It’s no secret that I love Irish music. And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner (March 17th this year, for my non-Irish friends) I wanted to give this list of my Favorite Irish Ballads. They’re songs about love, war, exile etc. and are great to really think about the history of Ireland and her descendants. So here they are:
11. Song for Ireland – Dick Gaughan
A lot of good versions out there, but there’s something about his voice and the guitar that gets me.
10. Foggy Dew – Sinéad O’Connor & the Chieftains
Sinéad has such a piercing voice that makes this version so powerful. When Conor McGregor came out to this song at his UFC fight in Boston it gave me chills.
9. Rare Auld Times – Luke Kelly
Pretty great ballad about Dublin and the changes that occurred since the singer’s upbringing.
8. Galtee Mountain Boy – Paddy Reilly
Ballad about a volunteer who dies during the Irish Civil War. My good friend Mike first had me listen to this a few years back and as always, didn’t fail in introducing me to another great Irish song. Worth checking out Christy Moore’s version too.
7. The Town I Loved So Well – Luke Kelly
Don’t have much to say about this song, it’s simply a classic. For reasons I can’t really explain, I find it refreshing to hear this performed live at bars/events.
6. The West’s Awake – The Wolfe Tones
My dad introduced me to this song years ago, when it was on the Wolfe Tones’ 25th Anniversary album. Great album, btw. I think it was originally a poem and it’s just wonderfully written. I particularly love how the verses get gradually louder and louder with the final stanza singing, “But, hark! a voice like thunder spake, The West’s awake! the West’s awake!”
5. Raglan Road – Luke Kelly
Another beautifully written love song. Listen closely to the instrument in the background, the guitar or something similar, I don’t know why, but I find that to be so cool sounding.
4. Scorn Not His Simplicity – Luke Kelly
If you watch this video, Jim McCann says Luke’s version is the “definitive recording” of the song. It’s true of almost every song he does, but none more than this one.
3. Grace – Jim McCann
I remember the first time I heard Grace, and immediately loved it. It’s about Joseph Plunkett who married his fiancé, Grace Gifford, right before being sentenced to death in 1916 for taking part in the Easter Rising.
2. Four Green Fields – Tommy Makem
A family friend once told me he dislikes Irish music, except for one song. This is that one song.
1. Fields of Athenry – Paddy Reilly
Not only my all-time favorite Irish ballad, my all-time favorite Irish song.