The Dubliners,
Thirty Years a Greying
(Lunar, 1992)

The face of Irish folk music since the 1960s has been hairy. It seems that every folksinger from that era had an aversion to razors and delighted in sporting a long bushy beard. The epitome of this trend was the Dubliners. This featured five men with not only the finest facial hair in Ireland but also a repertoire of songs that is still phenomenal.

In 1992 they celebrated three decades of performing with this double CD and attracted guest appearances from some of the top performers in folk music.

My particular favourite here is the track that has Billy Connolly as a guest. "I"m Asking you Sergeant Where's Mine" is one of the best anti-war songs of the century, but I have never heard it anywhere other than on this CD. It concerns a young British soldier caught up in the troubles of Northern Ireland. He recalls the recruiting adverts offering trips to foreign lands, skiing trips and fun. As he lies wounded in hospital he asks the question of the title. Some readers may only know Connolly as an actor and comedian but he did start out as a folkie.

The variety of songs on this CD is absolutely fantastic and brings home to us the breadth of folk music that millions are not hearing.

They range from Ewan McColls classic "Manchester Rambler" which makes you taste that mountain air to "Nora" from the play by Sean O"Casey. "The Rose," made famous by Bette Midler, is given a fantastic rendition by the gravel voice of Ronnie Drew. "What Will We Tell the Children" is an ecology song that gives the message we all need to hear but it actually makes a potential tragedy sound good.

"The Sands of Sudan" is a heart-wrenching song that really hits the mark on the subject of famine and suffering. "His young sister's body lies dead in the sand as the bird from the west drops its load on the land." It continues with "we look on in despair from the comfort of home where we lounge in a chair and shed a small tear for the victims that died on video screens that we saved up to buy."

There is one fabulously fun song here, too, called "The Pool Song," which bemoans the culture of the pool or snooker hall, which is dissipating our youth. Some lovely "come all ye's" also get a new lease of life here with spirited renditions. "The Stone Outside Dan Murphy's Door" is a case in point, as is "Phil the Fluter's Ball."

They show their versatility by covering the classics of modern folk with tracks like "Boots of Spanish Leather." This features a guest appearance by De Danaan. The Pogues guest on "Whiskey in the Jar" and Rory Gallagher is featured on "Barley and Grape Rag." The definitive voice of socialist folk music in Ireland, the late Luke Kelly, is also to be heard on some of the tracks.

In 30 tracks the Dubliners provide a cross section of the best of folk music played and sung with feeling and sentiment that communicates itself to the listener. It may be 10 years old but, like good wine, great music improves with age. So get out there and seek this masterpiece of Irish music.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 21 September 2002

Buy it from