November 24, 2004

Curious George: Traditional Irish and Scottish Music Two things.

Okay. I'm a big fan of Irish/Scottish traditional music, but I really don't know much about it. Recently I've been trying to find a good version of the song "Loch Lomond", which is absolutely gorgeous. However, I've found that doing google searches/trying to track one down on a filesharing network is not the best (or most enjoyable) way of finding one. So I guess I'm wondering if anyone out there knows of a nice version of this song. I guess I'm looking for something that preserves the melancholy aspects of the song, with some well-done instrumentation and an authentic feeling. Other than that I'm not too picky on the specifics. I was also wondering where I can find out more about good Irish/Scottish traditional music in general. Google isn't exactly helpful in this regard either. I know of a few bands to look into, but I'd like to know more about the history, the stories behind the songs, and where to find well-done, real traditional music. By this I mean stuff that can't be found on a new-age compilation that invariably has the word "Celtic" on it, and sometimes the words "Moods", "Soul", or "Funkfest". Bonus third part: I also would like to learn how to play some. I've been to a couple of traditional sesuns (sessions), but only to watch, and I haven't been to any recently. Also, I currently live in Minneapolis, where I'm not even sure if there's anyone around here that teaches this. I think the best way to learn this music would be playing in a group, as well, which makes the task more complicated. Any help is much appreciated.

  • Check Green Linnet. It is one of the best labels for Celtic music. They run the gamut from traditional to more fusion type stuff. They have amazing samplers (check the 20th anniversary collection). Some of my favorite bands in this genre are The Tannahill Weavers, The House Band, Altan, Old Blind Dogs, June Tabor and the Oyster Band. I can't immediately reccomend a version of "Loch Lomond". I had friends who use to perform this song, but they never recorded it.
  • For your listening pleasure, check out BBC radio (click on the "Folk and Country" link for the various Celtic/Gaelic/Scottish shows) and RTE Radio from Ireland (click on "Music"). Some of the shows on these stations should satisfy your jones for real, traditional music, and, with luck, give you some background.
  • I'm a big fan of the Corries. They were the band (duo, actually) that got me hooked on Scottish music. Very traditional for the most part, but also some modernized versions of other songs. Many that are based on the poetry of Robert Burns. And one of them actually wrote the song "Flower of Scotland" which is a sort of unofficial Scottish anthem. Their rendition of songs like "Dumbarton's Drums" always makes me tear up a little.
  • If you have iTunes, there's about 31 different versions available for preview there.
  • I'd start at Ceolas for information and Mark Gunn's Celtic MP3s site. Poke around those sites, listen to some of the radio stations Mark has in his list, and you can find plenty of whatever stripe you wish from there. If you like acapella, The King's Singers perform this on Annie Laurie. As you're in Minneapolis/St. Paul, invest some time at Kierans and The Dubliner. That'll help you find the good stuff. And if you just want to take my word for it, get everything you can by Andy M. Stewart. Going to the sesuns and the irish festivals (they usually have workshops) are a good way to make contacts who can help you get started playing. The Milwaukee Irish festival, if it's close enough, is really huge. Good luck & have fun learning and listening.
  • I can only speak to Irish music but have a few suggestions. Go to a Feis (pronounced fesh). They are competitions for Irish music and dance and there are LOTS of them. You may have to do some traveling to get to one (looks like there was only one in Minnesota this year) but there's no better place for concentrated Irish music and dance. Also keep an ear out for when the Comhaltas (coltas) come through anywhere near where you are. For records, find some record stores that have separate Irish and Scottish sections. This will less likely an indication of either a staunchly Catholic or protestant store owner (which may be the case) than a store that has good stuff. Either ask for recommendations or buy anything any combination of the following things on the cover: beards, sheep, tweed jackets, pipes, homely girls, peat, a band standing in a field, a band standing near a peat bog... I think you get the idea. Stay away from records with cover art that features Irishmen dressed is costumes that look like they were borrowed from Earth Wind and Fire or track lists that include Rolling Stones songs. As far as learning to play the music goes, a penny whistle is the place to start. They can be purchased for under $10 and are not particularly difficult to learn. Also, any place selling penny whistles is also likely to have some penny whistle song books for cheap. As for a specific recommendation, you can't go wrong with Joe Burke.
  • A few mp3s of Scottish songs, including a primarily vocal version of Lock Lomond And a big linkdump about Scottish music Best o' luck in your quest.
  • He's not entirely traditional (he also wrote his own), but Stan Rogers is one of the best Canadian singer/songwriters in the traditional Atlantic tradition (which does come right around the ocean); his "Barrett's Privateers" tricked a Scottish music fan I once knew into believing it was a traditional sea chanty.
  • (so traditional, I said it twice. Sorry - just tired)
  • Wow, this is great... much more than I expected. Plenty of stuff to keep me busy instead of feeling lost. Go raibh mile maith agaibh and Moran taing to everyone. I'll definitely check out the various labels recommended, and also the radio stations when I can be at a computer with the internet. jb- do you listen to Colin Hay at all? I've only heard his one song that was on the Garden State Soundtrack, but it has made me want to hear more. He started playing his songs on the sea and such.
  • I am now (liking it). I also became a fan of Great Big Sea (official site) a year or so ago, just in time for an amazing concert in Connecticut. I like fusion (folk/pop, classical/pop) in general, so I've liked Ashley MacIsaac for a long time, since his first big albulm - my uncle prefers the traditional one.