Music Talks Songbook

By Memory Inspired: Mick Moloney's Songbook

Stories, tunes, and songs from Ireland and Irish America





In this new IAC series, the musician, folklorist, musicologist, and teacher Mick Moloney curates a selection of Irish folk songs to both perform and explore, contextualizing their musical and cultural significance within the canon.

Episode 15 

Traditional Irish Reels


The final episode of this first series of Mick Moloney's Songbook features three reels that spotlight the banjo and accordion, a defining instrumental duo of the 20th century Irish and Irish American tradition. Performance by Mick Moloney and Billy McComiskey, with special guest Matt Mulqueen accompanying on the piano. Enjoy!

Episode 14

"The Boys of Barr Na Sráide"


The story of the songwriter, poet and playwright Sigerson Clifford and his great love for Cahersiveen, his hometown on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. Performance of "The Boys of Barr Na Sráide," perhaps Clifford's most famous song, by Mick, Liz Hanley, Brenda Castles, and Michelle Mulcahy.

Episode 13

"Murphy Can Never Go Home"


And he longs to go back home to Ireland
For he's tired of the craic and the living is rough
And he's twenty-four years on the buildings that taught him that
When you have nothing then you've had enough 

Mick Moloney and guest Haley Richardson perform an ode to the Irish migrant workers who toiled in England at a time when England did not receive them warmly, and Mick tells the story of his own past as a young laborer in London.

Episode 12

"Sweet King William's Town"


A song of Irish emigration, and the story behind its writer, Dannie Buckley—whose own tale of emigration via the Titanic is the stuff of legend—in this week's Songbook episode. Performance by Mick Moloney and Haley Richardson.

Episode 11

"The Spanish Lady"


Mick Moloney pays tribute to friend and mentor Frank Harte, "a Dublin man through and through" who helped spur the Irish folk renaissance of the 1960s as a renowned singer of Dublin songs. "The Spanish Lady," performed here by Mick, Brenda Castles, Lucy Johnston and John Doyle, is emblematic of the genre's singular style.

Episode 10

"The Ballad of Tom Crean"


The complex story of a Kerry man who ran away with the navy at age 15 and went on to become one of the great Arctic explorers of the early 20th century. "The Ballad of Tom Crean" is performed for this week's Songbook by Mick and special guests Lucy Johnston, Brenda Castles, and John Doyle.

Episode 9

"The Life of the Rover" ("The Thirty Foot Trailer")


Mick plumbs the history and context of a 1960s song depicting the plight of Travellers across England, and performs a rendition with special guests Lucy Johnston, Brenda Castles, and Haley Richardson. 

Note: Folk musician Ewan MacColl wrote "The Forty Foot Trailer," with Peggy Seeger more than 50 years ago as part of a series of radio ballads, after having spent some time with Traveller communities across England. It romanticizes the lives and culture of this historically marginalized people. Today, the name "tinker," which is also used in the song, is understood as both a profession but can also be understood as a slur in contemporary society.

Episode 8

"Get Up Jack, John Sit Down" and "The Jolly Roving Tar"


This week, Mick explores the dual lives of one song: as written by its composer, Ned Harrigan ("Get Up Jack, John Sit Down"), and the version that forked at the path, entering the folk tradition as "The Jolly Roving Tar." Performed with special musical guest John Roberts.

Episode 7

"Sean McGlynn's Mazurka"


After the 1983 murder of the great Galway accordionist Sean McGlynn, the songwriter Eugene O'Donnell memorialized him in music. Specifically, with a mazurka that came to him in a dream. 

Decades later, Mick, Athena Tergis, and Billy McComiskey had the privilege of performing the piece for O'Donnell in his Derry home, just months before his own passing. They perform it again here, in this week's Songbook.

Episode 6

"Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade"


Like a hero, he died for the land of the free
Far away from the land of Shillelagh

This episode of Songbook explores a musical legacy of the American Civil War, in which many newly arrived immigrants "from the land of Shillelagh" fought on the Union side. Here are Mick, Haley Richardson, and Brenda Castles with the folk anthem "Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade."

Episode 5

“Bridget Donoghue”


This week's Songbook celebrates the most colorful Irish songwriter Johnny Patterson, whose life, as Mick recounts it, defines "lived to the fullest." To perform Johnny's "Bridget Donoghue," Mick is joined by special guests Haley Richardson and Brenda Castles, and the very special guest Lucy Johnston—Mick's bandmate from the feted '60s group the Johnstons, coming out of retirement for a musical reunion 50 years in the making.

Episode 4 

“Loftus Jones”


Ireland's great harp tradition was almost lost in the 17th century with the overthrow of the Gaelic order (Gaelic chieftains having been patrons of this once-dominant Celtic instrument), but largely through the preservation work of Belfast musician Edward Bunting (1773–1843), tunes like Turlough O'Carolan's "Loftus Jones," with its echoes of Vivaldi, are still with us today. Performance here by Mick, Athena Tergis, and Billy McComiskey.

Episode 3

“You Lovers All” 

"You Lovers All"

Mick performs “You Lovers All” with Haley Richardson (Riverdance), a song that explores the diaspora of women in post Irish famine era to the United States—seeking love and independence. 

Episode 2

"By Memory Inspired"


Mick tells of the rise of the Irish resistance song, and joins Green Fields of America bandmates Athena Tergis and Billy McComiskey to perform the author and nationalist Padraic Colum's  "By Memory Inspired," which commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Episode 1

"Joseph Baker"


Featuring tales from the English folk club scene's 1960s heyday, in which series curator Mick Moloney took part, and Mick and guest artist Brenda Castles performing Pete Coe's "Joseph Baker." Enjoy.

Video production services by Roy Esmonde. Illustrations by Declan Forde. Additional IAC video support from Tom Rowley.

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