1-The Birds in the Spring traditional, adapted with additional music B. Gadbaw. Beth Gadbaw, vocals & bodhrán; Enion Pelta-Tiller, five-string fiddle; Jon Sousa, guitar.
I learned this song from the singing of Bob and Ron Copper of England’s famed Copper Family. I fell in love with the English folk tradition while spending a Fulbright year in Plymouth, which is situated in Devon right near the Cornish border, and has some wonderful folk clubs, England’s answer to the Irish song circle and the American open mic. The lilting chorus came to me one day while driving along Colorado’s Front Range. Incidentally, there are no nightingales in Ireland- so when you hear a traditional song that mentions one, you can be pretty sure it’s from someplace else.
2-The Road to Clady (with Apples in Winter) traditional. Beth Gadbaw, vocals & bodhrán; Enion Pelta-Tiller, five-string fiddle & backing vocals.
This song has been with me for a long time. My first year in Ireland I happened upon the Joe Mooney Summer School in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim. I was singing one night in a pub and one of the patrons came to me the next day with this song written on a piece of paper, asking if I would sing it. Rosie Stewart, the great Fermanagh singer who taught the singing class, helped me learn the melody.
3-The Journeyman Tailor traditional. Beth Gadbaw, vocals; Jon Sousa, guitar.
I can’t remember who told me the joke that if a love song has a happy ending, it’s definitely not Irish. Well, friends, I finally found one that is! From the singing of the quintessential Eddie Butcher.
4-Grania’s Song B. Gadbaw. Beth Gadbaw, vocals & percussion.
A few years back, Denver playwright Billy Bair asked me to write some songs for his play “A Changing of the Wind” about the life of Granuaile, the 15th century “Pirate Queen” of Connaught. This was the first one I wrote for the play.
5-Seothín Seo (Lullaby) traditional. Beth Gadbaw, vocals; Jessie Burns, fiddle & backing vocals; Margot Krimmel, Celtic harp & backing vocals.
This is one of my daughters’ favorites to sing along with in the car. I learned the English from the singing of Peg Power, the Irish from a recording by Susan McKeown & Cathie Ryan.
6-Last Night Being Windy words traditional adapted B. Gadbaw, music B. Gadbaw. Beth Gadbaw, vocals & bodhrán; Leslie Anne Harrison, Irish flute; K.C. Groves, mandolin; Frédéric Pouille, guitar.
I spent a magical summer in Miltown one year and of course attended the Willie Clancy Week, camping on the beach and singing in pubs until all hours in astounding company. I was fortunate enough to meet the likes of Paddy Tunney, Tim Dennehy, Roisín White, Niamh Parsons, and so many more great singers. Somewhere, there’s some video of me and my friends Kirsty and Emily singing a version of this in a Miltown beachfront doorway. I later took Bess Cronin’s version of the words and combined it with some lyrics of hers from another song, wrote a new melody, and voila, my own version was born.
7-Innisfree (The Lake Isle of Innisfree) words W.B. Yeats, music B. Gadbaw. Beth Gadbaw, vocals.
I had known Yeats’s poetry before I’d been to Ireland, but I became thoroughly addicted to it upon visiting Sligo, where his poems can be found painted on coffee shop walls, and an actor friend performed them for me in dramatic recitative as we drove to find the best spot to surf for the day. Later, while living for several months in East Galway, I would find a way to make it to Yeats’s tower every few weeks; each visit brought new inspiration. This is now the third of his poems I’ve set to music.
8-Thomas Watson B. Gadbaw. Beth Gadbaw, vocals; Adam Agee, fiddle, Frédéric Pouille, guitar.
I crafted this ballad from the letters of my great-great-great-great uncle, Thomas Watson, who emigrated from Ireland to Troy, New York during the great famine. The letters span the course of thirty years (1869-99), most while he lived in Montana, to his sister who remained in Troy. As far as can be told, his two significant life relationships remained that with his sister and with his fondest horse, Shamrock. I think his story captures the essence of the American West, whose history was largely influenced by Irish immigrants. I dedicate this one to the memory of my grandfather John Merry.
9-An Mhaighdean Mhara (The Mermaid) traditional. Beth Gadbaw, vocals; Sandra Wong, nyckelharpa.
I learned this from the singing of Áine Uí Laoi and was lucky enough to have been introduced to it by her son, my teacher and friend, Ian Lee. It’s been widely recorded, but it was the first Irish language song I ever learned. It suddenly came into my head, after not singing it for years, once my own daughters became independent enough that I didn’t have to watch them every second. In the song, the mother’s sealskin is discovered, and she must return to her life in the sea, leaving her children behind. It felt exactly like this to me…my daughters, once babies, were now kids, and suddenly I was forced to recall my former life- or that I’d even had one- and return to being something besides ‘just’ a mom.
10-The Stonecutter Boy traditional. Beth Gadbaw, vocals.
I first heard this song in a pub and for once I can’t exactly remember where, but I remember the voice. I followed up on learning it with a recording by Anne Briggs.
11-Waulking Song with Tobin’s Favorite) words S. Henry, music B. Gadbaw, additional music traditional. Beth Gadbaw, vocals & bodhrán; Leslie Anne Harrison, Irish flute; Frédéric Pouille, guitar.
My friend and mentor John Moulden introduced me to the Sam Henry Collection via snail mail. I had encountered one of John’s books and recordings in the library at the University of Colorado, and instantly contacted him and asked him to send me a boxfull of whatever he could send me; included in the box was “Songs of the People” from which the Waulking Song comes. According to the book, Sam Henry wrote the words himself, inspired by women’s waulking songs of the Hebrides. I wrote my own melody and added a ditty I learned from the singing of Frank Harte. I’ll go on to reveal that that box travelled back and forth with me from Colorado to Ireland to Texas to New England and wherever else I found myself over the course of several years- until the Irish Traditional Music Archives were finally available online.
12-When I Was Young traditional. Beth Gadbaw, vocals & bodhrán, Gwen & Greta Gadbaw, backing vocals.
I love this short song and so do my daughters, who were four and five at the time of this recording. Thanks to my husband Josh and my producer Evan who coached us all through a delightfully unpredictable hour on a sweltering summer day in the studio- resulting in this unforgettable (for me!) performance.