The Worst (and Best) Covers of Irish Folk Songs and Ballads
Ireland is known worldwide for its music. The musicians and singers, and especially the songs themselves. Many well-known and respected artists have tried and failed in their attempts to cover our tunes, but many have succeeded.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Ed Sheeran get a lot of flak following his performance of ‘Raglan Road’ alongside Joy Crookes in Jools Holland’s New Year’s Eve Hootenanny.
Following on, we take a look at some of the other covers of Irish folk songs and ballads over the years.
There are a few very forgettable ones, but also a few that are really great and deserve their praise.
Ed Sheeran and Joy Crookes – Raglan Road
The most ruthless review of this Ed Sheeran performance came from a man who has more right than anyone to offer his opinion on the famous Dublin tune. That man is John Sheahan, the last surviving member of The Dubliners who first recorded and popularized the song in 1971.
Sheahan spoke to the Sunday world of his disdain for the version sung by Sheeran and Joy Crookes.
“I’ve seen people say after the fact that Ed Sheeran murdered Raglan Road and I agree.
“I wasn’t impressed, and I’m sure Patrick Kavanagh or Luke weren’t impressed either. Ed Sheeran has a great voice and he’s a very talented man, but I was disappointed with his interpretation of Raglan Road.”
“I think it’s an insult to Kavanagh and Luke Kelly, and to one of the greatest love songs ever written. Some things should be left alone in their own natural, simple perfection and Raglan Road is one of them.
“Someone was suggesting that as an excuse, Ed Sheeran should walk into a studio and record Raglan Road properly. If he wants to walk into the studio and sing like Luke Kelly, I’ll play the violin for him, not mess with him.”
Bon Jovi – New York Fairy Tale
There are songs that it is useless to try to cover. If you put your own spin on it, it will fall flat, and if you stay true to the original, it will never come close to the definitive version of the Pogues.
There’s no need to go into too much detail for this one. It starts out as a passable version until Jon Bon Jovi starts singing. It’s downhill from there, and a rare occasion where he might have been smarter to have used autotune on his voice.
Bob Dylan – Arthur McBride
He is arguably the greatest songwriter and most prolific artist of the 20and century, but this version of Dylan sounds like an impression of Jimmy Fallon SNL, with his nasal voice turned up to eleven.
The rendition is taken from the poorly received 1992 folk cover album Good as I have been for you. Of course, Dylan would go on to release a series of more classic albums after that, with his voice at his best.
It’s unlikely a cover will top Paul Brady’s legendary stripped down version of this classic folk standard.
Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, the Punch Brothers – The Auld Triangle
This cover can be classified in the list of good versions of Irish folk songs. It stays true to the original and the harmonies are perfect.
He appeared as part of the soundtrack to the Coen brothers’ brilliant film “Inside Llewyn Davis”.
The singer’s voice sounds a lot like Timberlake, however, it’s Chris Thile of American folk band The Punch Brothers who sings the verses.
Metallica – Whiskey in the Jar
A fan favorite and the most popular song in their set when playing in Ireland.
Obviously, a lot of the praise here has to go to Thin Lizzy who recognized the potential of this folk song to become a rock classic. Technically, Metallica’s version is more of a cover than a cover.
By paying homage to one of their greatest influences, Metallica goes one step further and the results speak for themselves.
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