Tag Archives: irish guitar

John Doyle: “Across The Western Ocean”

John Doyle, formerly of the group Solas, is without doubt the king of Irish acoustic guitar. Originally an instrumentalist only, he’s evolved into a wonderful singer.

Doyle has a great ear for songs. “Across The Western Ocean” is about those who left Ireland for America from 1846 to 1850 as a result of the terrible potato famine. Over 1.5 million of them came over on “packet ships,” the smaller vessels that plied the ocean before the massive clipper ships arrived around 1860 (interesting page on packet ships here). The packets took six weeks to reach America from Europe and almost one in every five immigrants who shipped on died of disease or shipwreck.

This song speaks of the fears of the Irish immigrants of the era. Like many old Irish songs, it shares a melody with another tune, in this case a sea shanty called “Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her.”

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Seeing John Doyle & Karan Casey at Joe’s Pub Tonight!

I’m excited about seeing John Doyle and Karan Casey play live tonight at Joe’s Pub in New York. Here are some good live clips of them from YouTube.

“The King’s Shilling” – Karan Casey with James Taylor. She did a very nice recording of this with John Doyle some years ago, but this version with James T and Jerry Douglas is nice

“The Ballad of Accounting” with a big backup group. Karan’s voice sounds really great on this one:

A very old, held-held clip of Solas, but Karan and John Doyle do a nice harmony here:

“A Pound A Week Rise.” Finally, here’s a knock ’em dead performance by John D in a radio station with frequent partner Liz Carroll. He’s an astounding guitarist.

Info on seeing them at Joe’s Pub, which happens to be a great venue.