2008-The Irish Songs

You can listen to these songs on my “album” “The Ghost of Pleasant Ned” even if you don’t want to read the fascinating story about them, which I’m just about to tell you.

My son Paul gave me a book of Irish songs that was published in 1808. It included only the melody line and lyrics but no chords, no rests, no description of the speed or feeling of the song, and no credit to whoever wrote them. I started to learn the first song in the book, adding my own chords and fingerpicking, adding rests where they felt appropriate (not sure if they’d invented musical rests by this time, or if the guys who put the book together didn’t know how to use them or what, but there was no place to breathe in any of the songs). Surprisingly, it was a really good song. The lyrics were great, if dated, once I did the research to understand them.

These old Irish songs became an obsession with me. I  resurrected 15 of them, did a ton of research, learned their histories, and became buddies with the guys who wrote them. The first time I took the guitar into the back yard and sang one to the sky and trees, it felt like an Irish songwriter who’d been asleep for 200 years woke up and saw the world again through my eyes. I could tell he was smiling

I modified each of them enough both musically and lyrically that I’m pretty sure I have a copyright on them. Feel free to record them yourself, and I hope you do, just tell BMI they should send me a nickel.

I hoped to put out a little book with the stories behind them, and heartbreakingly artistic renditions, as well as the lyrics and the chords I chose. But they are sort of difficult melodically and I never felt I mastered them well enough to release them. But for THIS sort of casual memoir, just some folk music between friends, these recordings I made to help me practice will give you a good sense of the songs. Maybe I’ll record little videos explaining each song. In most cases, I believe I’m the only human on the planet who sings these songs.

The following are individual songs uploaded to youtube. Same songs as the album “The Ghost of Pleasant Ned” but some people prefer to use youtube.

Sprig of Shillelah

Irish Drinking Song

Cushlamachree

Garnavilla

I Was the Boy for Bewitching ’em

Kate Kearney

The Man Who Led the Van

Paddy the Piper

Smallilou

Since Love is the Plan

Rakes of Mallow

Kathlane McCree

Kitty of Coleraine 

In 2012 I learned the Robert Burns song “Slave’s Lament.” It’s Scottish, not Irish and wasn’t in the book, but I found some very old sheet music, so figured it out and arranged it using the same process. Then I did some research on it and learned more of its history. I wrote a blog about it. You can hear the Kenn Amdahl version of the song here:

Slave’s Lament

Then I wrote my own Irish song from 1808, The Ghost of Pleasant Ned. I recorded this video in 2020: