Weekend tunes: close to an hour with Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora

Scotland's Shooglenifty was one of the first acts that I had the opportunity to interview for the music magazine I still occasionally write for, over two decades ago. That it was one of my first paying assignments, well before I'd finished J-school, and that I'd been a fan of the band for years has made the experience a fond memory. 10 albums in and the Shoogles are still on regular rotation in my home.

Recorded in 2018, Written in Water, was a collaboration between the band and Rajasthani musical geniuses Dhun Dhora. It's in turns a challenging and rewarding collection of tracks to listen to. The more I jog it through my ears, the more I like it. I'd like you to have the same opportunity.

This piece of concert was recorded last year off of Bellstone stage at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival. Read the rest

Weekend Tunes: The Pogues Live at the Town and Country

The Pogues were my entry point into punk. They caused a massive shift in my understanding of music: they made my growing up to play the mandolin, tenor banjo and bodhran feel cool. The music I played needn't be something from the past. As much as I loved and continue to adore traditional Irish tunes, The Pogues showed 15-year-old me that there was new life in the tunes I knew; new themes to explore. Discovering A Pair of Brown Eyes, Thousands are Sailing and The Broad Majestic Shannon kicked open other musical doors for me. It wasn't too long until my Discman was pushing The Waterboys, The Levellers, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span into my skull.

I've got fond memories of The Pogues Live at the Town and Country. When I was 18, I skipped my high school prom in favor of shipping off to Halifax. I'd fallen in love with a girl there, the summer previous. She was waiting for me. The relationship smouldered itself out, as flames that burn too hot, too fast, often do. Before we parted ways, she bought Live at the Town and Country on VHS for me as a birthday gift.

I watch it and listened to it until there was nothing left of that tape. Read the rest

Friday Tunes: Four Men and a Dog

Thanks to lousy weather conditions, I've been forced off the road from Texas to Alberta, Canada in an area near Tongue River State Park in Montana. There's no services here, save what we brought with us. The snow's coming down, hard. We'll have to dig our RV out once the roads clear. My wife was bitten by a dog five days ago. The wound's infected. Our engine has a coolant leak that we can't quite track down. Things are going great this week!

Fortunately, I can always rely on the joy I find in Irish trad to keep me from losing what's left of my mind. Here's Four Men & a Dog doling out a pair of tunes: Martin Wynn's and Touch Me if You Dare, back in 2010 for Smithsonian Folk Life.

The band's one of my favorites: with music that swaggers through Irish trad into American Bluegrass, early rock & roll and jazz, they're a delight to see in concert and, for me at least, deeply easy to listen to over and over again. Read the rest