29/08/2018: “Women Of Ireland” by Bob James

“Women Of Ireland”, or “Mná na hÉireann” in the original Irish, is an old poem written in the 18th century by a guy called Peadar O Doirnin.

Bob James’ adaptation is based on the melody by Sean O’Riada, to whom the song is credited on James’ album.

It’s undeniably a lovely tune, with a soothing tin whistle played by Grover Washington Jr., some calm yet uplifting piano, and and easygoing, vaguely Caribbean swing. At some points, it’s so easy on the ear that it approaches muzak (“elevator music”), but I don’t think this is lightweight. It’s a jazzy take on a timeless melody.

Later on in the song, there’s also some stellar guitar soloing by Eric Gale, accentuated by the gorgeousness of the strings. Bob James jams on his electric piano in a more recognisably jazz fashion, but the song remains smooth as silk.

The track was released on the 1976 album Three,  his third solo album after One and Two. Yes, that’s what they’re called!


05/08/2018: “A Pair Of Brown Eyes” by The Pogues

Many people’s only contact with the music of The Pogues is their Christmas hit with Kirsty MacColl, “A Fairytale In New York”.

However, look deeper into their back catalogue, and there are some gems. The band combine traditional Irish instrumentation and rhythms with some cynical punk sensibilities. It certainly makes for an interesting combination!

Not only that, but the lead singer Shane McGowan has a gift for songwriting. His lyrics are poetic and profound without being overblown or airheaded, his melodies are classic, and his own singing is crusty but nevertheless on point.

The melody for “A Pair Of Brown Eyes” is based on an old Scottish folk tune called “Wild Mountain Thyme”, but the version in this is more mournful, and in my opinion, hits harder. It is a very folksy tune, nonetheless.

The song came out in 1985, on the album Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. 

Quite a lovely song really…

27/07/2018: “Sweetheart” by Thin Lizzy

This song has been chosen mainly because of the melodies. The guitar riffs are absolutely fantastic, and although the vocal melodies are a key part of the song, I’m not a massive fan of the lyrics. They’re a bit wishy washy for me in parts…

Anyway, the song is a classic rock song. They just don’t make  ’em like this anymore!

The song is from Thin Lizzy’s 1980 album, Chinatown. The lack of Gary Moore’s guitar playing — he was one of the best– dampens the quality of the album, but “Sweetheart” is just a very likeable song.

That said, the album’s poor critical reception disguises just how hard it is to get a song like “Sweetheart” out of your head. It’s good at what it does.