Wondering what you’ll hear when I show up? Have a listen to the examples below.
For the 2016 Sunflower Ceili, I worked up several songs and, for the benefit of my band members with whom I’ve never performed, I recorded them. The audio is coming straight off my guitar amp so the songs aren’t perfect, but they are honest. Here are a couple:
Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants
The press gangs would make any promise at all to not show up back at the barracks at camp empty-handed.
Welcome Paddy Home
The Barnyards O’Delgaty
This song I recently discovered on a friend’s fifteen year old videotape from a local renaissance festival. A Scottish Bothy ballad of uncertain provenance (it was earliest recorded in 1930), the story goes that a young man comes to Turra Market to seek work. A wealthy farmer promises him good conditions at Delgaty but the promises prove false: the horses are poor and lazy, and the working conditions bad. The man boasts of his abilities and cheerfully departs. The interesting bit in this particular song is not only is the author critical of the conditions, but goes so far as to name the farm as well1.
My daughter, upon hearing the song for the first time, demanded to have it on her MP3.
An 1880’s era English shanty, the song tells the oft-sung story of life at sea, the anticipation of the destination, and loved ones left behind. Having heard several “pirate” groups do this one – some of them making a testosterone-dripping cacophonous mess of it – I happened upon a couple of guys singing the song who actually were from Australia, performing at a bar in downtown Kansas City. I liked their rendition so much, I added it to my songbook. I’ve added a bass-line to bolster the guitar, which is capo’d at 4th fret, but otherwise it’s just me and the Taylor.
Wild Mountain Thyme
As a veteran of renaissance festivals, I grew to hate the song “Wild Mountain Thyme”, a.k.a. “Go, Lassie Go.” Last Huzzahs all over have turned it into a dreadful clasp-hands-and-tearfully-sway funereal dirge.Then I heard James Taylor do it, and after that Dick Gaughan. Made me a believer again.
On a lark, I decided to record it one Sunday afternoon. It’s just a sketch, certainly not ready for prime time (I will be recording it again), but I’m damn pleased with it (which for me really says something.)
Back in 2007, I was a featured performer for “Scottish Heritage Night”, hosted by the Missouri Valley Folklife Society. They didn’t specify that what part of my performance had to be Scottish, and I came near to performing this song which was written by James Taylor, whose 1700s ancestors were Scottish. Sure, it’s a long walk from here to there, and I thought better of the choice. This song is, however, a part of my regular set.
You Can Close Your Eyes
Jamie Raeburn is one of the first Celtic ballads I ever learned. A sad song about the loss of home, it tells the story of a man sentenced to “transportation”. His crime is never specified in the song, but there is an old story about him being out past curfew, and unable to alibi himself because doing so would betray his best friend’s wife and their affair.
This video came about when I decided to record for a friend of mine who had moved to New York – that’s the dedication at the end – and with everything set up and ready to go – I’d even done a few run-throughs…my two best friends show up, throw up some more curtains, a few more lights…well, it got real complicated after that. The end result is worth it, though.
The Errant Apprentice
Performing The Errant Apprentice by Bill Watson at the Main Street Coffee House, Independence, Missouri, August 7, 2009. I’ve always loved this song, and it’s an audience favorite.