Irish Ballad Book
(Oak Publications, 1982)

When I'm looking for a fiddle tune, the first place I'll check is The Fiddler's Fakebook. But if I'm looking for the words or tune to a traditional Irish song, the first place I'll look is Soodlum's Irish Ballad Book. Compiled by the Soodlum Music Co. in Dublin, Ireland, and first published in England in 1982, the slim volume is packed with musical gems.

There aren't a lot of bells and whistles to this one. It's exactly what it claims to be: "a monument among ballad books containing 158 of the most popular Irish ballads and songs which echo and resound throughout the pubs of Ireland and indeed throughout the world...."

Inside, you'll find the lyrics to the songs neatly typed up for easy reading. Beside them, the tune itself. Bless them, each comes with guitar chords as well, so rhythm and harmony performers have an easy time of it.

Also scattered throughout are old photos and drawings of Irish life. The photos are a particularly nice touch, capturing real expression in the faces of people who grew up playing and singing these songs.

Unfortunately, Soodlum's Irish Ballad Book fails one vital test of all music books (a test which a surprising majority of music books fail). The pages are tightly bound, making it difficult to play the tunes straight from the book unless you're willing to break the binding. Still, the collection is certainly worth keeping handy on your shelf, and pages can be copied without too much damage to the book.

Soodlum's Irish Ballad Book is an excellent choice for anyone seeking to learn the words to popular -- and less familiar -- Irish songs. There's enough of a variety there to keep most folks busy for a good, long while.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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