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We are heading into our High Holy Month with only the memories of past celebrations and hope of ones next year that top all.  We are having our corned beef, soda bread with Kerigold butter, and Irish coffee with thanksgiving grace and prayers for all not at our table, but no party of 40+ friends joining us. What we are having, though, is the music that sustains us through the happy and the more difficult times.  Thank heavens for the musicians who share their talents with us.

When I put together playlists for IRELAND TONIGHT, I often pull from many of the great compilations albums out there that afford a smorgasbord of artists and songs.  I have recently had several new listeners ask about them and if they are still available as many are of some age now.  I decided that this might be a good time to mention as many as I can so that you can look into adding them to your library and enjoying more of the music we love.  This will be merely a sample of the many available.

Since we are based in Chicago, I’ll begin with Irish Music in Chicago which is going on its 21st birthday.  Featuring Chief O’Neill’s Brendan McKinney’s pipes on “Ode to the Irish,” Liz Carroll’s “Clarke’s Favorite/Pigeon on the Gate,” Pat Broader’s & Jimmy Moore’s “Foxhunters,” along with cuts from John Williams, Laurence Nugent, Baal Tinne, Dennis Cahill, and others.  It is a good smattering of Chicago artists.  I keep hoping for a new edition in the near future!

World Music Network’s Rough Guide to Irish Music from 1996 has always been a “go to” with music from Dolores Keane, Altan, Clannad, Eileen Ivers, Deanta, Patrick Street, Dervish, Ciaran Tourish, Cran...  It is a varied selection of Trad tunes and musicians to have on your shelves.

Green Linnet, music publisher of many years, has several compilations that are all “must haves” as far as I’m concerned.  My most used is Her Infinite Variety: Celtic Women in Music and Song. This 2 disk album put out in 1998 features Cherish the Ladies, Liz Carroll, Eileen Ivers, Niamh Parsons with a beautiful rendition of “The Briar and the Rose,” Trian, Reeltime with my favorite “Siúil a Rún,” Sharon Shannon, and several other great ladies of the music.

Flight of The Green Linnet includes Kevin Burke, Patrick Street’s “Holy Ground,” the late Johnny Cunningham, and “Inisheer” by Buttons and Bows.  It’s Green Linnet Records 25 Years of Celtic Music also includes Phil Cunningham, Capercaillie, Johnny Williams, the amazing Joe Derrane, the much loved “There Were Roses” by Mick Maloney, Jimmy Keane, and Robbie O’Connell, as well as trad music icons Reeltime.  There are several other albums this label also put out.

Another of my favorites is A Woman’s Heart with Eleanor McEvoy’s sexy “I Hear You Breathing In,” Dolores Keane’s “Caledonia,” Frances Black singing “After the Ball” and “Wall of Tears,” her sister Mary Black’s “Sonny,” and Sharon Shannon’s “Blackbird” as just some of its shining stars.

Thousands Are Sailing is a collection of songs telling of those who left Ireland’s shores hoping for a better life.  Featuring DeDanann‘s “Ramblin’ Irishman,” Arcady’s unforgettable “Boys of Bar na Sraide,” Liam Clancy, and The Voice Squad, among others, it is a heart breaking, but beautiful album.

Celtic Heartbeat includes a wide range of artists including Sean Keane singing “Home,” Sinead O’Connor’s “She Moved Through the Fair,” Anuna’s rendition of “Flower of Maherally,” and tunes by Lunasa, Sky Road, Frances Black, Christy Moore, and Kila.

For some St. Patrick’s Day fun, there is Irish Drinking Songs from which you can imagine you are at the pub with the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and the Dubliners hoisting your Guinness belting out songs like “Whiskey in the Jar,” “Mountain Dew’” “Galway Bay,” “The Moonshiner,” and at the end of the night, “The Parting Glass.”

Those of you who love Canadian music can look for Failte: A Cape Breton Welcome and get some dancing in the kitchen going with Troy McGillivray, Andria Beaton, Wendy Mac Isaac, and of course, Natalie MacMaster who does a bring the tears version of Maurice Lennon’s “If Ever You Were Mine.”

The Ultimate Guide to Irish Folk, another 2 disk album, is rich with songs and tunes from great musicians such as Luke Kelly singing “Raglan Road,” arguably the best version of “Lord Franklin” by Kevin Burke & Micheál O’Domhnaill, Andy Irvine & Paul Brady, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, the Dubliners, John Spillane, Altan, Horslips, and quite a few noted others.

If you enjoy Frank Harte & Donal Lunny, Mairtin O’Connor,  Cathal Hayden & Steve Cooney, Oisin MacDiarmada, Anna & Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh, Nollaig Casey & Arty McGlynn, Seamie O’Dowd, Kevin Crawford, Sean Smyth, Jackie Daly, and more, then you’ll want a copy of the Masters of Tradition.

There are so many more including Wooden Flute Obsession and Common Ground.  Recently some new ones have appeared incuding a collection of songs from Derry singers titled Stories of the Land the Seeanchai Sessions which will introduce you to some mighty singers from the North whom we will be hearing more from in the near future.  Jack Talty and Raelach Records have just released an album titled ROGHA RAELACH VOLUME 1 with the music of that label including The Martin Hayes Quartet, Sean & Michael Gavin, Geraldine Cotter, Jack himself and others.

This is a scratch the surface list that, hopefully, will get you started on expanding your music library.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!

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