' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Category: Joe Heaney

7 Drunken Nights Gave Me The Blues

Had a strange experience yesterday – was listening to a Sonny Boy Williamson compilation cd I bought recently and heard a song which sounded remarkably familiar. It was one of those instances where you spend some time trying to remember exactly where you had heard that song (or one very similar to it) before – and then it hit me. The song I was thinking of was The Dubliners ‘Seven Drunken Nights’.

But to retrace our steps. Here is the Sonny Boy Williamson song, ‘Wake Up Baby’:

and here is The Dubliners:

The Dubliners’ song itself is based on an earlier Irish language song called ‘Peigín agus Peadar’, which they learned from the great Irish singer, Joe Heaney. Heaney’s version of it can be heard here:


The song probably made the journey from Connemara to the USA with the Irish emigrants who travelled there. How it ended up in Sonny Boy Williamson’s repertoire I can only guess, although Leadbelly’s version of ‘Stewball’ was also based on an Irish original:

Here is a great version of that original, ‘The Plains of Kildare’ by Andy Irvine and Paul Brady:

‘Time’s Revenges and Revenge’s Time’: A Theme Time 45 Minutes (or thereabouts) – Part 1

This is the fourth ‘theme time’ instalment. In it, I have included those songs with a substantial historical element under the ‘time’ label. Unlike in earlier instalments, I have also included two songs from those artists who, in my opinion, have handled such themes particularly effectively

So, here goes

1. Phil Ochs, ‘Changes”:

——-, ‘Links on the Chain”:

Apparently ‘Changes’ was one of Drake’s favourite sings

2. Nick Drake, “Time has told me’

—–, ‘Time of no reply’:

3. Bob Dylan, ‘Blind Willie McTell’:

—–, ‘Girl from the Red River Shore’:

http://www.pandora.com/bob-dylan/tell-tale-signs-bootleg-series-vol-8/red-river-shore-736-unreleased-time-out-of-mind (sample only)

4. The Kinks, ‘Victoria’:


5. Howlin Wolf, ‘The Natchez Burning”;

6. John Lee Hooker, ‘Tupelo’:

7. Bert Jansch, ‘There comes a time”

——, ‘The Ornament Tree’:

8. Merle Haggard. ‘When times were good’:

8. Dick Gaughan, ‘The World Turned Upside Down’:

9. Pete Seeger, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn”:

——, ‘Guantanamera’:

10. Woody Guthrie, ’1913 Massacre”;

11. The Clash, “Spanish Bombs”:

12. Edwyn Collins and Frank Roussel, ‘Time”:


Shadows & Light – A Theme Time 45 Minutes or thereabouts

Have decided to include colours in the definition of ’light’, so here goes…

Will start with Bob Dylan’s favourite Lightfoot song…

1. Gordon Lightfoot ‘Shadows’:

Will follow it with another ‘Canadien Errant’:

2. Joni Mitchell, ‘Shadows and Light”:

3. Rory Gallagher, ‘Shadowplay’:

4. Joy Division, ‘Shadowplay”:

5. Rowland S. Howard, ‘Autoluminescent’:

6. REM, ‘Green grow the Rushes O”

7. Orange Juice, ‘Blue boy’:

8. Bob Dylan, ‘Its all over now, Baby Blue”:

9. Roy Orbison, ‘Blue Bayou”:

10. Eric Andersen, ‘Blue River”:

11. Michael Martin Murphey, ‘Red River Valley”:

12. Joe Heaney, ‘Roisin Dubh’:

133. Christy Moore, ‘Black is the Colour”:

14. The Pogues, ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’:

15. Lal Waterson, ‘Red Wine Promises”:

16. Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze”:

10 Irish Classics – Part 2

Having noticed that my first list did not include any Planxty (the Irish ‘”Beatles’, as they have been described), decided I would remedy this by drawing up an alternate list.

It could, of course, have been made up entirely of tracks from Planxty’s classic first album (the ‘Black’ album), but thought this would be unfair to other artists. So will start this list with a classic performance of the “Raggle Taggle Gypsy-o’ from the early 1970s.

