Gather 'round, readers, and hear Lankum's Ian Lynch host Fire Draw Near, a monthly podcast dedicated to the history of Irish folk songs. In each episode, Lynch breaks down a song's narrative, discusses its various interpretations, and how these different iterations came about if the origin is known.
Typically, the folk song comes from a spoken tradition, and is carried from person to person, often from pub to pub, where much of the world's oldest popular music got its start. Eventually, some songs are standardized into broadside form. From there, the sheets make their way across the country, rambling as they are wont to do, and in turn become adapted by many a bard 'cross the land.
Some stay in their oral form and the morals change wildly until they are recorded and standardized, to some degree. Songs chart these waters, and a few change paths. The complexity of marrying oral tradition with the printed word is a rich topic, and the songs that come about from this union are beautiful and storied. Many a ditty warns women of men, and tells of scorned lovers, unholy unions and further yarns on topics from yesteryore's tabloids. Beware loose women and rambling men!
From there, Fire Draw Near compares the differing versions of each tune, the interpretations of which are so starkly opposed to each other that they are barely discernible as the same song. Different folk artist's interpretations give the songs varying flavor, ranging from funeral dirge to stein-clanking drinking song. Field recording, acoustic set and psychedelic folk revival alike are all cataloged here.
You can hear Lankum's drone-folk interpretations of a few classics here.
Lankum tends to follow in the funeral dirge tradition. Compare their version of Wild Rover to the Dubliner's own. One tells the tale of a pub regular, recounting the hijinks that drinking hath bestowed upon him to his compatriots, and the other is a mourner's lament of the curse of lady alcohol. Roughly the same lyrics, not at all the same song.
Personally, I love an elegy, and Lankum's sound becomes all the more rich knowing that the band has a thorough history and appreciation for the music they are adapting, though it's apparent in the work on its own.
You can give Fire Draw Near a listen on Spotify or SoundCloud (links below).