December 2, 2020

Music Monday: Bridging the Atlantic


UPDATE: I just noticed that a couple of these videos are playlists, so you get some bonus music today! Some of the individual songs will take you to YouTube via a link. Hope you enjoy this fine music today.

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Today I’d like to recommend a series of programs that I have known about, occasionally sampled, and recently enjoyed more fully. These are the Transatlantic Sessions shows, a series of musical productions by Glasgow-based Pelicula Films Ltd, funded by and produced for BBC Scotland, BBC Four and RTE of Ireland. TS brings together musicians from both sides of the Atlantic to play American and British Isles folk songs, both traditional and contemporary. The shows have been directed by Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain, and the six sessions thus far recorded took place in 1995, 1998, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. All the shows are available on CD, mp3 download, and DVD at places like Amazon.

The musicianship is remarkable. The arrangements are sometimes revelatory (see “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn” below). The settings are stunning and the feel of the show is that of old time music making — people who enjoy each other getting together in casual settings to combine their gifts to create something dynamic and inspiring.

I’ll put up three videos for your enjoyment and comment today.

The first is from the first series and features Irish artist Mary Black singing the lovely “Farewell, Farewell.”

The second, from series four, puts James Taylor together with Karan Casey to sing “The King’s Shilling,” which refers to the Scottish custom of paying a shilling to persuade men to join the army.

Finally, here’s a remarkable arrangement of a song made popular by Alison Krauss and Union Station, sung by Dan Tyminski, “about a lazy farmer who wouldn’t hoe his corn.” Amazing dobro work by Douglas (as always), with a real surprise interpretation that breaks out in the middle of the song.





  1. We here in the states can thank the Celts for a lot of our musical heritage, so it was no surprise to hear Tyminski’s song segue into an Irish reel. Very gratifying and organic.

    The Scots emigrating to the USA gravitated to the Appalachians and the Irish, who followed later, also settled there on the margins of civilization, bringing their music with them. Over time it melded and adapted to their new country and became our fiest generation music. Folk music and Bluegrass are its direct descendants.

    I LOVE this stuff!

  2. The Chieftains taught Alison Krauss to sing the hauntingly beautiful ‘Molly Ban’ and they performed it together

  3. I first saw Alison Krauss when she was seventeen and performing with a group of folk fiddlers, including Irish, as well as Cajun and blues. The influence goes way back!

  4. Posting videos of *English* folk music on Presidents Day? How *unpatriotic* of you.” 😉

    • I’m emptying my earl grey packets in the back farm pond in protest.

      • But I think I’ll brew a cup first and listen to just a few of these videos. But mark my words after that….I’m serious

        • Brewed strong with cream and no sugar, of course, the way earl grey was MEANT to be made. 😉

          • Absolutely!

            Weak Tea vs. Real Tea drinkers is certainly an issue worthy of a good schism.

          • Pleeeeeze! If tea was so wonderful, it would be an ice cream flavor, like coffee.

          • “If tea was so wonderful, it would be an ice cream flavor, like coffee.”

            But it is! You need to frequent more creameries in the Hipster parts of town, facial hair and skinny jeans aside they are on to something with the food.

    • You suspected I was a Tory all along, didn’t you?

      • In all seriousness, had I lived during the Revolution I would probably have been a Tory myself. “Better one tyrant 5000 miles away than 5000 tyrants one mile away”, and all that… 😉

    • At least it’s not July 4th. Then I’d REALLY be “tea-ed off”. 😉

    • Hey them’s fighting words!

      Scotts and Irish are not English!

  5. Love this. I am especially drawn to Celtic hymnody and appreciate the songs at church with this heritage. It’s nice to see some of the newer CCM songs written in this same tradition. I just wish there were more good writers out there to give the Gettys and Townend a run for the money.

  6. Ah, James Taylor. Even the mention of his name introduces a tad of nausea to my otherwise iron digestive system.

  7. Brianthedad says

    transatlantic sessions 4 & 5 are on Amazon Prime. Picked them up after reading this. Gold!

  8. I hate all tea. Just the thought of it touching my lips gives me the willies. Might as well drink sewer water with sock washings in it Euwwew, gross. God have mercy. GDTQ?

    • Well OldProphet, if you are American that is no surprise.

      I lived in Texas for a few years in the 70s and I thought the tea tasted as if it had been pulled out of a sewage laden Boston Harbour after all those years.

      A good cup of English tea suitably enhanced with cream is a great drink!

      • Tea? Well, I PRAYED about it but I just didn’t FEEL LED! Didn’t feel the ANNOINTING! Couldn’t find a bible verse that encouraged the Scriptural use of tea. No early church fathers wrote of tea. No desert fathers used tea. The Twelve did not use tea. Jesus didn’t use tea So the obvious theological position is that only apostates and heretics drink tea! May you all be delivered from the curse of Lipton and Tetley!

        • LOL? Why should HUG get to do all the fun post? Assuming there fun? Am I in trouble now?

        • Well I know that tea is the right drink because it was revealed to me when I read the golden plates with the urim and thummim glasses!

  9. RemindedHerOfJohnnyBeforeHeWentElectronic says

    Fairport Convention

    Incredible String Band

    The Strawbs


    O tempora, o mores Was I really ever that young?

  10. GSTQ!

  11. Great stuff CM, thank you! Yes, as Oscar said above, the segue is very common in Irish music. Often the players will string 2, 3 or 4 tunes together to make a rousing little medley to enjoy while you’re tipping your pint in the local.

    If you like this music and if you are ever presented with any opportunity to hear Liz Carroll and John Doyle play live, take it come hell or high water! They both play with other musicians, but they have a special spark when making music with one another, and when they are together part of a larger group. She’s from Chicago of Irish parentage, and he is from the auld sod. Liz is flawless on the fiddle, and John’s voicings make his guitar sound like 3 instruments. There are videos on YouTube, won’t clutter or put myself in mod with links, but look for them by name together in Christmas Celtic Sojourn 2009 and in a playlist posted by rubyramone.


  12. Family is from Dingle Ireland, one of the centers of Irish music. Love that stuff.

  13. A classic offering from the American side of the Pond: