Saturday, August 6, 2016

The New Acoustic Popular Music (Part 12) - Ireland's Musical Soul

By Don Robertson

Say Goodbye! to hard rock as it writhes in dying pain and bid Hello! to Americana, the new acoustic popular music. Thank God you have arrived. 

      In the eleven previous articles of the New Acoustic Popular Music series, I discussed the emergence of new music that is widely divergent from the typical commercial offerings brought to us by corporate America. This is the last article in the series, and it will be a bit different. This time, I'm going to Ireland.

The Corrs
     If you don't know about their music, please say hello to the family group from Ireland called The Corrs. They are a musical quartet of siblings: the brother Jim Corr (keyboards, guitar and vocals) and his three sisters:  Andrea (lead vocals and Irish tin whistle), Sharon (violin and vocals), and Caroline (drums, piano, bodhran and vocals). In 1990, they auditioned for my friend G. Marq "Gilly" Roswell who was in charge of the music for the award-winning film The Commitments being shot on location in Dublin. Gilly worked with the group, helped them put together their first album, and guided them as they launched an international career.
     The Corrs are an Irish/folk-based rock band. I first discovered them in 2001 when I was researching popular music from Europe. The Corrs had everything required to make wonderful music: charm, talent, voices, stage presence, and they added traditional Irish music to their performances.
      However, here in America, anyone to whom I mentioned the Corrs had never heard of them, that is until I first met my friend Gilly, the man who discovered them and put them on the map. While so many people were devouring so much garbage on American radio, I was listening to the Corrs and discovering so many great acoustic-orient groups from 1990s Europe, thanks to the burgeoning availability of music on the internet, and from such sources as the Trio Arts cable channel that I was monitoring back then. It was the discovery of the Corrs that was the biggest revelation for me.
     They recorded five studio albums between 1995 and 2005 and sold over forty million copies! Despite their lack of popularity in the USA, they have been tremendously successful elsewhere. 
     The group disbanded in 2006 to concentrate on raising their families, but they came back together in 2015 for a new album and performances. Over the years, a great deal of their earnings have gone to charity work, and therefore in 2005, Queen Elizabeth honored them with membership in the Order of the British Empire. 
      First, their Irish roots:
"Toss the Feathers" by The Corrs 

    Their song "What Can I Do" that the group wrote was released on their 1998 album Talk on Corners. It climbed the charts in England and the group sang it at the gala for the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize:
"What Can I Do" and "The Right Time" by The Corrs in London 1998

     In Ireland, The Corrs taped an episode for MTV's "Unplugged" series. A DVD was made of this show. The song "Old Town" is a cover of a 1982 Tin Lizzy tune:
"Old Town" by the Corrs in Ireland 1999

    Fortunately, the Corrs' year-2000 performance at Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin was caught on film. Listen to the Irish kids in the audience as they sing along with the words to "Runaway" they know so well. This is another song that was penned by the group. It seems to me that music is simply at one with the soul of Ireland.
"Runaway" by the Corrs at Lansdowne Road in 2000

    Here is the group in 2015, appearing in England after their family-raising haitus:
The Corrs' Cover of Stevie Nicks' song "Dreams" - Hyde Park in England by the BBC in 2015

    Let's now turn to an Irish boy band called Boyzone. They were huge in Europe, but have been almost totally unknown in the US. Formed in 1993 and disbanded in 1999, they had 21 singles on the British charts and 22 on the Irish. 
JUST A NOTE: In America, the boy band The Backstreet Boys was formed in 1993, the same year as Boyzone, but their style of music, like that of Boyzone, was so against the grain of the then-current music on American radio, that this American group became famous only in Europe, especially Germany, where they sold millions of records, and it wasn't until 1997 that The Backstreet Boys finally became known in America, following years of European success. 
     Listen to Boyzone:
"No Matter What" by Boyzone in 1998

    Boyzone made several Nashville-written "country" songs famous in Europe: songs such as "I Love the Way You Love Me" written by Nashville's Victoria Shaw and Chuck Cannon. I remember Victoria used to sing this song at various Nashville functions and would mention that an "unknown Irish group" had recorded it:
"I Love the Way You Love Me' by Boyzone
   Lead singer Ronan Keating, who has a tremendous voice, went on to pursue a solo career and became famous in Europe. Here he is singing two Nashville songs: "If Tomorrow Never Comes" written by Garth Brooks and Kent Blazy, and "When You Say Nothing at All" by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz:
"If Tomorrow Never Comes" sung by Ronan Keating

   Listen to the kids in the audience sing along with the following song... they know all of the words. Not putting us down, but you would never hear that in Nashville, where the song is from.
"When You Say Nothing at All" sung by Ronan Keating

   The Irish boy band called Westlife was formed in 1998 and was signed by Simon Cowell. They disbanded in 2012. Westlife sold over eleven million albums in the UK, and yet they are basically unknown in the US: 
"My Love" by Westlife

"Flying Without Wings" by Westlife in 2008

    When talking about Irish music, the group Clannad, from which the famous Enya arose, needs to be mentioned here. They have been active since 1970:
"I Will Find You" by Clannad

Celtic Woman
    The group Celtic Woman was formed in 2004. They have released ten albums as of this writing:
"The Call" by Celtic Woman
Hayley Westenra
     No, she is not Irish, but I want to mention Hayley Westenra from Christchurch, New Zealand who sang with Celtic Woman for several years. An exceptional singer with such a pure and remarkable spirit, listen to her perform the song "Scarborough Fair": 
"Scarborough Fair" by Celtic Woman featuring Hayley Westenra 2006

    She is featured here in a 2004 video along with her sister Sophie:
"Across the Universe" by Haley Westenra with her sister Sophie 2004

Secret Garden
    Last but not least in this long string of videos, I introduce the group called Secret Garden, basically a duo consisting of Irish violinist and singer Fionnuala Sherry and Norwegian composer, arranger and pianist Rolf Løvland:
"Nocturne" by Secret Garden

    Rolf's song "You Raise Me Up" (with lyrics by Brendan Graham) became famous in America when it was covered by American singer Josh Groban. Since then, this song has been recorded by over 125 artists:
"You Raise Me Up" by Secret Garden

     I hope you enjoyed my 12-part video series on the new acoustic popular music. The whole series can be found on this page. Please check out the other articles featured on my blog "The Music Futurist." 

So for now, "Good music and Good Vibes." I'm Don Robertson.

© 2016 by Don Robertson