Geraldine & Danny Doyle,
Emigrant Eyes
(Lunar, 1995)

Danny Doyle was one of the wave of folk artists which flooded Irish airwaves in the 1960s along with the Dubliners, Johnny McEvoy and the Clancy Brothers. In recent years he has concentrated his efforts in America and Australia, where he worked with his sister Geraldine. This album, Emigrant Eyes, is a showcase of songs of emigration centered on the U.S. and Australia.

The title track, "Emigrant Eyes," is a vivid recreation of the people fleeing the Famine of the 1840s. Listening to Doyle's description of Ellis Island is unforgettable, as is the gentle refrain as a later generation reflects on how much America meant to those "huddled masses."

"Danny Doogan's Jubilee" is a variation on a better-known "Phil the Fluters Ball." It is a lively toe-tapper and a riot of old stage Irish characters with fabulous descriptions. "The Minstrel Boy," an Irish song composed in the 1800s by Thomas Moore, is a driving ballad of war and death sung by Geraldine. An innovation here is the poem, spoken by Danny, which was written by Padraic Pearse, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. It fits both musically and in sentiment with the song.

"The Moon on Clancy's Wing" is a great story-song recounting both the joy of music and how young and old are united in the sound. "Silly Slang Song" is another comic song which brings the anomalies of language to light. Remember when a "queen was an old tart in a tiara" and "gay meant with joy we could sing and shout" and "a fruit was something nice to eat." These are but a few of the words being recalled. The song was written by Eric Bogle, best known for the anti-war songs like "The Green Fields of France."

Other songs on the album include "Green Among the Gold," "I Can Almost See Ireland From Here, "The Skies O'er Ballyroan" and "When the Boys Come Rolling Home."

This is yet another of those non-mainstream albums that is a rare find. The combination of funny and sad songs is excellent, as is the addition of piano by Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame. This is well worth the effort of seeking it out.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]

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