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This time of year I always pull out some of my old Irish records.  It's not so much St. Patrick's day that causes me to have this urge, but rather Easter.  You see, many of my favorite Irish tunes focus on Irish freedom and stories of the 800 years of British oppression (culminating on two uprisings, one in 1798, and one on Easter week in 1916 called the Easter Rising).  Not all Irish music focuses on this thread, there are obviously plenty of drinking songs, Gaelic songs and those 'ethereal' tunes championed by Enya.  The music I'm talking about is a relatively small niche of the 'traditional Irish sound'.  These are the furious and genuine rebel folk songs, with the clear motive to uplift, inform and honor the fighters of the time.  It's no secret that Ireland was fantastically discontent being a subject to British rule- something, as I mentioned, they'd been dealing with since the middle ages.  That strife and national anger fueled some of the best and most passionate music I've heard to date.  Sure there is plenty of 'rebel music' out there from other cultures, countries and styles... Ireland certainly doesn't have a monopoly on past suffering.  But I think there are some elements unique to the Irish sound that makes it resonate particularly well with me.  For starters, the quintessential sound is one that came to America and implanted itself in what we now call Bluegrass.  So there is an immediate familiarity for someone who loves the country/folk music of Appalachia.  But there is an X factor that is the true beating heart of this type of music.  This is quite simply the powerful delivery of narrative & historically themed lyrics.  This is showcased best by the many singers of the mid-1900's (who had a direct familial connection to the oppression and Easter Rebellion).  These singers and songwriters transferred their culture, stories and history via song rather than written words.  This is surely due to the fact that they didn't want physical evidence around for the raiding British to discover, and surely due to the uncanny ability of music to soothe, empower and invigorate even the most hopeless of people.  After all, these people were up against incredible odds and had almost nothing to fight with.  They turned to song to vent this frustration, honor the fallen and teach their children historical events that may otherwise go unwritten.  A good thing they did too, because these songs will surely bring attention to their tormented history, and small victories for years to come.  A great way to find immortality if you ask me. There are plenty of contemporary artists who have rebooted these tunes, you've probably heard some (e.g. the boxing scene with Robert Downy Jr. in Sherlock Holmes- "A Rocky Road to Dublin", Metallica's sappy remake of "Whiskey In a Jar"), but to hear the older recordings from people with a physical connection to these tales is something to be heard.  The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem  & The Wolfe Tones are some of my favorites.

Photo of IRA volunteers- 1915

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