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MICK MOLONEY "Far From The Shamrock Shore" Shanachie 78050

The subtitle "The Irish-American Experience in Song" gives a fairly good idea of what to expect, as do the cover photographs of early railroad workers. This is the end result of a lot of research by Mick Moloney, former member of the Johnstons who has been pursuing an academic career in Irish-American musicology for a number of years, and must be one of the most respected scholars in this area. Indeed, when you see the amount of detail printed in the booklet notes, you may be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be heavy going. Those that know Mick's work will, of course, not make this mistake, as the notes simply reflect the results of proper research, which are expanded in his illustrated companion book of the same name. So what about the songs?

We can probably all too easily fall into the trap of categorising Irish-American songs as Music Hall or Vaudeville numbers, rather than "traditional" in a more purist sense, but there are dangers in this approach. The songs which were actually sung and taken up by the people were the likes that are represented here, because that was the way of the age. Read Mick's notes for an expansion of these ideas.

Seventeen songs are chosen here and, coincidentally, there are seventeen other top-class musicians who lend their services. The songs cover the universal themes of emigration, loss, work (or lack of it); love (or lack of it), prejudice, success, drink, etc, etc. In short, the essence of popular song. From the Civil War songs such as The Irish Volunteer, through the pugnatious Me Uncle Dan McCann, to the haunting Sweet Kingwilliamstown there are enough insights her to whet anyone's interest. All the songs are thoughtfully arranged, with just enough accompaniment to let the words tell their own stories. There is a rich seam of musical and song tradition that has sustained the Irish-American community and helped strengthen its unique identity, which draws on so many strands of its background. Mick Moloney is to be congratulated in compiling this gem.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.