By the way, I forgot to mention in my last post that I was incorrect and that was not the first time I’ve been to Austin. I was there once before when I was very young.
This weekend I am going to see these guys perform twice:
Altan is playing at a nearby festival and I am looking forward to seeing them perform. They’re probably one of the, I don’t know, top five traditional Irish bands right now… anyways, I’m thrilled to be able to see them perform.
On that note, I’ve been listening to a beautiful song recently called “Cruel” by Kate Rusby, an English folk singer. I’ve not listened to much of her stuff, so I don’t know that all of it is suitable, but this is an extraordinary song, and her voice is, in my opinion, lovely. You can judge for yourself, though.
I’ve noticed that a disproportionate number of folk songs from the British Isles, whether Scottish, Irish, or English seem to concern young women separated from their beloveds when they go to sea, which must have been a very common occurrence for it to be so often immortalized in song. Nowadays you hear nothing of that kind of separation, at least not by sea, and we are offered, as a replacement, songs about young women whining about how it just didn’t work out between her and her boyfriend. The only song I can think about that concerns loss of that kind is Carrie Underwood’s “Just a Dream”, which is fairly moving.
The more I think about it, the more this shift intrigues me. The vast majority of the Irish songs I’ve heard are dark. I have difficulty coming up with any love songs from that country that aren’t tragic in one way or another. Even the one or two with relatively happy endings are dark. There are a couple of songs about dancing or drinking that are cheerful, but none about love. And not just romantic love; “Pill, Pill a Ruin” comes to my mind. As far as I can discover, it’s sung by a mother whose son, a priest, has left the Church and become a Protestant minister. “But the heaviest curse that you’ll ever bear is the mother’s curse I put on you” she sings in Gaelic, according to these lyrics and translation. The rendition by Maighread Ni Domhnaill is deeply moving, especially if you know what she’s singing. It’s an unusual song, and not entirely motivated by Christian charity, as the quote above proves, but it is very human.