Link to Living Tradition Homepage





VARIOUS ARTISTS - Early Ballads In Ireland 1968-1985

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Early Ballads In Ireland 1968-1985
An Góilín ANGOILIN007-8

Edited by Tom Munnelly, UCD’s full time song collector, and Hugh Shields, his counterpart at Trinity, this Góilín-inspired re-issue of their 1985 magnum opus is most welcome. I recall purchasing the original C90 in the latter 1980s, and I wore the thing out in little over a year, necessitating a repeat purchase!

For anyone interested in narrative song, this recording is spellbinding on several counts; its broad geographical sweep covers much of the country; the singers are amongst the finest that Ireland’s produced; the singing styles are varied and engaging; and the songs include some of the greatest classics in the ballad canon. The editors used F J Child’s songs as their parameter and, while one can argue that this isn’t entirely inclusive, it covers the vast majority of the ground that we understand to be “ballads”.

Of course, the selection does lean a little towards the Clare and Donegal/Derry areas, reflecting the preferred collecting areas of the editors, but the only under-represented area seems to be the South West of the country. I can imagine how difficult it must have been to decide what (and who) to leave out, but the final line-up gives a pretty good impression of the best of this type of singing as it stood in 1985. As such, it has an additional interest now, when one thinks of the singers who’ve been recorded since and who might have made the cut nowadays.

Not the least of the attractions of the original was the accompanying booklet (free with the cassette), and this is included in an updated version with this new, double CD format – the songs being divided roughly between those from the northern end of the country and those from the south. All the words, Roud numbers and necessary background notes are there.

Sound quality has, I think, been improved, as one would expect after the passage of three decades. An Góilín is to be congratulated on this production, and will be thanked by those who enjoy traditional narrative song.

John Waltham

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.