Various Artists

Various Artists

Various Artists

Music of Ireland: Welcome to America

Elevation Management

Music of Ireland: Welcome to America is one of the best documentaries I have seen on a specific music culture. Two CDs and DVDs simply are not enough to encapsulate it.

The first CD is amazing. The mix of traditional and contemporary is pulled off with perfection as the album starts off with the traditional Irish “Oro, Se Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile,” performed by The Welcome Home Party, which encompasses almost everybody that was interviewed for this special. The following track, “Song to the Siren,” is quite possibly the best as the vastly underrated Sinead O’Connor sings this with as much soul and emotion as anything else heard on this album (which is saying a lot considering how deeply personal Irish music can be). Contemporary artists also contribute stunning tracks as The Frames frontman Glen Hansard (“High Hope”), Damien Dempsey (“Maasai Returns”) and the depressingly brilliant Damien Rice (“Under the Tongue”) bring soulfully moving pieces.

The second CD almost seems haphazardly put together as there are only five tracks (clocking in at under 18 minutes), but they are still worth listening to, especially Hothouse Flowers’ “Amhrain Na Feidireachta.”

The two DVDs are fascinating as well. Originally airing on NPR and hosted by Clannad frontwoman and Grammy winner (and dubbed “The First Lady of Celtic Music”) Moya Brennan, the two hour-long episodes chronicle the origins of Irish music and how that influenced bands like The Chieftains (the first Irish band to gain worldwide recognition), Clannad, The Dubliners and the Irish dance craze Riverdance. The first DVD contains archival footage of The Chieftains performing with Van Morrison and Clannad performing for their 10th and 40th anniversaries at the Irish pub where their career got started.

The second DVD focuses on more of the contemporary artists, starting with U2 and how they became the biggest Irish group in history. Listening to the interview with Bono and bassist Adam Clayton (as well as learning that Clayton was the driving force behind the band becoming more serious and committed to performing full-time) is interesting. As U2 was blowing up, more Irish artists started to gain notoriety, including The Cranberries, The Corrs and Sinead O’Connor. The one thing that really got me was the chapter “The Unsung Hero of Grafton Street.” The owner of a bar on one of the busiest parts of Dublin would literally pick street artists to come and perform at his pub. He found artists like Rice and Hansard, and has been the launching pad for dozens more Irish singer/songwriters.

Music of Ireland: Welcome to America does for Irish music what O’ Brother Where Art Thou? did for bluegrass. It is an amazing documentary with beautiful music and intimate interviews. This is a must for any music lover — especially the Irish music lover.

Music of Ireland: http://www.musicofireland.com

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