1. Planxty ‘Raggle-Taggle Gypsy-O’

2. The Pogues ‘White City’ – a song where Shane McGowan proves that great poetry can be made from the demolition of a greyhound track:

3. Johnny Duhan, ‘In Our Father’s Name” – fine song from an underestimated songwriter:

4. Paul Brady ‘I am a Youth that’s inclined to Ramble” -Before Paul Brady became a so-so MOR songwriter, he was a great folksinger:

5. Dolores Keane John Faulkner – ‘The Bonnie Light Horseman’ – a great, great song:

6. David Kitt ‘You Know what I want to Know’ – By far the best of the new Irish songwriters who emerged in the 1990s/ early 2000s:

7. Sinead O’Connor ‘I am stretched on your Grave’: Saw her sing this with Christy Moore once…

8. The Blades ‘Revelations of Heartbreak” – Paul Cleary one of the finest Irish songwriters of modern times. Discuss..

9. Micheál O’Domhnaill & Kevin Burke ‘Lord Franklin”: the definitive version…

10. Joe Heaney ‘Amhrán na Páise’; Can’t have enough Joe Heaney:

Ten classic Irish tracks

Have been thinking for a while of posting ten classic ‘Irish’ tracks here. These are not necessarily my favourite ‘ten’ Irish tracks of all time or anything as ridiculous as that – but the first ten that came to mind and which, hopefully, includes some relatively obscure tracks which will encourage others to check out other tracks from these fine artists.

1. Will start with Sony Condell’s song, ‘Down in the City’ – first appeared on his album, ‘Camouflage’ – which was, incidentally, one of the first albums I ever bought:


2. The Blades ‘Animation’ – the Blades were the Irish band which should have made it big in the 1980s – instead we got the empty posturing and preening of Bono & U2:

3. Rory Gallagher ‘Pistol Slapper Blues’: Rory’s great version of the Blind Boy Fuller song:

4. Have cheated by including two versions of ‘Raglan Road’ here – they are both classics. The first is by Luke Kelly:

The second is by Van Morrison:

5. Joe Heaney, ‘Una Bhan’: Perhaps the greatest Irish singer of them all:


6. Sean Keane ‘Bundlin” – as an Irish person living in Australia, couldn’t resist this one:

7. Freddie White, ‘the Parting Glass; – a great Irish singer makes this song his own:

8. Mary Black, ‘Annachie Gordon’ – before she ventured off into MOR territory, Mary Black was a fine folksinger:

9. Altan ‘Donal agus Morag’ – for some reason, this is my favourite Altan song:

10. Van Morrison, ‘Madam George’ – as good it gets, from one of the greatest albums ever made:

Joe Heaney Bob Dylan Eileen Aroon

Over the last few years, have listened  a great deal to the recordings of the great Irish sean-nos singer, Joe Heaney. Heaney was a close friend of Liam Clancy’s and a source for some of the Clancy Brother’s material. Through Liam Clancy, Heaney was also on the fringes of the Greenwich Village set (he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in the mid-1960s) and was one of the singers who performed at the Singers Club in December 1962, when Dylan also performed two songs there.This is Heaney’s version of Eileen Aroon, which Dylan performed in concert on a number of occasions (most notably perhaps in Dublin in 1989):


After that concert, according to Sean Wilentz, Bob spoke with Liam Clancy about his sadness at the fact that ‘his audiences, even in Dublin, no longer knew the wonderful old songs’.

Funnily enough, however, the version that Dylan sang is not actually the original one but, in fact, is  derived from a poem by Gerard Griffin, the Nineteenth century Irish novelist and author of The Collegians. While Griffin’s poem is based on the original song, it alters the original words quite a bit and adapts them to Nineteenth Century ‘Romantic’ conventions.To complete the picture, here is Heaney singing the Irish version of the song:


Heaney also recorded the Irish version of ‘Eileen Aroon’ on his Gael-Linn , album (issued under the Irish version of his name, Seosamh O’hEanai) O Mo Dhuchas (From My Tradition).
There is discussion of both the Irish & English versions of “Eileen Aroon” & their place in Heaney’s repertoire in Sean Williams and Lillis O’Laoire’s excellent book on Heaney  Bright Star of the West, 120-27.