Live on Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street. A narrow street thronged with visitors from 'round the world in search of the jazz for which New Orleans is justly famous. The strains of Dixieland spill from countless competing clubs, creating a sort of clarinet-and-coronet cacophony. Yet, right in the heart of the old French Quarter, you can hear music of a different sort. Peer through the open doors of Ryan's Irish Pub, and you will see an audience joining in with the performers, hoisiting pint jars of lager and brown stout, clapping and singing, and generally roaring it's approval. For the young men on stage are Ireland's premier balladeers, The Celtic Folk. As you listen, you begin to understand why they draw the largest crowds on this world-renowned street. Although many will remember these musicians from their North American concert tours (and, indeed, for their quiet refusal to sacrifice the integrity of the Irish folk tradition on the concert circuit) this remarkable folk band has nontheless never forgotten why people go to the pub. With a whimsical, rollicking good humor that shows that they are well aware of Bourbon Street's distance from the concert stage, the lads effortlessly bewitch the crowd into raising the roof. As they swing into such as 'The Wild Colonial Boy' or 'Saturday Night in Dublin Town', the audience - including many sober as a priest on Good Friday - joins in with an enthusiasm that is the unabashed pub equivalent of singing in the shower. Ironically, there are self-styled Irish 'purists' that frown on such interaction with the hoi polloi, holding that the only Real Traditional Music is that from the Gaelic West, and that it is the best appreciated in the rarefield quiet of the concert hall. It is well to remind such begrudgers (or 'Folk Nazis', as they are called by the great Limerick musician Mick Maloney) that pub singing is a living tradition, as old and authentic as the Irish public house itself; particularly, in the O'Flahertys' Gaelic-speaking Connemara where, incidentally, there are no concert halls. When not headlining concerts of Irish festivals, The Celtic Folk have used New Orleans as their American headquarters since early 1984. Their appreciative, ever-changing pub crowds on Bourbon Street have repeatedly requested an album of the 'pub songs'. This album is their answer. Indeed, a collection of pub songs is long overdue by a major Irish folk band. For some reason, the top Irish groups have for too long ceased mining in the mother lode of Irish pub balladry. And, as The Celtic Folk/Live on Bourbon Street demonstrates, a rich vein it is. Not since the heyday of the Clancys in the sixties have I heard an Irish group belt out the rowdy-dow songs in such fashion. And not since then have I been tempted to sing along with an album at the top of my not inconsiderable, if untalented, Irish voice. Here, simply, you will hear three incredible musicians showing people how to have fun in a pub. -Turlough Faolain author of Blood on the Harp: Irish Rebel History in Ballad.