation features spirited songs about spirits, recorded in the 1960s by two of the most prominent Celtic music acts—the Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem. The bearded Dubliners began making music in Dublin pubs in the 1960s, and quickly acquired a reputation for raucous, hard-drinking performances. Here, they dust off an old Australian tune, "The Pub with No Beer," and recreate a communal exhortation, "Drink It Up Men," just right for closing time.

The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem started as struggling New York actors; they switched to harmonizing when the folk revival took hold in the late '50s. Their trick was to expand on the traditional Irish ballads they'd heard growing up; they used five-string banjo and guitar (then an exotic instrument in Celtic music), and made elaborate vocal arrangements of tunes usually handled by a solo singer. Their contributions to the drinking-song canon range from extreme jollity ("Beer, Beer, Beer") to foreboding ("Whiskey, You're the Divil") to somber—this collection closes with "The Parting Glass," a salute to drinking buddies at last call. "Oh, all the money that e'er I spent, I spent it in good company," goes one line. "So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all."

Genre: World, Celtic
Released: 1997, Columbia/Legacy
Key Tracks: "Beer, Beer, Beer," "Mountain Dew," "The Moonshiner," "Tim Finnegan's Wake," "The Parting Glass."
Catalog Choice: The Dubliners: Spirit of the Irish, The Ultimate Collection. The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem: In Person at Carnegie Hall
Next Stop: The Pogues: Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash
After That: Altan: Horse with a Heart
Book Pages: 169–170

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#1 from Tim the seeker of good Irish music., United States - 03/07/2011 8:32

For those of us here in the U.S. that are a fan of good Celtic and Irish music it is sometimes quite hard to find and buy the songs. I know it’s easier to find them today than it was a few years ago, but a lot of bands slip through the cracks here. It’s really a shame that there is not enough of a demand for this type of music to get more radio air time. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to keep listening to Fiona Ritchie’s Thistle & Shamrock.

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