The Baileys,
A Song for Ireland
(Toucan Grove, 2009)

Whether or not you've been to Ireland, this 20-track CD will have your heart longing for its shores.

The Baileys are the real thing. Sure, the Irish music tradition these days is saturated with world-music influences and glitzy electronics, but these two gents -- Michael Banahan and Anthony McDermott -- are the true, pure sound of Irish songcraft. Having honed their art over more than two decades of touring the pubs and venues of their lush green countryside, they now offer their music to the world with A Song for Ireland.

Both men sing, with Banahan on lead. Both play acoustic guitar, and Banahan sometimes adds bodhran. For this recording, they've added several welcome guests: Paul Gurney on piano, bass, accordion, guitar and percussion, Noel Carberry on uilleann pipes and whistles, Aoife Kelly on fiddle, Johnnie Duffy on banjo and Danny Sheerin on backing vocals. It combines for a full sound that is never crowded or overproduced.

But at its heart, this recording is a couple of guys who love their musical tradition and offer it up with touching sincerity. There are no surprises in the song selections here; almost all are familiar, from the opener "Colcannon" through "Rocky Road to Dublin," "Danny Boy," "Black Velvet Band," "The Ould Triangle," "Peggy Gordon," "The Fields of Athenry" and "Spancil Hill," right into the closing track, "Raglan Road."

The songs are slow, sweet and simply presented. They are often sad, mournful but never maudlin. The more sentimental listeners may find themselves misting up every now and again as Banahan and McDermott sing. And, oh, I want to be there, listening to these men sing from a Guinness-soaked bench in a dark Irish pub. And when they're done, I want to shake their hands and tell them they made me miss Ireland so much, I just had to come.

In the meantime, I'll be listening to A Song for Ireland fairly often -- if I can collect it again from my father, who would never forgive me if I didn't loan it to him as soon as I'm done writing this review.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

31 October 2009

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