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The Green Fields of America ensemble was a product of the nation’s Bicentennial celebrations. Folklorist and musician Mick Moloney was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to locate the finest Irish musicians and dancers in America for the 1976 Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife. Since then, The Green Fields of America has toured periodically with various lineups of outstanding performers.
The Green Fields of America CD features John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki, vocals), Billy McComiskey (button accordion), Mick Moloney (tenor banjo, guitar, mandolin, vocals), Robbie O’Connell (guitar, vocals), and Athena Tergis (fiddle), with guests Mac Benford (banjo, vocals), Tim Collins (concertina), Brendan Doyle (piano), Ivan Goff (flute, uilleann pipes, tin whistle), Bruce Molsky (fiddle), and Jerry O’Sullivan (uilleann pipes). The format generally alternates sets of tunes with songs that tell the stories of Irish emigrants.
The booklet provides detailed information about the heritage of each song and set of tunes. The songs document a great variety of emigrant experiences. “The Rambling Irishman” tries several cities before finding a wife and settling down. Lovers of sea songs will recognize “Across the Western Ocean” as one that has many variants. “Down by the Tanyard Side” is a song of leaving Ireland. “The Bonnie Irish Boy” follows a woman who emigrates to seek her lost love in America. “The Catalpa” chronicles a most dramatic story about sailing from America to rescue deported Irishmen from Perth, Australia. Many tunes are interspersed between the songs: reels, slides, barn dances, jigs, slip jigs, and old-time tunes. The great variety of tales and tunes reflects the diverse experiences of Irish emigrants and the evolution that occurs as heritage is passed on from one person to another.
The 1993 Green Linnet recording The Green Fields of America Live in Concert (Mick Moloney, Robbie O’Connell, Jimmy Keane, Eileen Ivers, Seamus Egan, and Donny and Eileen Golden) has long been a favorite of mine. It includes the haunting ballad, “Kilkelly,” which follows, through letters, the lives of one family separated by emigration. This 2009 studio recording is an excellent addition. Both CDs are available from Compass Records at www.compassrecords.com.
—Susan WagemanJessica Baron, The Green Songbook: 43 Songs Arranged for Beginning Guitar.
It’s a songbook! It’s a CD! It’s a guitar instruction manual for beginners! This attractive and inspirational volume is based on the methods of Guitars in the Classroom, a nonprofit organization that trains and encourages teachers to bring music into their preschool through high school classrooms. The Green Songbook is suitable for adults as well as children. Baron presents basic, useful information about the guitar and song leading and accompaniment, in addition to 43 excellent songs whose themes relate to different aspects of “eco-sustainability”—energy, recycling, habitats, critters, water, pollution, and more.
Songwriters represented include Pete Seeger, Michael Jackson, Woody Guthrie, Tom Chapin, Joni Mitchell, John Denver, Nancy Schimmel, Sarah Pirtle, Ruth Pelham, Holly Near—an eclectic list—along with many other talented folks. Each song includes the lyrics with the corresponding chords (chord names as well as fingering diagrams). There’s no music notation, but many of the tunes will be familiar to most readers, and all of them can be heard, very well performed, on the CD that accompanies the songbook.
Some of the songs included are “Country Roads,” “Under One Sky,” “Dirt Made My Lunch,” “The Garden Song,” “My Rainbow Race,” “Man in the Mirror,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Habitat,” “The Zucchini Song,” and “Every Third Bite”—good stuff!
This helpful publication sells for $24.99 (book with CD included). Orders placed via the website (www.greensongbook.com) ship for free; for you Luddites who prefer snail mail, add $4.95 for shipping. Checks should be made out to “Guitars in the Classroom” and sent to 1911 Shady Acre Circle, Encinitas, CA 92024. Or, order by phone: (760) 452-6123. Read the book, listen to the CD, practice a little, and then next year, who knows—Carnegie Hall!