Friday, February 20, 2009
The Greatest Song. Ever.
Paul Brady has an album of duets with the comparably talented Andy Irvine called Andy Irvine & Paul Brady originally released on the tiny Irish Mulligan label in 1976 (and later in the US on Green Linnet) and finally released on CD a few years back.
The album is brilliant, but there is one piece that Brady does all by himself that closes the record's first side (remember "records" and "sides"?) that I love to play for people who've never heard it. I think it's played in an Open G tuning (though that doesn't get me any closer to being able to play it myself). The guitar playing seems almost magical to me; his hands just bounce on the surface of the strings like dragonflies on the surface of a pond.
Brady's gorgeous tenor is perfectly suited to the task as well. If you've ever seen Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle films Brady plays the Maitre D' in Cremaster 3 in which he sings in Gaelic the entire time he's on screen (here's an excerpt):
But "Arthur McBride...."
I don't know exactly when it's set (when was England sending soldiers off to fight the French?) but the battle that takes place in it is just lovely. "And we lathered them there like a pair of wet sacks, and left them for dead in the morning." Gives me a chill every time I sing it. And the irony at the end, "We obligingly asked if they wanted recruits / For we were the lads who would give them hard clouts / And bade them look sharp in the morning." Man... you can't beat it with a shillelagh.
From the same record, "The Plains of Kildare" and old Irish song that, when moved to the mountains of Appalachia in the 19th Century, becomes "Old Stewball Was a Racehorse."
Here's a bonus; not on their album, Andy & Paul do "The Lakes of Pontchartrain."