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

Tag: Joe Heaney

Voices Part III: ‘The Death of Queen Jane”

To conclude my discussion of the way in which rock, folk and country music deal with the topic of the deaths of close relatives/friends, have included a few more songs here which deal with the topic. Most of these come from the latter two genres, which, it seems to me, are far more comfortable with discussing death than are rock and pop music with their emphasis on youth.

Will begin with The Bothy Band’s fine live version of ‘The Death of Queen Jane’:

Next up is Joe Heaney’s ‘Song of the Drowned’ or ‘Curachaí na Trá Báine:

This can be heard here at

Will follow this with two songs by Paul Clayton, who had a special talent for covering melancholic songs:

The first is ‘The Seaman’s Grave’:

A sample can be heard here at http://www.pandora.com/paul-clayton/bay-state-ballads

and the second is ‘The Dying Stockman”;

A sample can be found here at http://www.pandora.com/paul-clayton/folk-ballads-of-english-speaking-world/dying-stockman.

Will finish up with two country songs. The first one is Roseanne Cash’s superb ‘Black Cadillac’

The second is ‘Peace in the Valley” from Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s excellent cd of covers of classic country songs, recorded as a tribute to his father:

A sample can be heard here at http://www.pandora.com/jimmie-dale-gilmore/come-on-back/peace-in-valley

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:

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:

Dylan & His Sources

Further to yesterday’s post, I would like to illustrate some of the changes in Dylan’s writing methods by taking one example from Dylan’s early career (‘Hard Rain’) and a more recent example (‘Rollin & Tumblin’).

To do so, we will first look at the source material from which Dylan derived the song. In the case of ‘Hard Rain’, it is well known that Dylan based its structure on the old English ballad Lord Randal (or “Lord Randall’, as it is sometimes known). There are also a large number of variants of this song – its history is discussed here:


Here is the great Irish sean-nos (old style) singer, Joe Heaney’s version of the song:

For comparison’s sake, here is Martin Carthy’s version (which is probably the version from which Dylan derived ‘Hard Rain’):

This is the version which can be found on YouTube, but I must admit I much prefer his unaccompanied version, which can be found on his album, ‘Because it’s there’. There is also the unfortunate use of the word ‘mummy’ here…

Here, finally, is “Hard Rain” itself. in the version from the Concert for Bangla Desh:

What is striking here is that while Dylan has adopted the basic skeleton of ‘Lord Randall’, the two songs atre strikingly different. Indeed, through his own particular genius, Dylan has written a song which is  at least equal to one of the greatest and most enduring  ballads ever written.

Tomorrow, we will look at ‘Rollin & Tumblin’ and the steep decline that it shows in Dylan’s songwriting…


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.